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Netherlands

Netherlands
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GALLERY
The "Kingdom of the Netherlands", The Netherlands in short, (Dutch: "Nederland", also commonly called "Holland" in English) is a Benelux country, bordering Germany to the east and Belgium to the south. The people, language, and culture of the Netherlands are referred to as "Dutch".

With over 16 million people on an area roughly the size of Tennessee, it"s a densely populated country with its gorgeous capital Amsterdam being just one of many interesting cities. Once a great naval power, this small nation boasts a wealth of cultural heritage and is famous for its painters, windmills, clogs and notoriously flat lands. A modern pean country today, it preserved its highly international character and is known for its liberal mentality. As a founding member of EU and NATO, and host to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, The Netherlands are at the heart of international cooperation. Its small size, welcoming attitude to travellers and many sights make it a unique and fairly easy to discover destination and a great addition to any pean trip.

Understand
History
The southern part of the country was part of the Holy Roman Empire until it was acquired piece by piece by the Burgundians. At the end of the Middle Ages, it became a Spanish possession (together with what is now Belgium). Little survives from this period, except a few historic city centers, and a few castles.

Following the "Dutch Revolt", led by national hero William of Orange ("Willem van Oranje"), the Netherlands became a "de facto" independent republic in 1572. The (first) split with Belgium came when the northern provinces (including Flanders) signed the Union of Utrecht in 1579. It grew to become one of the major economic and seafaring powers in the world during the 17th century, which is known as the Dutch Golden Age ("Gouden Eeuw"). During this period, many colonies were founded or conquered, including the Netherlands East Indies (currently Indonesia) and New Amsterdam (currently New York City), which was later traded with the British for Suriname.

In 1805, the country became a kingdom when Emperor Napoleon appointed his brother "King of Holland". In 1815, it became the "United Kingdom of the Netherlands ("Verenigd Koninkrijk der Nederlanden") together with Belgium and Luxembourg under King William I ("Willem I"). In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed a separate kingdom. Luxembourg received independence from the Netherlands in 1890, as the Salic Law prohibited a female ruler.

Avoiding the liberal revolutions of 1848 and new adopted Treaty, The Netherlands quietly became a constitutional monarchy and remained neutral in World War I but suffered a brutal invasion and occupation by Germany in World War II. A modern, industrialized nation, the Netherlands is also a large exporter of agricultural products. In 1944, the Low Countries formed the union of the Benelux in which they economically (and sometimes politically) work together. The country was a founding member of NATO in 1949 and the pean Community (EC) in 1957, and participated in the introduction of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in 1999.

Culture
Quite a few travellers visit the Netherlands to enjoy its famously tolerant attitude: "prostitution" is decriminalized but only for those prostitutes registered at a permitted brothel. Safe sex and use of condoms is common practice, and the prostitute will usually have these available. It is illegal for sex workers to solicit for customers on the street and prostitutes are most common in the capital Amsterdam, where red-light districts are popular, even if tourists only visit as a momento of the visit. In more rural areas, prostitution is almost non-existent. Sex shops, sex shows, sex museums and drugs museums are also popular. The sale, possession, and consumption of small quantities of "cannabis" while technically still illegal, is officially tolerated, but "coffeeshops" are subject to increasing restrictions. Harder drugs (eg. ecstasy or cocaine) remain illegal both in theory and practice. In the same open minded atmosphere is the Dutch ease towards "homosexuality", gay marriage is legalized. Also the practice of Euthanasia is legalized under strict conditions.

Geography

The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. No matter where you go, you are never far away from civilization. Cities can be crowded especially in the Randstad area, where congestion is a serious problem. Much of the country is flat and at or below sea level making it an ideal place to "cycle". Hills may be found only at the Veluwe and Southern Limburg. Much of countryside is dominated by highly industrialized farming: despite its population density, the Netherlands are one of the largest food exporters in the world. Though there are some beautiful spots scattered across the country, tourists expecting a countryside full of picturesque villages, tulips and windmills may be in for a bit of a shock. The villages, tulips and windmills are there for sure, but you just have to find them (for example, in the Waterland and Zaan Region). The most beautiful places are most of the times the places known only by the Dutch themselves. Asking a Dutch person for some ideas of what to see could be helpful. Otherwise, just visit local "tourist shops", known as the VVV, found in all the larger towns.

