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Netherlands Travel Guide

From its fun-loving capital, Amsterdam, to its historically rich towns of Delft and Groningen, the Netherlands is guaranteed to delight holidaymakers. A tulip-and-windmill-strewn countryside and gorgeous national parks add more dimensions to this fascinating place.

Most travellers visit Amsterdam first, admiring 17th-century bridges and riverside houses as they navigate the city's famous canals. World-class museums, concert halls and art galleries are also on offer. Otherwise, the city's coffeeshops and lenient attitude toward cannabis have made it a renowned drug tourism destination, while its Red Light District has been a mainstay of the global sex tourism industry for many years.

Tourists who venture outside of Amsterdam will be richly rewarded too. The 750-year-old city of Delft is renowned for its distinctive blue and white pottery, and boasts an interesting mix of historic sites and youthful energy. Rotterdam is a gleaming city of high-rise buildings and truly innovative architecture.

Best time to visit the Netherlands

The Netherlands' climate is quite similar to the United Kingdom's, featuring temperate and changeable conditions all year round, with lots of rainfall. The best time to visit is either in spring (April and May), when the tulips are in bloom, or in summer (July and August), when despite the hordes of tourists, lovely long days allow travellers to pack more sightseeing and adventuring into their stays.

What to see in the Netherlands

- Admire the paintings of the Dutch Masters in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum.

- Visit the Anne Frank Museum for a poignant and humanising reminder of the tragedy of Nazi occupation.

- See the small town of Kinderdijk's historic windmills: an iconic sight, and what's sure to be an abiding memory of the Netherlands.

- The Van Gogh Museum houses more than 200 paintings and 500 drawings, and provides a fascinating insight into the troubled mind of the famous Dutch artist.

What to do in the Netherlands

- Take a tour through Amsterdam's famous canals for the perfect introduction to this historic city.

- Dress up nicely, and head to Amsterdam's Red Light District (De Wallen) for an unforgettable night on the town.

- Head to the Heineken Experience, and get a close-up look at how the Netherlands' favourite beer is brewed.

- Take a trip to fun, historic Delft, and go shopping at the Royal Delftware Factory for the iconic blue and white porcelain.

Getting to the Netherlands

There are plenty of cheap direct flights to the Netherlands from a big list of British and American cities. Several European low-cost carriers also offer cheap flights to Amsterdam's Schipol Airport.


The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank, The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, Tulip Fever by Debroah Moggach, and The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas.


Golden Earring, Shocking Blue, BZN, and Frans Bauer.


The Girl with the Pearl Earring (2003), Simon (2004), Turks Fruit/Turkish Delight (1973), and De Tweeling/Twin Sisters (2002).


'White beer' (witbier) is popular, and is basically lager flavoured with a spice called gruit; while Dutch gin (jenever) is sweeter than English gin.


Bitterballen (breaded and deep-fried ragout served with mustard), pannenkoeken (pancakes, either sweet or savoury), and erwtensoep (a hearty green pea and smoked sausage soup).

What to buy

Blue and white ceramics from the Delft region, miniature windmills, and clogs (wooden shoes, known locally as klompen).

What to pack

When packing for the Netherlands, travellers should bear in mind that the weather is very changeable and subject to a lot of rainfall all year round. It's best to pack a good variety of clothing to deal with varying temperatures, and to carry a good rain slicker at all times.

What's on in the Netherlands

The Holland Festival (June) is a month-long cultural celebration that encompasses all art forms, from pop music to high-minded drama, and features many international artists. The Cannabis Cup (November) is the marijuana world's equivalent of the World Cup, where judges and curious tourists from all over the world congregate to judge the world's best weed.

Did you know?

- More than half of the surface area of the Netherlands is less than one metre above sea-level.

- Dutch people are the tallest in the world, with men averaging six feet (184cm) and women five feet six inches (170cm).

- The Netherlands has frequently topped lists as the world's greatest country for children to grow up in.

A final word

The Netherlands has a famously progressive and liberal society, and is blessed with cultural sights and attractions. Visitors can look forward to an unforgettable European holiday, whether they're seeking high culture or just plain fun.


Dutch is the official language. English is widely spoken. Frisian (as well as Dutch) is spoken by the people of Friesland Province.


The official currency is the Euro (EUR), which is divided into 100 cents. Major credit cards are widely accepted. Foreign currency 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.


Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Two-pin round European-style plugs are used.


Service charges are included in hotel rates, restaurant bills and taxi fares, usually at about 15 percent. Tipping for good service is always appreciated but not necessary. It is customary to tip taxi drivers and waiters about 10 percent.


Travel in the Netherlands is fairly safe and the vast majority of trips are trouble-free. 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. As in all Western countries, there is a risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks.

