Introduction to The Netherlands
The Netherlands is one of the smaller countries of continental Europe, but the largest of three countries comprising “Benelux” (the others being Belgium and Luxembourg). Much of the country is below sea level and the country’s lands have been reclaimed using complex waterworks projects (canals) over the years. The Dutch are known for their relaxed lifestyle, including the legality of prostitution and soft drugs which attract tourists to the country’s capital, Amsterdam. Cycling plays a huge role in everyday life, and no tourist experience is complete without riding a Dutch bike, either in the city or out into the countryside.
Passports & Visas
Passports are required upon entering and leaving the European Union of which The Netherlands is a member. Visas are not required for US citizens for visits of less than 90 days. For longer visits, contact the nearest Netherlands embassy.
Obtaining a US passport
The US Government Website is where to start.
Citizens of countries other than EU member states must apply for a Visa at The Netherlands embassy or consulate in their home country if they desire to remain in The Netherlands for more than 90 days within a six month period.
The US Embassy in The Hague provides consular assistance to U.S. citizens
Embassy of the United States of America
Lange Voorhout 102
2514 EJ The Hague.
Tel: +31 70 310-2209
You must have an appointment to visit the embassy.
The US Consulate in Amsterdam provides day-to-day administrative services to U.S. citizens. No appointment is required, however be sure to check the website for hours of service.
American Citizen Services
U.S. Consulate General
1071 DJ Amsterdam
Fax: (31)(0)20-575 5330 or (31)(0)20-679 0321 (address to American Citizen Services)
Telephone: (31)(0)20-575 5309
The Netherlands Tourist Information
Currency in The Netherlands
The Netherlands now uses the Euro as a part of the Eurozone. Cash machines (ATMs) are available throughout the country and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. While Dutch banks do not charge fees for foreign credit cards, be aware your bank might.
Driving in The Netherlands
The Dutch rail network is so extensive that you’ll find few places that require a car. However, should you choose to drive, expect to take your time – the country is plagued with traffic congestion so dense that tailbacks in rush hour often reach back into neighboring countries (which being a small country isn’t so difficult). The worst is in the area called the Randstad, comprising of the area between the major cities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and The Hague. Keep in mind speed tracking systems are in use throughout the country, so monitor your speed and do not use a radar detector – they are illegal and police use special monitors to locate vehicles using them.
Electricity in The Netherlands
Electricity is 230volt/50Hz and takes continental European two-prong plugs. Make sure your appliances can accept the higher voltage of power (American outlets provide 120 volts) or you’ll need a converter and an adapter. Some appliances and computers can accommodate either 120 or 220 volts either automatically or with just the flip of a switch on the appliance. (Check it out before you buy.)
In an emergency always dial 112; the operator will direct you to police, ambulance, or the fire department based on your situation.
Etiquette in The Netherlands
With such an open, relaxed attitude to life, pretty much everything goes here in the Netherlands. Be prepared for frank, open discussions; politics, sexuality and other topics that are taboo in other countries are simply part of everyday life.
Public Hours in The Netherlands
Shops are usually open by 10AM and close between 5PM-6PM; on Thursdays there is a ‘koopavond’ (shopping evening) where shops stay open until 9PM. Shops are not open on Sunday except in high-traffic tourist districts.
Safety in The Netherlands
The biggest issues plaguing the cities of the Netherlands are pickpocketing and bicycle theft. Pay very close attention to your belongings at all times, even in a location which might seem very safe. Always lock your bike even if you’re only leaving it for a minute.
Central European Time (CET), which places the country on the same time as cities like Paris, Frankfurt, or Rome. It is one hour ahead of Ireland and the UK.
Tipping in The Netherlands
In the Netherlands, it is law that service charges for the meal are included in the price. However, exceptional service can be rewarded with up to 10% tip, but it is not expected and not customary unless the service was extraordinary.
Weather in The Netherlands
A day in Dutch life is not complete without a discussion on the weather, which can range from snow to warm sunshine all in one day. Rain is a common feature, although it rarely rains all day, so be sure to pack accordingly. Temperatures rarely dip below freezing in winter, and summers can be hot, in the 70s or 80s (F). The driest, warmest months are July-September.
Getting Around The Netherlands
Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport is world-class and considered one of the best in Europe. Flagship Dutch airline KLM dominates but many other airlines service the city. The airport is well connected to the train network and this will be your airport for air travel.