The geography of the Netherlands is dominated by water features. The country is criss-crossed with rivers, canals and dikes, and the beach is never far away. The western coast of the Netherlands has one of the most beautiful North Sea beaches that can be found, attracting thousands if not millions of people every year, among them a lot of Germans as well.

Regions

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, administratively divided into 12 provinces ("provincies"). Even though the Netherlands is a small country, these provinces are quite diverse and have plenty of cultural and linguistic differences. They can be divided in four regions:



This article describes the pean part of the Netherlands. The Caribbean islands Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba are "special municipalities" fully integrated in the Netherlands proper. Beside the Netherlands proper, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten are constituent countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Cities

The Netherlands has many cities and towns of interest to travelers. Below are "nine" of the most notable ones:



* Amsterdam — impressive architecture, lovely canals ("grachten"), museums and liberal attitudes
* Delft — historic unspoiled town with the world-famous blue and white ceramics
* Groningen — student city with a relaxed atmosphere and nightlife till the sun gets up
* The Hague — the judicial capital of the world, the seat of government and the royal family
* Leiden — historic student city with the country"s oldest university and three national museums
* Maastricht — fortified mediaeval city showing the different culture, style and architecture of the south
* Nijmegen — oldest city of the country, known for its marches, left-wing politics and large student population
* Rotterdam — modern architecture, good nightlife, vibrant art scene and the largest port of pe
* Utrecht — historic centre, antique stores and the Rietveld-Schröder House

Other destinations

Kinderdijk

These are some interesting destinations outside of the major cities.

* Efteling — renowned theme park with fairytale elements like elves and dwarves
* Hoge Veluwe National Park — largest national park with heathlands, sand dunes and woodlands
* Keukenhof — more than 800,000 visitors see these enormous flower fields each spring
* Kinderdijk — these windmills show the typical Dutch landscape in all its glory
* Schokland — old island evacuated in 1859, a well-preserved ghost village remains
* South Limburg — hilly green landscapes, picturesque villages, castles and orchards
* Texel — largest island suited for cycling, walking, swimming and horse riding
* Waterland and Zaan Region — typical Dutch villages with clogs, wooden houses, windmills and the Zaanse Schans
* Zaanse Schans — open air museum with Dutch windmills and Zaan houses

Get in
The

Citizens of the above countries are permitted to work in The Netherlands without the need to obtain a visa or any further authorisation for the period of their 90 day visa-free stay. However, this ability to work visa-free does not necessarily extend to other countries.

All non-EEA or Swiss travellers must register their residence within 3 business days of entry with the Aliens" Police. Hotels, however, normally will handle the registration formalities for their guests.

Applications for visas and long-term residence permits are handled by the IND . Generally speaking, travellers to the Netherlands who do not require a short-stay visa "may" be able to get a residence permit upon arrival without a long-stay visa, but consult your nearest EmbassyConsulate for information.

There are a number of ways to get into the Netherlands. From neighboring pean countries, a drive with the car or a train ride are feasible; visitors from further away will probably be using air travel. Visitors from the United Kingdom can also travel by boat.

By plane

Schiphol Airport , near Amsterdam, is a pean hub, and after London, Paris, and Frankfurt the largest of pe. It is by far the biggest international airport in the country, and a point of interest in itself, being 4 metres below mean sea level (The name is derived from "ship hole" since Schiphol is built in a drained lake, ). Travellers can easily fly in from most places of the world and then connect with The Netherlands" biggest airline KLM .

