Friday, January 13, 2023
Netherlands travel guide - Travel S helper

Netherlands

travel guide

The Netherlands is a tiny yet beautiful nation located in northwest Europe’s low-lying river delta. Its notably flat terrain, most of which has been reclaimed from the sea, is studded with windmills, blossoming tulip fields, and beautiful towns. This is a highly populated contemporary European nation, with approximately 16 million people living in an area nearly twice the size of the American state of New Jersey. Even yet, even its biggest cities maintain a fairly laid-back small-town feel, and many are densely packed with ancient landmarks.

Although the nation is often referred to as Holland, the term officially applies to just two of the country’s twelve provinces and is unpopular with the rest of the people.

Following the conclusion of the Eighty Years’ War in 1581 (accepted de jure by Spain in 1648), the Netherlands developed into a major maritime force and one of the world’s most powerful countries during a period known as the Dutch Golden Age. Due to its naval past, this tiny nation is endowed with an abundance of cultural legacy, which is evident in many cities across the country. This era was also a cultural high point, producing famous artists such as Rembrandt and Vermeer. Their paintings, together with those of many others, adorn the finest Dutch museums, which draw hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

The Netherlands has developed a reputation for tolerance and progressivism through the centuries: the nation was the first in the world to allow same-sex marriage, and the Dutch typically have an open attitude about cannabis and prostitution. The Netherlands is at the forefront of international cooperation as a founding member of the EU and NATO and as the home of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The Netherlands is easily accessible from everywhere in the globe, thanks to its international airport Schiphol and its sophisticated network of highways and international high-speed rail lines. Due to its compact size, friendly attitude, and fascinating attractions, it is a unique and easy-to-discover location that complements any European vacation.

The Netherlands is a relatively small but charming country located in the lowland river delta in northwestern Europe. Its famous flat landscape, much of which has been torn out of the sea, is dotted with windmills, fields of tulip blossoms and picturesque villages. With more than 16 million people living in an area twice the size of the American state of New Jersey, it is a modern, densely populated European country. Yet even the largest cities retain a relaxed small-town atmosphere, and many of them are full of historical heritage.

The country is commonly called Holland, but this name actually refers to only two of the twelve provinces and is unpopular with the majority of the population.

After the Eighty Years’ War, which led to the country’s de facto independence from Spain in 1581 (recognised by Spain on oath in 1648), the Netherlands became a great naval power and one of the most powerful nations in the world at a time known as the Dutch Golden Age. Because of its maritime history, this small nation has a rich cultural heritage that can be seen in many cities across the country. This period was also a cultural highlight, producing famous painters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer. Their works and many others fill the leading Dutch museums, which attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

Over the centuries, the Netherlands has gained a reputation for tolerance and progress : The country was the first in the world to legalise same-sex marriage, and the Dutch generally have an open attitude towards cannabis and prostitution. The Netherlands, being a founding member of the EU and NATO as well as host to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, is a central player in international cooperation.

Thanks to its international airport Schiphol and an extensive network of motorways and high-speed international railway lines, you can easily reach the Netherlands from all over the world. Its small size, welcoming attitude and curiosities make it a unique and easy-to-explore destination and an ideal complement to any trip to Europe.

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Netherlands - Info Card

Population

17,736,900

Currency

Euro (€) (EUR), US dollar ($) (USD)

Time zone

UTC+1 (CET)

Area

41,865 km2 (16,164 sq mi)

Calling code

+31, +599

Official language

Dutch

Netherlands | Introduction

Tourist information in Netherlands

You can recognise the Netherlands tourist offices by their blue logo containing the 3 letters VVV. These letters mean: Vereniging voor Vreemdelingenverkeer. You will find VVV offices in the main cities and tourist locations, some of which are run by volunteers. The staff generally speak English and, especially in areas frequently visited by international travellers, there is also printed information in English. The main aim is to inform and advise visitors about the main tourist attractions in the community and the region, help with hotel reservations and provide information about museums, opening hours, etc. The VVV also provides information about the local community and its surroundings. It is often possible to buy tickets for events or gift vouchers. Informative brochures and simple maps are available free of charge. More elaborate maps, books and souvenirs can be purchased.

Geography of Netherlands

In terms of population, the Netherlands has one of the most densely inhabited countries in the world. No matter where you go, you are never far from civilisation. Cities can be overcrowded, especially in the Randstad, where traffic congestion is a serious problem.

Most of the country is flat and lies at or below sea level, making it an ideal place to cycle. This hilly nature (perhaps combined with its distinct culture) has earned it a reputation as almost ‘foreign’ and has made it a popular holiday destination for the Dutch. The rural landscape of the Netherlands is characterised by highly industrialised agriculture and extensive meadows. It is only thanks to this industrialisation that the Netherlands can be one of the largest exporters of food products in the world, despite its high population density.

Cycling is also an excellent way to discover picturesque rural landscapes, villages and windmills. While the main cities and attractions are easy to find and explore, the rural beauty can be a little harder to find at first in the sprawling development of the country. Visitors who wish to explore the Dutch provinces can benefit from the excellent system of VVV tourist offices. They can also provide you with countless cycling and walking routes that are specially designed to take you directly to the most beautiful places in each region.

The geography of the Netherlands is also known to be dominated by water. The country is criss-crossed by rivers, canals and dykes, and the beach is never far away. The west coast has extensive sandy beaches and dunes that attract many Dutch and German visitors. Since the 17th century, about 20% of all land has been reclaimed from the sea, lakes, marshes and swamps. The Friesian lakes determine a large part of the geography of the northwest.

Demographics of Netherlands

Based on an estimated population of 16,785,403 by April 30, 2013, the Netherlands has the 10th largest population in Europe which is the 63rd most populous country in the world. Between 1900 and 1950, the country’s population almost doubled, from 5.1 million to 10 million. From 1950 to 2000, the population continued to grow, reaching 15.9 million, although this represents a slower rate of growth. In 2013, the estimated growth rate was 0.44%.

The fertility rate in the Netherlands is 1.78 children per woman (2013 est ), which is high compared to many other European countries, but lower than the 2.1 children per woman needed for natural population replacement. In the Netherlands life expectancy is very high: 83.21 years for females and 78.93 years for males.

Most of the population living in the Netherlands is ethnically Dutch. The country’s population was estimated to be made up of approximately 80.9% Dutch, 2.4% Indonesians, 2.4% Germans, 2.2% Turks, 2.0% Surinamese, 1.9% Moroccans, 0.8% West Indians and Arubans and 7.4% others. Approximately 150,000 to 200,000 people living in the Netherlands are expatriates, mainly concentrated in and around Amsterdam and The Hague, and now account for almost 10% of the population of these cities.

With an average height of 1.81 metres for men and 1.67 metres for women, the Dutch are the tallest people in the world. People in the south are on average about 2 cm smaller than those in the north.

Dutch people or descendants of Dutch people can also be found in migrant communities around the world, including Canada, Australia, South Africa and the United States. More than 5 million Americans declare full or partial Dutch descent, according to the 2006 US census. In South Africa, there are nearly 3 million Africans of Dutch descent. Statistics from Eurostat estimate that 1.8 million people born abroad were living in the Netherlands in 2010, which represents 11.1% of the total population.

The Netherlands is the 24th most densely populated country in the world, with 408.53 inhabitants per square kilometre (1,058/m²) or, counting only the land area (33,883 km2, 13,082 m2), 500.89 inhabitants per square kilometre (1,297/m²). If only the area of provincial land is counted (33,718 km2), the first half of 2014 saw 500 inhabitants per square kilometre (1,295/m²). The Randstad is the country’s largest metropolitan area. It is located in the west of the country and comprises the four largest cities: Amsterdam in the province of North Netherlands, Rotterdam and The Hague in the province of South Netherlands, and Utrecht in the department of Utrecht. The Randstad has 7 million inhabitants and is the 6th largest metropolitan area in Europe. According to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics, 28% of the Dutch population had a disposable income of more than 40,000 euros in 2015.

Religion in Netherlands

Historically, the Netherlands was a predominantly Christian society. With the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, the Dutch population was divided into two thirds Protestants (mainly Reformed) and one third Catholics. This situation began to change gradually in the twentieth century, as religious affiliation continued to decline sharply. There was a strong religious divide between the Catholic south and the Reformed north, the remains of which can still be seen. Nowadays, from a religious point of view, The Netherlands is one of the most secular nations in the world. About 39% of the population is affiliated to a religion and in 2010 less than 5.6% attended religious services regularly (once or several times a month). Despite a general decline in religiosity, a compensating trend is the religious revival of the Protestant Bible belt and the growth of Muslim and Hindu communities.

In the Netherlands, religion is generally regarded as a personal matter and should not be propagated in public. The Dutch constitution guarantees freedom of education, which means that all schools that adhere to general quality criteria receive equal funding from the government. These include schools run by religious groups (especially Roman Catholics and various Protestants) on the basis of religious principles. Three political parties in the Dutch Parliament (CDA, Christian Union and SGP) are based on the Christian faith. Several Christian religious festivals are national holidays (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and Ascension).

Christianity is currently the largest religion in the Netherlands, accounting for about a third of the population. Roman Catholicism is the largest Christian denomination, with about four million registered members (23.7% of the population). The provinces of North Brabant and Limburg have always been strongly influenced by Roman Catholicism, and the inhabitants of these provinces still largely regard the Catholic Church as the basis of their cultural identity. Protestantism in the Netherlands consists of a number of churches of different traditions. Although Christianity has become a minority in the Netherlands as a whole, there is a biblical belt in the Netherlands stretching from Zeeland to the northern parts of the province of Overijssel, where the Protestant (mainly Reformed) faith remains strong and even has majorities in the local councils. The Dutch royal family was historically reformed.

Islam is the second religion of the state. There were approximately 825,000 Muslims in the Netherlands in 2012 (5% of the population). The number of Muslims increased from the 1960s onwards due to the large number of migrant workers. These included migrants from former Dutch colonies, such as Suriname and Indonesia, but mainly migrant workers from Turkey and Morocco. In the 1990s, Muslim refugees arrived from countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Other religions account for about 6% of the Dutch population. Hinduism is a minority religion in the Netherlands, with about 215,000 followers (just over 1% of the population). Most are Indo-Surinamese.

Language in Netherlands

The national language of the Netherlands is Dutch (Nederlands). It is a charming and singing language, dotted with gs glottal (not in the south) and shs (also found in Arabic, for example), which makes the phlegm quiver. Dutch, especially in its spoken form, is partially intelligible to someone who knows other Germanic languages (especially German and Frisian), and one could at least partially hear oneself in these languages if one spoke it slowly.

However, the Dutch trading tradition and international attitude have led to this small country having a strong tradition of multilingualism. English as a foreign language is a compulsory part of education and is usually taught from the age of 9 or 10. With the possible exception of the elderly, the vast majority of the adult population speaks English relatively well, and most young people speak it with almost maternal fluency, so you should have no difficulty getting by in English. Although it is less widely spoken than English, basic German is also spoken by some people, especially older people and those living in areas close to the German border. French, Spanish or Italian are also spoken by some, but proficiency in these languages is rare. In short, Dutch is one of the most common on the continent. Ancient Greek and Latin are taught in the upper school.

German is widely spoken in the regions bordering Germany. The languages of immigrants are mainly found in urban areas: Turkish, Arabic, Sranan-Tongo (Surinam), Papiamento (Netherlands Antilles) and Indonesian. While it is quite possible to meet people who only speak Dutch, there is usually someone else around and travellers should be able to get around without learning a word of Dutch.

In addition to Dutch, several regional languages and dialects are spoken. In the eastern provinces of Groningen, Overijssel, Drenthe and Gelderland, the inhabitants speak a local variant of Lower Saxon (including Grunnegs and Tweants). In the southern province of Limburg, the majority speak Limburgish, a regional language unique in Europe, which is characterised by the use of pitch and tone length to distinguish words (for example: “Veer” with a high tone means “we”, while the same word with a low tone means “four”).

Frisian is the only official language outside Dutch, but it is only spoken in the province of Friesland. It is the closest living language to English. Other forms of Frisian are also spoken by small minorities in Germany. If you drive through Friesland or South Limburg, you will come across many bilingual street signs (like in Wales and South Tyrol). Everyone speaks Dutch, but the Frisians are so keen on the minority language that if you order a beer in that language, you might get the next one for free.

Foreign television programmes and films are almost always broadcast in the original language with subtitles. Only children’s programmes are dubbed into Dutch.

Internet & Communications in Netherlands

The country code for the Netherlands is 31. The outgoing international dialling code is 00, so to call the USA replace 00 1 with +1 and for the UK replace 00 44 with +44.

The mobile phone network in the Netherlands is GSM 900/1800. The cellular phone networks are operated by KPN, Vodafone and T-Mobile; the other operators use one of these 3 networks. The networks are of high quality and cover all corners of the Netherlands. If you bring your own mobile phone (GSM) to make (or receive) calls while in the Netherlands, you should check your provider’s roaming rates, as they vary widely. Receiving calls on a mobile phone with a Dutch SIM card is free in most cases; if you use a foreign SIM card, charges will apply as the call will theoretically be routed through your home country. It may be cheaper to buy a prepaid SIM card that you insert into your mobile phone, or even to buy a very cheap package of prepaid card and phone. Providers that specialise in discounted rates abroad include LycaLebaraOrtel and Vectone.

To benefit from cheap international calls from the Netherlands, you can use cheap dial-up services like QazzaBelBazaarpennyphoneSlimCall, telegoedkoop, beldewereldteleknaller. Bypass services are available directly from any landline in the Netherlands. No contract or registration is required. Most numbering services offer the United States, Canada, Western Europe and many other countries for the price of a local call, so you can easily save on your telephone costs. They also work from public phones.

There are only a few public pay phones left in the Netherlands. They are mostly found in railway stations. Telfort booths accept coins, while most KPN booths only accept prepaid cards or credit cards. Some new public telephones have been installed that accept coins again. Note that tariffs (per unit or call duration) may differ between public phones in a truly public area and the same types of equipment in a more public-private area.

0800 numbers are free, while 09xx numbers are charged at a premium. Mobile phones have numbers in the 06 range, and calls to mobile phones are also charged at higher rates. The (national) directory enquiry services can be reached via 18881850 and various other “directory enquiry” numbers. Prices vary depending on the operator, but are usually quite high, more than one euro per call, as well as charges per second. The international directory enquiries service can be reached on 0900 8418 (Monday to Friday from 8 am to 8 pm, €0.90 per minute). You can also find telephone numbers free of charge on the internet at Telefoonboek.nl, De Telefoongids.nl and for opening hours at Openingstijden.nl or OpeningstijdenGids.nl.

Access to the Internet

With the exception of some low-end providers, all mobile operators support GPRS. KPN, Vodafone and T-Mobile offer UMTS (and HSDPA) services in almost all parts of the country, with 4G coverage almost complete with most providers. Dutch sim cards are also available with mobile internet access, usually starting at €10 for 1 GB and valid for one month. Internet cafés are becoming increasingly rare, but can still be found in major cities and usually offer international phone boxes. Many public libraries offer internet access, usually for a fee. Wireless internet access via Wi-Fi is quite widespread. It is usually free in pubs, restaurants and many attractions. In hotels the situation is different: in some cases the service is free, in others the prices are high. Free Wi-Fi is available in many major train stations, on an increasing number of NS intercity trains, on some other operators’ local trains and on some regional buses, and Schiphol offers limited free service and better (and longer) paid use.

Economy of Netherlands

With its developed economy, the Dutch have been playing a special role in the European economy for many centuries. Since the 16th century, shipping, fishing, agriculture, trade and banking have been the main sectors of the Dutch economy. The Netherlands has a high degree of economic freedom. The Netherlands is one of the best-performing countries in the Global Enabling Trade Report (ranked 3rd in 2014).

In 2013, the Netherlands’ main trading partners were Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Italy, China and Russia. It is among the world’s Top 10 exporters. Food is the largest industrial sector. Other important industries are chemicals, metallurgy, machinery, electrical products, trade, services and tourism.