Three other major airports are in the Netherlands. Rotterdam’s airport is mostly serviced by low cost carrier Transavia; Eindhoven and Maastricht airports are mostly serviced by Ryanair.
Bus services are limited because of the extensive use of rail; most operators run under the Eurolines brand.
Nederlandse Spoorwegen (frequently abbreviated NS) is the country’s primary operator of the rail network. There is a national tariff system and integrated timetable. NS also operates jointly the high speed rail service into Germany (Cologne, Hamburg, Stuttgart) as well as Belgium and Paris services. In-country services typically do not have assigned seating but you must have a reservation for international services (with the exception of some Antwerp and Brussels trains). The rail operates in nearly every city in the country, even to the tiniest of villages.
Car Rental companies are the standard set of brands, and it is recommended to make your booking before leaving home. American citizens are permitted to drive with a U.S. driver’s license for the duration of a visit to Netherlands.
Taxis can normally not be hailed off the street; you must go to one of the taxi stands located throughout a city. For a rural pick up or door-to-door service you must phone ahead; your hotel or accommodation can do this for you.
The state of health care in the Netherlands is of high quality and you should have no trouble finding English speaking services. If you require medical assistance, contact your accommodation to get in touch with a local physician.
No permit is required to carry medication in your luggage. However, you should pack your medication in its original containers and/or have your doctor’s prescription with you. Customs officials will have to be satisfied that you are not importing more than would be necessary for your personal use, taking into account the drug type and length of stay (for no more than three months).
Lodging in The Netherlands
The major cities offer both backpacker-style accommodation, rental apartments, and hotels. If you’re spending time in Amsterdam, be sure to read about our favorite hotels .
Main Sights in The Netherlands
Amsterdam has the lion’s share of things to see, from the canal houses to red light districts to shopping. The city has a huge number of museums – check out our listing of the best museums in Amsterdam.
If your timing is right, a trip to Keukenhof to see the world’s biggest flower display will certainly not disappoint.
Leiden is a great village to visit, as well as Delft, as mentioned in our Amsterdam Insider Guide.
Other popular destinations include the islands at the North of the country, as well as Maastricht, tucked away in the very bottom corner of the Netherlands, almost in Belgium or Germany.
New Year’s Day (1 Jan)
Good FridayEaster Monday
Queens’ Day (30 Apr)
Liberation Day (5 May)
Christmas Day (25 Dec)
Boxing Day (26 Dec)
Telephones in The Netherlands
To dial a number in the Netherlands from the USA, dial ‘011’ plus the country code of ‘31’ plus the city code plus the local number.
Example: 011 31 20 444 9999
To dial a number while in the Netherlands, drop the city code but add a ‘zero’. Example: 020 444 9999
The Hague (Den Haag) 70
Useful Country Codes:
Netherlands USA and Canada 1
Returning to the US
Customs,VAT & Duty Free
When you return to the U.S., you’ll need to declare everything you brought back that you did not take with you when you left. If you are traveling by air or sea, you may be asked to fill out a Customs Declaration Form provided by the airline or cruise ship. Keep your sales slips. Try to pack the things you’ll need to declare separately. Read the signs in the Customs area; they contain helpful information about how to clear Customs.
For complete information on Customs, look at the U.S. Government Customs Website
Value Added Tax (VAT) Refund Information
We have found it such a hassle to try to reclaim the VAT tax that we simply do not bother. If however, you will be spending a great deal of money, it might be worth the many steps you will need to go through. Also, remember that a 7 percent V.A.T. (Value Added Tax) tax is added to rates for all restaurants and hotel rooms. Service is included. This 7% V.A.T. tax on services is not refundable.
Travelers to the Netherlands from outside the EU are entitled to a reimbursement of the 16 % V.A.T. (Value Added Tax) they pay on all purchases as long as the purchases add up to no less than 90 Euros in the same store and on the same day. The vendor must provide the purchaser with a duly filled out invoice which includes the price of each good, the V.A.T. paid for each item, as well as the identification (name and address) for both vendor and purchaser. The goods must be brought out of the European Union within three months from the date of purchase.
At the time of departure from Netherlands and final departure from the European Union territory, and before checking in your baggage, you must bring your invoice(s) and the merchandise purchased to the Dutch Customs in order for them to process your V.A.T. refund claim (there is a specific booth for this purpose just prior to the entrance to the international area at the international port, gate or airport).
If you are a U.S. or Canadian resident, you may qualify for a personal exemption which allows you to bring goods of a certain value into the country without paying customs duties, excise taxes, or Value Added Tax.