Some budget airlines also fly to the Netherlands. Jet2.com , Easyjet , Transavia and other low-cost carriers serve Schiphol, providing a fairly economical way to city-hop to Amsterdam from other spots in pe. Especially flying tofrom the British Isles and the Mediterranean countries can be relatively cheap. It"s important that you book as early as possible, as prices tend to get higher closer to departure.

From Schiphol there are excellent railway connections: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and most large cities have a direct train service. International high speed trains depart to Brussels and Paris and Intercity trains to Germany. The train station at Schiphol is located underground, under the main airport hall. The train is the quickest and cheapest way to get around in the Netherlands. Taxis are expensive: legal taxis have blue number plates, others should be avoided. Some hotels in Amsterdam, and around the airport, have a shuttle bus service.

Other international airports are "Eindhoven Airport", "MaastrichtAachen Airport", "Rotterdam - The HagueAirport", and "Groningen-Eelde Airport". These smaller airports are mainly attended by low-cost airlines. Eindhoven Airport and MaastrichtAachen Airport are mostly used by Ryanair , while Rotterdam Airport is frequented by Transavia , the low-cost subsidiary of KLM for tourists. The operator CityJet does an expensive commuter trip to London city. A direct bus connection, either to the local railway stations and then take the train are the best way to get to Amsterdam or any other town. There is a direct bus service between Eindhoven Airport and Amsterdam Central Station.

It is also possible to come to the Netherlands via airports lying in surrounding countries. Much-used airports are "Düsseldorf International Airport" and "Brussels Airport" . pean low cost carriers (Ryanair and Air Berlin ) also use the airports of Münster-Osnabrück and WeezeNiederrhein which are near or just at the DutchGerman border. From these two airports there are frequent flights to the major pean destinations.

By train

(High speed) trains may be the most comfortable mode of transport between major pean cities. While some low cost airlines offer cheaper deals, remember that international high speed lines connect city centres, rather than airports that are usually located outside of the city. Also, trains do not require you to be present one hour before departure and can be part of the holiday experience: they allow you to enjoy the landscape, meet new people, have cup of coffee in the board restaurant or bring along a good bottle of wine.

Remember that the cheapest tickets are often sold out early and that reservations are generally possible 3 (normal) to 6 (CityNightLine) months in advance. Bookings can be made via (Dutch railways) or its and counterparts.

From France, Belgium, Great Britain
The "Thalys" high-speed train , which connects the Netherlands with France and Belgium, is a bit expensive, but if you book a return in advance or if you"re under 26 or over 60 you can get good deals. It is also faster, normally cheaper and more convenient than flying. Direct trains depart from Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport and Rotterdam, for the south of the country has excellent connections via Liège-Guillemins (Belgium) and Aachen (Germany).

For trips to Brussels or Antwerp it is usually cheaper - and almost as fast - to catch the "Benelux train", which runs hourly from Amsterdam, via Schiphol, The Hague, Rotterdam, Dordrecht and Roosendaal. No seat reservations are required - just buy your ticket and get on board.

Between Maastricht and Brussels runs a new hourly intercity service called the "Maastricht Brussel Express", which also stops at Liege. Maastricht-Liege takes around 30 minutes, Maastricht-Brussels takes about 1½ hours. Tickets can be bought at the stations or on-line on Express" website .

London st. Pancras station is connected to The Netherlands by star high-speed trains via Brussels MidiZuidSouth station. Use one of the connections mentioned above.

From Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, Russia
The "ICE" high-speed train, runs from Basel, Switzerland via Frankfurt to Amsterdam, via Cologne, Düsseldorf, Arnhem, and Utrecht.

Intercity trains run from Berlin and Hannover to Amsterdam or Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, via Osnabrück, Hengelo, Deventer, Apeldoorn, Amersfoort and Hilversum.

CityNightLine and night trains provide direct overnight connections from Amsterdam to Copenhagen, Prague and Moscow.