The Netherlands is the 17th largest economy in the world and ranks 10th in terms of (nominal) GDP per capita. Between 1997 and 2000, annual economic growth (GDP) averaged almost 4%, well above the European average. In the period between 2001 and 2005, the growth has slowed significantly with the global economic decline, however, it increased to 4.1 % in the third quarter of 2007. By May 2013, inflation stood at 2.8% per year. In April 2013, unemployment stood at 8.2 percent (or 6.7 per cent according to the ILO definition) of the labor force. In July 2016, this rate was reduced to 6.0 percent. Economic growth in 2015 and 2016 (forecast) is about 2%.

In the third and fourth quarters of 2011, the Dutch economy contracted by 0.4% and 0.7% respectively due to the European debt crisis, while the eurozone economy contracted by 0.3% in the fourth quarter. Although the Netherlands ranks 7th in terms of GDP per capita, it ranks 1st in terms of child well-being, according to UNICEF. On the Index of Economic Freedom, the Netherlands ranks 13th out of 157 countries surveyed with the highest degree of free-market capitalization.

Amsterdam is the financial and economic capital of the Netherlands. AEX (Amsterdam Stock Exchange), which is part of Euronext, is the world’s oldest and one of the largest stock exchanges in Europe.  It is located near Dam Square in the center of the city. As a founding member of the euro, the Netherlands replaced its old currency, the ‘guilder’, on 1 January 1999 (for accounting reasons), along with 15 other countries that have adopted the euro. Euro notes and coins followed on 1 January 2002, with one euro being equivalent to 2.20371 Dutch guilders.

The geographical location of the Netherlands provides an excellent opportunity to access the markets of the UK and Germany, with Rotterdam being the largest port in Europe. The Netherlands managed to solve the problem of public finances and stagnant employment growth long before their European counterparts. With over 4.2 million international visitors, Amsterdam is the 5th most visited tourist destination in Europe. Since EU enlargement, a large number of migrant workers from Central and Eastern Europe have come to the Netherlands.

BrabantStad, an association between the municipalities of Breda, Eindhoven, Helmond, ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Tilburg and the province of North Brabant, is economically very important. This makes BrabantStad the fastest-growing economic area of the Netherlands. The region is located in the Eindhoven-Leuven-Aachen triangle (ELAT). The partnership aims to form an urban network and explicitly promote North Brabant as a leading knowledge region in Europe. With a total of 1.5 million inhabitants and 20% of the industrial production of the Netherlands, BrabantStad is one of the largest metropolitan regions in the Netherlands and is economically important. One-third of the money spent on research and development in the Netherlands is spent in Eindhoven. A quarter of the region’s jobs are in the field of technology and ICT.

Of all European patent applications in the field of physics and electronics, around 8% come from North Brabant. In the wider region, BrabantStad is part of the Eindhoven-Louvain-Aachen triangle (ELAT). This economic cooperation agreement between three cities in three countries has created one of the most innovative regions in the EU (measured by money invested in technology and the knowledge economy).

The Netherlands remains one of the leading European countries in attracting foreign direct investment and is among the top five investors in the United States. The economy slowed down in 2005, but rebounded in 2006 at its fastest pace in six years thanks to rising exports and strong investment. In 2007, the pace of employment growth reached its highest level in a decade. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, the Netherlands is the fifth most competitive economy in the world.

Apart from coal and gas, the country has no mineral resources. The Groningen gas field, one of the largest natural gas fields in the world, is located near Slochteren. The exploitation of this field has generated revenues of €159 billion since the mid-1970s. The field is operated by the state-owned company Gasunie and production is jointly operated by the government, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil through NAM (Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij).

Entry Requirements For Netherlands

Visa & Passport For Netherlands

The Netherlands is a member of the Schengen Agreement.

  • There are normally no border controls between the countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. This includes most countries of the European Union and a few other countries.
  • Before boarding an international flight or ship, there is usually an identity check. Sometimes there are temporary checks at land borders.
  • Similarly, a visa issued for a member of the Schengen area is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty.

Nationals of the above-mentioned countries may work in the Netherlands without a visa or other permit for the duration of their 90-day visa-free stay.

All travellers who are not EEA or Swiss nationals must register their residence with the Aliens Police (Vreemdelingenpolitie) within three working days of entering the EU. Hotels usually take care of the registration formalities for their guests.

Applications for visas and long-term residence permits are processed by the IND. As a rule, travellers to the Netherlands without a short-term visa can obtain a residence permit on entry, but ask the nearest embassy or consulate for information.

There are several ways to enter the Netherlands. From neighbouring European countries, it is possible to travel to the Netherlands by car or train; visitors from further afield will probably use the plane. Visitors from the UK can also arrive by boat.

How To Travel To Netherlands

Get In - By plane

Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam is a European hub and the largest in Europe after London, Paris and Frankfurt. It is a sight in itself as it is 4 metres below average sea level. Travellers can easily fly there from most parts of the world and then connect with the Netherlands’ largest airline, KLM.

Some low-cost airlines also offer flights to the Netherlands. Jet2.comEasyjetTransavia and other low-cost airlines fly to Schiphol, offering a fairly cheap way to shop in Amsterdam from other parts of Europe. Flights to/from the British Isles and Mediterranean countries in particular can be relatively cheap. It is important to book as early as possible as prices tend to be higher the closer you get to departure.

There are excellent rail connections from Schiphol: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and many other cities have direct train connections. International high-speed trains run to Antwerp, Brussels and Paris. Schiphol station is on the metro under the main concourse of the airport. The train is the fastest and cheapest way to get around the Netherlands.

Taxis are expensive: legal taxis have blue number plates, others should be avoided. Illegal taxi services are often offered outside the airport, but charge high sums even for short journeys. Some hotels in Amsterdam and around the airport offer a shuttle service.

Other international airports are Eindhoven AirportMaastricht/Aachen AirportRotterdam-Hague Airport and Groningen-Eelde Airport. These small airports are mainly served by low-cost airlines. Eindhoven and Maastricht/Aachen airports are mainly used by Ryanair, while Rotterdam airport is used by Transavia, KLM’s low-cost subsidiary for tourists. The operator CityJet makes an expensive suburban trip to London. A direct bus service to local stations and then by train is the best way to get to Amsterdam or any other city. There is a direct bus connection between Eindhoven Airport and Amsterdam Central Station.

It is also possible to get to the Netherlands via airports in neighbouring countries. The most popular airports are Düsseldorf International Airport and Brussels Airport. European low-cost carriers (Ryanair and Air Berlin) also use Münster-Osnabrück and Weeze/Niederrhein airports, which are close to or directly on the border between the Netherlands and Germany. Frequent flights to the main European destinations are operated from these two airports.

Get In - By train

The (high-speed) train is perhaps the most convenient means of transport between major European cities. Some budget airlines offer cheaper deals, but remember that international high-speed lines connect city centres rather than airports, which are usually outside the city. Trains don’t have to be present an hour before departure either and can be part of the holiday experience.

Remember that the cheapest tickets often sell out early and reservations can usually be made from 3 (normal) to 6 (City Night Line) months in advance. Reservations can be made through NS Hispeed (Dutch Railways) or their German and Belgian counterparts.

From France, Belgium and Great Britain

The high-speed Thalys train that connects the Netherlands with France and Belgium is a bit expensive, but if you book a round trip in advance or if you are under 26 or over 60, you can get a good deal. It’s also faster, usually cheaper and more comfortable than flying. There are direct trains from Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport and Rotterdam.

Maastricht can also be reached by Thalys from LiègeAachen. Change at Liège-Guillemins for the direct train to Maastricht – for more information.

Intercity Brussels runs between Amsterdam and Brussels, a service that uses normal intercity traffic. Tickets are cheaper than Thalys, and on weekends there are discounts for travelling from (and to) Belgium.

NB: The old Fyra high-speed service on this route was discontinued shortly after its introduction.

There are local trains from Roosendaal to Antwerp and from Maastricht to Liège. A light rail link from Maastricht to Hasselt is under construction and will be operational in a few years.

London’s St Pancras station is connected to the Netherlands by Eurostar high-speed trains via Brussels South station. Use one of the connections above.

From Germany, Switzerland, Denmark…

The high-speed Intercity Express (ICE) connects Basel with Amsterdam via Frankfurt, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Arnhem and Utrecht.

Intercity trains connect Berlin and Hanover via Osnabrück with Amsterdam, Hengelo, Deventer, Apeldoorn, Amersfoort and Hilversum.

The City Night Line and Euronight trains offer direct night connections from cities such as Munich, Zurich, Copenhagen, Innsbruck, Warsaw and Prague.

There are also a number of regional trains to and from Germany:

  • Between Groningen and Leer, trains run every hour.
  • There are hourly trains between Enschede and Münster and hourly trains between Enschede and Dortmund.
  • Trains run hourly between Venlo and Hamm, via Mönchengladbach and Düsseldorf.
  • Trains run hourly between Heerlen and Aachen and on to Eschweiler / Stolberg (Rheinland).
  • The local train between Hengelo and Bad Bentheim has been suspended since 2014; it will be resumed in 2017.

Get In - By bus

Local

  • A list of buses that cross the border between Germany and the Netherlands can be found here.
  • A list of buses crossing the border between Belgium and the Netherlands can be found here.
  • The city of Baarle (formerly Baarle-Hertog in Belgium and Baarle-Nassau in the Netherlands) is not only a special result of ancient European history, but also a possible transfer point, as the city’s main bus stop, Sint-Janstraat, is served by both Flemish (Belgian) and Dutch buses.
  • The Flemish (Belgian) company De Lijn operates a cross-border bus between Turnhoutin in Belgium and Tilburg in the Netherlands, both of which are end points of each country’s railway network.

Intercity

Until the decade of 2010, there were no intercity buses in Germany and France and thus no or few connections to the Netherlands. However, German and French laws have since been changed and there are now several lines and operators connecting the Netherlands with Germany, France, Belgium or Luxembourg.

Eurolines is the main ‘operator’ for international buses to the Netherlands (in fact, the name Eurolines is a common brand used by different operators). The offer is limited: Only a few main routes are served daily, e.gfrom Poland, London, Milan, Brussels and Paris, but it is the cheapest way to travel and you get a discount if you are under 26.

Megabus operates routes from London and Paris to Amsterdam via Brussels.

La Deutsche Bahn exploite un bus express Londres-Anvers-Eindhoven-Düsseldorf.

Postbuses serve some places in the Netherlands itself and others in cooperation with other companies (which means that some facilities are not available on these routes).

Flixbus operates international routes through the Netherlands and neighbouring countries as well as domestic connections.

Student Agency is a Czech company that serves certain points in the Netherlands.

The Berlinlinienbus serves some stops in the Netherlands

Due to the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, there are bus companies for the Bosnian diaspora that offer a cheap and clean way to travel to the other side of the European continent. Half-tours are organised several times a week from various destinations in Bosnia and Herzegovina to Belgium and the Netherlands. In the low season, the price for a round-trip ticket is around 135 euros.

Get In - By car

The Netherlands has good roads to Belgium and Germany, as well as ferry connections to the UK. The country has a dense, very well developed and modern motorway network. However, due to the high volume of traffic, there is considerable congestion on most main roads. The borders are open under the Schengen Agreement. Cars can be stopped at the border for random checks, but this rarely happens. There are car ferries from the UK (see below). As the UK is not part of the Schengen area, full border controls apply.

Shuttle train for cars (Channel Tunnel)

From the UK, the Netherlands can also be reached via a small part of France and Belgium by the Channel Tunnel Shuttle train. From the Calais terminal, most of the Netherlands can be reached via the A16 motorway in the direction of Dunkirk. The route continues in the direction of Bruges (Brugge), Ghent (Gent) and Antwerp (Antwerp). Near Antwerp, Rotterdam is signposted (via the Liefkenshoek toll tunnel) as well as Breda (for Utrecht and the east) and Eindhoven (for the southeast). For more information, see: eurotunnel.com.

Get In - By boat

There are three ferry routes from the UK:

  • Stena Line between Harwich and Hook of Holland. The Dutchflyer is a combined ticket that includes train travel from any point on the National Express East Anglia [www] network (including London and Norwich) to Harwich, the ferry and train travel from Hook of Holland to any point on the NS (Dutch Railways) network. Rotterdam is also the second largest port in the world and (theoretically) a good place to transport goods.
  • DFDS sea routes between North Shields near Newcastle upon Tyne and IJmuiden on the outskirts of Amsterdam.
  • P&O Ferries between Kingston Upon Hull and Rotterdam Europoort.

For more information on timetables and ticket prices for the North Sea ferries, visit AFerry.co.uk.

Get In - By bike & On foot

Thanks to the low differences in altitude and the good facilities, it is quite possible to reach the Netherlands on foot or by bike from Belgium, northern France, Germany or even England.

The Netherlands is located on the North Sea Cycle Route, which runs along the entire North Sea coast. This road is also connected to the UK national cycle network. For more information, see Northsea-cycle.com and Sustrans on the national cycle network.

The LF long-distance cycle network is shared with Belgium. The LF 1/Noordzeerouteeven route continues to Boulogne-sur-Mer in France.

From the east, the German R 1 connects Berlin with the LF 4/Midden-Nederland route, which ends in The Hague.

For hikers, the Dutch trail network is connected to the Belgian Great Route.

Near all cycling and walking routes there are usually hotels, campsites and convenient facilities. Most of them in Belgium.

How To Travel Around Netherlands

The Netherlands has a well-developed public transport network that allows you to get around easily and discover the main sights. Drivers can rely on an extensive network of motorways and semi-motorways. Of course, the Netherlands is known as one of the most bicycle-friendly countries in the world. A truly extensive cycling infrastructure makes cycling an excellent means of transport.

Get Around - Public transport

The Netherlands has a well-organised public transport system. Most villages are accessible by public transport, but connections can be irregular, especially at weekends. The Dutch public transport system consists of a network of trains that serve as a backbone, complemented by a network of local and interlocal buses. Amsterdam and Rotterdam have metro networks with only a few lines each, with Rotterdam’s line E extending to The Hague. Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague also have extensive tram networks. Utrecht has only two tram lines, which mainly serve as a connection to the surrounding suburbs of Nieuwegein and IJsselstein.

Travel information

  • 9292.nl – a route planner for all public transport in the Netherlands – All public transport companies participate in the OV Reisplanner, which can plan a door-to-door (or tourist hotspot-to-hotspot) journey for you using all types of public transport. The site relies mainly on planned diversions, but delays are built in to a limited extent. 9292 – Information is also available by phone: 0900-9292 (€0.70/min, maximum €14).
  • Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways) – You can find train information on the website of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), which includes a journey planner with the latest information about train delays and diversions. For other types of transport, use the information 9292ov.
  • Google Maps (Transit) – Some public transport is also included in Google Maps, although the planner is not always reliable and does not contain all information about public transport. This year, more transit agencies will join the initiative and Google will improve the planner.
  • In a station – In larger stations there are information stands (yellow); in most smaller stations there is an information/SOS stand. If you press the blue information button, you will be connected to a 9292 operator. If you ask the railway staff, they will often look you up in their guidebook via smartphone.

Many trains are equipped with digital displays that show up-to-date travel information. Most platforms and some bus stops have electronic information.

9292 and NS also have mobile pages.

Tickets

In recent years, public transport in the Netherlands has almost completely switched from paper tickets to contactless chip cards called OV chipkaart (OV stands for Openbaar Vervoer, which means ‘public transport‘), sometimes also called ÖPNV chip cards. Unfortunately, this means that the old “stripper cards” or undated paper train tickets you may have had on previous visits are no longer valid.

On buses and trams you can usually still buy single paper tickets at the entrance, but you have to pay extra. For trains, there are magnetic one-way tickets, but they also have an extra charge of €1. In short, if you don’t plan to use public transport occasionally, the best solution is to buy an OV chip card on arrival, as it is convenient and soon cheaper.

