The Amsterdam Tap Water Ripoff

Most dutchgrub readers, like many Amsterdam visitors, are used to being welcomed by fresh and cool water on the table of a restaurant. Complimentary, of course, and a great gesture to make the guest feel welcome and given a chance to settle in and refresh. This was never the case in Amsterdam where you would have to ask the waiter for tap water.

While this seemed merely a nuisance and easily explained by cultural differences, things seem to have gotten out of hand recently. On numerous occasions restaurants have employed dubious tactics to make extra money by selling beautifully designed and ridiculously overpriced bottles of water.

The methods vary. Some restaurants outright refuse serving tap water, which often results in rather comical situations where the waiter tries to explain that the restaurant does not have tap water. Eh, excuse me?!? More often waiters directly ask the guests whether they would like some water. They obviously fail to mention that this will be charged and take advantage of the situation by overwhelming visitors the minute they sit down. While these kind of scare tactics are still rare, there are many cases of tap water being charged for, grossly overpriced bottled water, or tap water filled into what looks like a bottle of commercial water.

It’s time to do something about this! The Dutch consumer protection organization got the ball rolling by publishing research (Dutch) that shows that some restaurants charge up to € 3,75 for a glass of water. And the first Facebook group of 10.000 fans of tap water in Dutch restaurants has formed.

tap water amsterdam restaurant

8 thoughts on “The Amsterdam Tap Water Ripoff”

  1. Looks like the test comment made it through without problems. Let me know if you’re still having problems. You can also email me at dutchgrub(at)gmail(dot)com or DM me on Twitter at @dutchgrub.


  2. I have actually been known to walk out of restaurants that refuse to give me tap water. I hate this. I want tap water because I hate the entire bottled water business.

    The last time I did this was when I had taken over 30 colleagues to a business dinner at Restaurant ‘t Zwaantje and the waitress refused to serve us tap water, saying that they do not have it. They had been exceptionally rude to our party up to this point, and this was the last straw. I asked her how she could wash the dishes if that were the case, and told her that we would be taking our business elsewhere.

    It was very difficult to get a place to serve all of us, but I hope that this is the start of more people taking a stand.

  3. I absolutely agree. I’ve walked out of restaurants as well because they wouldn’t serve tap water, although I never argue with the waiter/waitress. It’s the policy of the restaurant and the waiter/tress probably doesn’t have much to say about that although personally I would find it too emabarrassing to work in a restaurant like that. In my restaurant we always ask whether you’d like tap water or mineral water and if peolpe want mineral we serve Earth Water. The profit of Earth Water goes to water projects in underdeveloped countries. So not all water businesses are terrible.

  4. Hi Fiona and Annemieke,

    Well done! I have a lot of respect for you. It takes quite some determination to walk out of a restaurant, especially with a large group. And it’s probably the only way to change anything.

    I was at Restaurant Blauw on Amstelveenseweg the other day and was refused tap water. So ridiculous. Unfortunately I was too lazy to walk out as I like their food and appreciated the air conditioning on a hot evening. So instead I complained, which probably won’t change anything…


  5. I was just refused a glass of water in a restaurant in Leiden despite the fact we had ordered food. The manager told me it was against the house rules to serve tap water. When I questioned this they were very rude and I was told they are ‘niet verplicht’ to serve water. Does anyone know if there is a law obliging restaurants to serve tap water?

  6. If the waiter offers your table water, you are under no obligation to pay for whatever is brought to you. Offering water is exctly that, an offer. When it comes to paying your bill you can exclude the cost of the water and they complain you can leave your address. You are under no obligation to pay. This goes for the food too. If you are unhappy with your food, as a consumer you are not obliged to pay for it. Only leave your contact details and ask them to invoice you. This really gets up their noses, but hey if they are going to rip you off and offer poor service they fully deserve whats coming to them

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