Printable travel guide for Netherlands
Travel Guide

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Basic Facts

The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated and geographically low-lying countries in the world and is famous for its dikes, windmills, wooden shoes, tulips and perceived social tolerance. Its liberal policies are often mentioned abroad. This country is also host to the International Court of Justice.

Official Country Name:
The Netherlands (Nederland in Dutch) is the European part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a constitutional monarchy. The country is often — technically incorrectly — referred to by the collective name of its two main provinces: Holland (North and South Holland).

The Capital:
Amsterdam is the official capital (as the constitution states). The Hague is the administrative capital (the seat of government), the home of the Queen, and the location for most of the embassies.

16.151.000 inhabitants (16 millions)
The population of the Netherlands is concentrated around the four "big cities", Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. This high density area is called the "Randstad".
The English adjective and noun for "from the Netherlands" or "a person from the Netherlands" is "Dutch".

Telephone Code:

Time Zone:
Central European Time (Greenwich Mean Time +1)

Area: 41,526 sq km

There are two official languages, Dutch and Frisian, both of which are Germanic languages. Frisian is only spoken in the northern province of Fryslân, and it is the language which most resembles English. In addition to Dutch and Frisian, several dialects of Low Saxon are spoken in much of the north; they have no official recognition. At the national borders in the south, the Dutch language shifts into other varieties of Low Franconian and German speech, which may or may not be best classified as Dutch, most notably West Flemish and German.

Ethnic Groups:
12% of the Dutch are ethnic minorities (3/4 first generation and 1/4 second generation). Although the Netherlands has always been a country welcoming immigrants, today's Dutch society is much more heterogeneous than it has ever been.
Between 1945 and 1948 about 110,000 immigrants came to the Netherlands from Indonesia, partly former civil servants and army personnel who had worked for the colonial administration. Another wave of immigrants from former Dutch colonies came in the 1970's from Surinam and the Dutch Antilles islands in the Caribbean. In that time recruitment agreements were drawn up with meditaranian countries. Of the immigrants from Turkey and Morocco, the vast majority stayed in the Netherlands. Many of these invited their families to the Netherlands and decided to settle for good. In 1996, 272,000 people were living in the Netherlands of Turkish origin and 225,000 of Moroccan origin. Nowadays most immigrants are refugees, coming from a great number of countries and areas. There is a continuous political debate in the Netherlands about procedures and legislation for asylum seekers. The Balkenende government recently decided to send 26.000 refugees back to their homeland. The result is that more and more refugees stay illegally in the Netherlands, estimated 150,000 people.

Highest Mountain: LOL

President/Head of State:
The 47-year-old Jan Peter Balkenende,political leader of Christian Democratic party (CDA), got public affection with his plain-spoken manner and his good humoured acceptance of the nickname "Harry Potter", but he is disliked because of being not only the little dug of Bush, but also a Christian philosophy professor who takes a dim view of cannabis cafes, gay marriage and euthanasia.

Government: Balkenende II
Since 2002 The Netherlands have a coalition of christian democrats (CDA), conservative liberals (VVD) and prograssive liberals (D66). When a new government is being formed, the parties who are going to take part in the coalition agree on the policies that will be pursued for the next four years. These plans and the principles on which the policies are based are set down in the coalition agreement.
Who is who? Check out

Currency: Euro
Exchange Rate: US$1.2125 = 1 Euro

Health Risks:
No vaccination requirements for any international traveller.

220 V

Weights & Measures:
European standards

Country Name in other languages:
Pays Bas (Francais); Niederlande (Deutsch)

Attractions and Things to See and Do

Popular cities and towns for tourists:
1. Amsterdam
2. The Hague
3. Rotterdam
4. Maastricht
5. Haarlem
6. Groningen
7. Breda
8. Utrecht
9. Arnhem/Nijmegen
10. Leiden/Delft

If you believe the Lonely Planet, Amsterdam is the world's best hangout, a mix of old and new: radical squatter art installations hang off 17th-century eaves, bicycles and bars are everywhere. Amsterdam has many fascinating neighbourhoods to explore, from red light sleaze to bohemian chic to stately grandeur. The landscape is riddled with graceful bridges and eccentric churches, the air laden with carillon chimes. Most attractions are within the canal belt, so sightseeing is a breeze.

The Hague
Den Haag is a beautiful city behind the dunes. Although it is known as 'the largest village of Europe', it the seat of the Crown (Queen Beatrix) and of the Dutch Government. Internationally recognized as the world's capital of international Justice. The Hague boasts many historical, Jugendstil and Art Nouveau buildings. Its beach resort Scheveningen is the most popular one of Holland, with trendy bars and beach clubs and great natural dunes for cycling.

Together with Nijmegen Maastricht is the oldest town of The Netherlands. Its history stretches back to 50 BC, when the Romans set up camp there. The town is close to Belgium and Germany and has a lively international feel, with lits of beer terraces. Fortification walls still partly surround the city, and you can explore a labyrinth of tunnels on the city's western outskirts.

