Country guides Europe
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Two-pin round European-style plugs are used.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Australian 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 Australian 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.
Netherlands Tourist Office, The Hague: +31 70 3705 705 or www.holland.com112 (General)
Embassies / consulates in other countries
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, Canberra, Australia: +61 26 220 9400.
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.
Embassies / consulates in Netherlands
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.
Australian Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 310 8200.
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.