OV-Chipkaart

The OV chipkaart is available in three versions:

  • Disposable or one-way OV chipkaart sold with a travel product that cannot be topped up or refilled with another product, e.g. a single ticket. It does not include an electronic wallet and is intended for people who rarely use public transport in the Netherlands. Only some transport companies offer a range of fares, e.g. a three-day season ticket for all public transport in a city.
  • Anonymous OV chipkaarts are used more frequently. The purchase price for a “blank” card is 7.50 euros (as of 2014) and is non-refundable. These cards are available at counters and ATMs and are valid for up to 5 years. This card is reusable and has an electronic wallet. It is transferable and therefore cannot be used for concessionary travel, monthly or annual passes. However, the anonymous card can contain several products at the same time, as long as they are “simple” travel products as available for the one-way card.
  • The OV personal smart card is useful for anyone who is entitled to a travel discount. It is also the only type of carriage that can accommodate a monthly or annual pass. Because of these features, the personal card is non-transferable and includes the cardholder’s photo and date of birth. The OV-chipkaart personal card has an electronic wallet. In addition, it can be paid for in such a way that its balance is automatically increased when it falls below a certain value. The personal card is the only one that can be blocked in case of loss or theft.

Travellers can purchase a travel product, e.g. a day pass for a whole city or a monthly pass for a specific route. When they check out after the journey (see next section), the system detects that a specific product has been used and deactivates it if necessary. The other option is to use money from the electronic wallet of the OV chip card. A check-in fee is charged at check-in (20 euros for NS trains, 4 euros for metro, tram and bus), which is refunded once the traveller has left the country, minus the price of the journey actually made. If the user does not leave the airport, the check-in fee, which is higher than the price of most journeys, is not refunded. Travel credit can be topped up at station vending machines, ticket offices and some tobacco shops and supermarkets. During a journey, staff can check cards with a mobile card reader. You must move away from the place where you registered.

Usage

When travelling by train or underground, the OV chip is held up to a card reader as soon as the passenger enters the station or platform. The card is then “registered” and the boarding fees are debited from the card. When the passenger completes their journey at another station, the card is held up to the card reader again to “check out”; the boarding fee is refunded (minus the price of the actual journey made if the passenger uses the electronic wallet). There are two types of card reader systems in stations and metro stations: stand-alone card readers and card readers integrated into the gates. When travelling by tram or bus, passengers check in and out. For this purpose, card readers are placed at each door.

Check-in and check-out is always mandatory, except when you change from one train to another of the same operator. Switching from one operator to another requires an outgoing record on a card reader of the first operator and an incoming record on a card reader of the second operator. If you cannot switch (e.g. because the control device is defective), you may be charged a fee by your transport operator.

Note that different operators may run train or bus services from the same station. There may be different card readers in these stations. Make sure you know which operator (e.g. NS, Arriva or Veolia) runs the line you want to take and register at the correct counter.

Buying and charging

You can get anonymous cards and the corresponding disposable cards at the ticket machines in the stations and metro stations of Amsterdam (GVB) and Rotterdam (RET). Many Bruna supermarkets, tobacconists and bookshops also sell anonymous cards. Most places where cards can be bought offer the possibility to top up credit, but it may be necessary to have a debit card with a PIN code. Also note that it is usually not possible to buy cards or top up credit at bus and tram stops.

You can apply for a personal card at Ov-chipkaart.nl. You need an address in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg or Germany.

Unused credit

It is possible to obtain a refund of unused credit from personal and anonymous cards at a counter for a fee of €2.50. OV-chipkaart personal and anonymous cards are valid for four to five years. Any remaining balance on an old card can be transferred to a new card; free of charge if the old card is still valid, or for €2.50 if it is no longer valid.

Get Around - By train

Most of the Netherlands is densely populated and urbanised, and there are frequent train connections to most major cities and large towns and villages in between. There are two main types of trains: Intercities, which only stop at major stations, and Sprinters, which stop at all stations. All train types have the same fares. There are also high-speed trains called “Intercity Direct” between Amsterdam and Breda, which only require an extra ticket between Schiphol and Rotterdam. The journey from the north of the country (Groningen) to the south (Maastricht) takes about 4 hours.

The spoorkaart is a map of the railway system and shows all services. Services with only one train per hour are shown in thinner lines.

Most lines offer a train every 15 minutes (every 10 minutes during rush hour), but some rural lines only run every 60 minutes. When several lines work together, the frequency is of course even higher. In the west of the Netherlands, the rail network is more like a large city network, with up to 12 trains per hour on the main lines.

Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) operates most of the lines. Some local lines are operated by Syntus, Arriva, Veolia and Connexxion.

Due to the high frequency of services, delays are quite frequent. However, the delay is usually no more than 5 or 10 minutes. Trains can be crowded, especially in the morning rush hour. Seat reservations on domestic trains are only possible on Intercity Direct.

One particular mistake tourists often make is boarding the wrong part of a train. Many trains consist of two parts with different destinations. Somewhere on the way to the final destination, the two parts are separated and continue on their own to their respective destinations. In this case, the signs above the platforms indicate two destinations and which part is going where: achterste deel/achter means backwards and voorste deel/voor means forwards, which refers to the direction of departure. Do not hesitate to ask other passengers or a staff member.

Another common mistake is driving from Schiphol to Amsterdam. From Schiphol you can go to Amsterdam Centraal or Amsterdam Zuid (South). These stations are not directly connected and many tourists who want to go to Amsterdam Centraal end up in the south. Therefore, you should always check the destination of the train. From Amsterdam Zuid you can take the metro to Centraal, or the train to Centraal with a change at Duivendrecht station (2nd floor).

There is a convenient night train connection (for party-goers and airport traffic) between Rotterdam, Delft, The Hague, Leiden, Schiphol, Amsterdam and Utrecht, all night long, once an hour in each direction. North Brabant is also served on F-Sa and Sa-Su nights. You can travel to Dordrecht, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Eindhoven, Tilburg and Breda.

Most trains have two comfort classes (1st class and 2nd class). Some regional lines do not have first class. First class and second class are usually distinguished by different colours. Signs with “1” or “2” next to the outer doors and cabin doors indicate the class. Some areas on the train are silent zones. In these zones, noise must be kept to a minimum. They are indicated either by a stylised silhouette face holding a finger to its lips or by a yellow oval with “Ssst”.

Free Wi-Fi is available at almost all major stations and on many Intercity trains. Power sockets are only available on a few Intercity trains, and then only in first class.

Tickets

There is a uniform national fare system for rail travel. You do not need separate tickets for other operators. All railway companies in the Netherlands now use the OV chip card: paper train tickets are no longer issued. Travellers have the following options for issuing tickets:

  • Anonymous or personal OV chip card: both cost €7.50 per card. Please note that if you have already bought one of these cards from a non-NS provider, you will need to activate it for NS train travel. This happens automatically when you load money onto the card at one of the NS ticket machines.
  • one-way OV chip card for each journey. They are sold at ticket vending machines, but the price of the ticket is one euro higher than the price of a one-way ticket. Note that a one-way ticket can be bought for a single journey or for a return journey, so in this case one return journey (1x €1 surcharge) is cheaper than two return journeys (2x €1 surcharge).
  • Electronic ticket. There is no surcharge for these.

International trains arriving in or departing from the Netherlands can use separate ticketing systems. Also international discount cards like the Eurail card do not use the Chipkaart system.

The price of the ticket is uniform and depends on the distance. The tickets are valid for Sprinter and Intercity connections – there is no price difference in either case. However, for domestic travel on Intercity Direct or ICE trains, you have to pay a surcharge, which you can buy at the ticket machine and use directly. With Intercity Direct, this surcharge is only required for travel between Schiphol and Rotterdam. The most common tickets are single tickets (enkele reis) and return tickets (return). The latter is only valid for a return journey on the same day, but the price is the same as two single tickets, so a return journey offers no price advantage over buying single tickets (except when using a one-way OV chip card).

Tickets are valid on any train along the route (as opposed to a single fixed train). It is permitted to take a break at any station along the route (even at stations along the route where it is not necessary to change trains). As in many countries, there is a difference between first and second class. A second class ticket costs about 60% of the price of a first class ticket. The main advantage of first class is that it is less crowded and the seats and aisles are generally wider. A Railrunner ticket can be purchased for €2.50 for children between the ages of 4 and 11 accompanied by an adult.

Purchase train tickets

You must buy a ticket before you travel – since 2005 you can no longer simply buy a ticket from the conductor, as in some other countries. If you buy a ticket on board, you have to pay the normal price plus a penalty of €35. If the ticket machines are broken, contact the driver immediately when boarding. The conductor has no discretion with this policy, although being polite and pretending to be an ignorant tourist can help you get away with an invalid ticket. In the worst case, if you don’t have enough cash or your passport, you could be arrested by the railway police.

  • From an ATM. Tickets can be purchased at ATMs in stations with Dutch bank cards or Maestro debit cards. A fee of €0.50 is charged for payments with Visa or MasterCard. Some machines, at least one in each station, also accept coins (but not banknotes). Only the larger stations have a ticket office. The ticket machines offer menus in English. A common mistake made by foreigners is to accidentally get a 40% discount ticket (“korting”) from the machine. These tickets require a special discount card, but you can also travel with other people’s discount cards. If you have difficulty using the ticket machine, ask someone else for help; almost everyone speaks some English and will help you.
  • Online. Tickets can be purchased in advance online (e-tickets), requiring a Dutch bank account for payment (iDEAL). Please note that tickets purchased in advance are personal and conductors may ask for identification. There is no price difference compared to travelling with an anonymous or personal OV chip card, but e-tickets are €1 cheaper than a disposable OV chip card. E-tickets can also be bought on the website of the Belgian railway SNCB Europe, also on some Dutch domestic routes, usually for the same price as on the Dutch NS (to be checked). Unlike the Dutch NS website, it accepts foreign bank cards, but charges an additional fee (2 euros) per transaction if a credit card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express) is used. However, there is no surcharge for a debit card (e.g. Maestro).

Reduced rail ticket

Visitors planning a rail trip in the Netherlands should use the Eurail Card with the Benelux Package (see eurail.com). This package allows unlimited train travel in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg for several days. Europeans who cannot benefit from the Eurail card should ask about Inter Rail Pass cards, which give them discounts on their train journeys (see interrail.eu).

For tourists planning a rail trip of several days, it may be worthwhile to take out a Dal Voordeel PassOff-peak discount), which gives the cardholder (and three other accompanying persons) a 40% discount on NS trains for one year, except when travelling during peak hours (weekdays 6.30-9.00 and 16.00-18.30, except public holidays). Price 50 € for one year (2014). The subscription includes a personal OV chip card, which takes 2 weeks to process. If you already have one, the subscription can be charged to your personal OV chip card. Don’t forget to always check in and check out, the discount will be applied automatically depending on the time of check-in.

NS also has monthly and annual subscriptions for free travel on weekends, off-peak or during the entire subscription period, including peak hours, as well as a subscription that offers a 40% discount for the entire period, including peak hours.

Travellers who only want to spend one day in the Netherlands and see a large part of the country by train can buy a Dagkaart (day ticket, €51). But beware: it can be cheaper to just buy a ticket. The Dagkaart takes about 6 hours of train travel in one day. Shops like Hema, Blokker, Kruidvat or Albert Heijn also have special offers on the Dagkaart that you can buy at a reduced price (€13-16) and then print out at home. It is important to note the validity of these tickets (e.g. not valid during morning rush hours, and valid for all days or only from Saturday to Sunday, and the period for which they are valid). Using one of these tickets is probably the cheapest way to travel by train in the Netherlands, especially for return journeys.

At the station

Most stations are small, with only one or two platforms. Stations in towns or villages are usually not staffed. However, cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht have large main stations with up to 14 platforms. It can take 5 or even 10 minutes to get from one platform to another, especially for people who are not familiar with the station.

The platforms are all numbered. When platforms are so long that two or more trains can stop on the same platform, the different parts of the platform are indicated with lower case letters a/b/c. In some stations, capital letters are used to indicate which part of the train stops at which part of the station. Do not confuse lower case and upper case letters.

Timetables can be found in the station concourse and on the platforms. All train boards are normally yellow, except for deviating timetables during planned maintenance (blue) and on Queen’s Day (orange). Departing trains are printed in blue (on the yellow boards), arriving trains are printed in red. Unlike other countries, the boards themselves are not sorted by departure time, but by direction (please note that it is actually by line, from large stations some cities are served by several lines! Tourists better ask someone which line is the fastest for your destination). In some cases, several tables are needed to cover a single day for a particular direction. Also, most stations are equipped with blue electronic screens showing which trains are leaving within an hour.

Get Around - By bus

The regional and local bus network in the Netherlands is thin and frequent and generally well connected to the railway network; by bus, travellers can easily reach most small villages. However, for long-distance travel, these regional buses are impractical and much slower than the train.

Until recently, long-distance buses only existed on a few routes not covered by the rail network; these buses have special names that vary according to region, such as Q-Liner, Brabantliner and Interliner, and special fares. Recently, however, the German long-distance bus company Flixbus has expanded its offer of domestic routes in the Netherlands, with ticket prices for most routes ranging from 6 to 9 euros.

There are four major local and regional bus companies in the Netherlands, Connexxion, Veolia, Arriva and Qbuzz. Some large cities have their own bus company.

A cheap way to travel across the Netherlands is to buy a Buzzer ticket. It costs 10 euros per day and is valid from 9 am on all Connexxion buses for two adults and up to three children. On weekends and public holidays, it is also valid before 9 am. Because Connexxion has a very extensive network, you can travel from Groningen to Zeeland in one day and the train is cheaper. But the big disadvantage is that the bus routes are very indirect. To get from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, for example, you would have to make three or more changes. In short, bus journeys will almost always be longer than train journeys. For example, the journey from Utrecht to Rotterdam takes 40 minutes, but by bus it takes one and a half hours. However, if you want to enjoy the countryside and the villages, you might prefer to take the bus.

Many companies and regions have their own discounted bus tickets, which are often cheaper than the credit on the OV chip card.

(Travel) tickets for parking: Some cities offer special, cheaper bus tickets for parking near the city limits and for the city centre outside peak hours, usually a return ticket.

Night bus

Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht offer public transport at night. Only in Amsterdam is there an all-day and evening service; in the other cities it tends to be limited to the beginning of the night or only at weekends. Some other cities and regions also have night buses, which are usually even more limited. Some night buses cover quite a long distance, for example Amsterdam-Almere.

You may need special tickets for the night bus, so don’t forget to check the city pages.

Get Around - By boat

There are three ferry routes from the UK:

  • Stena Line between Harwich and Hook of Holland. The Dutchflyer is a combined ticket that includes train travel from any point on the National Express East Anglia [www] network (including London and Norwich) to Harwich, the ferry and train travel from Hook of Holland to any point on the NS (Dutch Railways) network. Rotterdam is also the second largest port in the world and (theoretically) a good place to transport goods.
  • DFDS sea routes between North Shields near Newcastle upon Tyne and IJmuiden on the outskirts of Amsterdam.
  • P&O Ferries between Kingston Upon Hull and Rotterdam Europoort.

For more information on timetables and ticket prices for the North Sea ferries, visit AFerry.co.uk.

Get Around - With the Metro

The two largest cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, have a metro network consisting mainly of elevated trains outside the city centre and a few kilometres of metros in the centre. Rotterdam’s metro line E has an origin and terminus at The Hague Central Station.

Get Around - By tram

There is also a large tram network in the conurbations of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague; Utrecht has two Sneltram lines (fast tram or light tram).

Get Around - By bike

Cycling in the Netherlands is much safer and more comfortable than in many other countries. This is due to the infrastructure – cycle lanes, cycle tracks and marked cycle paths – and the short distances and flatness. All these factors, together with many other facilities, such as numerous picnic areas, terraces, small ferry connections and campsites, mean that it is often better to discover the country by bike than by car.

The prevalence of bicycles also means that you are seen as a significant part of the traffic – motorists will point you out if you are not following the rules and assume that you are aware of other traffic. This is especially important to know in the busy (chaotic) centres of big cities. It may be a good idea to get off your bike a few hundred metres and/or leave the centre completely by taking the train, metro or Randstadrail tram).

