Europe : Benelux : Netherlands
||Amsterdam; The Hague is the seat of
||16 369 056 (may 2007 est.)
||Dutch, Frisian (official)
||Roman Catholic 31%, Protestant 21%, Muslim 4.4%, other 3.6%,
||230V/50Hz (European plug)
The Kingdom of the Netherlands
, The Netherlands
in short, (Dutch
, also commonly called Holland
in English, in reference to the provinces North-Holland
) is a
country and a
founding member of the European Union. The Netherlands border Germany
to the east and Belgium
to the south. To the
west, the country faces the North Sea and the United Kingdom
The people, language, and culture of the Netherlands are referred
to as "Dutch"
The southern part of the country was part of the Holy Roman
Empire until it was acquired piece by piece by the Burgundians. At
the end of the Middle Ages, it became a Spanish possession
(together with what is now Belgium
). Little survives from this period,
except a few historic city centers, and a few castles.
Following the Dutch Revolt
, led by national
hero William of Orange (Willem van Oranje
Netherlands became a de facto
independent republic in
1572. The (first) split with Belgium came when the northern
provinces (including Flanders
) signed the Union of Utrecht in 1579.
It grew to become one of the major economic and seafaring powers in
the world during the 17th century, which is known as the Dutch
Golden Age (Gouden Eeuw
). During this period, many
colonies were founded or conquered, including the Netherlands East
Indies (currently Indonesia
) and New Amsterdam (currently New York City
which was later traded with the British for Suriname
In 1805, the country became a kingdom when Emperor Napoleon
appointed his brother 'King of Holland'. In 1815, it became the
'United Kingdom of the Netherlands (Verenigd Koninkrijk der
) together with Belgium
under King William I (Willem
). In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed a separate kingdom. Luxembourg
independence from the Netherlands in 1890, as the Salic Law
prohibited a female ruler.
Avoiding the liberal revolutions of 1848 and new adopted Treaty,
The Netherlands quietly became a constitutional monarchy and
remained neutral in World War I but suffered a brutal invasion and
occupation by Germany
World War II. A modern, industrialized nation, the Netherlands is
also a large exporter of agricultural products. In 1944, the Low
Countries formed the union of the Benelux
in which they economically (and
sometimes politically) work together. The country was a founding
member of NATO in 1949 and the European Community (EC) in 1957, and
participated in the introduction of the Economic and Monetary Union
(EMU) in 1999.
Quite a few travelers visit the Netherlands to enjoy its
famously tolerant attitude: prostitution is
decriminalized, but only for those prostitutes registered at a
permitted brothel. Safe sex and use of condoms is common practice,
and the prostitute will usually have these available. It is illegal
for sex workers to solicit for customers on the street and
prostitutes are most common in the capital Amsterdam, where
red-light districts are popular, even if tourists only visit as a
momento of the visit. In more rural areas, prostitution is almost
non-existant. Sex shops, sex shows, sex museums and drugs museums
are also popular. The sale, possession, and consumption of small
quantities of cannabis while technically still
illegal, is officially tolerated, but coffeeshops are
subject to increasing restrictions. Harder drugs (eg. ecstasy or
cocaine) remain illegal both in theory and practice. In the same
open minded atmosphere is the Dutch ease towards
homosexuality, gay marriage is legalized. Also the
practice of Euthanasia is legalized under strict conditions.
The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries
in the world. No matter where you go, you are never far away from
civilization. Cities can be crowded especially in the Randstad
area, where congestion is a serious problem. Much of the country is
flat and at or below sea level making it an ideal place to cycle.
Hills can only be found at the Veluwe and Southern Limburg. Much of
countryside is dominated by highly industrialized farming - despite
its population density, the Netherlands are one of the largest food
exporters in the world. Though there are some beautiful spots
scattered across the country, the tourist expecting a countryside
full of picturesque villages, tulips and windmills may be in for a
bit of a shock. The villages, tulips and windmills are there for
sure, you just have to find them (for example, in the Waterland and Zaan Region
The most beautiful places are most of the times the places only
known by the Dutch themselves. Asking a Dutch(wo)man for some ideas
of what to see could be helpful. Otherwise just visit local
'tourist shops', known as the VVV, they can be found in all the
The geography of the Netherlands is dominated by water features.
The country is criss-crossed with rivers, canals and dikes, and the
beach is never far away. The western coast of the Netherlands has
one of the most beautiful North Sea beaches that can be found,
attracting thousands if not millions of people every year, among
them a lot of Germans as well.
The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, administratively
divided into 12 provinces (provincies). Even though the
Netherlands is a small country, these provinces are quite diverse
and have plenty of cultural and linguistic differences. They can be
divided in four regions:
Regions of the Netherlands
The Netherlands has many cities and towns of interest to
travelers. Below are nine of the most notable
- Amsterdam —
traveller magnet due to its impressive architecture, lovely canals
(grachten), museums and liberal attitudes
- Delft — historic unspoiled
town with the world famous blue and white ceramics
- Groningen — student city with a
relaxed atmosphere and nightlife till the sun gets up
- The Hague (Den
Haag) — seat of government, royal family, judicial capital of
the world and Madurodam
- Leiden — historic student
city with the country's oldest university and three national
- Maastricht —
fortified medieval city showing the different culture, style and
architecture of the south
- Nijmegen — oldest city
of the country, known for its forest marches, left-wing politics
and large student population
- Rotterdam — modern
architecture, good nightlife and the largest port of Europe
- Utrecht — historic
center, nice antique stores and the Rietveld-Schröder House
These are some interesting destinations outside of the major
- De Biesbosch National Park — one of the last freshwater tide
areas in Europe
- Efteling — renowned
theme park with fairytale elements like elves and dwarves
- Hoge Veluwe National Park —
largest national park with heathlands, sand dunes and
- Keukenhof — millions of
tourists visit these enormous flower fields each Spring
- Kinderdijk — these
windmills show the typical Dutch landscape in all its glory
- Schokland — old
island evacuated in 1859, a well-preserved ghost village
- Texel — largest island
suited for cycling, walking, swimming and horse riding
- Waterland and Zaan Region —
typical Dutch countryside villages with polders, clogs and
Schans — popular well-preserved historic windmills and
Netherlands is a member of the Schengen Agreement
. For EU, EEA (Iceland
) or Swiss citizens, an
officially approved ID card (or a passport) is sufficient for
entry. In no case will they need a visa for a stay of any length.
Others will generally need a passport for entry.
There are no border controls between countries that have signed
and implemented the treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria,
Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Norway
and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member
is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented
the treaty. But be careful: Not all EU members have signed the
Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the
Airports in Europe are thus divided into "Schengen" and
"non-Schengen" sections, which effectively act like "domestic" and
"international" sections elsewhere. If you are flying from outside
Europe into one Schengen country and continuing to another, you
will clear Immigration and Customs at the first country and then
continue to your destination with no further checks. Travel between
a Schengen member and a non-Schengen country will result in the
normal border checks. Note that regardless of whether you
travelling within the Schengen area or not, some airlines will
still insist on seeing your ID card or passport.
Keep in mind that the counter begins once you enter any country
in the Schengen
and is not
reset by leaving a specific
Schengen country for another Schengen country, or vice-versa.
As of January 2010 only
the citizens of the
following non-EU/EEA/Swiss countries do not
visa for entry into the Schengen Area; note that they must not stay
longer than three months in half a year and must not work while in
the EU: Andorra
, Antigua and
, Costa Rica
, El Salvador
*, New Zealand
, Saint Kitts and Nevis
, San Marino
, South Korea
, United States
, Vatican City
, additionally persons holding
British National (Overseas), Hong Kong
SAR or Macau
- while British subjects with the right of abode in the
United Kingdom and British Overseas Territories citizens connected
to Gibraltar are considered "United Kingdom nationals for European
Union purposes" and therefore eligible for unlimited
access to the Schengen Area,
- British Overseas Territories citizens without the
right of abode in the United Kingdom and British subjects
without the right of abode in the United Kingdom as well
as British Overseas citizens and British protected persons in
general do require visas.
However, all British Overseas Territories citizens except those
solely connected to the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas are eligible
for British citizenship and thereafter unlimited access to the
Further note that
(*) Macedonian, Montenegrin and Serbian citizens need a
biometric passport to enjoy visa-free travel
(**) Serbian citizens with passports issued by the Serbian
Coordination Directorate (Serbs residing in Kosovo) still
a visa. Visas and long-term residence permits for
non-EU nationals are handled by IND 
There are a number of ways to get into the Netherlands. From
neighboring European countries, a drive with the car or a train
ride are feasible; visitors from further away will probably be
using air travel. Visitors from the United Kingdom can also travel
Schiphol Airport 
, near Amsterdam, is a European hub, and after London, Paris, and
Frankfurt the largest of Europe. It is by far the biggest
international airport in the country, and a point of interest in
itself, being 4 metres below mean sea level (the name actually
translates as Hollow of Ships). Travellers can easily fly in from
most places of the world and then connect with The Netherlands'
biggest airline KLM 
From Schiphol there are excellent railway connections:
Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and most large cities have
a direct train service. The train station at Schiphol is located
underground, under the main airport hall. The train is the quickest
and cheapest way to get around in the Netherlands. Taxis are
expensive: legal taxis have blue number plates, others should be
avoided. Some hotels in Amsterdam, and around the airport, have a
shuttle bus service.