The countryside

Hoge Veluwe
The country's largest national park is home to the wonderful Kröller-Müller Museum with 278 works by Van Gogh, as well as smaller collections of Picasso and Mondriaan. Europe's largest sculpture garden can be found there too, with works by Rodin, Moore, Giacometti and many more. The park itself covers 5500 hectares with forests and woods, shifting sands and heath moors. The natural feeling of silence is nowhere else to be found in The Netherlands. Red deer, wild boar and mouflon roam here. Hoge Veluwe is accessible by bus from Arnhem. White bicycles are available free of charge once you're inside the park.

In one of the most densely populated regions of the world, you will still find some open space near Leiden. Spectacular colours can be seen on the bulb fields which explode into colour between March and May. Even from the window of a train they're intoxicating, but a back-roads bicycle trip is the best way to enjoy the sights and smells. The Keukenhof, south of Haarlem, is the world's largest garden. It attracts a staggering 750,000 people during its eight-week season each year, but its beauty is something of an enigma. Nature's talents are combined with Dutch precision to create a garden where millions of tulips and daffodils bloom every year, perfectly in place and exactly on time.

Wadden Islands
The Dutch Wadden islands, situated in the very north of Holland (most of them in Flyslan, are the the place to be if you like unspoiled nature reserves, wildlife, beautiful beaches and charming villages. All the islands (Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland, Schiermonnikoog) are accessible by ferry, so you can do island hopping as well. Island hopping is also provided by specialised tour operators like, that take you on a comfortable Bike & Barge tour along the various islands.
The island of Texel is the largest Wadden Island, the easiest to reach from Amsterdam and it has more recreational facilities. In June, Texel is host to the world's largest catamaran race. Terschelling has a lot to offer with a good mix of polders, dune areas, tidal marshes and a long stretch of beaches. In June, the island accommodates the 'Oerol,' a large music and theater festival. If you're looking for tranquillity, visit Schiermonnikoog with your backpack. Only the island's residents are allowed the use of a car here.


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Off the Beaten Path and Insider Tips

Many tourists and travellers focus on the west of the country. This is the part we call Randstad, the urban part of the country. At the same time this is a part of the country that's under the sealevel. So probably not such a good choice?
In this area you can find the four biggest cities of the country: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Den Haag. These four cities are all very different, even though they are pretty close to each other. You'll find out that Amsterdam is really the tourist centre, Rotterdam is the city of the working people (there is a big port) and very modern in architecture. Utrecht is a students city and last but not least, Den Haag is a city with many contrasts. It is the city of the government and the queen, but at the same time also for many people from lower social classes.
In the Randstad you can also find cute towns like Delft. But, the Netherlands have much more to offer!
Many dutch people celebrate their hollidays in Zeeland (north sea cost), in Drenthe and Limburg (especially for biking in nature) or in Friesland (especially for sailing and other watersports. These regions have all many natural beauty (except if you like mountains of course) and many nice and old towns.

hotspots in the countryside: Veere (in Zeeland), very nice old village, Enkhuizen (close to Amsterdam) nice old fishing village and Giethoorn (in Overijssel) which is also known as the Dutch Venice. Many more nice places are around, but maybe you'd better ask someone who is living in the region you want to visit. At least, remember that the Netherlands have much more to offer than smoking marihuana and Amsterdam!

Suggested Itineraries

1 Day, 1 Week, 2 Weeks, 1 Month ...


Getting there and away
If you arrive by airplane at Schiphol Airport, you can take the train from there to Amsterdam Central Station or any other city. Trains go guite fequently on the main linesin the West (about every 15 minutes). Intercity trains to other parts of the country usually go every 30 minutes. If you come from Brussels, take the international train that leaves every hour. Unless you're travelling during a holiday period it shouldn't be necessary to book your tickets in advance. The expensive super fast Thalys trains coming from Paris require reservations so don't take this train from Brussels. If you come from Paris the Thalys train is a good solution, it will bring you in 4 hours to Amsterdam. The earlier you book this train, the cheaper it gets. Coming from Germany, take the ICE train.

Getting around
by Air
Yes, if you are crazy, you have too much money, you like incheck-times and delays and you hate the environment, then you could take an inland flight. See KLM for departure times and bookings.

There are three classes of trains in Holland: the Intercity, which offers fast city-to-city connections, the Sneltrein, and lastly, the Stoptrein which makes more frequent stops at the smaller stations. One secret tip: Take the train after 9 am and buy a reduction ticket from the ticket machine for 40% less. You need to find someone in the train with a 'Voordeelurenkaart' and make sure you can sit next to him/her. If you travel for 3 days in summertume, then you should buy a Summertour. See NS Tickets for details about the ticket system. And here is a Trainplanner

Bus, tram, metro
If you want to find the fastest and easiest connection from one to another address in The Netherlands by public transport, then you can check out the website 9292OV.