Worth knowing:

  • Cycle lanes are marked by a round blue sign with a white bicycle symbol, a symbol on the asphalt or by red asphalt. Their use is considered mandatory.
  • Cyclists must obey the same traffic signs as car drivers, unless they are exempt. For example, a bicycle symbol under a prohibition sign, usually with the text “uitgezonderd” (exempt), means that cyclists can use the road in both directions.
  • Where there is no cycle path, use the normal road. This rule is not the same as in Germany and Belgium, where you have to use the footpath in many places. Cyclists are not allowed to ride on all (semi) motorways marked as “autosnelweg” or “autoweg”.
  • In some narrow streets that have a parallel cycle track, mopeds may be forced to use the cycle track rather than the main road (as is usually the case).
  • Bicycles must have a working front (white) and rear (red) light. Reflectors are not sufficient. You risk a fine (40 euros) if you cycle in the dark without lights, seriously endangering your life and the lives of other road users. Small battery-powered LED lights attached to your person are permitted.

Regular cycle route signs are usually white with a red border and lettering, while more leisure-oriented/tourist routes to a town or village have green lettering. In both rural and nature areas, signs may be called paddenstoelen (mushrooms). These are small boxes (more or less resembling the shape of a mushroom) located near the ground with destinations printed on them.

There are different ways to use a bicycle:

  • In the city, the bicycle can be used as a means of transport to get from one point to another. This is how residents use it most of the time, for short distances it is faster than the car, bus or tram. Cyclists can also reach interesting places near the city that may not be accessible by public transport.
  • Often the bicycle is also used as a means to see the surrounding places and landscapes:
    • The many marked cycle paths serve this purpose, mostly leading cyclists back to the starting point. Some rural routes lead through areas that are not accessible by car.
    • In most parts of the Netherlands it is possible to create your own routes by connecting marked and numbered points, called ‘knooppunten’ (see planjeroute.nl (Plan your route) for more information).
  • Except during morning and late afternoon rush hours, bicycles can be carried on the train. Cyclists must therefore buy an extra ticket called “dagkaart fiets”, which can easily be obtained from ticket machines for 6 euros. Alternatively, bikes can be easily rented at (or near) train stations. Folding bicycles can be taken on board free of charge when folded up as hand luggage. All trains are equipped with special entrances for bicycles. Cyclists can leave their bikes there and may also ask people to move for this reason. In two western city areas, bicycles can also be transported free of charge on the Metro (Amsterdam/Haag-Rotterdam) or the Randstadrail tram (The Hague-Zoetermeer), except during the day, Monday to Friday.
  • More experienced cyclists may want to cycle to the other side of the country. The national long-distance cycle routes are designed for this type of holiday; see long-distance cycle routes in the Netherlands.

The best online route planner for cyclists can be found on unwikiplanner, created by the volunteers of the Dutch Cyclists‘ Federation “Fietsersbond”.

Bicycle theft

Theft of bicycles is a serious problem in the Netherlands, especially near railway stations and in large cities. If possible, use the guarded bicycle parking places (“Standplätze”) at railway stations and in some city centres. They will cost up to €1.20 per day. Generally use 2 different types of lock (e.g. a chain lock and a tube lock). This is because most bike thieves specialise in a particular type of lock or carry the most appropriate equipment for a particular type of lock. Ideally, you should attach the bicycle to a street light or similar device. Bicycle thieves have been known to simply load the unattached bicycles onto a van so that you can open the padlocks at your leisure.

In cities, bicycles are often stolen by drug addicts who also sell most of the stolen bicycles. They often simply offer them for sale to passers-by when they think the police are not watching. Buying a stolen bike is illegal in itself, and the police arrest the buyers. If you buy at a suspiciously low price (e.g. 10 to 20 euros) or in a suspicious place (usually on the street), the law assumes that you “know or should have known” that the bike was stolen. In other words, genuine ignorance of the origin of the bicycle is no excuse.

Bicycle thefts must be reported to the police. Please do so.

Buy or rent

Bike shops are the best place to legally buy a used bike, but prices are high. Some places where you can rent bikes also sell their depreciated stock, which is usually well maintained. Most legal (and often cheap) sales of used bikes these days are through online auction sites like marktplaats.nl – the Dutch subsidiary of eBay. You can find more information on this site.

The Dutch bikesharing system “OV-fiets” is only available to residents of the Netherlands or people with a Dutch bank account. The membership fee of €9 per year and €3 per ride is automatically debited.

Additional legal protection

Weaker” parties in traffic, such as cyclists and pedestrians, have additional legal protection in terms of liability if an accident occurs with a “stronger” party (e.g. car). The basic idea is that in an accident between a weaker party (e.g. a cyclist) and the stronger party, the stronger party (e.g. a car driver) is always at fault, unless force majeure can be proven. Force majeure is defined here as (1) the motorist was driving correctly and (2) the cyclist’s fault was so unlikely that the motorist did not have to adjust his driving to it. If this cannot be proved, the driver of the car is liable, but his liability may be limited if the accident is due to the cyclist’s behaviour, up to 50% (more if the cyclist was deliberately reckless).

The burden of proof for cases of force majeure, bicycle errors and carelessness lies with the driver of the vehicle. Such things can be difficult to prove, which is why in practice some people will say that cyclists/pedestrians always have the right of way, which is not true.

Get Around - By car

A car can be a good way to explore the countryside, especially places that are not connected by train, like the Veluwe and parts of Zeeland. Drive on the right-hand side.

The motorway network is quite extensive, albeit busy. Traffic jams, especially at peak times, are common and can be better avoided. The roads are well signposted and often equipped with new technology. A motorway/highway (autosnel route) is indicated by a letter and number combination, which is in a red box. In less urbanised areas, such as the southwest and the north, there are few motorways/highways. Often, connections are made by a semi-motorway, the autoway, or another N-lane. All these connections are marked by a combination of the letters N and numbers in a yellow box. In most cases, motorists are automatically directed to the nearest A or N road. So if you want to go sightseeing off the main roads, you should follow the signs to the individual villages.

If your car breaks down on the motorway, you can go to the nearest emergency phone. These praatpals can be recognised by their height of about 1.5 m, their yellow colour and their rounded rabbit-eared cap. This is the direct link to the emergency and relief services.

You can also contact the ANWB car club by mobile phone on freephone 0800-0888; your membership of a foreign car club may entitle you to discounted rates for their services. For rental cars and hire cars, there are usually ANWB services included in the rental price, but you can also consult the brochures provided.

There are many road signs with directions, but it is useful to have a map, especially in cities where there are many one-way streets and it is not always easy to get from one part of the city to another. Be careful not to ride in bus lanes, which are often indicated by markings such as Lijnbus or Bus, or in cycle lanes marked with a picture of a bicycle or the reddish colour of the asphalt. Also, do not use rush hour lanes if the matrix display above the designated lane shows a red “X” – this means they cannot be used.

Fuel is easy to obtain, but extremely expensive. It is best to fill up before entering the Netherlands, as fuel prices in Belgium and Germany can be up to €0.30 per litre cheaper. Unmanned petrol stations such as TanGo or Firezone can save up to 10 cents, but are still significantly more expensive than their Belgian counterparts. From 2012, fuel prices at attended petrol stations will be €1.84 ($2.20) per litre. Along the motorways, many petrol stations are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are more and more unmanned petrol stations, also along the motorways, which sell petrol cheaper. These unmanned stations accept all major debit and credit cards. All petrol stations sell both petrol and diesel; ‘premium’ brands have the same octane rating (said to contain compounds that improve fuel efficiency to compensate for the higher price). LPG is sold at a relatively large number of filling stations along motorways, but never in urban areas. The LPG gas symbol is a green symbol next to the black symbol. LPG-powered cars need regular petrol to start and can also run on petrol alone, although petrol is more expensive.

If you come to the Netherlands with your car running on LPG, you will probably need an adapter. If you buy in your country, ask for the specific Dutch adapter. The plug sold as ‘European’ (screwable) is used in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, but does not fit Dutch pumps.

Driving rules in The Netherlands

The traffic rules, markings and signs are similar to those in other European countries, but have some special features:

  • At unmarked intersections, traffic coming from the right ALWAYS has priority. Traffic includes bicycles, horses, horse-drawn carriages (recreational traffic and relatively rare), electric wheelchairs, small mopeds and motorised bicycles.
  • Cycle routes are clearly signposted and widespread throughout the country.
  • On motorways, slip roads are usually long and allow for smooth merging. However, it is prohibited to re-enter the motorway from an exit lane. It is prohibited to overtake on the right and to use the outside lane(s) unnecessarily (except for overtaking). (Overtaking on the right-hand side is only permitted in slow, congested traffic).

In built-up areas, public transport buses have priority when leaving a bus stop. So be careful as they may park in front of you while waiting for you to give way.

If you are involved in an accidentboth drivers must fill in and countersign a declaration for their respective insurance company (claim form). You must have this form to hand. The police must be informed if you have damaged (public) property (especially in road traffic), if you have caused injuries or if the other driver is not willing to sign the insurance declaration. Hit and run is illegal. If the other driver does, call the police and stay at the scene of the accident. The emergency number is 112 (free of charge, also works from non-connected mobile phones); the phone number for a non-emergency police presence is 0900-8844.

Speed limits

In the Netherlands, speed limits are generally 50 km/h inside built-up areas, 80 km/h outside built-up areas, 100 km/h on motorways (autoweg in Dutch) and 130 km/h on motorways (autosnelweg). In all these cases there are often exceptions, for example many 30 km/h zones in built-up areas. Note that the 30 km/h zones have unmarked junctions (so traffic coming from the right has right of way!). On roads outside built-up areas, for example, the speed limit is often 60 km/h, and on motorways within built-up areas, the speed limit is often 100 km/h. Some stretches of motorway have signs with a speed limit with a sigh “6-19h” underneath, which means that the speed limit applies from 6am to 7pm, while at other times a limit of 130 km/h applies.

The speed indicated on the dot matrix signs above the tracks always takes precedence over anything you see, whether the speed is inside a red circle (the normal speed limit) or outside (an additional speed limit indicating traffic or construction work). A white circle with a diagonal bar indicates “the end of all speed limits indicated by dot matrix signs”, from which you obey the regular signs.

Your speed is monitored by the police throughout the country and the fines are high. Any speeding over 50 km/h will result in the confiscation of your driving licence. After that, driving is considered a criminal offence. Pay special attention to the trajectcontrol signs: This means that there is an automatic system on the road you are driving on that controls your average speed over a longer section. Speed camera warning devices are devices that you are not allowed to have in your car. They will be confiscated and you will have to pay a fine of 250 euros. Remember that the police use speed camera detectors to track down users of these devices, so it is best to switch them off. Driving under the influence of alcohol is prohibited and this prohibition is strictly enforced. Breathalysers are widely used, both individually (you are stopped and the police deem it necessary to conduct a breathalyser test) and on a larger scale (the police have set up a designated checkpoint on a motorway). An unbroken yellow line next to the pavement means you are not allowed to stop, a broken yellow line next to the pavement means you are not allowed to park. At some intersections, “shark’s teeth” are painted on the pavement, which means that you must give way to other traffic at the intersection.

Be aware that the police also use unregistered traffic surveillance vehicles, especially on motorways. They have a video surveillance system and often do not stop you immediately after you commit an offence, but follow you up. This means that if you commit any further offences, you will be fined for everything you have done. Note that police officers in unmarked vehicles are required to show identification after they have stopped you, which means you should not have to ask. Police officers in marked vehicles are only obliged to show their ID if you ask for it, but they are also obliged to show it if you ask for it.

City driving

Driving in cities in the Netherlands is perceived by many tourists and locals as nerve-wracking, time-consuming and expensive. The traffic systems in most city centres are designed for cyclists and pedestrians, not vehicles. City streets are narrow, peppered with speed bumps, chicanes and a variety of street furniture (asphalt-coloured, knee-high anti-parking posts are probably the most dangerous threat to the paintwork, as they tend to blend in with the landscape or be in the driver’s field of vision).

Other dangers are:

  • Pedestrians overtaking on the road or crossing the road in dangerous and unauthorised areas.
  • Cyclists have more rights and assert them more confidently than in most countries, which can be intimidating for unfamiliar motorists. Please always give cyclists priority when turning on a cycle path. If you are involved in a collision with a cyclist, you are automatically at fault (but not guilty).
  • Narrow bridges.

Parking in city centres can be expensive. Especially in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam, street parking is sometimes limited to a few hours and prices range from €3 to €6 per hour. Generally, underground garages cost between €4 and €6 per hour and can be by far the best choice for practical and safety reasons. Consider using public transport to avoid traffic jams and the great difficulty of finding a parking space. There are car parks on the outskirts of major cities where you can park your car cheaply and continue your journey by public transport.

Get Around - By taxi

The Dutch taxi system has been restructured in recent years to change its bad reputation and sometimes exorbitant fares. Although fares are now capped by law and all taxis must have a visible fare sign in the window, taxis remain an expensive mode of transport. If you are travelling on a limited budget, public transport is a much better choice. With congested traffic in and around cities at rush hour, it’s often quite quick too.

If you want to take a taxi, you usually have to call one or order one online, so you should find out about a company before you arrive. It is rare to greet taxis on the street. In larger cities, you will usually find a taxi rank in major train stations and sometimes near entertainment districts. Drivers may try to convince you that you must take the first in line, but this is never the case. You are always free to choose the taxi of your choice. It is illegal for drivers to refuse short rides, but it is not uncommon for drivers who have gained a leading position to do so. Remember that sometimes they have to wait a long time to get that position. If you don’t mind, you can ask them to recommend you. If you don’t want to change taxis or if this is the only taxi around, it can be helpful to say that you are going to make a complaint and write down the taxi number.

All taxis must have blue registered number plates and an on-board computer that also serves as a taximeter. Fares must be shown on a fare card and the driver must have a taxi driver’s licence card. Taxi companies are free to set their fares as long as they do not exceed the legal maximum. The driver may offer you a fixed fare as long as it remains within the legal maximum.

The maximum tariffs are the sum of the basic charge, kilometre charge and per-minute charge. They are set annually by the Dutch government. For a normal taxi (4 people) they are €2.95, €2.17 and €0.36. This means that you pay more if you are stuck in a traffic jam. For vans (5 to 8 passengers) the maximum amounts are €6.00, €2.73 and €0.41. Uber taxis are now illegal but cheaper and are still used in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

Get Around - By thumb

It is accepted that you are on the road and the people who pick you up usually do not expect anything in return. It is less suitable for short trips from small towns or on small roads, as the lack of traffic can lead to long waiting times. Hitchhiking on motorways is not allowed, but is usually tolerated at junctions or interchanges, provided it does not create a dangerous traffic situation. Intersections are indicated by a letter-number combination printed in a red frame on the traffic signs.

Try to stay in front of the motorway sign (a blue rectangle with two separate lanes disappearing into the white printed spaces) or the sign at the front of a car indicating the entrance to a semi-motorway. Also try to stay in a place where cars are travelling at low speed and where it is possible to stop. The same safety rule applies to petrol stations and service areas on motorways and to traffic lights on non-motorway roads.

For long distances, it is difficult to find a driver who will take you exactly to your destination because of the many intersections. A simple (cardboard) sign stating your destination is a common way to increase the chances of finding the right driver and can also convince appropriate drivers that they will not stop in vain.

There are official hitchhiking sites (liftplaats) and recommended unofficial sites, mainly on the outskirts of some large cities :

Amsterdam

  • Prins Bernhardplein, in front of NS Station Amsterdam Amstel (on the east bank of the Amstel) (after the bus stop). Drive to junction S112 of the A10, direction A1-E231/A2-E35. It is recommended for the directions Central/East/Netherlands. For other directions and routes, try other locations.

Other locations / other directions (recommended for the directions West/South Netherlands) :

  • Amstel (on the west bank of the Amstel) near the traffic lights/Utrechtsebrug and near the start/end of tram line 25. Drive to junction S111 of the A10, direction A2-E35-E25.
  • Junction S109 of the A10, near the NS RAI station (RAI Congress Centre; especially for large events or congresses). Drive to junction S109 of the A10, directions A2-E35-E25/A4-E19.
  • At the Amstelveenseweg / Ringweg Zuid bus stop, directly northeast of the Amstelveensweg metro station. There is a slip road leading to the A10 North, the A4 (southbound) and the A9 (both directions). This location is convenient because cars can easily stop in the bus lane to pick you up.

