Travel to the Netherlands

The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated and urbanized nations in the world. There is also a huge number of places to visit in Netherlands, all packed into a relatively small area. 

Netherlands is most famous for its capital city – Amsterdam. The red-light district, famous coffee shops, canals, bicycle paths, windmills and Tulips season – there are many highlights in Amsterdam for tourists. But apart from Amsterdam, the Netherlands has a few other beautiful towns and villages to explore. The pancake-flat landscape is spread throughout the country, along with more pretty canals, cobblestone pathways and churches. You’ll even find some beautiful beaches in Netherlands!

The world-class public transport system makes traveling around Netherlands easy and efficient. Nearly every popular Dutch destination can be accessed via train on an easy day trip. You can also reach most places via the interconnected canals!

The Netherlands also has the world’s densest concentration of great artists – with several museums showing off their great works. The best way to explore the Netherlands is by bicycle – don’t worry, it’s a notoriously flat country! Admire the mix of modern technology, historic architecture, quaint countrysides and the unique blends of culture found throughout the country.

We hope that our Netherlands travel guide can help you plan your trip and inspire you to explore a bit more than Amsterdam when visiting the Netherlands.

Travel tips for Netherlands

Visa Requirements for the Netherlands

Netherlands is part of the Schengen agreement, which allows most of the EU citizens to enter the country with only their ID. When entering by air from a non-Schengen country, you will be expected to fill out a brief form which includes an address in Netherlands. You can just use the address of your hotel. It’s very unlikely that this will be checked, but you will have to enter an address if you want to enter the country. 

Visitors from certain countries like the USA, Canada and New Zealand can visit visa-free for up to 90 days in Netherlands. A stay of longer than 90 days for non-EEA or non-Swiss citizens usually requires a visa, which you need to get before your trip. 

Other nationals, like those from Russia, Asian countries and South Africa, will need to apply for a Schengen Visa before arriving in Netherlands. For more information on the Netherlands visa requirements from your nearest Dutch Embassy, visit this website.

Important Cultural Information

The Dutch are generally an extremely tolerant and open-minded nation. The country is renowned for its liberal laws and attitudes towards prostitution and cannabis.

Prostitution has been decriminalized, but only for prostitutes registered at a permitted brothel. Prostitutes are most common in the capital Amsterdam, in the famous red-light districts. You will also come across ample sex shows, sex shops, and sex and drug museums – mostly popular with the tourists.

Cannabis is also widely tolerated, with the coffeeshops in Amsterdam being another famous attraction for tourists. They are however starting to face increasing restrictions. The Dutch keep the same open-minded attitude towards the LGBT community.

There is little that you could say to upset a Dutch person. They are generally quite straightforward, which can come across as being rather blunt or rude. It is customary to greet with a handshake. Men and women, or women and women will greet with a kiss on alternating cheeks three times.

Banking & Money

In Netherlands you pay with the Euro (€), just like in other 24 European countries. 100 cents makes up 1 Euro. Each country can produce their own Euro coins, where one side of the coins has their own unique designs, while the other side has a European standard design. You can use the Euro in any of the eurozone countries, without needing to exchange money when crossing the borders.

The largests banks in the Netherlands include ABN AMRO, Rabobank, ING, bunq, SNS Bank, ASN Bank and Triodos. ABN AMRO and bunq are the only banks in the Netherlands that have detailed information in English.

To exchange money, there are plenty of ATMs, where you can withdraw up to €500 (some may only allow up to €200), usually for a fee, depending on your own bank conditions. The Dutch word for ATMs is “pinautomaat”. ATMs are multilingual, so you shouldn’t have a problem with using them. Credit cards are well accepted all over. But it’s always useful to have a few Euro notes, especially in the countryside or for tipping at restaurants.

Medical Emergency Information

If there is an emergency, you can call 112 from any phone at no cost. This will get you in touch with the police, firefighters and ambulances.

Make sure to get good travel insurance for Netherlands beforehand. Compare options with both WorldNomads and SafetyWing.

Wi-Fi and Internet in the Netherlands

There are four main network operators in Netherlands: Vodafone, KPN, Telfort and T-Mobile. KPN is the biggest mobile operator in the Netherlands in terms of users as well as coverage. Though, coverage is good throughout Netherlands on all networks – you will likely get 4G connection all over.

You will find several shops selling SIM cards around Netherlands, including in the smaller towns. You can either search for shops for the different networks, or look for the nearest Media Markt. You will likely need to provide a official form of identification, so take your passport along just in case.

Another option is to rent a mobile MiFi device, your own hotspot. Those costs from around €5 per day. There are services, which you can pick up at the airport or which gets delivered to the hotel you are staying at.