Car, Motorcycle, Boat,

Hitchhiking Because of the amount of local, urban traffic and the density of roads, it might be hard to hitchhike in Holland. It is illegal to hitch on highways and junctions. Good places for catching an autostop are:
+ Official hitch-hiking stops found in most university cities. Some drivers look especially well for waiting people at these places!
+ Ramps towards motorways. Outside cities there usually is only little traffic, which causes that you have to wait long. Within cities quite a lot of ramps do not have an additional strip of asphalt free op cars, which is optimal if drivers wish to stop for you.
+ Fuel stations on the motorways. Preferably bigger fuel stations combined with a restaurant.
+ Long bus stops right of the main road (stand at the beginning of the strip!)
For detailed locations of hitchhiking, see this Dutch Hitchhiking Guide.

Bicycle Holland's cycle network is nothing less than excellent. There are many special lanes and paths for cyclists (with a total length of approximately 17,000 kilometers). Even in built up areas, cycle routes are a good distance away from traffic having special bike/moped lanes separated from the main traffic by a verge. The Dutch are a cycling nation, people of all ages even oap's regularly cycle. There are literary cyclists everywhere. Unfortunately, For a country so known for its cycling, there is surprisingly little information on the web about peoples’ cycle tours of the Netherlands and most websites about cyclingtours and -tracks are in Dutch. An overlook of long distance cycle routes through the Netherlands can be found on Schengen Agreement, The Netherlands maintains 'open borders' with it's neighbours, Belgium and Germany.
In practice this means that you can just keep on driving and if you're not careful will not even notice going into another country.
A side-effect of the open borders is that many Germans go to The Netherlands for an afternoon of smoking weed in coffee shops and a lot of Dutch living close to the border get their liquor at relatively cheap prices in Germany.

Post and Communications and Internet

Post, Telephone, Fax, Internet Access ...

Questions and Answers or Forum

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Hospitality Club Meetings

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Activities and Sports

Nightlife and Entertainment

Bars, Cafes,

Population and People

Culture and Conduct or Local Customs

Language and Useful Phrases


Events and Holidays

Our most notable holiday is Koninginnedag aka Queen's Day.
It falls on April 30th, alternatively the 29th if the 30th is a sunday.
There will be parties and events all day and all night all around the country, but as usual, Amsterdam will draw the buggest crowds.

Many Dutch people will dress in national colors (lots of orange, some red/white/blue), and many of the kids will spend their mornings at small fairs trying to sell old toys and household items in order to buy enormous amounts of candy in the afternoon.

All this usually results in kids being high on sugar all day and the adults being mostly good-natured & drunk, and somehow almost nobody gets hurt.

A shorter explanation would be that it more or less is our own orange version of Paddy's Day ;)
Definitely a recommendation.
I will leave further fleshing out to fellow Dutchies. "Festivals, Sports, Concerts, Public Holidays..."

Climate and When to Go


Environment and Flora and Fauna

Dangers and Warnings

Tourist Traps



Government and Politics


GDP, GDP per head, Annual growth, inflation, Major Industries, Major trading partners...


Music, Literature, Theater, Movies ...


Newspapers, Radio and TV, Magazines ...


Volunteer Opportunities and Work

Organized Tours

What to Bring or Packing List


Books and Further Reading

Guidebooks, Travel, History and Politics
Please enter Amazon links to the books - we will put info on how to do this here shortly. This way we hope to get a bit of funding for the running of the club, if someone buys the books you recommend.

Other Information

The Netherlands are pretty famous for their drug policy, especially on softdrugs. But, is it as good as you think? Here are some facts:
Softdrugs are not legal in the netherlands. all drugs are forbidden to have, both softdrugs and harddrugs. It is tolerated to keep about 30 grams of softdrugs with you, for your own use. At the same time, you are allowed to buy a maximum of 5 grams of softdrugs in a coffeeshop per day. So you have to visit more coffeeshops if you want to have 30 grams.
so, coffeeshops can legally sell you 5 grams of softdrugs. but at the same time, they are not allowed to buy or grow marihuana. so, the grow of marihuana is still illegal. this makes the frontdoor of the coffeeshop legal, and the backdoor illegal at the same time
it is also a bit weird that local municipalities can make their own rules in drugpolicy. so they can decide themselves if and how many coffeeshops they allow. about 73% of the municipalities have no coffeeshops at all.
the use of drugs, both harddrugs and softdrugs, is legal in the Netherlands. so, it is not legal to have drugs with you, but using them is legal.

but, does our drug policy work? I think so! The main aim is to reduce both the demand for and supply of drugs and to minimise harm to users, their relatives and friends and society. By tolerating coffeeshops to sell softdrugs, we try to keep users of softdrugs away from the harddrugs scene. This seems to work because the Netherlands have a relative low number of problematic harddrugusers. In 1981, the average age of harddrugusers was 26.8 years old, now it is 39, the total number of drugusers under 22 dropped in this period from 14.4% to 1.6%. The number of people using softdrugs is comparable to other countries in EU.
any questions? ask me! Essely

External Links

Netherlands Travel Guide (L) 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands (L)

Offtopic Messages

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