The Hague

  • Utrechtsebaan next to the north side of the Malieveld, at the start of the A12-E30 towards Utrecht. Possibility to take the A4-E19 for Delft-Rotterdam and Leiden-Amsterdam.

Alternative posts / other directions :

  • Bord au nord-ouest de la Malieveld/Kreuzung Zuid-Holland-laan, Boslaan (Utrechtse baan),Benoordenhoutseweg, vers Leidsestraatweg-N44-A44 pour Leyde et Amsterdam.

Nijmegen

  • Graafseweg (Venlo and Den Bosch), at the large roundabout in the city centre (verkeersplein) Keizer Karelplein (hitchhiking on the roundabout itself is not recommended),
  • near the Waalbrug/before the bridge in the direction of Arnhem,
  • in the Annastraat, near Radboud University (UK)/University Medical Centre (UMC),
  • at the Triavium, opposite the Dukenburg shopping centre.

Other cities

  • Groningen: Emmaviaduc (200 m west of Centraal station), on the A28
  • Utrecht, near the petrol station and the ramp to the Waterlinieweg near the football stadium “De Galgewaard”, north/northeast to the A27/A28, south/east to the A2/A12/A27.
  • Due to the reconstruction of the road, the lift stops in Maastricht at the beginning of the A2 (near the De Geusselt football stadium) were unfortunately removed in 2012.

Get Around - By plane

Due to the small size of the country and the numerous road and rail connections, domestic flights have proven uneconomical in the past. As a result, there are currently none.

Destinations in Netherlands

Regions in Netherlands

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy administratively divided into 12 provinces. Although the Netherlands is a small country, these provinces are relatively diverse and have many cultural and linguistic differences. We have divided them into four regions:

  • Western Netherlands (Flevoland, North Holland, South Holland, Utrecht)
    It is the heart of the Netherlands, with its four largest cities as well as the typical Dutch landscape, with many monuments of the famous water economy. Most of the region is commonly called the Randstad, alluding to urbanisation.
  • Northern Netherlands (Drenthe, Friesland, Groningen).
    The least populated area, mostly unexplored by foreigners but popular with locals. The West Frisian Islands are a great destination for a multi-day trip, as are the Frisian Lakes.
  • Eastern Netherlands (Gelderland, Overijssel)
    Here you will find the largest national park in the Netherlands, the Hoge Veluwe National Park, as well as the beautiful Hanzesteden, seven medieval towns along the IJssel with a traditional historical centre, such as Zutphen, Zwolle, Doesburg and others.
  • Southern Netherlands (Limburg, North Brabant, Zeeland).
    Set apart by its Catholic history, its carnival celebrations, its beer culture and its “Burgundian way of life”.

Cities in Netherlands

The Netherlands has many cities and places of interest for travellers. Below are nine of the most notable:

  • Amsterdam – impressive architecture, beautiful canals, museums and liberal attitudes
  • Delft – unspoilt historic city with its world-famous blue and white ceramics
  • Groningen – student city with a relaxed atmosphere and nightlife until sunrise
  • The Hague – the judicial capital of the world, the seat of government and royalty
  • Leiden – historic student city with the oldest university in the country and three national museums
  • Maastricht – medieval fortified city showcasing the diverse cultures, styles and architecture of the south
  • Nijmegen – one of the oldest cities in the country, known for the four-day walk and its large student population
  • Rotterdam – modern architecture, pleasant nightlife, a lively art scene and the largest port in Europe
  • Utrecht – historic centre, antique shops and the Rietveld-Schröder House

Other destinations in Netherlands

These are interesting destinations outside the big cities.

  • Efteling – well-known amusement park with fairytale elements such as elves and dwarves
  • Hoge Veluwe National Park – perhaps the most visited national park, with moorlands, sand dunes and forests
  • Keukenhof – more than 800,000 visitors see these huge fields of flowers every spring
  • Kinderdijk – these windmills show the typical Dutch landscape in all its glory
  • Schokland – old island evacuated in 1859, a well-preserved ghost village
  • South Limburg – green, hilly landscapes, picturesque villages, castles and orchards
  • Texel – the largest island suitable for cycling, birdwatching, hiking, swimming and horse riding
  • Zaanse Schans – open-air museum with Dutch windmills and Zaan houses
  • Zaanstreek-Waterland – typical Dutch villages and polders with their logs, wooden houses and windmills

Accommodation & Hotels in Netherlands

There is a wide choice of accommodation that focuses on the main tourist destinations. These include regions that are popular with domestic tourism, such as the Veluwe and Zuid-Limburg.

Camping in Netherlands

Campsites are widely available in almost every corner of the country and near most major towns. Outside the main tourist season (July-September), there is usually still space available and most campsites can find a place for small touring tents at any time of year. For caravans, motorhomes or family tents, it is advisable to book in advance, especially during the summer holidays. In popular national and regional tourist areas, such as the coast, the West Frisian Islands, Zuid-Limburg and the Veluwe, it is easy to find quality campsites with a wide range of facilities and entertainment. In rural areas, small pitches next to farms are very popular (see Stichting Vrije Recreatie (SVR)). Pure natural landscapes can be experienced in a very lively way on the ‘natuurkampeerterreinen’ (nature campsites). As for shops, it is possible to buy products directly in the village.

Sanitary facilities depend on the type of campsite, but the quality is excellent at most campsites. At some campsites, the use of hot water is not included, but must be paid for at the showers. It is advisable to ask if this is the case when you check in. You can also enjoy a camping holiday without a tent. Many campsites offer cabins called trekkers’ hats.

Please note that camping in the wilderness is prohibited and strictly regulated.

Hotels in Netherlands

Hotels in the Netherlands are numerous, especially in the Netherlands itself, and can be relatively cheap compared to other Western European countries. You may be able to find a decent international standard hotel for 50 euros or less per night. Because of good public transport, even if you live outside the city centre or even in another city, you can always visit a destination comfortably and stay within your budget.

Although there are independent properties throughout the country, the presence of international and local hotel chains is relatively significant. Some of the most popular are:

  • NHHoteles. The Spanish hotel chain has inherited a large number of properties in the Netherlands through the acquisition of the former Krasnapolsky Hotels in Amsterdam and many old Gold Tulips. Therefore, most of the properties are older and even historic. NH hotels in large cities are generally what you would expect from the chain in any other country. In smaller towns, the properties usually date from the 1980s and have only been partially renovated since then. You can always count on a rich breakfast buffet, which is a trademark of NH Hoteles. NH Hoteles has the largest number of properties of any hotel chain in Amsterdam, which can be helpful or disappointing during busy periods when hotels tend to overbook (you can simply move to another NH Hotel in Amsterdam). Members of the Alitalia, Aeromexico, Aerolíneas Argentinas and Iberia loyalty programmes can earn award miles/kilometres for stays at NH Hotels in the Netherlands.
  • Golden TulipTulip Inn (same location as Golden Tulip) and Campanile – the other properties of the Dutch Tulip hotel chain are now part of the Louvre Group based in France, which also operates the Campanile hotels. The Golden Tulips are mainly located in city centres and are of a higher standard (usually four stars), the Campaniles are located at motorway junctions and are simpler (two stars), the Tulip Inns are somewhere in between. Some properties are quite old, but can offer attractive prices if you don’t mind that they don’t exactly match the international competition. For those visiting the Netherlands by car, Campaniles and Tulip Inns can help meet a tighter budget. The Louvre Group offers several frequent flyer programmes [www] and you can earn air miles with several airlines if you stay with them.
  • Van derValkHotels. A local hotel chain run by the Van der Valk family, Van der Valk Hotels focuses on high-end accommodation and resort-style facilities. The hotels are therefore generally of a high standard and comfortable and often have swimming pools and other leisure facilities, but can also be quite far from the city centres. There is no loyalty programme for guests of Van der Valk hotels, but leisure themed packages are often offered which include stays and additional services or attractions.
  • Hotels in Hampshire. With more than 80 properties, including 3 in Germany and 8 in Belgium, it is one of the largest hotel chains in the Netherlands. The standard of the hotels varies from basic three-star properties to more upmarket and often historic Hampshire Eden and Hampshire Classic hotels. The chain does not operate a loyalty programme and members of the most popular loyalty programmes cannot earn miles for stays at Hampshire hotels.
  • Bastion Hotels. A hotel chain with limited and very uniform service for road warriors travelling by car on business across the Netherlands. Most of these hotels were built specifically in the 1990s or later and are reminiscent of other similar hotel chains found throughout Europe, such as the Ibis or Premier Inn hotels. They are usually located near motorways, sometimes with poor public transport connections. Although service is limited, most of them have an on-site restaurant open all day.
  • Accor. Has a strong presence in the Netherlands, particularly with its Ibis and Novoteland Mercure brands. As in other countries, the Mercure brands are often independent three- or four-star properties that have recently joined the chain.
  • The Intercontinental Hotels Group has recently strengthened its presence by opening brand new Holiday Inn Express properties in key locations across the country, with competitive rates including breakfast. There are also former Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza properties in major cities.

Other international hotel chains maintain some presence in the Netherlands, but this is mainly limited to Amsterdam and Schiphol Airport. There are also many Best Western properties in the Netherlands, but as in any country, they vary greatly in character, size, price and comfort.

Bed and breakfast

There is a wide choice of B&Bs in the big cities, but also many in small towns and villages. Prices are usually between 40 and 100 euros, depending on the number of people and the season. Bed & Breakfast rooms may not offer all the amenities of larger hotels, but the service is generally friendly and personal. In addition, many bed & breakfasts are located along popular hiking and cycling trails.

Budget

Even for budget facilities, prices are generally high. Cheap accommodation starts at around 20 euros per person and prices go up from there. Seasonal demand affects availability and can lead to higher prices, especially in Amsterdam.

The official Dutch youth hostels are called Stay Okay, but they are not as widespread as in the UK. Also, there is no kitchen available to guests, so you either eat what is on the menu or you eat in a restaurant. Besides the official Dutch hostels, there are many other hostels throughout the country.

In the nature areas, the local landscape can be discovered in the “Natuurvriendenhuizen”(nature friend houses). These facilities are, so to speak, between hostels and general hotels and are especially open to cyclists and walkers, including groups. They are run by volunteers and visitors and have a communal kitchen and contagious living quarters.

Short-term flat rentals are possible in cities, but may not be legal. Most flats have a minimum stay of 3 nights, but the booking and check-in procedure is generally the same as for a hotel stay, with the notable exception that most require a credit card deposit and the balance in cash on arrival.

If you are cycling or walking, there is a list of 3,600 addresses where you can stay in private accommodation with bed and breakfast for a maximum of €18.50 per person per night, but you also have to pay €8 to join this scheme. This is the scheme “Vrienden op de fiets”.

Renting holiday homes (bungalows)

Holiday rental houses (also called bungalows in Dutch) are very popular in the Netherlands, especially in rural areas. These small houses are very diverse: they can be simple or luxurious, individual squares or parts of large parks with many identical houses, and they are operated by both private owners and large chains. Traversia has the largest collection of holiday accommodation in the Netherlands from Dutch owners.

The large chains of holiday home parks are Center Parks and Landal Greenparks. While privately owned options can sometimes offer a more authentic local experience (e.g. in old half-timbered houses in South Limburg), the parks offer additional services, restaurants and swimming pools. In most cases, you need to book at least a weekend. While they are usually not cheap, they have kitchens and therefore allow you to cook for yourself.

Things To See in Netherlands

Dutch culture

For many foreigners, there is nothing that makes the image of the Netherlands better than windmills, clogs, tulips and remarkably flat land. Although some of these characteristics have become stereotypes that are far removed from the everyday life of Dutch people, there is still a lot of truth and authenticity in them. The Dutch have retained many elements from this part of their past, for both tourist and historical reasons.

Kinderdijk has a network of 19 windmills that were once used to dry the nearby polder. Zaanse Schans also has windmills and an attractive museum where traditional crafts and old Dutch houses can be seen. Schiedam, world famous for its juniper, has the largest windmills in the world, and they stand right in the heart of the charming old town.

When you think of the Dutch countryside, you imagine vast flat meadows with black and white cows. If that is the case, you are not that far away. A large part of the country, especially the western part, consists of polders, i.e. reclaimed land separated by ditches. These rural areas are dotted with picturesque villages, old farms, imposing holiday settlements and, of course, windmills; the Zaanstreek waterlands are particularly picturesque. For a touch of folklore, check out the traditional dress and fishing boats in Volendam or Marken.

The Netherlands is a major international player in the flower industry. The tulip fields are seasonal and specific to the bulb region and parts of North Holland. They are a beautiful Dutch alternative to the lavender fields found in France. The famous Keukenhof, the largest flower garden in the world, is only open between March and May. It’s a great way to see what the Dutch flower industry has to offer.

They are excellent destinations for a leisurely bike ride or can serve as a relaxing base from which to explore the region’s towns. The rolling hills of South Limburg have characteristic half-timbered houses and numerous castles. The province of Gelderland combines its many castles (‘t Loo Castle in Apeldoorn is the highest point) with the natural landscape of the Veluwe. Don’t worry if you go somewhere else: You will find beautiful landscapes in every Dutch province.

Historic Cities

A walk through the beautiful city of Amsterdam, with its charming canals and hundreds of 17th century monuments, is a delightful experience. For most people, a visit to the Netherlands would not be complete without a good day out in the bustling capital. Yet it is only one of the many cities in the country that offers a beautiful historical centre.

Before the rise of Amsterdam at the end of the 16th century, the walled city of Utrecht was the most important city in the country. Much of Utrecht’s medieval structures remain, with canals flanked by quays, many buildings from the High Middle Ages and some impressive old churches. Maastricht is often claimed to be the most beautiful city in the country. It is known for its romantic streets, old monuments and what the Dutch call its “Burgundian” atmosphere.

Leiden, the birthplace of Rembrandt and home to the country’s oldest university, is another beautiful place with its canals, narrow streets and more than 2,700 monuments. The Hague is often called the “judicial capital of the world”, as it is home to the Peace Palace and many international organisations. It has extensive grounds with large estates and the former Binnenhof, where the Dutch government has been based for centuries. Think also of the beautiful historic centres of Haarlem, Delft, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Alkmaar, Gouda and Amersfoort.

Art museums

Considering its small size, this country has produced an impressive number of world-renowned painters. Art and painting flourished in the 17th century, when the Dutch Republic was particularly prosperous, but famous artists also lived in the country before and after that.

Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, Vincent van Gogh, Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Jacob van Ruysdael and Piet Mondriaan are just a few of the Dutch painters whose works now adorn the walls of the world’s greatest museums. Fortunately, some of these world-class museums are also located in the Netherlands. Amsterdam’s museum district includes the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum, all of which have outstanding collections. The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam also has a huge collection of drawings, including Rembrandt, Van Gogh and foreign masters.

The Kröller-Müller Museum is beautifully located in the Hoge Veluwe National Park and houses the second largest Van Gogh collection in the world (after the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam). Less focused on Dutch art, but with a unique modern collection, is the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven. Other cities with excellent art museums are Groningen with the Groninger Museum and Haarlem with the Frans Hals Museum. The new Hermitage in Amsterdam has all the splendour of its big sister in St Petersburg, with changing exhibitions focusing on Russia.

  • Museum card. If you intend to stay longer in the Netherlands and enjoy visiting museums, it is advisable to apply for the one-year museum card. This gives you free admission to more than 400 museums at any given time. You can buy this card at any major museum. Adults €59.90; up to 18 years €32.45.

Living with water

The Dutch are famous for their fight against the sea. A great maritime power, the Netherlands owes its 17th century golden age to water and still relies heavily on it for trade and fishing, as the huge modern port of Rotterdam shows. However, with much of the country lying below sea level, water has also caused terrible floods and great losses over the centuries.

The attempts of the Dutch to protect their land with dikes have been known since the 12th century, but began about 2000 years ago. A huge flood in 1287 created the great Zuiderzee, an inland sea now known as the IJsselmeer. From that point on, a long process of reclaiming the land lost to the sea began. To pump out the water, windmills and extensive networks of dikes were built, slowly creating the characteristic polders. One of these polders is the Beemster Polder, and if you visit it, you will get a bonus of seeing some fortifications of the Amsterdam Defence Line.