Wi-Fi is easily available at hotels, restaurants, bars and many coffee shops. Look out for ‘Wi-Fi’ or ‘@’ signs on the doors. Most major hubs of transportation offer free Wi-Fi for public use. Places like the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank House are also all equipped with free Wi-Fi. Make sure to set-up a VPN (like ExpressVPN) before using public Wi-Fi spots.

Coworking in Netherlands is also popular, with major coworking spots in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Eindhoven.

Arrival in the Netherlands

You will most likely arrive in Netherlands through Amsterdam. Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam, is the fourth largest airport in Europe (after London, Paris and Frankfurt). KLM is the largest Dutch airline, which flies from most places around the world to Amsterdam. Most other major international airlines also fly to Schiphol Airport.

From Schiphol Airport, there are great railway connections to most cities throughout Netherlands, including to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. You can even get to Brussels and Paris via from the international high speed trains from the airport, as well as to Germany via the Intercity trains.

Other international airports in Netherlands include Eindhoven Airport, Maastricht/Aachen Airport, Rotterdam – The Hague Airport, and Groningen-Eelde Airport. These airports are mainly serviced by smaller low-cost airlines, including Ryanair, Transavia and CityJet.

Check Expedia for available flights to the Netherlands.

Another option of getting to the Netherlands is to fly via airports in the surrounding countries, like the Düsseldorf International Airport and Brussels Airport.

If you’re coming from other European countries, then arriving in Netherlands via train is also an option. Trains reach most larger cities, with many trains to Amsterdam. Bookings can be made via NS Hispeed (Dutch railways) or its German and Belgian counterparts. The Thalys high-speed train connects the Netherlands (via Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam and Rotterdam) with France and Belgium. Eurostar high-speed trains connect London to Netherlands, while the ICE high-speed train runs from Basel via Frankfurt to Amsterdam, via Cologne, Düsseldorf, Arnhem, and Utrecht. There are also a number of regional trains from and to Germany.

You can of course also enter Netherlands via bus from its neighboring countries. Eurolines is the main bus operator for international busses to the Netherlands. Other operators include Megabus and PublicExpress.

If traveling to Netherlands by car, check out Europcar for car hire. The Netherlands has good roads to Belgium and Germany, and ferry links to Great Britain.

Areas of the Netherlands

The Netherlands is divided into 12 provinces. While the country is quite small, there are noticeable cultural and linguistic differences in each province. The country can be divided into four regions: Western Netherlands, Northern Netherlands, Eastern Netherlands and Southern Netherlands.

Western Netherlands

Western Netherlands is commonly called Randstand, this region has the most sights and attractions. It is host to the four main cities in Netherlands: Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht. It has the most important airports, harbors, museums, restaurants and nightlife.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is Netherlands biggest tourist attraction. Mostly due to its impressive architecture, beautiful canals, vast selection of museums, red-light district and cannabis culture.

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Northern Netherlands

This is the least densely populated area in the Netherlands, as well as being the least explored by tourists. It is however, popular among the locals. The West Frisian Islands are ideal to spend a few days at, along with the Frisian Lakes.

Eastern Netherlands

Here you will find Hoge Veluwe National Park, the largest national park in the Netherlands. Along with the beautiful Hanzesteden – seven medieval cities including Zutphen, Zwolle, Doesburg and others.

Southern Netherlands

Also called the Catholic Netherlands, this region is a bit more divided from the rest of the Netherlands.

Apart from the four best cities in Netherlands, other notable cities to visit include Haarlem, Leiden, Delft, Gouda and Maastricht.

Transportation in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has a well-organised public transport system. You can get virtually anywhere on public transport, with the Netherlands train network serving as the backbone of the public transport system. Train tickets Netherlands can be bought here.

There is also an extended network of local and regional buses.

Both Amsterdam and Rotterdam have a metro network. View the Amsterdam metro map here. Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht also have trams.

Cycling is also a major form of transport for most locals in the bigger cities, especially Amsterdam (here’s everything you need to know about cycling in Amsterdam). When walking, be aware of the bicycle lanes!

Top tip:

Get the Amsterdam travel card to enjoy enjoy unlimited access to Amsterdam’s public transport as well as free or discounted access to many attractions. Get the card here or here.

Accommodation in the Netherlands

A wide range of accommodation is available throughout the Netherlands, concentrated on the major tourist destinations. You will find a mix of luxury accommodation along with more budget-friendly options including hostels, guesthouses, hotels and apartments. Accommodation is a bit more limited in the less touristy villages. 

Prices are generally quite high, particularly in Amsterdam. If you are on a budget in Amsterdam, then you may need to look for accommodation on the outskirts rather than in the city centre where prices rise quite substantially. Amsterdam can be divided into The Ring area and areas outside of the ring – accommodation within The Ring area is the most expensive.

Seasonal demand can also cause prices to rise dramatically in Amsterdam – book early to avoid disappointment.

Booking.com

Dutch Food & Dining Guide

While the Dutch are not that well known for their food, their good hearty cuisine is actually quite good. They are most possibly most well-known for their cheese, with several cheese shops scattered throughout the big cities. 

