Ethical Travel: The Ethics of Amsterdam


Ethical travel is one of the fundamental tenets of this blog, so although some may associate it with drugs, alcohol and prostitution, it’s important to remember that Amsterdam is a culturally vibrant, artistically nuanced and extremely ethically aware city. From its liberal politics to its ubiquitous cycling, the city has been an ethical focus that leads many of its other European counterparts in the dust.



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Cheap flights to Amsterdam tend to be available all year round making it a firm favourite among weekenders, party animals and culture vultures alike. Though the famously liberal Dutch attitudes toward the sex industry and narcotic consumption have earned the city an unfortunately a seedy reputation among stag parties and other holidaymakers, it’s important to recognise that while certain activities are permitted, this very permission helps to negate the exploitative effects caused by criminalisation and the black market.


The People of Amsterdam

Since the Netherlands plays host to over 14 million international tourists per year, they as a populace are very receptive to tourism and tourists in general so long as they behave politely and respectfully. They tend to be very welcoming, open minded, honest and tolerant with a genuine love of their country. Even in business the Dutch have an “open and outward-driven” approach that makes them a world leader in sustainable business. Despite the Netherland’s open and permissive approach to society, their liberal laws and their progressive attitudes to LGBT+ rights their political landscape has always been surprisingly conservative.


The Ethics of the Red Light District

We may as well get straight into it, when it comes to Amsterdam the ethics of the city’s famous sex trade is something of a hot potato. De Wallen, Amsterdam’s most famous red light district, is heavily regulated and all sex workers and establishments must have licenses. The safety and vulnerability of sex workers is a priority for the government hence the official legalization in 2000. That said, the sex industry does attract an unfortunate black market presence trading in human trafficking and child prostitution. For this reason, visitors are strongly urged to only use registered providers.


Environmental Ethics

Though you may not think it from the pervading presence of bicycles, international tourism has placed an environmental and economic strain on The Netherlands since much of the country’s tourism is concentric around the west coast leading to an uneven distribution of wealth. Much of the country’s tourism is environmentally damaging such as water sports (leading to increased water pollution from added boats), cycling and hiking (which lead to land and dune erosion). You can lessen the environmental impact of your tourism in Amsterdam by eating and drinking locally sourced products and staying in rural and agri-tourist accommodation outside of the city.


Amsterdam is a charming and delightful city, rich in museums, galleries and cafe culture. Make sure that you help to maintain the environmental and economic balance of this fair city when you visit.  


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