So you’ve booked a trip to the land of tulips, canals and windmills but you are just a little unsure of what to expect upon arrival. To make your trip all the more pleasant here are 15 things you need to know before visiting The Netherlands.
- HOLLAND AND THE NETHERLANDS ARE NOT THE SAME
I’m ashamed to say that I have made this mistake too but the truth is, Holland and The Netherlands are not the same thing. The country’s official name is The Kingdom of the Netherlands but Holland itself actually refers to two provinces: Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland.
- THERE ARE LOT OF CANALS
One third of The Netherlands is below sea level. That means everywhere you go you will see dikes, windmills and of course canals. You’ll find more than 160 canals and approximately 1200 bridges in Amsterdam alone. Each canal has its own name and some have beautiful stories behind them so be sure to get your camera ready and photograph the beauty of the surrounding canals.
- CASH AND ATMs
Be mindful that chipped and maestro cards work great in The Netherlands but non-chipped credit cards may be incompatible in most stores. It’s always a good idea to carry extra cash. There are, however many ATMs and surrounding banks if you need to replenish your Euros.
- THERE ARE LOTS OF BICYCLES
There are over 13 million bikes in The Netherlands. Almost everyone, local or tourist rides a bike even if it’s just to the grocery store. It’s part of daily life. Everywhere you go, you will see bikes, bikes and more bikes.
- BUY OR RENT A BIKE
First hand bikes can be quite expensive so buying or renting a second hand bike is a much cheaper option. You can find these at local market places or second hand store bike stores. Be sure to check that the bike brakes work, tires are pumped and that you have your bike lights fitted on.
- YOU CAN CYCLE ANYWHERE
The Dutch cycle almost anywhere and at any time. Many of the locals will cycle while carrying groceries, children or even whilst wearing heels to a late night party. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Dutch cycling road rules and related vocabulary. It may be helpful if you have a bike breakdown.
- THERE ARE LONG LINES FOR MAJOR ATTRACTIONS
Just like any other tourist spot in the world, you will find extremely long lines for popular attractions like the Van Gogh Museum or the Anne Frank House. You don’t have to spend hours waiting in these lines if you purchase advanced tickets online. You can purchase a museum card or which includes free admission and discounts to a variety of attractions.
- IT RAINS… A LOT.
Be prepared for unpredictable rainfall, all year long. It doesn’t matter what season it is, it will rain almost daily and unexpectedly. Carry an umbrella or small raincoat with you at all times.
- NO CAMERAS IN THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT
The Red Light District is a popular tourist attraction when in The Netherlands but don’t expect to take a picture of the ladies in red-lined windows for your travel scrap book. Your camera may end up in one of the pretty canals.
- THERE IS A LOT OF CHEESE
The Netherlands has A LOT of cheese. Here you’ll find almost any kind of cheese from regular young and aged Gouda to specialty cheeses with basil and pesto flavors. You’ll find some of the biggest cheese markets here too. These can be found in the popular Dutch cities of Gouda, Edam, and Alkmaar.
- GET A BSN NUMBER IF YOU ARE STAYING FOR A LONG TIME
If you plan to live in The Netherlands then you need to get a BSN number. You’ll need this to register your address and open a bank account.
12.BUY THE RIGHT TULIPS TO TAKE HOME
Tulips are one of the most recognized symbols of Dutch culture and many people would live to buy them as a souvenir to take back home. Imagine how you’d feel if they are confiscated at customs! Ensure the bulbs you buy have certification from the Dutch government. Visit Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt and ask for tulips that have health certification.
13.VISIT THE UNHEARD OF DUTCH TOWNS
Some travelers can spend a whole week in Amsterdam itself and rightly so, there are tons of things to do there. Whilst visiting the bigger Dutch cities should definitely be on your agenda, allot some time for the smaller unheard of places too. You never know what you’ll find. A beautiful art gallery run by an elderly couple who are still so madly in love, a flash back to the 19th century or even the best pair of boots you will ever wear. (Here are 10 Dutch towns you should visit when in The Netherlands).
- USE THE PARK AND RIDE FEATURE TO TRAVEL
If you want to drive around the city then try using the Park and Ride services. This allows you to park in designated parking lots on the outskirts of major towns. It means you will pay a significantly reduced rate as compared to parking in city center zones.
- USE AN OV-CHIPKAART TO TRAVEL ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT
The OV-chipkaart is a public transport card that allows you to ride trams, buses, metros, and trains. They are reusable and rechargeable too. You can purchase a non-personalized card for tourists from information counters and select supermarkets and newsstands. Remember though, if you fail to check out of your ride, the transport provider will charge you the maximum fare for your trip which can vary between four euros to 20 euros depending on your mode of transport.
- INVEST IN A MUSEUMKAART
Even if you plan on visiting just four museums during your stay, you will already be saving money by having a museumkaart. The card is valid for one year and grants free unlimited entry into almost all museums in the Netherlands.
- LEARN SOME BASIC DUTCH PHRASES
Having some basic Dutch phrases on hand will definitely make your time in The Netherlands easier and help you connect more with the locals. Don’t be shy to practice at the grocery store or even with the stranger standing next to you!
- COFFEE SHOPS ARE NOT FOR COFFEE
Cafes and coffee shops are not the same thing in The Netherlands. If you’re looking for a nice cappuccino and poffertjes then a café is where you should be headed. If you’re looking to legally smoke some cannabis, then coffee shops are where you need to be.
- THE DUTCH ARE DIRECT
You have heard it before but what does it mean? The Dutch are direct. If you are speaking to a local and you’re wrong, they are going to tell you that you’re wrong. If they don’t feel like doing something, they will just say no. It’s not being rude, it’s just direct. For many of us who are not used to such directness, it may seem a little too abrupt or rude even but give it some time and you will love it. You may even find yourself being more direct too.
- YOU ARE IN THE HEART OF EUROPE
The Netherlands is located quite centrally in Europe which means traveling to other cities is pretty easy. Paris is just three hours away and London a 45 minute flight away. Plan a weekend trip and just go.