After another devastating flood in 1916, the country launched the Zuiderzee, a major project to save and tame the Zuiderzee once and for all. In the 1930s, the impressive Afsluitdijk was completed, transforming the inland sea into a freshwater lake called the IJsselmeer. The Zuiderzee Museum, located in the beautiful town of Enkhuizen, is dedicated to the cultural heritage and folklore of the region as well as the maritime history of the Zuiderzee.

Another devastating flood hit the country in 1953, killing 1,836 people in the province of Zeeland and the southwestern part of South Holland. Over the next fifty years, the famous “Delta Works” were built to protect the southwest from flooding. It can be visited at various visitor centres, the most notable of which is Neeltje Jans Park near the Oosterscheldekering (Storm Barrier). For more information, visit theDeltawerken website.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has collectively recognised the Zuiderzee and Delta Works as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

Things To Do in Netherlands

One of the most popular activities among locals is cycling. And for good reason: the Netherlands has around 22,000 km of its own cycle paths criss-crossing the country, many of which are numbered. All you have to do is get a map, dial a number and go! Particularly picturesque areas suitable for cycling are the Green Heart, the Hoge Veluwe National Park, South Limburg and the Zaanstreek Waterland. Be aware that the wind can be strong (due to the flat terrain) and winters can be cold and rainy.

The Dutch coastline is 1,245 km long and has many beaches. The most popular activities are swimming and sunbathing, but these are mostly limited to hot summer days. Expect Scheveningen to be extremely crowded when temperatures rise to tropical levels. Milder, more family-friendly beaches include Zandvoort, Bloemendaal, Bergen and the West Frisian Islands.

Water sports are another activity mainly practised by the locals. Lakes can be found in all provinces, but the Frisian lakes are exceptional, especially during the annual Sneekweek, which marks the beginning of the boating season. Boating is possible without a permit, as long as the boat does not exceed a length of 15 m and/or a speed of 20 km/h. Other areas with a large number of lakes are Wijdemeren, Kaag and Aalsmeer. Most of these lakes are very calm, as parasailing and rafting are not possible.

The Netherlands has long been known for its great musicians and composers. Today it is no different, with top performances in a wide range of styles across the country. The Royal Concertgebouw, Amsterdam’s leading symphony orchestra, is considered by many connoisseurs to be one of the best, if not the best, in the world.

Food & Drinks in Netherlands

Food in Netherlands

Dutch cuisine

The Netherlands is not known for its cuisine, because it is simple and uncomplicated. A classic Dutch meal consists of meat, potatoes and a separate vegetable. The country’s food culture is rather rustic. The country’s high-carbohydrate, high-fat food culture reflects the dietary needs of agricultural workers, but as society has evolved towards the service sector, the food culture has remained largely unchanged. The Dutch national dish is stamppot, mashed potatoes with one or more vegetables. The version with endive and bacon is considered the most traditional. Hutspot is a variety based on carrots and onions.

Dutch cuisine varies greatly from region to region. The western cuisine is known for its many dairy products, including famous cheeses such as Gouda, Edam, Leerdammer and Beemster. Being a coastal region, the seafood culture is mainly represented by raw herring (haring), usually served with chopped onions and sometimes pressed into a bun (broodje haring). The cuisine of the north-east is meat-oriented, as there is relatively little agriculture in this region. Metworst, a dry sausage, is particularly appreciated for its strong flavour, and Gelderse rookworst, a traditional smoked sausage, has become a national institution and is often served with stamppot.

The cuisine of the south is historically influenced by the Dukes of Burgundy, who ruled over the Netherlands in the Middle Ages and were known for their splendour and great feasts. It is therefore famous for its many rich pastries, soups, stews and vegetable dishes. It is the only Dutch region to have developed haute cuisine, which forms the basis of most traditional Dutch restaurants. Typical main dishes are biefstukvarkenshaas and ossenhaas, prime cuts of pork or beef.

The Dutch are generally not proud of their cuisine, but praise their specialities and delicacies. Dutch pancakes (pannenkoeken), which are either sweet (zoet) or savoury (hartig), come in a variety of flavours such as apple, syrup, cheese, bacon, etc. Poffertjes are small pancakes lightly leavened with butter and icing sugar. Both are served in specially designated restaurants. Syrup wafers (stroopwafels), two thin layers with syrup in between, are made fresh at most street markets and specialised stalls.

Sandwiches are eaten for breakfast and lunch. Chocolate sprinkles (hagelslag) on buttered slices of bread are a popular start to the day in the Netherlands. Although eating habits are changing, a simple buttered roll with a slice of cheese or ham is still the daily breakfast for the majority of Dutch people. Dutch peanut butter is very different from the American variety. As it is less common to eat hot dishes at lunchtime, many restaurants offer a limited lunch menu. In small towns outside the main tourist areas, you may even find restaurants that are closed at lunchtime.

Some food traditions are seasonal. Pea soup (erwtensoep) is a winter dish consisting of green peas and a smoked sausage. It is very hearty and is often eaten after skating. Oliebollen are traditional Dutch dumplings eaten on New Year’s Eve. Flemish asparagus is white asparagus with a hollandaise sauce, ham, crumbled hard-boiled eggs and served with boiled new potatoes. They are very seasonal and are usually only eaten between spring and summer.

Restaurants

Restaurants in the Netherlands serve good food and are relatively expensive compared to neighbouring countries. Drinks and desserts are often lucrative, so be sure to order them if you have a limited budget. Service charges and taxes are included in menu prices. Tipping is not obligatory and is considered a sign of appreciation, not compensation for a measly salary. If you wish to tip, it is already acceptable to round up to the nearest euro for small amounts, and a tip of 5-10% is customary for large amounts. A 10% tip is generally considered generous, especially for a restaurant bill. A visit to a restaurant is usually considered a special evening out with friends or family, not a quick way to eat. A dinner with Dutch people, for example, can last a few hours.

Smoking is prohibited in all restaurants, cafés, bars, festival tents and nightclubs. Smoking is only permitted outdoors or in segregated, enclosed, designated smoking areas where staff are not permitted to serve. Staff may only enter these smoking areas in emergencies.

Dutch food is not very popular, so most restaurants specialise in foreign cuisines, and the big cities offer a wide choice. Middle Eastern cuisine is easily accessible even in small towns and is often offered at a good price. The most popular dishes are shawarma (shoarma), lahmacun (often called “Turkish pizza”) and falafel. Due to the colonial ties of the Netherlands with Indonesia (then known as the Dutch East Indies), most small and medium-sized towns also have a Chinese-Indian restaurant serving Chinese and Indonesian dishes. There is usually a lot of food for little money. However, don’t expect authentic Chinese or Indonesian cuisine, because the food has been adapted to the taste of the Dutch. Typical dishes are fried rice (nasi goreng), fried bakmi (bami goreng) and crab crackers (kroepoek). One suggestion is the famous Dutch-Indonesian rijsttafel, which is a combination of several small East Indian dishes, similar to the Indonesian nasi padang. Most of these restaurants have a lounge area and a separate counter for discounted takeaway food.

Argentinian, French, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Spanish, Surinamese and Thai cuisine is also well represented throughout the country. Most restaurants have at least one vegetarian dish on the menu or can prepare one for you if you wish.

Snack bars

In city centres, near public transport stops or even in quieter areas, you will find a snack bar, sometimes called a cafeteria. These takeaways are almost the opposite of haute cuisine, but their snacks are considered typical of the country and they are the ones Dutch expats miss the most when they go abroad. Popular chain shops have huge vending machines attached to their shops (automatiek). All you have to do is deposit a euro or two and take out the snack of your choice.

The most popular snack is the French friesknown as patat in most of the country and friet in the south. They are usually ordered with mayonnaise (patat met), although the local mayonnaise is not the same as that in France or the rest of the world. It is firmer, sweeter and contains less fat, but is just as unhealthy. Other options are tomato ketchup, curry ketchup (unlike regular curry, it tastes more like tomato ketchup), Indonesian peanut sauce (satésaus), raw chopped onions (uitjes)speciaal (mayonnaise, curry ketchup and raw chopped onions) and oorlog (‘war’, a combination of mayonnaise, peanut sauce and raw chopped onions).

Other fried snacks are also considered typical of the country. A croquette (kroket) is a crispy roll filled with stew. It is served with mustard and can also be ordered on bread. Famous are the Amsterdam croquettes from Van Dobben and Kwekkeboom. Both companies have their own cafeteria near Rembrandtplein. A frikandel is a long, dark, skinless sausage, similar to a hot dog with minced meat. It can be ordered on bread, or retail (with mayonnaise, curry ketchup and chopped raw onions). A berenklauw (“bear claw”) or berenhap (“bear snack”) is a sliced meatball with fried onions on a wooden skewer, often served with a peanut sauce. Finally, kaassoufflé is a cheese snack popular with vegetarians that can also be served on bread.

Drinks in Netherlands

Coffee and tea

The Dutch are among the biggest coffee drinkers in the world, and it’s almost obligatory to have a cup when you come to visit. One of the first questions people ask when they walk through the door is often “Koffie? “. Traditionally, the drink is served in small cups (half a cup) with a single biscuit. But some guests are also treated to one of the country’s typical pastries, such as a tompouce, a Limburgse vlaai or a piece of Dutch-style apple pie.

Dutch coffee is usually quite strong and weighs down the stomach. If you come from the United States or Canada, you can order a cup of Dutch coffee in the morning and add water the rest of the day! If you order koffie verkeerd (which means “bad coffee”), you will get a cup that is more or less half milk and half coffee, like the French “café au lait” or the Italian “caffe latte”.

The Dutch drink black tea and there are many varieties, from traditional to fruit tea, etc. Fortunately, if you are British, the tea bag is served with a cup of hot (but never boiling) water, so you can make your own version. Tea with milk is almost unheard of and is only given to children.

Hot chocolate with whipped cream is a winter tradition in the Netherlands. It really fills you up after a cold walk. In summer you can also find it in all the good bars, but sometimes it’s made from powder, as opposed to regular chocolate (normal chocolate that’s melted and mixed with hot milk), and it doesn’t taste as good.

Alcoholic beverages

The legal drinking age in the Netherlands is 18 for all alcoholic beverages. There used to be a distinction between light and strong alcoholic drinks, with people aged 16 allowed to drink light alcoholic drinks (up to 15% alcohol by volume), but no more.

The Dutch have a strong beer culture. Heineken is one of the most famous beers in the world, but it is only one of the many brands that exist in the Netherlands. You can get all kinds of beers, from white beer to dark beer. The most famous brands are Heineken, Grolsch, Brand, Bavaria, Amstel, etc. There is some regional variety in the beers you will find. Heineken or Amstel is served in the western provinces, Bavaria or Dommelsch in Brabant, Brand in Limburg, and Grolsch in Gelderland and Overijssel. Nowadays, most breweries also produce a non-alcoholic version of their beers.

Besides the usual Pils, try the Dutch wheat beer (Witbier), which is flavoured with a spice mixture called gruit and therefore tastes different from the better-known Pilsen varieties. There are also fruit-flavoured wheat beers. Brown beers are brewed in the monasteries in the south of the Netherlands (Brabant and Limburg). These traditional breweries are excellent beer tourist attractions, as are the microbreweries and beer shops in Amsterdam.

Bitters are very popular in winter. Dutch gin (juniper or jenever) is the predecessor of English gin. There are two types of gin, oude (old) and jonge (young), which have nothing to do with ageing, but only with the method of distillation. The “old” oude, which is more traditional, is softer and has a yellowish colour, while the jonge is lighter, drier and closer to English gin.

Beerenburg is made by adding herbs to juniper. Its alcohol content is about 30%. It was made at the end of the 19th century with a secret mixture of spices by the Amsterdam spice merchant Hendrik Beerenburg, to whom it also owes its name. Although it was “invented” in Amsterdam, it is considered typically Frisian. Most other regions also produce their lesser-known local variants of a bitter. The orange bitter (Oranjebitter) is only drunk on King’s Day (Koningsdag).

Money & Shopping in Netherlands

Currency in Netherlands

The Netherlands uses the euro. It is one of the many European countries that use this common currency. All euro banknotes and coins are legal tender in all countries.

One euro is divided into 100 cents.

The official symbol of the euro is € and its ISO code is EUR. There is no official symbol for the cent.

  • Banknotes: The euro banknotes have the same design in all countries.
  • Standard coins: All euro area countries issue coins that have a distinctive national design on one side and a common standard design on the other. The coins can be used in any euro area country, regardless of the design used (e.g. a one-euro coin from Finland can be used in Portugal).
  • Commemorative €2 coins: These differ from normal €2 coins only in their “national” side and circulate freely as legal tender. Each country can produce a certain amount of these coins as part of its normal coin production, and sometimes “European” 2-euro coins are produced to commemorate specific events (e.g. anniversaries of important treaties).
  • Other commemorative coins: Commemorative coins with other amounts (e.g. ten euros or more) are much rarer, have very special designs and often contain significant amounts of gold, silver or platinum. Although they are technically legal tender at face value, their material or collector’s value is usually much higher and therefore you are unlikely to find them in circulation.

Many shops do not accept 100, 200 and 500 euro banknotes because they are afraid of counterfeiting and burglaries.

In many shops, especially supermarkets, it is common for the ATM to round up your total amount to the nearest 5 euro cents. Don’t be surprised, the difference will be shown as “Afronding” on the receipt.

Credit and debit cards in Netherlands

The use of credit cards in general is quite common, but not as widespread as in the United States or some other European countries. The Dutch themselves often use (debit) bank cards, for which there is usually a machine even in small shops and market stalls. You will usually find widely accepted credit cards in tourist destinations (but even there, not all supermarkets accept them), as well as in restaurants and some department stores in the rest of the country, but ask beforehand or check the symbols usually displayed at the entrance. For security reasons, a PIN code is increasingly required to use credit cards in the Netherlands.

ATMs are easily accessible, especially near shopping and nightlife areas. Even in villages, there are usually one or more ATMs near the local supermarket.

Tipping in Netherlands

Dutch law requires that all service charges and taxes must be included in the prices that hotels, bars and restaurants publish. Tipping is therefore not necessary, but is nevertheless appreciated as a reward for good service and is increasingly common. Especially in tourist areas and large hotels, it is not uncommon for tips to increase. Many Dutch customers leave 1 or 2 euros, even in simple bars and restaurants, unless the service is poor. For good service in a restaurant, you should feel free to leave what you think is appropriate. A tip of 5-10% on a restaurant bill is considered a generous reward for good service.

Shopping in Netherlands

Most shops open at 9 or 10 am and usually close around 6 pm. Supermarkets and DIY stores often have longer opening hours, opening at around 8.30 am and closing at 8 or 10 pm. Traditionally, most shops are closed on Sundays or open only on a few Sundays a year (called “koopzondagen”). In recent years, new laws have given municipalities the power to decide for themselves the number of koopzondagen, i.e. Sundays on which shops are allowed to open. As a result, most shops in the centres of the big cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Maastricht, etc.) are now open every Sunday, usually from 12 noon to 5 or 6 pm. More and more small towns, especially those where tourism is an important economic factor, are following this trend. Unfortunately, the situation varies from place to place. In most small towns, at least one supermarket is allowed to open every Sunday, most have several Sunday openings a year, and some are open every Sunday. Note that some small shops are closed on Monday morning or even have an extra day closed during the week.

The Netherlands is a good place to buy flowers. Flower bulbs are best to take home and can be bought all year round in tourist shops, garden centres and DIY shops. Note that flower bulbs and their planting times depend on the seasons. Tulip bulbs are generally not available from late winter to late summer. Fresh flowers can be bought in flower shops or packaged in most supermarkets. Also remember that while it is not a problem to bring bulbs and flowers out of the country, there may be strict restrictions on bringing them into your own country.

The country is also famous for its clogs. Nowadays, hardly anyone wears them, except for a few farmers in the countryside. Wearing clogs in public outside the country will get you some strange looks from the locals. If you try them on, the famous “clogs” are surprisingly comfortable and very useful in any rural setting. Think of them as all-terrain shoes; easy to put on for a walk in the garden, in the field or on a country lane. If you live at home in the country, consider taking a pair with you if you can. Avoid the tacky tourist shops of Schiphol and Damrak in Amsterdam and instead look for a regular seller, usually found in towns and villages in rural areas. In the northern province of Friesland, there are many shops selling wooden shoes, often decorated in the bright colours of the Frisian flag.