There are also a number of regional trains from and to Germany:

* Between Groningen and Leer trains run every two hours .
* There are trains between Enschede and Münster every hour, also between Enschede and Dortmund every hour .
* Trains run hourly between Venlo and Hamm, via Mönchengladbach and Düsseldorf .
* Trains run every hour between Heerlen and Aachen and further to Eschweiler Stolberg (Rheinland) .

By bus
lines is the main "operator" for international coaches to the Netherlands. (In fact the name lines is a common brand-name used by different operators). Services are limited: only a few main routes have a daily service, such as from Poland, London, Milan, Brussels and Paris , but this is the cheapest way to travel and you get a discount if your age is less than 26.

Due to the Bosnian war in the 1990s, there are bus companies serving the Bosnian diaspora, which provide a cheap and clean way of getting to the other side of the pean continent. "Semi tours" runs several times per week from various destinations in Bosnia and Hercegovina to Belgium and the Netherlands, Off-season approx 159€ for a return ticket.

By car

Speed limits in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has good roads to Belgium and Germany, and ferry links to Great Britain. The country has a dense, well-maintained trunk-road network. Borders are open under the terms of the Agreement. Cars may be stopped at the border for random checks, but this rarely happens. There are car ferry services from the United Kingdom, see below. As the UK is not part of the zone, full border checks apply.

"Driving in The Netherlands"

Road rules, markings and signs are similar to other pean countries but have some particularities:
*At unmarked intersections traffic coming from the right ALWAYS has priority. Traffic includes bicycles, horses, horse-drawn carts (recreational use and fairly uncommon), electric wheelchairs, small mopeds and motorised bicycles.
*Cycle paths are clearly marked and are widespread throughout the country.
*On motorways, on and off-ramps (slip-roads) are usually long and allow for smooth merging however do note that as of 2009 returning onto the motorway from an off-ramp lane is illegal. Passing on the right and needless use (other than for passing) of the inside lane(s) is prohibited. (passing on the right is permitted only in congested traffic)

Urban driving:
Urban driving in the Netherlands is considered by many tourists and locals alike to be an exasperating, time consuming and expensive experience.
City roads are narrow, riddled with speed bumps, chicanes and a large variety of street furniture (with knee-high, asphalt-coloured anti-parking poles being probably the most dangerous threat to paintwork as they tend to either blend into the background or be beneath the driver"s view)

Other hazards are:
* Pedestrians protruding on the road or crossing in dangerous and not-permitted areas.
* Cyclists and moped riders generally tend not to adhere to the rules or traffic lights so preventive driving is crucial.
* Narrow bridges.

Parking:
Parking in city centres can be expensive. Particularly in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam street parking is sometimes limited to only a few hours and prices range between 3 and 6 euros per hour.
Generally, underground car parks cost between 4 and 6 euros per hour and may be by far the best choice for practical and safety reasons.

By boat

There are three ferry services from the UK

* Stena Line between Harwich and Hoek van Holland (Corner of Holland)

* DFDS Seaways between Newcastle upon Tyne and IJmuiden on the outskirts of Amsterdam

* P&O Ferries between Kingston Upon Hull and Rotterdam poort.

More information, timetables and ticket prices for the North Sea ferries is available at Ferries To Amsterdam . Dutchflyer is a combination ticket that includes the trainride from anywhere on the National Express East Anglia network (including London and Norwich) to Harwich, the ferry, and the trainride from Hook of Holland to anywhere on the NS (the Dutch railway) network. Rotterdam is also the second largest port in the world, and (in theory) a good place for Freighter travel.