Some budget airlines also fly to the Netherlands. Jet2.com 
, Easyjet 
, SkyEurope 
and other low-cost carriers
Schiphol, providing a fairly economical way to city-hop to
Amsterdam from other spots in Europe
. Especially flying to/from the British
Isles and the Mediterranian countries can be relatively cheap. It's
important that you book as early as possible, as prices tend to get
higher closer to departure.
Other international airports are Eindhoven
, Maastricht/Aachen Airport
, and Groningen-Eelde
. These smaller airports are mainly attended by
low-cost airlines. Eindhoven Airport and Maastricht/Aachen Airport
are mostly used by Ryanair 
while Rotterdam Airport is dominated by Transavia 
. Trains or a direct bus
connection (in the case of Eindhoven Airport) are the best way to
get to Amsterdam or any other town.
It is also possible to come to the Netherlands via airports
lying in surrounding countries. Much-used airports are
Düsseldorf Airport and Brussels Zaventem
from France and Belgium
high-speed train 
, which connects the
Netherlands with France
, is a bit expensive,
but if you book a return in advance or if you're under 26 or over
60 you can get good deals. It is also faster, normally cheaper and
more convenient than flying.
For trips to Brussels
it is usually
cheaper - and almost as fast - to catch the Benelux
, which runs hourly from Amsterdam
, via Schiphol, The Hague
, Dordrecht and Roosendaal
. No seat
reservations are required - just buy your ticket and get on
.^ 'Your transatlantic love is proof of the lasting connection between old and new Amsterdam,' Cohen said in the service."
- The Netherlands Hub | The Netherlands Gay Blog Report | Towleroad, News Daily for Gay Guys. 9 February 2010 16:47 UTC www.towleroad.com [Source type: General]
Maastricht-Liege takes around 30 minutes,
Maastricht-Brussels takes about 1½ hours. Tickets can be bought at
the stations or on-line on Express' website 
There are also a number of regional trains from and to
is the main 'operator'
for international coaches to the Netherlands. (In fact the name
Eurolines is a common brand-name used by different operators).
Services are limited: only a few main routes have a daily service,
eg.from Poland, London, Milan, Brussels and Paris 
this is the cheapest way to travel and you get discount if your age
is less than 26.
Due to the Bosnian war in the 1990'ies there are bus companies
serving the Bosnian diaspora, which provide a cheap and clean
way of getting to
the other side of the European continent. Semi tours 
runs three times per week
from various destinations in Bosnia and Hercegovina
Belgium and the Netherlands, Off-season approx 165€ for a return
The Netherlands can be reached from Belgium
by road. Road access is very good in
this country. The borders are open under the terms of the Schengen
Agreement. Cars can be stopped behind the border for random checks,
but this barely happens. There are car ferry services from the
United Kingdom, see below. The UK is not part of the Schengen zone,
and full border checks apply.
There are three ferry services from the UK
- Stena Line  between Harwich
and Hoek van Holland (Hook of Holland)
More information, timetables and ticket prices for the North Sea
ferries is available at Ferries To Amsterdam 
is a combination
ticket that includes the trainride from anywhere on the National
Express East Anglia 
) to Harwich
, the ferry, and the trainride
from Hook of Holland to anywhere on the NS (dutch railways)
network. Rotterdam is also the second largest port in the world,
and (in theory) a good place for Freighter travel
The Netherlands has a fine-grained, well-organized public
transport system. Virtually any village can be reached by public
transport. The Dutch public transport system consists of a train
network which serves as backbone, extended with a network of both
local and interlocal busses. Amsterdam
have a metro network, and Amsterdam
, Den Haag
also have trams.
The country is densely populated and urbanised, and train
services are frequent. In the western Netherlands, the rail network
is more like a large urban network, with up to 12 trains per hour
on main routes. There are two main types of trains: Intercity
trains, and trains which stop at all stations (previously called
'Stoptrein'). (The Intercity is not as fast as 'Intercity' services
in some other countries, and it stops more often). Both types of
train have the same prices. Travelling all the way from the north
of the country (Groningen) to the south (Maastricht) takes about
Most lines offer one train every 30 minutes; only some rural
lines run every 60 minutes. Where more lines run together, the
frequency is of course higher. In the western Netherlands, the rail
network is more like a large urban network, with up to 12 trains
per hour on main routes.
The Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) 
most routes. Some local lines are operated by Syntus, Arriva,
Veolia and Connexxion.
Because of the high service frequency, delays are quite common.
However, the delay is usually not more than 5 or 10 minutes. .^ Of course if you're that gone, will you have the foresight to use it?
- The Netherlands Hub | The Netherlands Gay Blog Report | Towleroad, News Daily for Gay Guys. 9 February 2010 16:47 UTC www.towleroad.com [Source type: General]
can be crowded during the rush hour, especially in the morning, but
you should nearly always be able to find a seat. Reserving seats on
domestic trains is not possible.
There is a convenient night train service (for party-goers and
airport traffic) between Rotterdam, Delft, Den Haag, Leiden,
Schiphol, Amsterdam, and Utrecht, all night long, once an hour in
each direction. There is a direct and hourly night train service on
Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights between Rotterdam and Utrecht.
In the nights Friday onto Saturday and Saturday onto Sunday, North-Brabant
also served. You can get to Dordrecht,'s-Hertogenbosch, Eindhoven,
Tilburg, and Breda.
Tickets are available between all stations, NS and non-NS, and
there is only one national tariff system. Tickets are valid on both
sprinter and intercity services; there is no difference in price.
The most used tickets are the single (enkele reis) and
return tickets (retour). The latter are 1.67 times the
price of a single (or a single is 60% of the return price) and are
valid only for return on the day itself, or in case of the
weekendretour (same price as a normal return) between
Friday 19:00 and Monday morning 4:00. Tickets are valid in any
train on the route (as opposed to being valid in only one fixed
train). It is allowed to pause the travel at any station on the
route (even on stations on the route where you don't have to
change). Like in many countries, there is a difference between
first and second class. A second class ticket is 60% of the price
of a first class ticket. The main advantage of first class is that
it's less crowded, also seats and aisles are generally wider. For
children 4-11 years accompanied by adults, a Railrunner ticket can
be bought for €2.
Tickets cannot be purchased cheaper in advance like in some
countries. The ticket price is uniform and depends on distance.
Note that you can buy a ticket without a date in advance, which has
to be validated when entering the platform, but this doesn't make
the ticket cheaper, it's just for convenience. If you have a ticket
without a date printed on it, do not forget to validate it by
putting it in the small yellow boxes which are usually located at
the platform entrance.
Tickets can be purchased from machines in stations using debit
cards (international debit cards are accepted if they have the
Maestro symbol on it). Some of the machines – at least one at each
station – also accept coins (but no notes!). Only larger stations
have a ticket counter — you pay €0.50 more than at the machine, per
ticket. Ticket machines come in two kinds: an older version with an
two-line greenish LCD display, and a new version with a big touch
screen. The latter has English-language menus available. There is
also a demonstration of this system 
internet. A common mistake made by foreigners is accidentally
getting a 40% discount ('korting') ticket from the machine. A
special discount-card is required for these tickets, although you
can travel on other people's discount cards too. (See Discount rail pass
). If you
have trouble using the ticket machine, ask someone else for help;
almost everyone speaks English and will help you out. It is also
possible to buy e-tickets 
at the moment a dutch bank account for payment (iDEAL) is
You must buy a ticket before travelling — since
2005, you can no longer simply buy a ticket from the conductor, as
in some other countries. If you buy a ticket onboard, you will have
to pay the normal price plus a € 35 fine. If the ticket
machines are defective, go to the conductor immediately when
boarding. The conductor is not allowed any discretion on this
policy, though being polite and pretending to be an ignorant
tourist might help you – but is not guaranteed – to get away with
having an invalid ticket. In worst case though, if you do not have
either enough cash, or a passport, you could be arrested by railway
In the station
While many villages have small stations with only one or two
platforms and no railway staff, cities like Amsterdam
have large central stations with up to
14 platforms. It can take 5-10 minutes to move from one platform to
another, especially for people not familiar with the station. The
platforms are all numbered. When platforms are so long that two or
more trains can halt at the same platform, the different parts of
the platform are indicated with the lowercase letters a/b/c. On
some stations, capital letters are used to indicate which part of
the train stops at which part of the station. Do not confuse the
lowercase and uppercase letters.
