LAST UPDATED: Summer 2018. I wrote this post back in 2012 when I was about to leave the city after living there for a year. Fast forward another 12 months and I had returned and made Amsterdam my home. I've kept this post because it makes me laugh and it also has some pretty useful advice if you want to visit Amsterdam and not head home looking like you have chicken pox....
Mosquitoes in Amsterdam
After I poured my heart into this open letter about everything I'll miss about Amsterdam, it's only fair that I mention that there was one unexpected thing that I hated with a small passion in Amsterdam.
Mosquitoes are EVERYWHERE in Amsterdam. Okay, not everywhere, but if you're planning a trip here, you should know that mosquitoes in Amsterdam, ARE A THING!
Why are there mosquitoes in Amsterdam?
After off loading all of our industrial strength repellent that saw us through Southeast Asia and the southern hemisphere relatively unscathed I took great comfort in being back in Europe where you have to be in very specific warm corners of the continent to collect bites, usually in the south. Or so I thought.
Within weeks of living in Amsterdam I fell victim to one of the city's main predators. No, not a tanked up young British man on a stag do, but a mosquito. This hungry fragment of flying vermin left it's mark on my thigh, my calf, my shoulder, my arm and my face. My face! I hate anything, human included, that takes the grand liberty of biting my face.
The ensuing months have been a battle of Bird v. Mosquito with the Mozzie often coming out on top. I generally hate killing insects, even ones that feed on my blood, but too many times I have seen red (and blotchy from all that scratching) and have waged war on them in the middle of the night switching on all the lights and hunting out their spindly legs and bloated blood-filled body while winding up a bathroom towel into the perfect whipping device. Of course, I haven't been alone. NewMan has joined me too, often being a more committed soldier than I as I grow tired quickly and crawl back into bed to scratch myself to sleep.
I have a number of theories why there are so many mosquitoes in Amsterdam. It's almost certainly because there is so much water running through the city and I've definitely found that the closer you are to a canal, the more likely you are to get bitten. Maybe it's also the weed, the sex shows or the Rijksmuseum but they are alive and well in this part of the Netherlands and ready to absorb as much of you as they can.
Tips for dealing with mosquitoes in Amsterdam
My best advice for dealing with the mosquitoes in Amsterdam through prevention and attack, is to not leave your mosquito repellent at home if you're heading to the Dam in the spring or summer, and if you're particularly juicy to these buzzing little menaces then maybe bring it with you during a visit in autumn or winter. If you have kids, I can recommend this one for a DEET-free friendly alternative. If you're an adult and don't care about your skin stinging a bit as long as you keep those mozzies away from you, this one hasn't let us down.
If you like to sleep with the windows open or take long walks through the town on an evening with a couple of inches of flesh showing, spray up or cover up with long sleeves and trousers. Alternatively, ensure you have the energy and stamina for long sweaty and frustrating nights of whipping ...and I'm not remotely talking about a sex show in the red light district.
If you have to have windows open, I recommend keeping curtains closed, even in the daytime as they will take any opportunity to fly in uninvited.
If you're staying in an Airbnb and visiting Amsterdam during the summer, I recommend asking the owners if mosquitoes are a problem and if so could they leave some citronella candles or one of these smoke coils for any outdoor areas because it can get very warm in Amsterdam (sometimes!) and you should make the most of the late light evenings. If you're staying in a houseboat I would almost insist that they provide some level of protection or repellent for you as they should know only too well about these little blood-sucking invaders. If they're too stingy to come up with the goods themselves you should be able to find some candles at Hema or Blokker shops which can be found on most Dutch high streets.
You could also ask the owner of your apartment to provide fans so you don't have to open the windows, also this should act as a cross wind for any mosquito to navigate against on its way to the landing strip that is your arm....
If you do get bitten, we recently discovered this after-bite relief stick which definitely helped take the itchy edge off a bite, so maybe add this to your Amsterdam packing list! We always travel with this, and the kids' version for our son. I've also met a few people who swear by these anti-mosquito wristbands (especially for kids or pregnant women who shouldn't wear too much deet) but we're yet to try them out ourselves. Could definitely be worth trying, especially at night which is when I find the Amsterdam mosquitoes get really hungry. Must be something to do with the munchies.
I know it seems a little extreme to write a whole post about how mosquitoes in Amsterdam are a thing you should think about if you're visiting, but I would hate for anyone to come here, get eaten alive and then wonder why Frankie didn't warn them... Consider this your warning!
Now here's some more upbeat and exciting Amsterdam travel posts:
Frances M. Thompson
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