Costs in Netherlands

The Netherlands is generally considered an expensive country (unless you come from Scandinavia). Accommodation and food are more expensive than in neighbouring countries, but train travel, museums and sightseeing tend to be cheaper. Retail prices for clothes, gifts, etc. are similar to most Western European countries; consumer electronics are slightly more expensive. Petrol, tobacco and alcohol are relatively expensive due to excise taxes. Standard cigarette packs contain only 19 cigarettes.

Nightlife in Netherlands

Nightlife in the Netherlands is very diverse. Amsterdam is known for its neighbourhood bars, Rotterdam has a reputation for clubbing, and Groningen, Leiden and Utrecht have an active student scene. Bars offer a wide range of music scenes, but nightclubs are dominated by dancing. Entry to bars is legally permitted from the age of 16, but many bars and nightclubs have stricter policies and do not allow entry to people under 18 or 21.

The Netherlands is known for its liberal drug policy. Although technically still illegal under international treaties, personal use of (soft) drugs is regulated by the Ministry of Justice as part of an official gedogen policy; literally meaning ‘accept’ or ‘tolerate’. Legally, it is a doctrine of non-prosecution on the basis that the action taken would be so irregular as to constitute selective prosecution.

You are allowed to buy and smoke small doses (5 g or less) of cannabis or hashish. You must be 18 years or older to buy it. To do so, you must go to a coffee shop, which are plentiful in most major cities. Coffeeshops are not allowed to sell alcohol and minors (under 18) are not allowed to enter. Coffeeshops are prohibited from explicit advertising. For example, many use the red-yellow-green colours of Rastafari to allude to the products available inside, others are more discreet and sometimes almost hidden.

Hallucinogenic (“magic”) mushrooms, once legal, are officially banned. However, “magic truffles”, which contain the same active ingredients as magic mushrooms, are technically still legal and are sold in some headshops in Amsterdam.

Prostitution is decriminalised, but only for prostitutes who are registered in a licensed brothel. Safer sex and the use of condoms are common practice, and the prostitute usually has them. It is illegal for sex workers to solicit clients on the street. Prostitution is more common in the capital Amsterdam with its red light district, although tourists only go there as a souvenir of their trip. In more rural areas, prostitution is almost non-existent.

Festivals & Holidays in Netherlands

Festivals in Netherlands

  • Every two years, the country goes crazy for football on the occasion of the European Championship or the World Cup. Whole streets will be decorated with orange flags, the country’s national colour. It is not unusual for half the population to watch a match when it is particularly important. Often large cities install large TV screens for the public, such as on Rembrandtplein in Amsterdam. Cafés and bars are also popular places to watch matches.
  • In the south of the Netherlands (North Brabant, Limburg and to a lesser extent Twente, Overijssel and southern Gelderland), Carnival has been celebrated in a Catholic way since the Middle Ages. It takes place just before Lent, usually in February or March. Parades can be seen in almost every town on Sundays and sometimes on Mondays. Parades can also take place in the evening, usually on Saturdays, when all the floats are lit up with many small lights. On the other days of the week, many activities are organised, ranging from street painting (stoepkrijten) to beer-drinking competitions. The cities of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Breda and Maastricht are recommended for the carnival.
  • King‘s Day (Koningsdag, until 2012 it was Queen’s Day) takes place every year on 27 April throughout the country (unless this day is a Sunday, in which case it takes place on the previous Saturday). Every village, town and city organises free markets and authentic Dutch games. Today, the Feast of Kings is much more than a day of parties and celebrations. It is advisable to wear orange clothes, because most Dutch people walk around in their national colour. It is advisable to visit this day in Amsterdam, as it is one of the biggest events of the year in this city. In several larger cities (including The Hague and Utrecht), the celebrations begin on the evening of 26 April. In The Hague, most of the festivities take place the evening before.
  • Pinkpop. Is a three-day pop festival every year at Whitsun (“Pinksteren“) in Landgraaf, Limburg.
  • The Lowland. Pop festival – every last weekend in August in Biddinghuizen, Flevoland.
  • Summer carnivalA large parade in the centre of Rotterdam. One of the biggest events in the Netherlands.
  • North Sea Jazz Festival. A large summer jazz festival that has been held in Rotterdam’s Ahoy Stadium since 2006, when it moved here from The Hague. Around 1,800 bands from jazz, blues, funk, soul, hip-hop, Latin and R&B perform over the three days.
  • Vierdaagsefeesten. Seven-day summer festival in Nijmegen, during the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse, which always begins on the 3rd Tuesday in July. However, the festivities start the weekend before and are attended by more than a million people. During the festival there is an area for all the big Dutch bands like Moke and Racoon, De Affaire which focuses on alternative and rock, The Matrixx which has all the electronic dance music you need and of course the many terraces and bars.
  • Sensation – (formerly known as “Sensation White”) One of the most famous parties in the world, organised by ID&T. 40,000 people, all dressed in white, gather to listen to great house music DJs. Tickets usually sell out very quickly. Several international editions are held around the world several times a year, with the main concert taking place at the Amsterdam ArenA every summer. Sensation Black (featuring hardstyle music) used to be held at the same venue every year, but is now held in Belgium.
  • Dance Valley. The largest dance festival, with more than 40,000 visitors. Every year in mid-July in Spaarnwoude Park near Schiphol Airport. The focus is on celebrating summer, with circus tents where each tent represents a different kind of dance music.
  • Mystery Land. Dance festival on the theme of “The Power of Flowers”. In the last week of August, near Schiphol Airport. Most types of dance are represented, including even electro. There are also activities such as workshops and theatre, which are not normally seen at dance festivals.
  • Defqon.1st dance festival with a focus on the hardest dance styles, like hardstyle and hardcore. Residing in Flevoland, usually in the middle of June.

Holidays in the Netherlands

There are several major public holidays in the Netherlands. The public holidays in the Netherlands are as follows:

Date English name Dutch name Notes
1 January New Year’s Day Nieuwjaarsdag
March/April Good Friday Goede Vrijdag
March/April Easter Pasen A two-day holiday (Easter Sunday and the following Monday).
27 april King’s Day Koningsdag If 27 April falls on a Sunday, King’s Day is celebrated on 26 April.
5 May Liberation Day Bevrijdingsdag It is a bank holiday that used to happen only once every five years.
40 days after Easter Ascension Day Hemelvaartsdag The following Friday is a day off for most people.
7 weeks after Easter Pentecost Pinksteren A two-day holiday (Pentecost and the following Monday).
25 and 26 December Christmas Kerstmis The Dutch have two days of Christmas, both called Christmas Day.
  • Good Friday (the Friday before Easter) is not a public holiday. However, most (semi-)governmental organisations, banks and insurance companies honour this day by granting a day off. If leave is granted on this day, it is usually a compulsory day off, which is deducted from employees’ leave days, while other national holidays are not taken into account when calculating holiday pay.
  • St. Nicholas Eve (the eve of Sinterklaas, also known as Pakjesavond), 5 December, is also not a bank holiday, but is still widely celebrated. Although the traditional St. Nicholas Day is 6 December, it is actually St. Nicholas Eve, 5 December, that is celebrated in the Netherlands.

The Government also recognises the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day as “equivalent” to a holiday for the purposes of deposits/payments to or by the Government; if an appointment ends on such a day, the appointment will be extended. If Christmas Day or Boxing Day falls on a weekend (i.e. Saturday or Sunday), no additional day of the week will be allocated for it. In other words: In years when Christmas Day is a Saturday, there is no national Christmas holiday at all.

Carnival is also celebrated in the south of the Netherlands. Although it is not an official holiday, many people in the south take a week off to celebrate it.

Recently there was a debate on whether Eid ul-Fitr (Suikerfeest in Dutch) should be a bank holiday or not. This debate was rejected by political parties such as the PVV and the SGP, although many others have no problem with it. For now, Eid ul-Fitr is not an official bank holidays, but it usually warrants a day off for Islamic workers. Opponents of this proposal argue that there are already enough national holidays.

Traditions & Customs in Netherlands

The Dutch are considered the most informal and easy-going people in Europe and there are few strict social taboos. It is unlikely that the Dutch will be offended by your behaviour or appearance alone. In fact, it is more likely that visitors themselves will be offended by too direct a conversation. Nevertheless, the standards for rudeness and open hostility are similar to those in other Western European countries.

The exception to this openness is personal wealth. For example, it is considered vulgar to reveal your wealth. So asking someone to tell you about it is considered an act of curiosity and you will probably only get an evasive answer.

Similarly, it is not advisable to talk pushily about your religion or assume that a Dutch person you meet is Catholic or Calvinist, as most people do not adhere to any faith. In urban areas, it is not considered rude to ask someone about it, but you are generally expected to be completely tolerant of the other person’s faith and not to proselytise. Overtly religious behaviour is met with perplexity and ridicule rather than hostility. An exception is the Dutch Bible Belt, which stretches from Zeeland to South Holland, Utrecht and Gelderland and consists of cities with many strong Dutch Reformed Christians who tend to be offended by other religious views.

Openly nationalistic sentiments are also viewed with some suspicion by the public, although there are a number of celebrations such as King‘s Day (Koningsdag, 27 April) and during football championships. Some people dress in orange and/or get drunk, but hostility towards foreigners is not to be feared.

Social etiquette

In the Netherlands, kissing on the cheek is a common form of greeting for women and between women and men. Usually two men shake hands. Kissing is particularly suitable for informal occasions. For greetings, it is usually used for people who already know each other. It is also a common practice to congratulate someone and is also used for strangers. The handshake is more appropriate for formal occasions. Attempting to shake a person’s hand when offered a kiss or refusing a kiss may be considered strange or rude.

The Dutch kiss each other three times, alternating between the right and left cheek. This could lead to embarrassing situations for the British and many other Europeans who are used to receiving only two kisses. Also, you should always kiss on the cheeks instead of giving air kisses.

Gay and lesbian travelers

As mentioned earlier, the Netherlands is liberal towards homosexuality and is considered one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world. The Netherlands has the reputation of being the first country to recognise same-sex marriage, and openly admitting one’s orientation would not cause many problems in the Netherlands. But even a gay-friendly country like the Netherlands can afford to criticise homosexuality, but this varies from country to country. Since violence and discrimination against homosexuals are rare and the legal status of same-sex marriage in the Netherlands is low, the country can be considered a gay utopia in any case and should be safe for gays and lesbians (except after big football matches or during demonstrations when violence in general occurs).

If you express your opposition to LGBT rights, it is unlikely that the Dutch will get angry, although they may make you understand that they disagree with your ideas. Don’t take it the wrong way when Dutch people use the word “gay” as a swear word, because in many cases it doesn’t mean they are against homosexuality. They just don’t want to take it too seriously. Recent polls show that more than 90% of Dutch people believe that homosexuality is moral and should be accepted.

Culture Of Netherlands

Art, Philosophy and Literature

The Netherlands has had many famous painters. The 17th century, when the Dutch Republic flourished, was the time of the “Dutch masters”, such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen, Jacob van Ruisdael and many others. The most famous Dutch painters of the 19th and 20th centuries were Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondriaan. M. C. Escher is a well-known graphic artist. Willem de Kooning was born and trained in Rotterdam, although he is considered a well-known American artist.

The Netherlands is the country of the philosophers Erasmus of Rotterdam and Spinoza. All of Descartes’ important work was done in the Netherlands. The Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) discovered Saturn’s moon Titan, claimed that light travels in the form of waves, invented the pendulum clock and was the first physicist to use mathematical formulae. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was the first to observe and describe single-celled organisms under the microscope.

Literature also flourished in the Dutch Golden Age, with Joost van den Vondel and P. C. Hooft as the two most famous writers. In the nineteenth century, Multatuli wrote about the mistreatment of the natives in the Dutch colony, now Indonesia. Important writers of the twentieth century are Godfried Bomans, Harry Mulisch, Jan Wolkers, Simon Vestdijk, Hella S. Haasse, Cees Nooteboom, Gerard (van het) Reve and Willem Frederik Hermans. Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Girl” was published after her death in the Holocaust and translated from Dutch into all major languages.

Traditional Dutch architecture is particularly popular in Amsterdam, Delft and Leiden, with 17th and 18th century buildings along the canals. The architecture of small villages with their wooden houses can be found in Zaandam and Marken. Replicas of Dutch buildings can be found at Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki, Japan. A similar Dutch village is under construction in Shenyang, China. Windmills, tulips, clogs, cheese, Delft ceramics and cannabis are among the things that tourists associate with the Netherlands.

The Netherlands has a long history of social tolerance and is now considered a liberal country due to its drug policy and legalisation of euthanasia. On 1 April 2001, the Netherlands became the first nation to legalise same-sex marriage.

Dutch value system and etiquette

The Dutch have a code of etiquette that regulates social behaviour and is considered important. Due to the international position of the Netherlands, many books have been written on the subject. Some customs do not apply in all regions and are never absolute. In addition to customs specific to the Netherlands, many general points of European etiquette also apply to the Dutch.

Dutch society is egalitarian, individualistic and modern. People tend to see themselves as humble, independent and self-reliant. They value abilities more than dependencies. Dutch people have an aversion to anything that is not essential.

Conspicuous behaviour should be avoided. Accumulating money is all well and good, but spending large amounts of money is considered a vice and is associated with showing off. A high lifestyle is considered wasteful and is suspect to most people. The Dutch are proud of their cultural heritage, their rich art history and their involvement in international affairs.

Dutch manners are open and direct, with a straightforward attitude; informality combined with adherence to basic behaviour. According to a humorous source on Dutch culture, their openness gives many people the impression that they are rude and uncouth – attributes they prefer to call “frankness”.

A more serious source known about the Dutch is Jacob Vossestein’s Dealing with the Dutch: Dutch egalitarianism is the idea that all people are equal, especially morally, and is therefore the origin of the somewhat ambivalent attitude of the Dutch towards hierarchy and status. As always, the ways differ from group to group. Asking questions about ground rules is not considered rude. What may seem to you to be overtly crude topics and comments are no more embarrassing or unusual to the Dutch than a discussion about the weather.

The majority of Dutch people are irreligious and religion is generally considered a very personal matter in the Netherlands, not to be propagated in public.

The Dutch and ecology

The Netherlands has a reputation as a leader in environmental and population management. In 2015, Amsterdam and Rotterdam ranked 4th and 5th on the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index.

Sustainability is an important concept for the Dutch. The Dutch government’s goal is to have a sustainable, reliable and affordable energy system by 2050, in which CO2 emissions are halved and 40% of electricity comes from sustainable sources.

The government invests billions of euros in energy efficiency, sustainable energy and CO2 reduction. The Kingdom also encourages Dutch companies to set up sustainable businesses/projects/facilities, with financial support from the state for companies or individuals working to make the country more sustainable.

Music

The Netherlands has many musical traditions. Traditional Dutch music is a genre known as “Levenslied”, which means “song of life“, comparable to the French Lied or the German Schlager. These songs usually have a simple melody and rhythm and a direct structure of verses and choruses. The themes may be light, but are often sentimental and include love, death and loneliness. Traditional musical instruments such as the accordion and barrel organ are a fundamental element of Levenslied’s music, although in recent years many artists have also used synthesizers and guitars. Artists in this genre include Jan Smit, Frans Bauer and André Hazes.

Contemporary Dutch rock and pop music (Nederpop) emerged in the 1960s, strongly influenced by popular music from the United States and Great Britain. In the 1960s and 1970s, the lyrics were mainly in English and some of the songs were instrumental. Groups like Shocking Blue, Golden Earring, Tee Set, George Baker Selection and Focus were internationally successful. From the 1980s onwards, more and more pop musicians started to work in Dutch, partly inspired by the huge success of the band Doe Maar. Today, Dutch rock and pop music flourishes in both languages, and some artists record in both.