Time tables can be found in the station hall and on the
platforms. All train tables are yellow. Departing train tables are
printed in blue, arriving train tables in red. Unlike in other
countries, the trains are not ordered by time of departure, but by
direction. Additionally, more and more stations have blue
electronic screens, indicating the trains departing during the next
Discount rail pass
Visitors planning to travel by train in the Netherlands should
consider the Eurail
allows for unlimited train travel within Belgium, the Netherlands,
and Luxembourg over multiple days. Europeans, not being eligible
for Eurail passes, should look into Inter Rail
Passes for their discount train
If two or three people want to travel around the Netherlands
together for a few days during the summer, the Zomertoer
may be used. This pass gives them two, not necessarily consecutive,
days of unlimited travel. An add-on also allows you to travel on
all other public transportation in the country. In autumn weekends,
the Herfsttoer also gives some discounts.
If you're thinking of staying a longer time in the Netherlands
it can be a good deal to get the "Voordeelurenkaart" (Off-Peak
Discount Pass), which gives the cardholder (and up to three
additional persons travelling with him or her) 40% off for one
year. 40% discount tickets are valid after 9:00AM on weekdays and
the whole day in weekends, on national holidays and in the months
July and August. Price €55 for one year (2009). The
voordeel-urenkaart must be applied for in advance and can take some
weeks to process. A temporary card, which can be used for four
weeks, will be issued right away when you apply. Since 2007,
applying for a card requires a photograph.
If you're only in the Netherlands for one day and want to see
much of the country by train, you may want to get an "OV-Dagkaart".
It's on all-inclusive ticket for all public transportation for € 45
(2009). But note: it may be cheaper to just buy a ticket. For
example: to get your money's worth on the OV-dagkaart would require
about 6 hours train travel in one day.
Slightly more adventurous is to make use of the extra advantages
of 'Off-peak Discount Passes' or people who have a 'Year Pass'
(most students or some cival servants). It is possible, but some
people may be offended when asked by strangers. There is a way to
travel cheaper without having a pass yourselves: find a student
with an 'O.V.-kaart' (Year Pass for Public Transportation), or
someone who possesses a 'Voordeel-urenkaart' who travels on the
same traject as you do. They are allowed to take up to three fellow
travelers (this would be you) who can enjoy a 40% discount. You
have to buy the discounted railway-ticket in advance (no need to
show your Pass at the desk or buy it from an automatic ticket
machine), but it won't be a problem to find someone accompanying
you. This deal only works during weekends, or during weekdays after
9:00AM, on national holidays and in the summer months July and
August. When the conductor asks for you 'cheaper' railway-ticket;
the fellow who is accompanying you must show his 'Discount' or
'Year Pass'. It doesn't matter who it is as long as someone helps
you out during your travel (when they come to check the tickets).
Please note that both passengers should travel the same route. So
only when you traveling with a discount card this should be taken
in attention. Travelers with a 'O.V.-kaart', don't need to by a
additional train ticket so there journey is unknown when they check
The network of regional and local buses in the Netherlands is
fine-grained and frequent and usually connects well with the train
network; you can reach most small villages easily. However, for
long-distance travel, these regional buses are not convenient at
all, and are much slower than the train.
Fast long-distance buses are only available on a small number of
routes that aren't covered by the rail network; these buses have
special names that differ by region, such as Q-liner,
Brabantliner and Interliner, and special
There are four main bus companies in the Netherlands,
Connexxion, Veolia, Arriva and
Qbuzz. A few large cities have their own bus company.
A cheap way to get across the Netherlands is to buy a "buzzer"
ticket. It costs €10 a day, and is valid after 9AM on every single
Connexxion bus for two grownups and up to three children. On
weekends and holidays it is also valid before 9AM. Because
Connexxion has a near monopoly on the bus market, you can get from
Groningen to Zeeland this way in a day, and it undercuts the train.
A big downside though is that bus lines are very indirect. For
example, if you want to travel from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, you
have to change three or more times to get all the way there. In
short: bus journeys will almost always take longer than train
travel. For example, trip to Rotterdam from Utrecht will take 40
minutes, but in the Bus it will take 1 hour and 30 minutes.
However, if you want to enjoy the countryside and villages you can
prefer the bus trips.
Many companies and regions have their own bus discount tickets,
which are often cheaper than the strippenkaart.
The two largest cities Amsterdam
have a (small) metro network which
runs mainly on bridges outside the city centers, and underground
within the center. Furthermore there is a large city tram network
in the agglomerations of Amsterdam
and The Hague
has two sneltram
tram or light-rail).
In bus, tram and metro (but not trains), there is a national
ticketing system, called the strippenkaart
. Strippenkaarten of 15 or 45
strips are available for €7.30 and €21.60 respectively (2009). A
trip always costs the number of zones you travel through, plus one.
So a trip through one zone costs two strips, a travel through two
zones costs three strips, etc. For example: starting fee +
Amsterdam center + Amsterdam east = 3. A trip on the bus within a
city is usually 2 or 3 strips of the card (1 or 2 zones). You can
change buses, trams and metros (even between companies) an
unlimited number of times, or pause your trip and return in
opposite direction for a fixed amount of time dependent on the
number of strips:
- up to 3 zones: 1 hour
- up to 6 zones: 1,5 hours
- up to 9 zones: 2 hours
- up to 15 zones: 3 hours
- 16 or more zones: 3,5 hours
When using the strippenkaart, it is often most convenient to
tell the bus driver your destination, and he will stamp the card in
the right place. In some busses and trams, you can stamp the card
yourself at the yellow boxes at the platforms or inside. In metro's
and the sneltram in Utrecht
this is even necessary as you cannot speak to the driver.
You can get 15- and 45-strippenkaarten in many places, including
bus stations, post offices, cigar/magazine shops and some
supermarkets (at the service desk or from a vending machine). On
the bus smaller strippenkaarten of 2 and 3 strippen are available.
These are more more expensive (it costs about twice as much) and
not recommended, unless you don't want to use the buses more than
once or twice.
The strippenkaart can also be used for multiple-party travel for
yourselves and other persons at the same time. In this
circumstance, stamp the last strip for every passenger. For
example, when travelling with two passengers for three zones (which
corresponds to three strips) on a blank card, stamp strip number
four and eight.
If the card is nearly full, you can split up a trip on the old
card and a new card. In this case, also stamp the last strip of the
In general this 'card' is valid up till one year after new
pricing. If you are eligible for discount (due to the fact that you
are a Dutch student with special student-O.V.-card, or under 12 or
over 65) you can buy special reduced - cheaper - pink ones, which
will get you the same mileage for a better price.
Keep in mind that you don't pay to get to a certain destination,
but rather for the distance that you travel from your departure
point. For example, if you stamp 2 zones in Amsterdam center, the
following ride is possible:
Amsterdam center -> Amsterdam east -> Amsterdam center
-> Amsterdam west
because it's all in a 1 zone radius from Amsterdam center.
Again, be sure that your stamp is still valid (you can always ask
The strippenkaart is not valid in some highway busses and night
When using the strippenkaart, it is often most convenient to
tell the bus driver your destination, and he will stamp the card in
the right place. You can do it yourselves as there is a special
automat-machine available. In general one basic-strip+strips
according to amount of zones to be travelling.
Special bus tickets or
Some towns and cities have special cheaper bus tickets from car
parks near the city limits to the city centre, for outside rush
hours, usually a return ticket.
The strippenkaart is being replaced by a pre-paid public
transport chipcard system
(i.e. OV chipcard) on all forms
of public transport ('Openbaar Vervoer'). The system is now
operational in all forms of public transport in Rotterdam and
Amsterdam (metro, trams, buses), in trains operated by NS, and most
(but certainly not all!) busses in the rest of the country. In
Rotterdam and Amsterdam, it's the only way of paying in the metro;
in buses and trams in Rotterdam and Amsterdam both chipcard and
strippenkaart can be used. Even though both systems will operate in
parallel in buses and trams in Amsterdam and Rotterdam in 2009, at
some point in the coming years the chipcard will be the only way of
paying your travel in the metro/bus/tram system of those cities,
and after them other cities will follow. Rotterdam will abandon the
strippenkaart on all forms of public transport (except train) on 11
February 2010. In
of the Netherlands the purple colour indicates where
the chip card can currently be used.
The OV chipcard will come in three prepaid versions: a
'throwaway' version with the amount in euros for 2 or 3 travels. An
'unpersonal version' directly available at a special OV counter for
a basic-fee (€7.50) + re-usable and rechargable top-up-amount in
euros (valid up till 5 years) for multiple travel for one person at
the time. It may be handed over to some-one else for another travel
at a different time; in case of theft or loss it cannot be
replaced. And a 'personal version', to be registred and applyed in
advance with passport-sized photo and copy of I.D. and (Dutch)
bank-account. This version will be only valid for the bearer of the
personalized OV chipcard and works similar to the unpersonal
version, but also will register all your travels and movements in
the Netherlands. In case of theft or loss it can be replaced. Note
that a OV chipcard bought anywhere can be used everywhere.