From Belgium
* For a list of border-crossing buses between Belgium and the Netherlands, you may consult the list at .
* In order to avoid paying for an international train ticket on the route between Amsterdam and Antwerp, you can get off in one of the border stations of "Essen" (Belgium) and "Roosendaal" (the Netherlands) and walk to the other on foot. You can follow the main road between the two places and will need to walk some 10 kilometers in a flat and open, though particularly uninhabited terrain.
* Apart from being a peculiar result of ancient pean history, the town of "Baarle" (formally "Baarle-Hertog" in Belgium and "Baarle-Nassau" in the Netherlands) is a possible change point, since the town"s main bus stop "Sint-Janstraat" is operated by both Flemish (Belgian) and Dutch buses.
* The Flemish (Belgian) company De Lijn operates a border-crossing bus between "Turnhout" in Belgium and "Tilburg" in the Netherlands, both of which are termini in the respective country"s railway network.
* There"s a bus operated by the Flemish (Belgian) company De Lijn going between the train stations of "Genk" (Belgium) and "Maastricht" (the Netherlands). A train connection is non-existing in this place, but it is being built at the moment.

Get around

The Netherlands has a fine-grained, well-organized public transport system. Virtually any village can be reached by public transport. The Dutch public transport system consists of a train network which serves as backbone, extended with a network of both local and interlocal busses. Amsterdam and Rotterdam have a metro network, and Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag and Utrecht also have trams.

By train

The country is densely populated and urbanised, and train services are frequent. There are two main types of trains: Intercity trains, and trains which stop at all stations (previously called "Stoptrein"). (The Intercity is not as fast as "Intercity" services in some other countries, and it stops more often). Both types of train have the same prices. Travelling all the way from the north of the country (Groningen) to the south (Maastricht) takes about 4.5 hours.

Most lines offer one train every 30 minutes (every 10 minutes during the rush hours), but some rural lines run only every 60 minutes. Where more lines run together, the frequency is, of course, even higher. In the western Netherlands, the rail network is more like a large urban network, with up to 12 trains per hour on main routes.

The Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) operates most routes. Some local lines are operated by Syntus, Arriva, Veolia and Connexxion.

Because of the high service frequency, delays are quite common. However, the delay is usually not more than 5 or 10 minutes. Note though that the NS boasts a punctuality of 80-85% (meaning that percentage of trains departsarrives within 3 minutes of the scheduled time), which could be higher than you"re used to. Trains can be crowded during the rush hour, especially in the morning, but you should nearly always be able to find a seat. Reserving seats on domestic trains is not possible.

One particular mistake tourists often make is getting on the wrong part of a train. Many trains consist of two parts with different destinations. Somewhere on the way to the final destination, both parts will be separated and will continue on their own to their respective destinations. In that case, the signs over the platforms will show two destinations and which part goes where: "achterste deelachter" means back and "voorste deelvoor" means front, referring to the direction of departure. Feel free to ask other passengers or an employee.

There is a convenient night train service (for party-goers and airport traffic) between Rotterdam, Delft, Den Haag, Leiden, Schiphol, Amsterdam, and Utrecht, all night long, once an hour in each direction. There is a direct and hourly night train service on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights between Rotterdam and Utrecht. In the nights Friday onto Saturday and Saturday onto Sunday, North-Brabant is also served. You can get to Dordrecht,"s-Hertogenbosch, Eindhoven, Tilburg, and Breda.

Some (only a few) "intercity trains" have free WIFI internet access. See the screens in the train on how to access.

Buying tickets
Tickets are available between all stations, NS and non-NS, and there is only one national tariff system. Tickets are valid on both sprinter and intercity services; there is no difference in price. The most used tickets are the single ("enkele reis") and return tickets ("retour"). The latter is valid only for a return on the day itself, but the price is equal to two singles, therefor a return offers no price advantage over buying singles.

Tickets are valid in any train on the route (as opposed to being valid in only one fixed train). It is allowed to break at any station on the route (even on stations on the route where you don"t have to change). Like in many countries, there is a difference between first and second class. A second class ticket is 60% of the price of a first class ticket. The main advantage of first class is that it is less crowded, and seats and aisles are generally wider. For children 4-11 years accompanied by adults, a Railrunner ticket can be bought for €2.50.