Current symphonic metal bands Epica, Delain, ReVamp, The Gathering, Asrai, Autumn, Ayreon and Within Temptation as well as jazz/pop singer Caro Emerald are internationally successful. Metal bands like Legion of The Damned, Hail of Bullets, God Dethroned, Izegrim, Asphyx, The Charm the Fury, Textures, Present Danger, Heidevolk and Slechtvalk are also popular guests at Europe’s biggest metal festivals. Contemporary local heroes include pop singer Anouk, country-pop singer Ilse DeLange, folk band Rowwen Hèze, who sing in the South Gelder dialect, rock band BLØF and Dutch-speaking duo Nick & Simon.

In the early 1990s, Dutch and Belgian house music came together in the Eurodance 2 Unlimited project. With 18 million records sold, the two singers of the band are still the most successful Dutch music artists today. Tracks like “Get Ready for This” are still popular themes at American sporting events, such as the NHL. Dutch-language rap and hip-hop (Nederhop) also emerged in the mid-1990s and became popular in the Netherlands and Belgium. Artists with North African, Caribbean or Middle Eastern origins have strongly influenced this genre.

Since the 1990s, Dutch electronic dance music (EDM) has conquered the world in many forms, from trance to techno to chatter to hardstyle. Some of the best dance music DJs in the world come from the Netherlands, including Armin van Buuren, Tiësto, Hardwell, Martin Garrix, Oliver Heldens, Nicky Romero, Sander van Doorn and Afrojack; the first four were named the best in the world by DJ Mag Top 100 DJs. The Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) is the world’s most important electronic music conference and the largest club festival for the many electronic subgenres on the planet. These DJs also contribute to the dominant pop music in the world, as they often collaborate with and produce for top international artists.

In classical music, Jan Sweelinck is the most famous Dutch composer. Louis Andriessen is one of the most famous living Dutch classical composers. Ton Koopman is a Dutch conductor, organist and harpsichordist. He is also a professor at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. The most famous violinists are Janine Jansen and André Rieu. The latter, with his Johann Strauss Orchestra, has taken classical music and the waltz on concert tours around the world, the scale and income of which can otherwise only be seen with the biggest rock and pop music groups. The most famous Dutch classical composition is the “Canto Ostinato” by Simeon ten Holt. It is a minimalist composition for several instruments. The celebrated harpist Lavinia Meijerin released an album of works by Philip Glass in 2012, which she transcribed for the harp, with the approval of Glass himself.

The Concertgebouw (completed in 1888) in Amsterdam is home to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, considered one of the finest orchestras in the world.

Film and television

A number of Dutch films – notably by director Paul Verhoeven – have received international distribution and recognition, such as Turkish Delight (Türkenfrucht”) (1973), Soldat van Oranje (Soldaat van Oranje”) (1975), Spetters (1980) and Der vierte Mann (“De Vierde Man”) (1983). Verhoeven went on to direct major Hollywood films such as RoboCop and Basic Instinct and returned in 2006 with the Dutch film Black Book.

Other well-known Dutch directors are Jan de Bont (Speed), Anton Corbijn (A Most Wanted Man), Dick Maas (De Lift), Fons Rademakers (The Assault), documentary filmmaker Bert Haanstra and Joris Ivens. Director Theo van Gogh gained international notoriety in 2004 when he was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam after making the short film Submission.

The internationally successful Dutch actors include Famke Janssen (X-Men films), Carice van Houten (Game of Thrones), Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones), Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner), Jeroen Krabbé (The Living Daylights) and Derek de Lint.

The Netherlands has a well-developed television market with several commercial and non-commercial channels. Imported television programmes as well as interviews with foreign language responses are almost always broadcast with original sound and subtitles. Children’s programmes are the only exception.

Television exports from the Netherlands are mainly in the form of specific formats and franchises, especially through the internationally active television production conglomerate Endemol, founded by Dutch media moguls John de Mol and Joop van den Ende. Endemol is based in Amsterdam and has around 90 companies in more than 30 countries. Endemol and its subsidiaries create and manage reality, talent and game show franchises worldwide, including Big Brother and Deal or No Deal. John de Mol then founded his own company Talpa, which developed franchises for shows such as The Voice and Utopia.

Sport

About 4.5 million of the 16.8 million people in the Netherlands are registered in one of the country’s 35,000 sports clubs. About two-thirds of the population between the ages of 15 and 75 participate in sports every week. Football is the most popular participant sport in the Netherlands, ahead of hockey and volleyball, which are the second and third most popular team sports. Tennis, gymnastics and golf are the three most popular individual sports.

The organisation of sport began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Sports federations were founded (e.g. the speed skating federation in 1882), rules were standardised and sports clubs were established. A Dutch National Olympic Committee was founded in 1912. To date, the country has won 266 medals at the Summer Olympics and 110 medals at the Winter Olympics.

In international competitions, the Dutch national teams and athletes are dominant in several areas of the sport. The Dutch women’s hockey team is the most successful team in the World Cup. The Dutch baseball team has won the European Championship 20 times out of a total of 32 events. The Dutch K-1 kickboxers have won the K-1 World Grand Prix 15 times out of 19 tournaments.

The performance of the Dutch speed skaters at the 2014 Winter Olympics, where they won 8 out of 12 events and 23 out of 36 medals, including 4 outright victories, is the most dominant performance in a single sport in Olympic history.

Motorbike racing at the TT Assen circuit has a long history. Assen is the only venue that has hosted a round of the World Motorcycle Championship every year since its inception in 1949. The track was built specifically for the Dutch TT in 1954, the previous events were held on public roads.

Max Verstappen from Limburg is currently driving in Formula 1 and was the first Dutchman to win a Grand Prix. The seaside resort of Zandvoort hosted the Dutch Grand Prix from 1958 to 1985.

The men’s national volleyball team was also successful, winning the silver medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics and the gold medal four years later in Atlanta. The biggest successes of the women’s national team were winning the European Championship in 1995 and the World Grand Prix in 2007.

Cuisine

Originally, the country’s cuisine was characterised by fishing and agriculture, including cultivating the land for crops and raising domestic animals. Dutch cuisine is simple and straightforward and contains many dairy products. Breakfast and lunch usually consist of bread and toast, or alternatively breakfast cereals. Traditionally, dinner consists of potatoes, a portion of meat and (seasonal) vegetables.

The Dutch diet was relatively high in carbohydrates and fats, reflecting the dietary needs of the workers whose culture shaped the country. Without many refinements, it is best described as rustic, although many holidays are still celebrated with special foods. During the twentieth century, this diet changed and became much more cosmopolitan, with most of the world’s cuisines represented in the big cities.

The cuisine of the Southern Netherlands includes the cuisines of the Dutch provinces of North Brabant and Limburg and the Flemish region in Belgium. It is famous for its many rich pastries, soups, stews and vegetable dishes. It is often referred to as Burgundy, a Dutch phrase that recalls the rich Burgundian court that ruled the Netherlands in the Middle Ages and was known for its splendour and grand feasts. It is the only culinary region in the Netherlands that has developed haute cuisine.

In early 2014, Oxfam ranked the Netherlands as the country with the most nutritious, abundant and healthy diet in a comparison of 125 countries.

The colonial legacy

From the possessions of the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century to the colonisations of the 19th century, Dutch imperial possessions continued to expand, reaching their greatest extent with the establishment of a hegemony over the Dutch East Indies in the early 20th century. The Dutch East Indies, which later formed what is now Indonesia, was one of the most valuable European colonies in the world and the most important for the Netherlands. More than 350 years of common heritage have left a strong cultural mark on the Netherlands.

During the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century, there was a significant urbanisation of the Netherlands, financed mainly by corporate income from the Asian trading monopolies. Social status was based on the income of merchants, which reduced feudalism and significantly changed the dynamics of Dutch society. When the Dutch royal house was founded in 1815, much of the wealth came from colonial trade.

Universities like the Royal University of Leiden, founded in the 16th century, have become leading centres of knowledge for Southeast Asian and Indonesian studies. Leiden University has produced leading scholars such as Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje and still has scholars specialising in Indonesian languages and cultures. Leiden University, and KITLV in particular, are educational and scientific institutions that today have both an intellectual and a historical interest in Indonesian studies. Other academic institutions in the Netherlands include the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, an anthropological museum with important collections on Indonesian art, culture, ethnography and anthropology.

The traditions of the Royal Netherlands Army East Indies (KNIL) are maintained by the Van Heutsz Regiment of the modern Royal Netherlands Army. In Arnhem today, there is still a museum dedicated to the Bronbeek, a former home for retired KNIL soldiers.

A special segment of Dutch literature, the so-called Dutch-Indian literature, still exists and includes established authors such as Louis Couperus, the author of “The Hidden Power”, who used the colonial period as an important source of inspiration. One of the great masterpieces of Dutch literature is the book “Max Havelaar”, written by Multatuli in 1860.

The majority of Dutch repatriated to the Netherlands after and during the Indonesian Revolution were Indo(Eurasian) from the Dutch East Indies. This relatively large Eurasian population developed over a period of 400 years and was included in the European legal community under colonial law. In Dutch they are called Indische Nederlanders or Indo (abbreviation of Indo-European).

Together with their second-generation descendants, Indos are currently the largest group of foreign-born people in the Netherlands. In 2008, the Dutch Census Bureau of Statistics (CBS) registered 387,000 first and second generation Indos living in the Netherlands. Although considered fully assimilated into Dutch society, as the largest ethnic minority in the Netherlands, these ‘returnees’ have played a key role in introducing elements of Indonesian culture into mainstream Dutch culture.

Practically every city in the Netherlands has a “Toko” (Dutch-Indonesian shop) or Indonesian restaurant and many “Pasar Malam” (Malay/Indonesian night market) are held throughout the year. Many Indonesian dishes and foods have become commonplace in the Netherlands. Rijsttafel, a colonial culinary concept, and dishes like nasi goreng and satay are very popular in the Netherlands.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Netherlands

Stay safe in Netherlands

Crime

The Netherlands is generally considered a safe country. However, be vigilant in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and other major cities, where pickpocketing and bicycle theft are common; violent crime is rare. In larger cities, some outer districts are considered unsafe at night.

The police, ambulance and fire brigade have a general emergency number, 112. There is a police force organised into 10 police regions. Visitors will mainly deal with the regional police. Some specialised forces, such as the railway police and the traffic police on the main roads, are run by a separate national force (the traffic police is the KLPD – Korps Landelijke Politie Diensten, and the railway police is the spoorwegpolitie). When you call 112, you should, if you can, find out which emergency services you need.

Border controls and security at ports and airports are carried out by a separate police unit, the Marechaussee (or abbreviated to “KMar” – Koninklijke Marechaussee), a gendarmerie. This is an independent service of the Dutch armed forces (which makes it a military, not a civilian service) and security tasks are part of its duties.

Most cities have municipal departments (stadswacht or stadstoezicht) that are responsible for certain policing tasks, such as issuing fines for parking and littering. They often wear police-style uniforms to convey a certain authority, but their powers are limited. For example, only police officers are allowed to carry a weapon.

The European Network Against Racism, an international organisation supported by the European Commission, stated that in the Netherlands half of the Turkish population reported having been victims of racial discrimination. The same report highlights a “dramatic growth of Islamophobia” in parallel with anti-Semitism. However, such attitudes are more likely to be linked to issues of migrant settlement than to tourists, and visitors from minority backgrounds will not find their ethnicity a problem in a country known for its tolerance.

Drugs

Cannabis is legal, but it carries some safety risks. It is advisable to take your first spliff in a relaxed social atmosphere, for example among like-minded people in a coffee shop. Be careful: cannabis sold in the Netherlands is often stronger than strains sold elsewhere. Be especially careful with cannabis-based pastries (‘space cakes’), as it is easy to accidentally eat too much – although there are also unscrupulous shops that sell space cakes without any herbs. Wait at least an hour after eating!

It is prohibited to drive a motor vehicle while impaired, including driving under the influence of recreational or prescribed drugs, legal or illegal (such as cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis and mushrooms), as well as alcohol and medications that may impair your ability to drive.

Buying soft drugs from street dealers is still illegal and generally discouraged. The purchase of other (hard) drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine or processed/dried mushrooms is still regulated by law. However, people caught possessing small amounts of illegal drugs for personal use are often not prosecuted.

The act of using any form of drugs is legal, even if possession is not. If you are seen taking drugs, you can theoretically be arrested for possession but not for consumption. This has an important effect: do not hesitate to seek medical help if you are suffering from the harmful effects of drug use, and inform the emergency services as soon as possible about the (illegal) drugs you are using. The medical services do not care where you got the drugs from, they will not contact the police, their only intention is to take care of you in the best possible way.

On some evenings, a “drug testing station” is offered where you can have your (synthetic) drugs tested. This is mainly because many pills contain harmful chemicals in addition to the claimed ingredients; for example, many “ecstasy” pills (MDMA) also contain speed (amphetamines). Some pills do not even contain MDMA. Test banks are not designed to encourage drug use, as owners of places of assembly are heavily fined if they allow drugs on their premises, but they are tolerated or “doogied” because they reduce public health risks. Note: Tested drugs are not returned by the office.

Please note that there are considerable risks associated with drug use:

  • While marijuana bought in coffee shops is probably not dangerous, hard drugs like cocaine and heroin and synthetic drugs like ecstasy are still illegal and unregulated. These hard drugs are likely to be contaminated in one way or another, especially when bought from street dealers.
  • In some countries, there are laws that make it illegal to plan a trip with the aim of committing illegal acts in another jurisdiction. So you could be arrested in your home country after legally smoking weed in the Netherlands.

Be very careful with alcohol and grass. Do not drink alcohol the first two times you smoke weed: If you drink a beer after smoking, it can feel like you are drinking ten. However, alcohol and weed can be a very pleasant and unpleasant experience, especially for people who don’t feel well enough after smoking only weed (for some people weed can be a bit disappointing, while others can go all night on 0.5 g). Alcohol and weed reinforce each other: a little alcohol can enhance the effects of weed, but a little too much can make you feel dizzy and/or nauseous.

The use of drugs is condemned, disapproved of and sometimes feared by many Dutch people, even though it is legal.

Prostitution

In the Netherlands, prostitution is legalised as long as it is voluntary interactions between adults. The minimum age for sex workers is 18. Exploiting sex workers or involving them in the sex industry against their will is a crime. Street prostitution is prohibited in most municipalities, although Utrecht, Arnhem, Groningen, Heerlen, Nijmegen and Eindhoven allow it in special ‘peak areas’. Although brothels are allowed by law, most cities require a permit and enforce a maximum number of establishments in a limited part of the city. Research has concluded that drug abuse is more common in street activities. A client who uses sexual services when he or she could have suspected an illegal situation is already liable to prosecution, and more explicit legal provisions on client responsibility are being developed. Reasonable suspicion can refer to shy or young girls, (minor) injuries, but also to suspicious places like industrial areas or garage boxes. Illegal prostitution in hotels can be raided by the police, and both the client and the prostitute can be fined or jailed. Hotel staff were required by law to notify the police if they suspected such illegal activity. In short, it is advisable to have paid sex only in places licensed to receive prostitutes and to ask for identification if in doubt about a person’s age.

Stay healthy in Netherlands

The Netherlands has some of the best “tap water” in the world. It is even considered similar or superior to natural mineral or spring water. It is distributed by the democratically elected water authorities (waterschappen). Food (bought in supermarkets or consumed in restaurants) should not be a problem either.

The healthcare system in the Netherlands is on a par with the rest of Europe. Hospitals are mostly located in larger cities and all have English-speaking medical staff. General practitioners can be found in almost all towns, except in small villages, and they usually speak English. In most cases, staying healthy is a matter of common sense. Two health risks are particularly important for travellers:

  • When hiking or camping in the forests and dunes, be on the lookout for ticks and the diseases they carry. It is advisable to wear long sleeves and tuck your trousers into your socks. If you discover a red ring on your body within a few weeks, be sure to see a doctor to check for Lyme disease, which can be fatal without proper medical care.
  • In summer, outdoor swimming pools (mainly freshwater) can suffer from the notorious blue-green algae, a rather smelly cyanobacterium that, when it dies, releases toxins into the water. If this happens, a sign at the entrance to the area or near the water should say something like “Waarschuwing: blauwalg”. If in doubt, ask someone.

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