The card has a credit associated with it, when travelling you
have to check in at a terminal by holding the card against it. In
busses and trams terminals are a small box near the entrances and
exits, at train stations they can usually be found on the platform
or in the train terminal, and at metro stations you open the gates
with it. The terminal then writes off an amount of 4 or 5 euros, or
20 euros in trains, this is a deposit. It is possible to have a
negative credit one time, except in trains. Then if you reach your
destination you check out again, the system then gives back the
deposit, minus the amount due for the distance travelled. The
terminal usually shows the credit left on the card when checking
out. If you don't check out you will not get the deposit back!
At train stations some ticket machines can read the data on the
card, and it can show you the credit left, and the costs of the
last travels made with it.
It's possible to get the credit that's on your card payed back
to you, at a chip card information desk, but it seems to be
discouraged: you can only do this if the amount on your card is
between €5 and €30, and you pay an administration fee of €2.50.
Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht offer public transport
at night. Only Amsterdam has a service all night and every night;
in the other cities it is more limited, e.g., to the first part of
the night, or only during the weekend. Several other cities and
regions also have night buses, usually even more limited.
In general these request extra (cash) payment on top of the
ordinary ('day-time') strippenkaart or special night-bus tickets.
In some cases the ordinary 'strippenkaart' is not valid at all and
only to be used for daytime travel.
All public transport companies participate in the OV Reisplanner
(Public Transport Travel
Planner), which can plan a trip for you using almost all public
transportation types. They only know about scheduled detours,
however. This is also available by telephone: 0900-9292 (€ 0,70 per
Information about the trains can be found at the Nederlandse
Spoorwegen (NS) website 
which includes a trip planner which uses the latest information
about train delays and detours.
A car is a good way to explore the countryside, especially
places not connected by rail, such as Veluwe, Zeeland and The North
Sea islands. The motorway network is extensive, though heavily
used. Congestion during peak hour is usual and can better be
avoided. Roads are well signposted. When driving in cities, always
give priority to cyclists when turning across a cycle lane. If you
are involved in a collision with a cyclist, you will be
automatically assumed to be guilty (until proven innocent). If you
only wish to see cities a car is not the best option. Due to
limited road capacity and parking, cars are actively discouraged
from entering most bigger cities.
Public transport buses have the priority when leaving a
bus stop, so be careful as they may pull in front of you
expecting that you will give way.
Drive on the right. The speed limit in built up areas is 50 km/h
with some zones limited to maximum of 30 km/h. Outside of towns
speed is limited to 80 km/h (this includes most N-roads). On some
local roads the speed limit is 60 km/h. On the highways the limit
is 120 km/h except on some roads where the limit is 100 km/h.
During rush hour signs above many roads indicate the current speed
limit. On semi-highways and some of the N-roads the speed limit is
Your speed will be checked nationwide by the police and fines
are heavy. Pay extra attention to Trajectcontrole
signs: that means that in the road you're driving there is an
automatic system that checks your average speed on a long section.
Radar detectors are illegal devices to have in your car. They will
be impounded and you will be fined €250. Keep in mind that the
police use so-called radar detector detectors to track down radar
detector users, so it is best to turn them off while in Holland.
Drinking and driving is not allowed and this is enforced strongly.
Breathalyzer tests occur frequently, both on an individual basis
(i.e. you get pulled over and the police see it necessary for you
to undergo a breathalyzer test) as on a bigger scale (i.e. the
police has set up a designated control checkpoint on a highway). A
unbroken yellow line next to the sidewalk means no
stopping, a broken yellow next to the sidewalk means
no parking. Some crossings have "shark teeth"
painted on the road, this means you have to give way to the other
Note that police also use unmarked traffic surveillance cars,
especially on the highways. They have a video surveillance system
and often they don't stop you right after doing a
violation but they keep on following you. That means if you do more
violations, you'll be fined for everything you did. Note that the
policemen in unmarked cars are obliged to identify
themselves after pulling you over, which means you shouldn't have
to ask. Policemen in marked cars only have to show their ID when
you ask them for it, but they too are obliged to show it when
If your car breaks down on the highway you might go to the
nearest roadside emergency telephone; these "praatpalen" can be
recognized as they are about 1.5m high, yellow and have a rounded
bunny-eared cap on top. This is the direct connection to the
emergency and assistance services. Alternatively, you might use a
mobile phone to recht the ANWB 
autoclub via toll-free number 0800-0888; your membership of a
foreign autoclub might entitle you to discount rates on their
services. Leased (business) cars and rental cars are usually
serviced by the ANWB services included in the lease/rental price;
but you may want to check any provided booklets.
If you are involved in an accident, both drivers need to
complete and counter-sign a statement for their respective
insurance companies (damage form/"schadeformulier"). You are
required to have this form on hand. The police need to be notified
if you have damaged (public) property (especially along the
highways), if you have caused any sort of injury, or if the other
driver does not agree to sign the insurance statement. It is
illegal to hit and run. If the other driver does this, call the
police and stay at the scene. The emergency telephonenumber is 112
(tollfree, will even work from disconnected mobile phones); the
telephonenumber for non-emergency police presence is 0900-8844.
Road signs with directions are plenty, but having a map is
useful, especially in cities where there are many one way streets,
and getting from one part of the city to another is not always so
straightforward. Be careful not to drive on buslanes, often
indicated with markings such as Lijnbus or Bus,
nor on cycling paths, marked by the picture of a bicycle, or by a
reddish color of asphalt. Also, do not use the rush-hour-lanes
(Spitsstrook) when the matrix display above the designated
lane indicates a red "X" - this means they cannot be used.
Fuel is easy to come by. Along highways many gas stations are
open 24/7. More and more unmanned gas stations can be found, even
along highways, selling petrol for a lower rate. These unattended
stations accept all common debit and creditcards. All gas stations
sell both petrol and dieseloil; the "premium" brands have the same
octane level (they alledgedly contain compounds that improve fuel
efficiency to offset the higher price). Liquid Petroleum Gas is
sold at relatively many gas stations along the high ways, but it is
never sold in built-up areas. The symbol for LPG gas is a
green-colored gaspump-icon, set beside the general case
black-colored gaspump-icon. LPG fueled cars need regular petrol to
start the motor, and can also be operated using strictly petrol,
though it is more expensive.
If you come in the Netherlands with your LPG fueled car,
probably you will need an adaptor. If you buy in your country, ask
for the specific Dutch adaptor. The plug sold as
"european" (screw style), is used in Belgium, Luxembourg and
Germany but won't fit Dutch pumps.
Do not use diesel oil pumps meant for trucks to fuel your cars;
while the diesel oil is the same, the pressure is much higher.
Parking fees within cities can be pretty steep. When considering
going to bigger cities, such as Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Rotterdam,
consider use of public transportion to avoid traffic jams and the
great difficulties involved in finding a parking spot. P+R
park and ride facilities are available at the
outskirts of bigger cities; you can park your car cheaply there,
and continue your journey via public transport.
Taxi service was traditionally a tightly guarded monopoly. In
recent years, the market was deregulated, but prices are still
high. Taxi drivers are licensed, but they do not, as of yet, have
to pass a proficiency exam, providing they know the streets. This
is planned in the future, since the taxi market is being
re-regulated. In the bigger cities taxi drivers can be un-friendly
to very rude. One will find that especially in the western part of
the country the cost of a taxi are very high for very little
politeness and service. The public transport system often proves to
be cheaper and a lot faster.
Some taxi drivers refuse short rides (e.g. under €10). This is
illegal, but it's hard to enforce this prohibition. There is a
maximum tarriff, and it's built into the taxi meters. If you
negotiote a price before you get in, the price you have to pay is
the negotiated price, or the metered price, whichever is lower.
Getting in a cab without enough money to pay for the ride is
illegal, so it's wise to negotiate a price.
All legal taxis have blue license plates. So do some other
vehicles for group transport, such as minibus services for the
Generally okay. Not okay for a quick travel from small towns or
non-highway due to lack of traffic; sometimes you will get help
from hospitable locals. But gas-stations at highways are quite good
places. So try to stay on the highways/motor-ways! However, the
large amount of highway crossings in the Netherlands and the lack
of fuel stations between them in the Randstad makes it difficult to
travel fast over long distances.
At the beginning of or where it leads to highways/motorways it is
not officially but mosttimes allowed as long as you stay before the
traffic-sign highway/motorway on a spot where cars have slow-speed
and it is possible for drivers to let you quickly step in. Also
traffic-lights are sometimes an option.
There are official hitchhiking spots (liftershalte(s))
(lift-stops) at the center or edge of 7 major cities:
Liftplaats at Prins Bernardplein
- Prins Bernhardplein , before NS Station Amsterdam Amstel (on
east side of the river Amstel) (past the bus stop). Leads to the
ramp of the S112 of the A10, direction E231-A1/E35-A2. It is
recommended for the directions Middle-/East-Netherlands. For other
directions/routes try also alternative spots.