Tickets cannot be purchased cheaper in advance, unlike in some countries. The ticket price is uniform and depends on distance. Note that you can buy a ticket without a date in advance, which has to be validated when entering the platform, but it makes the ticket no cheaper: it is only for convenience. If you have a ticket without a date printed on it, do not forget to validate it by stamping it in the small yellow boxes usually located at the platform entrance.

Tickets can be purchased from machines in stations using Dutch bank cards. No international credit or debit cards are accepted. Some of the machines, at least one at each station, also accept coins (but no notes). Only larger stations have a ticket counter: you pay €0.50 more than at the machine, per ticket, if this ticket could also have been bought at the machine. An exception is made for the elderly. The ticket machines have English-language menus available. There is also a demonstration of this system on the internet. A common mistake made by foreigners is accidentally getting a 40% discount ("korting") ticket from the machine. A special discount-card is required for these tickets, although you can travel on other people"s discount cards too. (See Discount rail pass). If you have trouble using the ticket machine, ask someone else for help; almost everyone speaks English and will help you out. It is also possible to buy e-tickets online, although a Dutch bank account for payment (iDEAL) is necessary.

You must "buy a ticket before travelling"—since 2005, you can no longer simply buy a ticket from the conductor, as in some other countries. If you buy a ticket onboard, you will have to pay the normal price "plus" a € 35 fine. If the ticket machines are defective, go to the conductor immediately when boarding. The conductor is not allowed any discretion on this policy, though being polite and pretending to be an ignorant tourist "might" help you get away with having an invalid ticket. In worst case though, if you do not have either enough cash, or a passport, you could be arrested by railway police.

In the station

While many villages have small stations with only one or two platforms and no railway staff, cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht have large central stations with up to 14 platforms. It can take 5-10 minutes to move from one platform to another, especially for people not familiar with the station.

The platforms are all numbered. When platforms are so long that two or more trains can halt at the same platform, the different parts of the platform are indicated with the lowercase letters abc. On some stations, capital letters are used to indicate which part of the train stops at which part of the station. Do not confuse the lowercase and uppercase letters.

Time tables can be found in the station hall and on the platforms. All train tables are normally yellow, with exceptions for the different schedules during planned maintenance works (blue) and queen"s day (orange). Departing trains are printed in blue (on yellow tables), arriving train tables in red. Unlike in other countries, the tables themselves are not ordered by time of departure, but by direction. In some cases, more than one table is necessary to cover a single day for a certain direction. Additionally, more and more stations have blue electronic screens, indicating the trains departing during the next hour.

Discount rail pass

Visitors planning to travel by train in the Netherlands should consider the Eurail pass with the Benelux package. This allows for unlimited train travel within Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg over multiple days. peans, not being eligible for Eurail passes, should look into Inter Rail Passes for their discount train travel.

If two or three people want to travel around the Netherlands together for a few days during the summer, the "Zomertoer" may be used. This pass gives them two, not necessarily consecutive, days of unlimited travel. An add-on also allows you to travel on all other public transportation in the country. In autumn weekends, the "Herfsttoer" also gives some discounts.

If you"re thinking of staying a longer time in the Netherlands it can be a good deal to get the "Voordeelurenkaart" (Off-Peak Discount Pass), which gives the cardholder (and up to three additional persons travelling with him or her) 40% off for one year. 40% discount tickets are valid after 9:00AM on weekdays and the whole day in weekends, on national holidays and in the months July and August. Price €55 for one year (2009). The voordeel-urenkaart must be applied for in advance and can take some weeks to process. A temporary card, which can be used for four weeks, will be issued right away when you apply. Since 2007, applying for a card requires a photograph.

If in the Netherlands for only one day and want to see much of the country by train, you may want to get an "OV-Dagkaart", an all-inclusive ticket for all public transportation for € 45 (2009). But note: it may be cheaper to just buy a ticket. For example: to get your money"s worth on the OV-dagkaart would require about 6 hours train travel in one day.