A conventional Dutch meal consists of meat, potatoes and some type of vegetable on the side. Besides from hearty meals, they have a few snacks and sweet items that you most definitely have to try, these include:

  • Bitterbal – a ball of ragout that is covered in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried. Served with mustard and best enjoyed with a beer.
  • Pottertjes – small but risen pancakes sprinkled with powdered sugar.
  • Stroopwafels – two thin layers of waffle with syrup in between. You can get them packaged in supermarkets, or big fresh ones at some street markets. These are a must!!
  • Liquorice – in all of the varieties.
  • Nonnenvotten  – a braided doughnut sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.

You probably won’t find too many ‘Dutch’ restaurants, as most locals eat Dutch food at home.

If you’re looking for the traditional fare, you will need to visit pubs, specialised shops or markets. Restaurants in the Netherlands will mostly serve a mix of international cuisines.

What to eat and drink the Netherlands

Netherland’s Attractions

There are many things to do in Netherlands. Some of the best places to visit in Netherlands include the big cities. With the best cities in Netherlands being Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague.

When in Amsterdam, highlights include taking a tour of the red-light district, experiencing the famous coffee shops, and sailing through the canals. For history and museum lovers, there’s The Anne Frank Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the van Gogh museum, The Rembrandt House Museum, and the Royal Palace. Also make sure to enjoy a cheese tasting somewhere!

There’s also a few great day trips from Amsterdam.

Other popular attractions in Netherlands includes seeing the tulips in Spring at the Keukenhof in Lisse, watching the porcelain makers at the Royal Delft Pottery, visit the historic city of Gouda and taste its cheese, see the International Court of Justice in The Hague (read about all the things to do in The Hague), the windmills of Kinderdijk and the Heineken Experience.

Popular beaches in Netherlands are found in The Wadden Islands (Schiermonnikoog, Terschelling, Vlieland and Texel), North Holland (Bloemendaal aan zee and Zandvoort), South Holland (Noordwijk, Katwijk, Wassenaar, Scheveningen and Kijkduin), Zeeland (Domburg and Cadzand).

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Shopping in the Netherlands

In most cities there’s a big variety of shops and some bigger cities even have some malls. You will find a range of international brands and chain stores.

In Amsterdam, shoppers have their pick of the Jordaan district trendy shops, the Waterlooplein flea market, or the Kalverstraat.

Souvenirs to buy in the Netherlands include a mix of their local cheeses (from Gouda and Edam), stroopwafels, pottery and porcelain from Delft. You will find a lot of cannabis related souvenirs in the typical touristy shops along with windmill related decor.

The Netherlands is also famous for its wooden shoes (clogs). For good quality wooden shoes, avoid the kitschy tourist shops at Schiphol and Amsterdam’s Damrak street. Instead look for a regular vendor (such as Welkoop) which can usually be found in towns and villages in rural areas.

Nightlife in the Netherlands

The Dutch have a vibrant nightlife. Amsterdam particularly comes alive at night. While super touristy, you have to take a walk through the red-light district at night – just for the eye-opening experience! The bigger cities all have nightclubs, cafes and late-opening bars. With no licensing hours, you can expect to get a drink at any time.

Rotterdam has a great selection of nightclubs, with a lively harbourside restaurant and cafe scene. The Hague is great for a theatre and dance experience. You will also find a buzzing nightlife scene in student cities, including Delft, Utrecht and Groningen.

Safety Tips for the Netherlands

The Netherlands, like most of Europe, is a very safe country to travel to. Violent crimes are very rare. You may come across a few scams in the bigger cities, like someone trying to sell you old public transport tickets. Just make sure to always purchase items and tickets from reputable sources. The same goes for buying a bicycle off the street – it could be a stolen bike!

As always when traveling, keep aware of your valuables when in crowds or popular tourist spots. Pickpockets are often lurking around looking for an easy target.

Conclusion

The Netherlands is a great country to explore in Europe.

It’s packed with beautiful (and interesting) architecture, popular tourist attractions, culture, history, museums and lovely quaint villages. While you absolutely need to include Amsterdam on your Netherlands itinerary, we hope that you also consider visiting some of the other cities and smaller villages. There are so many wonderful places to visit in the Netherlands, just a short train trip away from Amsterdam.

Note that the Netherlands tends to be very rainy. But luckily, the big cities still look charming in the rain!

The best time to visit the Netherlands depends on what you want to get out of your trip. If you want to see the tulips bloom, then March to April is best.

For festival vibes, make sure to there on 27 April to celebrate King’s Day – when the entire country dresses up in orange!

For gorgeous summer days outside, visit during June to August (note that this is also high season).

Winter lovers can visit from November to February for ice rinks, outdoor concerts and Christmas markets.

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MAP - Netherlands
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