Alternative spots / other
(It is recommended for the directions
- Amstel (on the west side of the river Amstel) near
traffic-lights/Utrechtsebrug and near beginning-/end-stop of
Tram-line 25. Leads to the ramp of the S111 of the A10, directions
- Junction S109 of the A10, close to NS Station RAI (RAI Congress
Centre; specially when there are large events or congresses). Leads
to the ramp of the S109 of the A10, directions
- At bus stop Amstelveenseweg / Ringweg Zuid just northeast from
metro station Amstelveensweg. There is an on-ramp which leads to
the A10 North, A4 South and A9 (both directions). What makes this
location convenient is that cars can easily stop in the bus lane in
order to pick you up.
- There used to be a hitchhiking spot here on the Westerval near
the A1, but it has recently been removed in a road
- Utrechtsebaan next to the northside of the Malieveld, at the
beginning of the E30-A12 towards Utrecht. Also possibilities towards E19-A4 Delft-Rotterdam or E19-A44 Leiden-Amsterdam
Alternative spots / other
- edge northwest-side of Malieveld/crossing
Zuid-Holland-laan/Utrechtse baan/Benoordenhoutseweg, towards
Leidsestraatweg N44 and Leiden
E19-A44 and Amsterdam
- Emmaviaduct (200m west of Centraal Station), on the
road to A28
- at the beginning of A2 near the soccer-football stadium 'De
Geusselt', to E25-A2 (Eindhoven) and A79 (Heerlen).
- Graafseweg (Venlo and Den Bosch), at the major
city-centre roundabout (verkeersplein) Keizer Karelplein
(hitch-hiking on the roundabout itself is not recommended)
- near the Waalbrug/before the bridge in direction Arnhem,
- at the Annastraat, close to the Radboud University
(RU)/University Medical Centre (UMC)
- at the Triavium, across shopping centre Dukenburg
- close to petrol station and ramp of the Waterlinieweg near 'De
Galgewaard' soccer-football-stadium, north to A27/A28, south to
Cycling in the Netherlands is much less hazardous than in other
countries, because of the infrastructure - cycle paths, cycle
lanes, and signposted cycle routes. However, the proliferation of
bicycles also means that you're seen as a serious part of traffic -
motorists will hate you if you don't keep by the rules. Some things
- Cycle lanes and cycle paths are indicated by a round blue sign
with a white bike icon, an icon on the asphalt, or by red asphalt.
Using them is mandatory.
- Cyclists must obey the same traffic signs as motorists, unless
exempted. For example, a cycle icon under a no-entry sign, usually
with the text 'uitgezonderd' (except), means cyclists may use the
street in both directions.
- Where there is no cycle lane or path, use the regular road.
This is unlike the rule in Germany and Belgium, where you are
supposed to use the footpath in many places.
- On some narrow streets that do have a cycle path parallel to
them, mopeds may be required to use the cycle path, rather than the
main street (as is usual).
- Bicycles must have working front (white) and rear (red) lights.
Reflectors are not sufficient. You may be fined (€ 40) for
cycling in the dark without a light, and you seriously endanger
yourself and other traffic by doing so. Small, battery-operated LED
lights attached to your person are allowed.
There are four ways to use a bicycle:
- if you are staying in a city, you can use the bike as a means
of transport, to get from A to B. This is the way local people use
it, for short journeys it is faster than car, bus or tram. You can
use the bike to get to places near the city, which may not be
accessible by public transport.
- you can cycle around on the bike, in a city, or in the
surrounding area. The bike is then a means to see places and
landscapes. The many signposted cycle routes are
designed for this, most of them are octagonal and take you back to
the starting point. Some rural routes go through areas inaccessible
by car. Signs for bicycle routes are usually white, with a red
border and lettering. One thing to note that mainly in the southern
part of the Netherlands, it's possible to create your own routes by
connecting marked and numbered points called "knooppunten".
- you can take the bike on a train, for a day trip to another
city or region. It costs € 6, and you may not travel with a bike in
the rush hour. You must carry a supplementary ticket, which is
easily obtained from the automated kiosks. As an alternative, you
can easily hire bikes at (or near) stations. Folding bikes can be
taken on board for free when folded.
- you can load your tent on the bike, and set off across the
country. For this you do need to be fit, and not afraid of rain.
The national long-distance cycle routes are
designed for this type of holiday, see Cycling in the Netherlands
Bike theft is a serious problem in the Netherlands, especially
around train stations, and in larger cities. Never park a bike near
a station, use the guarded bike parking ('stalling'). In general,
use 2 locks of different kinds (for example, one
chain lock and one tube lock). This is because most bike thieves
specialize in a particular kind of lock, or carry equipment best
suited to one kind of lock. Ideally, you should lock the bike to a
lamppost or similar. Bike thieves have been known to simply pickup
unattached bikes and load them into a pickup truck, so they can
crack open the locks at leisure.
In cities, most bikes are stolen by drug addicts, and they sell
most stolen bikes too. In fact they simply offer them for sale to
passers-by, if they think no police are watching. Buying a stolen
bike is itself illegal, and police do arrest buyers. If you buy for
a suspiciously low price (e.g. € 10 to 20), or in a suspicious
place (in general, on the street), the law presumes you "know or
should have known" the bike was stolen. In other words actual
ignorance of the bike's origins is no excuse.
Bike shops are the best place to buy a second-hand bike legally,
but prices are high. Some places where you can rent bikes will also
sell their written off stock, which is usually well maintained.
Most legal (and often cheap) second-hand bike sales now go through
online auction sites like marktplaats.nl - the Dutch subsidiary of
Even though it's not common to use air travel within the
Netherlands, the following carriers offer domestic flights:
- KLM  (Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport,
- VLM Airlines 
(Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport, Groningen (Eelde Airport))
The national language in the Netherlands is Dutch
. It's a
charming, lilting language punctuated by phlegm-trembling glottal
g's (not in the south) and sch's (also found, for example, in
Arabic). Written Dutch might be semi-intelligible to someone who
knows other germanic languages (English, German, Scandinavian
languages), but the spoken language sounds rather different from
Even though the Netherlands is just a small country, dialects
can still be found everywhere. Dutch people can easily tell where
other people were raised just by their dialect/accent. Dialects are
hardly used in everyday life in most of the country. Near the
borders this is different, especially in Limburg, in the south,
which still cherishes its dialects. The Carnaval period is another
exception, when many cities even get renamed. Although dialects
haven't died out, everyone can still speak standard Dutch
Officially the Netherlands is bilingual, as Frisian is also an
official language. When travelling through Fryslân you will come
across many roadsigns in two languages (similar to Wales). This is
also the case in southern Limburg. Everybody speaks Dutch, but the
Frisians are so protective of the minority language that ordering a
beer in it might just get you the next one free. In areas bordering
Germany, German is widely spoken. However, outside of the eastern
provinces, a good amount of people (especially amongst the younger
generation) can speak basic German too. French will be understood
by some as well, especially the older generations. Immigrant
languages are prominent in urban areas, they include Turkish,
Arabic, Sranan-Tongo (Surinam
) and Papiamento (Netherlands Antilles
The hackneyed phrase "They all speak English there" is in fact
pretty accurate for the Netherlands. Education from an early age in
English and other European languages (mostly German and French)
makes the Dutch some of the most fluent polyglots on the continent.
Oblivious travelers to the major cities should be able to make
their way without learning a word of Dutch. Dealing with seniors,
however - or finding yourself in a family atmosphere - will
probably require learning a bit of the native tongue.
- Every two years, the country goes football
crazy as either the European Championship or the World Cup
is held. It's not uncommon for literally fifty percent of the
population to be watching a game if it's a particularly important
one. Often bigger cities will put up large tv screens for the
general public, like on the Rembrandtplein in Amsterdam. Likewise,
cafes and bars are another popular place to watch games.
- In the Southern Netherlands (North
Brabant, Limburg and to a
smaller extent also in Twente, Overijssel and the south of Gelderland), the Catholic
celebration of Carnival is held since medieval
times. It occurs immediately before Lent; which is usually during
February or March. Parades can be seen almost in any town on
Sunday, sometimes also occurring on Monday. Parades can also be
held in the evening, usually on Saturdays all the wagons are then
lit up by numerous small lights. The other days of the week, many
activities can be found ranging from street painting (stoepkrijten)
to beer drinking contests. The cities of 's-Hertogenbosch, Breda
and Maastricht are advisable for attending Carnival.
- Queen's Day (Koninginnedag) is held
every year at April 30th all over the country (except if this day
is a Sunday, then it will be held at the Saturday before). In every
village and town, you will find frollicking Dutch, free markets and
authentic Dutch games. It is advised to wear orange clothes, most
Dutch people walk around in their national colour. An advisable
city to attend at this day is Amsterdam, because it's one of the
largest events of the year there. In several larger cities (most
notably The Hague and Utrecht), the festivities start in the
evening of April 29th.
- Pinkpop 
is a three-day pop festival every year with Pentecost
("Pinksteren") in Landgraaf, Limburg.