Travellers should also watch out for a 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, and asked to hand over credit cards and money. If approached, travellers are advised to ask for proper identification or to accompany them to the nearest police station.


The international access code for the Netherlands is +31. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.


There are no health risks associated with travel to the Netherlands and no vaccinations are required for entry into the country. The water is safe to drink. The standard of health care 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. After Brexit, the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) replaced the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for UK citizens. The GHIC allows UK citizens access to state healthcare during visits to the EU. The GHIC is not valid in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, nor is it an alternative to travel insurance. Although medication is widely available in the Netherlands, it is always best to take along any prescribed medication, in its original packaging, and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what it is and why it is needed.

Public Holidays

New Year’s Day1 Jan1 Jan
Easter Monday13 Apr5 Apr
King’s Birthday27 Apr27 Apr
Ascension Day21 May13 May
Christmas Day25 Dec25 Dec
Boxing Day26 Dec26 Dec
Whit Monday1 Jun24 May
Easter Day12 Apr4 Apr


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.

Passport & Visa

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 of 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.

It is recommended that a traveller's passport has at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


In the Netherlands, the use of cannabis is tolerated in designated 'coffeeshops' 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. Travellers should note that the rules are somewhat different for foreigners, with the Netherlands tightening up drug laws in recent years: Amsterdam is the only city still fighting for the right of tourists to smoke cannabis in 'coffeeshops' and this has become a bit of a grey area with laws not always enforced on the ground. 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

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.


Netherlands Tourist Office, The Hague: +31 70 3705 705 or

112 (General)

Entry Requirements

US citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in the Netherlands. No visa is required, for holders of US passports, for a maximum stay of 90 days within a 180 day period.

Most British citizens must have a passport that is valid for the duration of their stay in the Netherlands, although some endorsements require three months' validity beyond the period of intended stay. Passport exemptions apply to holders of identity cards issued by Gibraltar authories, and endorsed 'Validated for EU travel purposes under the authority of the United Kingdom'. A visa is not required for passports endorsed British Citizen; nor for holders of identity cards issued by Gibraltar authories, and endorsed 'Validated for EU travel purposes under the authority of the United Kingdom'; nor for holders of passports endorsed British Overseas Territories Citizen (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and British Subject (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom). No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days in a 180 day period, for holders of British passports with any other endorsement.

Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in the Netherlands. No visa is required, for holders of Canadian passports, for a maximum stay of 90 days within a 180 day period.

South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in the Netherlands. A visa is required. Note that entry will be refused to holders of temporary South African passports.

Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in the Netherlands. No visa is required for holders of Irish passports.

New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in the Netherlands. No visa is required, for holders of New Zealand passports, for a maximum stay of 90 days within a 180 day period.

Embassy Consulates

United States Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 310 2209.

British Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 427 0427.

Canadian Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 311 1600.

South African Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 392 4501.

Irish Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 363 0993.

New Zealand Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 346 9324.

Embassy Consulates

Royal Netherlands Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 244 5300.

Royal Netherlands Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7590 3200.

Royal Netherlands Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 237 5031.

Royal Netherlands Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 425 4500.

Royal Netherlands Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 269 3444.

Royal Netherlands Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 471 6390.


Time is a multi-layered luxury in the Netherlands, where centuries-old windmills and visionary architecture accent the famously flat landscape, pushing and pulling the imagination in delightful ways. Visitors can look backwards at Golden Age art, or glimpse the future through cutting-edge design with equal ease.

Amsterdam dominates the tourism scene, though cities such as Delft and Rotterdam have undeniable appeal. The Red Light District, world-class museums, marijuana 'coffeeshops' and lovely natural landscapes are all part of the experience. History-buffs, culture-lovers and pleasure-seekers will all enjoy their stay in the country.


The Netherlands' fairly temperate climate is very similar to the UK's. There are four distinct seasons but the temperatures are variable year-round and rain occurs throughout the year. The weather is particularly changeable on the coast, where it is influenced by the ocean. The Netherlands experiences cool summers, between June and August, and mild winters, between December and February. The average summer temperatures range between 53°F and 72°F (12°C and 22°C), and the average winter temperatures range between 34°F and 43°F (1°C and 6°C). Snow can fall anytime between November and April, although the country only experiences an average of about 25 snowy days a year. Rainfall can occur at any time of year, but is marginally more common in summer and autumn. Tourists should ensure that they pack a rain jacket whatever time of year they visit the Netherlands.

Despite the hordes of tourists, the best time to visit is over the summer (June to August), or in spring (April and May) when the famous tulips are in bloom. However, the country is a year-round travel destination, as enjoyment of the cultural attractions, like museums, galleries, restaurants and historic buildings is mostly not weather dependant.

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