Information & Facts
The Netherlands' sights and attractions are distinguished by historical names such as Anne Frank or Rembrandt, who are both immortalised in Amsterdam museums. Other highlights include the Van Gogh Museum and the notorious Red Light District (De Wallen), as well as the ancient city of Groningen. This picturesque country is home to an entity of art, history and culture unparalleled in most tourist destinations.
Visitors can enjoy a Heineken at a café and mingle with the friendly townsfolk, or cycle leisurely along the beautiful canals. Amsterdam is also well known for its tolerant position toward cannabis, which can be legally smoked in designated 'coffee shops'.
While packing, visitors to the Netherlands should bear in mind the mild climate and year-round rainfall: always carry a good rain-slicker in your day pack. The best time to visit is in summer (June to August) or in spring, when the flowers, including the famous tulips, are in bloom.
An authentic European destination, travelling in the Netherlands offers great historical sightseeing and artistic attractions, combined with a truly cultural experience. It is a great destination for culture-vultures and pleasure-seekers alike.
Business in the Netherlands is conducted in an efficient and professional manner. Punctuality is important, dress is usually formal (suits and ties are standard), business cards are exchanged and greetings are made with a handshake. Titles and surnames are used, unless otherwise indicated. Women tend to be well received in Dutch business and it is not uncommon for women to hold high positions. Most Dutch people speak excellent English. Business hours are usually 8.30am to 5pm.
The Netherlands has a fairly temperate climate, very similar to England: temperatures are variable and rain occurs throughout the year. Despite the hordes of tourists the best time to visit is over the summer (June ot August), or in spring when the flowers are in bloom - the tulips come out in May.
The international access code for the Netherlands is +31. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)20 for Amsterdam. Five local mobile phone operators have the Netherlands extremely well covered with GSM 900 and 1800 networks. Internet cafes are widely available.
In Holland, the use of cannabis is tolerated in designated 'coffee shops' in major cities. This policy exists to prevent the marginalisation of soft drug users thereby exposing them to more harmful drugs. However the trafficking in hard or soft drugs outside licensed premises is illegal and the possession of soft drugs in public places will incur a prison sentence. Everybody from the age of 14 is required to show a valid identity document to law enforcement officers on request. Tobacco smoking in cafés, bars and restaurants is prohibited.
Duty free items for travellers to the Netherlands include 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g smoking tobacco; 1 litre spirits, 2 litres spirits or aperitifs made of wine or 2 litres of sparkling wines, liquor wines or still wine; perfume up to 50g or 250ml eau de toilette; 500g of coffee; 100g tea. Prohibited items include the import of all birds.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Two-pin round European-style plugs are used.
There are no health risks associated with travel to the Netherlands and no inoculations are required. It is safe to drink tap water. The standard of health care in the Netherlands is very high, but the necessary health insurance provisions must be made before travelling. A reciprocal agreement exists with other EU countries, which entitles nationals to low-cost emergency medical treatment. A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is necessary for this purpose.
Dutch is the official language. English is widely spoken. Fries (as well as Dutch) is spoken by the people of Friesland province.
Single European currency, or Euro (EUR), is the official currency of the Netherlands, and is divided into 100 cents. Major credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. To avoid additional charges take travellers cheques in Euros, Pounds Sterling or US Dollars. Foreign currency or travellers cheques can be changed at banks, post offices or bureaux de change (usually indicated by the letters GWK). Banks are closed on weekends but bureaux de change are open. ATMs are widely distributed and most are open 24 hours a day.
The borderless region known as the Schengen Area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option, and which allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all the aforementioned countries. Additionally, non-EEA visitors to the Netherlands must hold confirmed return/onward tickets, the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and proof of sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Travel in Holland is fairly safe. Travellers should however always exercise caution in empty streets at night and be aware of pickpockets, particularly in central Amsterdam and at Central Station. There have been several incidents on trains from Schiphol Airport where heavily laden passengers have been targeted by thieves. There is a risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks and visitors should be vigilant in public places and tourist sites, particularly since extra security measures have been set up around the country in response to concerns about a possible terrorist attack. Police in Amsterdam are warning travellers of a new scam whereby tourists will be approached by 'plain clothes policemen' who claim to be investigating credit card fraud and counterfeit currency. Tourists are shown fake identification in the form of badges (Dutch police do not carry badges and plain clothes police will rarely conduct such an 'investigation'), and asked to hand over credit cards and money. This will be returned but with some money/cards missing. If approached, travellers are advised to ask for proper identification or to accompany them to the nearest police station. There is also an increase in the number of spiked drinks occurring in Europe.
Service charges are included in hotel rates, restaurant bills and taxi fares, usually at 15%. Tipping for good service is always appreciated but not necessary. It is customary to tip taxi drivers and waiters 10%.