- Lowlands 
popfestival - every last weekend of August at Biddinghuizen,
- Summercarnaval  - A big
parade through the center of Rotterdam. One of the biggest events in The
- Heineken Dance Parade  - A big
dance parade through Rotterdam. Much in the spirit of the popular
Love Parade in Germany.
- Northsea Jazz Festival  - Big summer jazz
festival, held in the Ahoy stadion, Rotterdam since 200. as it moved there from
The Hague. Around 1800 jazz, blues, funk, soul, hip Hop, latin and
r&b acts play during this 3 day event.
- Vierdaagsefeesten  - Summer festival
in Nijmegen lasting seven days, during the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse.
Usually at the end of July. Over 1 million people attend. During
the festival, there is a section for all the top Dutch bands such
as Moke and Racoon, De Affaire which is focussed on alternative and
rock, The Matrixx which has all your electronic dance music needs,
and of course the numerous terraces and bars.
- Sensation  - Famous dance party, with
genres such as trance, house and hardstyle. Begin July in
- Dance Valley  - The largest dance
festival, with over 40,000 visitors. Annually mid July in park
Spaarnwoude, near Schiphol Airport. The focus is on celebrating
summer, and has circus tents in which every tent is a different
genre in dance music.
- Mystery Land  - Dance festival with
a flower-power theme. In the last week of August near Schiphol
Airport. Most dance genres are present, including even electro.
Also has activities such as workshops and theatre, which are
usually uncommon with dance festivals.
- Defqon.1  -
Dance festival focussing on the harder dance styles, such as
hardstyle and hardcore. Residing in Flevoland, usually in mid June,
but in 2009 is held in mid September.
A lot of shops do not accept banknotes of €100, €200 and €500,
due to concerns about counterfeiting and burglary. Shops usually
open by 9:00 in the morning and they usually close by 5:30 or 6:00
in the evening. Most shops are closed on Sundays, except the first
Sunday of the month. In Amsterdam centrum area is an exception,
since you can see the shops open till 9:00 in the evening and
Sundays from 12:00 to 6:00 PM. The shops can be crowded with people
coming into town from outside the city. In some area's shops are
closed on Monday morning.
Accommodation and food is on the expensive side. Rail travel,
museums, and attractions are relatively cheap. Retail prices for
clothing, gifts, etc. are similar to most of Western Europe;
consumer electronics are a bit more expensive. Gasoline, tobacco
and alcohol are relatively expensive due to excise taxes.
The Netherlands is a good place to buy flowers.
Outside florists, you can buy them pre-packaged in most
The Netherlands is famous for its wooden shoes. However,
nowadays almost no one except for farmers in the countryside wear
them. You could travel through The Netherlands for weeks and find
no one using them for footwear. The only place where you'll find
them is in tourist shops. Wearing wooden shoes in public will earn
you quite a few strange looks from the locals.
If you do try them, the famous "wooden shoes" are surprisingly
comfortable, and very useful in any rural setting. Think of them as
all-terrain footwear; easy to put on for a walk in the garden,
field or dirt road. If you live in a rural area at home, consider
taking a pair of these with you if you can. Avoid the kitschy
tourist shops at schiphol and Amsterdam's damrak street, and
instead look for a regular vendor which can usually be found in
towns and villages in rural areas. The northern province of
Friesland has a lot of stores selling wooden shoes, often adorned
with the bright colors of the Frisian flag.
A fancy serve of herring at a restaurant
Pea soup (snert
) with bacon
The Netherlands is not known for its cuisine, but hearty Dutch
fare can be quite good if done well. A conventional Dutch meal
consists of meat, potatoes and some type of vegetable on the side.
The Dutch, however, are known for their specialties and delicious
- Dutch cheese is particularly famous, especially Gouda, Edam,
Leerdammer, Maaslander and Maasdam.
- Raw herring (haring), which is
actually cured in salt. It's available both from ubiquitous herring
stands and fancy restaurants, usually served with chopped onion and
occasionally even plopped into a bun to make broodje
haring. New herrings (Hollandse Nieuwe) is a special
treat available around June.
- Pea soup (erwtensoep or
snert), made of green peas and smoked sausage. Can be very
hearty and a meal itself if there are enough potatoes and other
veggies mixed in.
- Bitterbal (a round ball of ragout covered in
breadcrumbs and deep-fried), served in bars as snacks with drinks
and usually arrive in groups of at least five or as part of a
bittergarnituur, always with mustard. Be sure to try these, Dutch
people love them.
- Bittergarnituur, a plate containing different
warm and cold snacks, like blocks of cheese, slices of sausage,
bitterballen, perhaps something like chicken nuggets or mini spring
rolls, and mustard or chili sauce for dipping.
- Borecole mash pot (boerenkool),
mashed potatoes with borecole, often served with a sausage.
- Dutch Sauerkraut (zuurkool), mashed
potatoes with sauerkraut.
- Hotch-potch (hutspot), mashed
potatoes with onions & carrots. Served with slowly cooked meats
- Endive mashed pot (stamppot
andijvie), potatoes mashed with endive and bacon.
- Rookworst (literally "smoked sausage"),
available to go from HEMA department store outlets, but also widely
available in supermarkets.
- Dutch pancakes (pannenkoeken), which are
either sweet (zoet) or savoury (hartig) in
variety of tastes, like apple, syrup, cheese, bacon etc. Eat them
in pancake houses (pannenkoekenhuizen)
- Poffertjes are small slightly risen pancakes
with butter and powdered sugar Eat them in
- Syrup waffle (Stroopwafel). Two thin
layers with syrup in between. Available packaged from any
supermarket or made fresh on most street markets and specialized
- Limburgse vlaai (predominantly in the Southern
Netherlands), dozens of kinds of cold sweet pie, usually with a
- Liquorice (drop) is something you
love or hate, you can buy all kinds of varieties. You can get it
from sweet to extremely salty (double salt) and in a hard or soft
Other "typically Dutch" foodstuffs are:
- Chocolate sprinkles (Hagelslag),
sprinkled on top of buttered slices of bread (much like jam).
- Chocolate spread on bread (like Nutella).
- Unadorned chocolate bars (Pure
- Dutch peanut butter on bread, which is
considerably different from e.g. US peanut butter. Dutch peanut
butter is also the basis for Dutch Indonesian or 'Indo' saté
(satay) sauce which also contains lots of Asian herbs and
- A bread roll with butter and a slice of cheese for lunch,
rather than more elaborate lunches,
- Dutch coffee (dark, high caffeine grounds,
Some of these "typically Dutch" foodstuffs taste significantly
different from, but do not necessarily improve upon, specialties
from other countries. For example, while Dutch coffee and chocolate
can instill feelings of homesickness in expats and might be seen as
"soul food", fine Belgian chocolate and Italian coffees (espresso,
etc.) are considered to be delicacies.
Seasonal food: Pepernoten,
As Dutch people usually eat Dutch food at home, most restaurants
specialize in something other than local fare. Every medium-sized
town has its own Chinese/Indonesian restaurant,
often abbreviated as Chin./Ind. restaurant, where you can eat a
combination of Chinese and Indonesian dishes. Usually you get a lot
of food for a small amount of money. Do not expect authentic
Chinese or Indonesian cuisine though, the taste has been adapted
for Dutch citizens. These restaurants have been influenced by the
Dutch East Indies (currently Indonesia) from when they were a
colony of the Netherlands. Typical dishes are fried rice
(Indonesian: nasi goreng), fried bakmi (bami
goreng) and prawn crackers (kroepoek). A suggestion
is the famous Dutch-Indonesian rice table (rijsttafel),
which is a combination of several small dishes from the East
Indies, not unlike the nasi padang of Indonesia. Most of
them have a sit-in area and a separate counter for take-away with
Besides Chinese/Indonesian, the bigger cities offer a good
choice of restaurants with Middle Eastern cuisine
for a bargain price (such as the Nieuwmarkt in Amsterdam). Popular
dishes are shawarma (shoarma), lahmacun (often called
Turkish pizza) and falafel. The Argentinian, French,
Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Spanish, Surinam and Thai cuisines are
also well-represented in the Netherlands.
Modern Dutch restaurants serve good quality food and are
relatively expensive compared with surrounding countries. Most of
the time, profit is made from the drinks and the desert, so be
careful ordering those if you are on a budget. In the Netherlands,
going to a restaurant is generally not seen as a quick way to eat
food, but as a special night out with friends or family, which can
take a couple of hours. Service fees and taxes are included in the
menu prices. Tipping is not mandatory, but rounding up is pretty
much expected and polite. Keep 10 percent in mind if you want to
give a tip.
Since 1 July 2008, smoking has been banned in all restaurants,
cafes, bars, festival tents and nightclubs. Smoking is allowed only
in separate, enclosed, designated smoking areas in which employees
are not allowed to serve. Staff may only enter such smoking rooms
in emergency situations.
Fast food vending machines at Febo
A mashed potato and mushroom kroket
In town centers, near public transportation areas or even in
more quiet quarters you can find a snackbar
sometimes known as frituur
snackbars are pretty much the antithesis of high cuisine, but their
snacks are considered typical for the country, and many Dutch
expats miss them the most when going abroad. The popular Febo 
chain's outlets are
basically giant vending machines, just slot in a euro or two and
take out the snack of your choice.
The most popular snack is French fries, known as patat
in most of the country and as friet
in the Southern
. The "standard" way is to order them with
mayonnaise (patat met
), although the local mayo is not the
same as you'd get in France or most of the rest of the world: it is
firmer, sweeter and contains less fat, whilst remaining just as
unhealthy. Other sauces are tomato ketchup, curry ketchup (unlike
regular curry, tastes more like ketchup), peanut sauce
), cut raw onions (uitjes
, a combination of mayonnaise, curry ketchup and
optionally cut raw onions) and war (oorlog
, a combination
of mayonnaise, peanut sauce and optionally with cut raw onions).
The following fried snacks are considered typical for the country
- Croquette ('kroket'), a crispy roll filled
with ragout. Can be ordered on bread as well.
- Frikandel, a long, skinless and dark-colored
sausage, kind of like a minced-meat hot dog. Can be ordered on
bread, or as speciaal (with mayonnaise, curry ketchup and
cut raw onions).
- Kaassoufflé, cheese snack popular with
vegetarians, can also be served on bread.
- Bear's claw (berenklauw), often
called bear's snack (berenhap) or
bear's dick (berenlul), is a sliced
meatball with fried onion rings on a wooden skewer, often served
with peanut sauce (pindasaus).
Vegetarians should not have any major trouble. 4.5 percent of
the Dutch population is vegetarian and most restaurants have at
least one vegetarian option on their menus or can make you one if
you ask for it. Most supermarkets sell vegetarian products or even
have a part of their supermarket dedicated to vegetarian products.
It is advisable to specifically mention what you do and do not eat
(meat, fish, dairy, eggs) as not everyone has the same definition
of vegetarianism. Finding a vegetarian option in a fast food
restaurant might provide more of a challenge. Chip shops that sell
veggie burgers are the exception rather than the rule.
The Netherlands has two drinking ages: 16 years for alcohol
under 15% (beer, wine, etc), and 18 for all other drinks.
Wieckse Witte, a popular wheat beer (witbier
Although the Dutch beer "Heineken" is one of
the world's most famous beers, it is just one of the many beer
brands in the Netherlands. You can get all kinds of beers from
white beer to dark beer. Popular brands are Heineken, Grolsch,
Brand, Bavaria, Amstel etc.
In addition to the usual lagers, try Dutch wheat
beers (witbier), which are flavored with a spice
mix called gruit and thus taste different from the
better-known German varieties. Fruit-flavored varieties are also
Traditional beers come from monasteries in the South of the
Netherlands (Brabant and Limburg) or Belgium. You can visit a
traditional beer brewer in for instance Berkel-Enschot (just east
of Tilburg) at the 'Trappistenklooster'. It needs to be said that
the brewery is now owned by the big brewer Bavaria, so it's not so
traditional any more.
Most breweries have nowadays also produce a non-alcoholic
variant of their beers, like Bavaria Malt or Amstel Malt. Which
consist sometimes 0% or less than 0,5 alcohol and is very suitable
for people who would like to drive and don't drink (or sometimes
called "de Bob" as promoted in its campaign).
Bitters and gin
Also popular in winter are alcoholic bitters.
Originally from the province of Friesland the bitter called
Beerenburg is served in the entire country. Most other regions also
produce their local, less famous variants of a bitter.
- Orange bitter (Oranjebitter), this
bitter liquor is drunk only on Queen's Day (Koninginnedag)
- Dutch gin (jenever or
genever), the predecessor of English gin. It's available
in two types, called oude (old) and jonge
(young), which have nothing to do with aging, just the distillation
style. The more traditional "old-fashioned" oude is
sweeter and yellowish in color, while jonge is clearer,
drier and more akin to English gin.
Tea and coffee
Dutch drink black tea, and it comes in many
different tastes, from traditional to fruit infusions etc. Luckily,
if you're English, you get the teabag served with a cup of hot (but
never boiling!) water, so you can make your own version. Milk in
your tea is almost unheard of and only given to children.
Coffee is almost compulsory when you are going to visit people.
One of the first questions when coming through the door is often
"Koffie?" and it is served in small cups (a half mug) with
If you're from the States or Canada, you can drink one cup of
Dutch coffee in the morning and add water the rest
of the day! If you order 'koffie verkeerd' (which means "coffee the
wrong way 'round") you get a cup of mostly hot milk with a small
splash of coffee -- more like the French 'café au lait' or the
Hot chocolate with whipped cream is a winter
tradition in the Netherlands. It really fills you after a cold
walk. In the summer you can also get it in every decent bar,
however sometimes it's made from powder as opposed to the
traditional kind, and doesn't taste that good.
The Netherlands are renowned for their liberal drug
policy. While technically still illegal, mostly
to comply to international treaties, personal use
of (soft) drugs are regulated by the Ministry of Justice under an
official policy of gedogen; literally this means to
accept or tolerate, legally it is a doctrine of
non-prosecution on the basis that action taken would be so highly
irregular as to constitute selective prosecution.
You are allowed to buy and smoke small doses (under 5 grams) of
cannabis or hash. You must be 18 or older to buy. For this you have
to visit a coffeeshop
, which are are abundant in
most larger towns. Coffeeshops are not allowed to sell alcohol.
Minors (under 18) are not allowed inside. Coffeeshops are
prohibited from explicit advertising, so many use the Rastafari
red-yellow-green colors to hint at the products available inside,
while others are more discreet and sometimes almost hidden away
from plain view. In the border province of Limburg
, it will only be possible
to buy cannabis products in a coffeeshop if you've got a
("weed pass") from 2010. This measure will be
introduced in an effort to combat drug related crime and
Beware that cannabis sold in the Netherlands is generally
much stronger than varieties outside, so be
careful when you take your first spliff. Be particularly wary of
cannabis-laced pastries ("space cakes") as it's easy to eat too
much by accident — although there are also unscrupulous shops that
sell space cakes with no weed at all. Wait at least one
hour after eating!
Hallucinogenic ("magic") mushrooms, once legal, are banned as of
December 1st, 2008.
It is forbidden to drive any motorized vehicle while impaired,
which includes driving under the influence of both illegal and
legal recreational or prescribed drugs (such as cocaine, ecstasy,
cannabis and mushrooms) as well as alcohol, and medication that
might affect your ability to drive.
Buying soft drugs from dealers in the streets is always illegal
and is commonly discouraged. The purchase of other (hard) drugs,
eg. ecstasy, cocaine, or processed/dried mushrooms, is still dealt
with by the law. However, often people who are caught in possession
of small amounts of illegal drugs for personal use are not
The act of consuming any form of drugs is legal, even if
possession is not. If you are seen taking drugs, you may
theoretically be arrested for possession, but not for use. This has
one important effect; do not hesitate to seek medical help if you
are suffering from bad effects of drug use, and inform emergency
services as soon as possible of the specific (illegal) drugs you
have taken. Medical services are unconcerned with where you got the
drugs, they will not contact the police, their sole intention is to
take care of you in the best way possible.
At some parties, a "drug testing desk" 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 pills of "ecstasy" (MDMA) will also
contain speed (amphetamines). Some pills don't even contain any
MDMA at all. The testing desks are not meant to encourage drug use,
since venue owners face stiff fines for allowing drugs in their
venues, but they are tolerated or 'gedoogd' since they mitigate the
public health risks. Note: the desk won't return the drugs
Please note that there are significant risks associated with
drug use, even in The Netherlands' liberal climate
- while marijuana bought at coffeeshops is unlikely to be
hazardous, hard drugs like cocaine and heroin and synthetic drugs
like ecstasy are still illegal and unregulated. These hard drugs
are likely to be in some way contaminated, especially when bought
from street dealers.
- some countries have legislation in place that make it illegal
to plan a trip for the purpose of commiting illegal acts in another
jurisdiction, so you might be apprehended in your home country
after having legally smoked pot in The Netherlands.
A wide range of accommodation is available, concentrated on the
major tourist destinations. They include regions popular for
tourism, such as the Veluwe
. In non-touristed areas, accommodation
may be very limited.
Since all countries use different rating systems it might be
convenient to check the Dutch Hotel star rating system in English
Prices are generally high. Budget accommodation starts at around
€ 20 per night and prices go upwards from there. Seasonal demand
affects availability, especially in Amsterdam.
Official Dutch Youth Hostels are called since they changed their
name in 2003. "Stay Okay". They are not as widespread as in Great
Britain. Also there is no kitchen available for guests, so either
you eat what's on menu or you eat out. Stay Okay 
, Besides the Official Dutch
Youth Hostels there are plenty other hostels spread around Holland.
Popular are The Flying Pig Hostels in Noordwijk and Amsterdam, they
provide a kitchen for one's own use and they have a liberal smoking
policy. Flying Pig 
Short-term apartment rental is available in cities, but may not
be legal. While most have a 3 night minimum stay, the process of
making reservations and checking in is generally identical to that
of staying in a hotel, the notable exception being that most
require a credit card deposit, and the balance payment in € on
Vacation rental homes are popular in The Netherlands, and many
Dutch city dwellers own a home in the country side (even though
that country side is often only an hour or less from big cities).
Traversia has the largest collection of vacation rentals in The
Netherlands, by Dutch owners.
If you are traveling by bicycle or by foot, there is a list of
3600 addresses where you can stay at private homes with bed and
breakfast for no more than € 18,50 per person per night, although
you must also pay € 9 for membership of this scheme. It is called
frankloop!...Vrienden op de fiets 
The Netherlands has many universities. The country has recently
converted their own titles into the bachelor/master system. There
are two types of universities:
- Academic (focussing more on theoretical knowledge, aka
- Applied Sciences (focussing more on practical knowledge, aka
The Times Higher Education Supplement ranks 11 universities
among the top 200 in the world.
English speaking students will have no problems finding suitable
courses. A total of 1,456 courses are taught entirely in English.
There is also the added advantage that most locals under the age of
30 are reasonably able in English.
For international students, several scholarships are available.
They can be found on the Nuffic website 
you will also find information regarding courses, institutions,
housing, formalities, culture, traineeships and possible
Work opportunites for those from outside the European Union are
very restricted. Only when an employer can prove they've searched
in the EU, they are allowed to hire a non-EU citizen. Official
policy is to deter all non-EU immigration, unless there is an
Students from other European countries are only eligible for
study financing when they have a fixed 32 hour/month work contract,
or when they have lived in the Netherlands for five years.
Since 2005, the Dutch law enables what they call “knowledge
immigration” the idea is to allow local companies to “import”
foreign employees to work in the Netherlands. The process is
straightforward and takes between 4 to 10 weeks.
The Netherlands is generally considered a safe country. However,
be alert in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and other large cities
that are plagued by pickpockets and bicycle theft. In the larger
cities, certain areas are unsafe at night. A small number are also
unsafe in daylight.
- Police, ambulance and fire brigade have one general emergency
number 112. There is one police force, organised
in 25 police regions. Mostly visitors will deal with the regional
police. Some specialised forces, such as the railway police and the
highway police on main roads, are run by a separate national force
(highway police being the KLPD - Korps Landelijke Politie
Diensten, and railway police being the
spoorwegpolitie). When calling 112, if
you can, advise on what emergency services you are in need of.
- Border controls, and port and airport security, are handled by
a separate police force, the Marechaussee (or abreviation 'KMar' -
Koninklijke Marechaussee), a gendarmerie. They are an
independent service of the Dutch armed forces (making them a
military service, not a civil one), and have among their duties the
mentioned security tasks.
- In most cities, there are municipal services
(stadswacht, Toezichthouder Openbare Ruimte
(abreviation: TOR) or stadstoezicht) with some police
tasks, e.g., issuing parking and litter fines. They often have
police-style uniforms to confer some authority, but their powers
are limited. For instance, only the police carry a gun.
The Netherlands has some of the best 'tap water' in the world.
It is considered to be of similar quality as natural mineral or
spring water and is distributed to every household and controlled
by 'water authorities'. Food (either bought in a supermarket or
eaten at a restaurant) shouldn't pose any problem either. The
health care system is up to par with the rest of Europe and most
cities have hospitals where usually most of the staff speaks
English. Otherwise, it's a case of common sense (i.e. washing hands
before eating is always advisable).
In summer, open air recreational (mainly fresh water) swimming
areas might suffer from the notorious blue algae, a rather smelly
cyanobacteria which when it dies, releases toxins into the water.
When these occur, a signpost at the entrance to the area or near
the water should tell you so by stating something like
"waarschuwing: blauwalg". If in doubt, ask someone.
When walking or camping in forests and dunes be aware of ticks
and tick-carrying diseases such as Lyme disease. It is advisable to
wear long sleeves and to put trousers into your socks.
The Dutch are among the most informal and easy-going people in
Europe, and there are not many strict social taboos to speak of. It
is unlikely that Dutch people will be offended simply by your
behaviour or appearance. In fact it is more likely that visitors
themselves will be offended by overly direct conversation.
Nevertheless, the standards for overt rudeness and
hostility are similar to those in other western European countries.
If you feel you are deliberately being treated offensively, then
you probably are.
The exception to this openness is personal wealth. It is
considered vulgar to for instance reveal the height of your salary,
so asking somebody about this will be considered nosy and will
probably just get you an evasive answer. Likewise, it's not
advisable to be forceful about your own religion or to assume a
Dutch person you've met is a Catholic or a Calvinist, since
followers of traditional Christian religions only make up about 40%
of the Dutch population. In urban area's it is not considered rude
to ask somebody about this, but you'll generally be expected to be
entirely tolerant of whatever the other person believes and not
attempt to proselytize in any way. An exception is the Dutch
biblebelt which runs from Zealand into South-Holland, Utrecht and
Gelderland and consists of towns and counties with many strong
Orthodox-Christians believers, who are more likely to be insulted
by different religious views. Openly Nationalist sentiments are
likewise viewed with some suspicion among the general public,
though there are a number of nationalistic celebrations like
queen's day (koninginnedag) and during the Soccer season.
Gay and lesbian travelers
As mentioned above, the Netherlands is quite liberal when it
comes to homosexuality and by far is considered to
be one of the gay-friendliest countries in the
world. The Netherlands has a reputation of being the first
country to recognize same-sex marriage, and openly displaying your
orientation wouldn't cause much upset in the Netherlands. However,
even a gay friendly country like the Netherlands has room for some
criticisms of homosexuality, but this varies depending on where one
travels. Regardless, with violence and discrimination against gays
being rare as well as the legal status of same-sex marriage in the
Netherlands, this country may be considered a gay
utopia and should be safe for gays and lesbians, except in
Muslim neighbourhoods in the major Dutch cities.
The international calling code for the Netherlands is
31. The outbound international prefix is
00, so to call the US, substitute
001 for +1 and for the UK
00 44 for +44.
The cellular phone network in the Netherlands is GSM 900/1800.
The cell phone networks are operated by KPN, Vodafone and T-Mobile;
other operators use one of these 3 networks. The networks are high
quality and cover every corner of the Netherlands. With the
exception of some low-end service providers, all mobile operators
support GPRS. KPN, Vodafone and T-Mobile offer UMTS (and HSDPA)
service in some parts of Holland.
There are few public phone booths left in the Netherlands. They
are mostly found at train stations. Telfort booths accept coins,
whereas most KPN booths only accept prepaidcards or creditcard.
Some new public phones have been installed which accept coins
again. Be aware of public phones in a more public area as well as
the same types in a more public-private area, where tarrifs (per
unit or amount of calling time) can differ.
(National) Directory Inquiries can be reached -since 2007- on
1888, 1850 and various other
'Inquiry-operators'. Rates differ by operator, but are usually
rather high, more than €1 per call, as well as per-second
International Directory Inquiries can be reached on 0900 8418
(Mon-Fri 8AM-8PM, €0.90 per minute).
Phone numbers can also be found on the Internet, free of charge,
on De Telefoongids.nl 
0800 numbers are toll-free and for 09xx numbers are charged at
premium rates. Mobile phones have numbers in the 06 range, and
calls to cell phones are also priced at higher rates.
If you're bringing your own (GSM) cell phone, using your
existing plan to call (or receive calls) whilst in The Netherlands
can be very expensive due to "roaming" charges. Receiving phone
calls on a cell phone using a Dutch SIM card is free in most cases;
charges apply if you're using a foreign SIM card, as the call is
theoretically routed through your country of origin. It's cheaper
to buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card to insert into your GSM phone, or
even to buy a very cheap pay-as-you-go card+phone bundle. For
example: lyca 
, lebara 
and ortel 
are providers that
specialize in cheap rates to foreign countries. 
targets those traveling
through multiple countries.
To enjoy cheap international calls
Netherlands you can use low-cost dial-around services such as Qazza
, BelBazaar 
, pennyphone 
, SlimCall 
, telegoedkoop 
, beldewereld 
, teleknaller 
or Wereldwijdbellen 
services are directly available from any landline in the
Netherlands. No contract, no registration is required. Most
dial-around services offer USA, Canada, Western Europe and many
other countries at the price of a local call so you can save on
your phone expenses easily. They also work from public
Internet cafés can be found in most cities, usually they also
provide international calling booths. Many public libraries provide
Internet access. Wireless Internet access using Wi-Fi is becoming
increasingly popular and is available in many hotels, pubs,
stations and on Schiphol, either for free, or at extortionate
prices through one of the national "networks" of hotspots.
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