Slightly more adventurous is to make use of the extra advantages of "Off-peak Discount Passes" or people who have a "Year Pass" (most students or some civil servants). It is possible, but some people may be offended when asked by strangers. There is a way to travel cheaper without having a pass yourselves: find a student with an "O.V.-kaart" (Year Pass for Public Transportation), or someone who possesses a "Voordeel-urenkaart" who travels on the same traject (or part of it) as you do. They are allowed to take up to three fellow travellers (this would be you) who can enjoy a 40% discount. You have to buy the discounted railway-ticket in advance (no need to show your Pass at the desk or buy it from an automatic ticket machine), but it won"t be a problem to find someone accompanying you. This deal only works during weekends, or during weekdays after 9:00AM, on national holidays and in the summer months July and August. When the conductor asks for you "cheaper" railway-ticket; the fellow who is accompanying you must show his "Discount" or "Year Pass". It doesn"t matter who it is as long as someone helps you out during your travel (when they come to check the tickets). Please note that both passengers should travel the same route.

By bus
The network of regional and local buses in the Netherlands is fine-grained and frequent and usually connects well with the train network; you can reach most small villages easily. However, for long-distance travel, these regional buses are not convenient at all, and are much slower than the train.

Fast long-distance buses are only available on a small number of routes that aren"t covered by the rail network; these buses have special names that differ by region, such as "Q-liner," "Brabantliner" and "Interliner," and special tariffs.

There are four main bus companies in the Netherlands, "Connexxion," "Veolia," "Arriva" and "Qbuzz." A few large cities have their own bus company.

A cheap way to get across the Netherlands is to buy a "buzzer" ticket. It costs €10 a day, and is valid after 9AM on every single Connexxion bus for two grownups and up to three children. On weekends and holidays it is also valid before 9AM. Because Connexxion has a near monopoly on the bus market, you can get from Groningen to Zeeland this way in a day, and it undercuts the train. A big downside though is that bus lines are very indirect. For example, if you want to travel from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, you have to change three or more times to get all the way there. In short: bus journeys will almost always take longer than train travel. For example, trip to Rotterdam from Utrecht will take 40 minutes, but in the Bus it will take 1 hour and 30 minutes. However, if you want to enjoy the countryside and villages you can prefer the bus trips.

Many companies and regions have their own bus discount tickets, which are often cheaper than the strippenkaart.

Park-and-ride-(travel-)tickets: some towns and cities have special cheaper bus tickets from car parks near the city limits to the city centre, for outside rush hours, usually a return ticket.

Night buses
Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht offer public transport at night. Only Amsterdam has a service all night and every night; in the other cities it is more limited to the beginning of the night or only during the weekend. Several other cities and regions also have night buses, usually even more limited.

In general these request extra (cash) payment on top of the ordinary ("day-time") strippenkaart or special night-bus tickets. In some cases the ordinary "strippenkaart" is not valid at all and only to be used for daytime travel.

Metro, tram
The two largest cities Amsterdam and Rotterdam have a metro network which runs mainly on elevated railways outside the city centers, and underground within the center. Furthermore there is a large city tram network in the agglomerations of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague; Utrecht has two "sneltram" lines (fast tram or light-rail).

Public Transport tickets
(National) Strippenkaart (multiple-strip-zone-card)
"Note that strippenkaart is slowly being phased out in the Netherlands over the coming years in favour of the new "OV-Chipkaart". Please read the section below, especially if you"re travelling in Rotterdam or Amsterdam, or the province of South Holland (including The Hague)."

In bus, tram and metro (but not trains), there is a national ticketing system, called the "strippenkaart" . Strippenkaarten of 15 or 45 strips are available for €7.70 and €22.80 respectively (2011). A trip always costs the number of zones you travel through, plus one. So a trip through one zone costs two strips, a travel through two zones costs three strips, etc. For example: starting fee + Amsterdam center + Amsterdam east = 3. A trip on the bus within a city is usually 2 or 3 strips of the card (1 or 2 zones). You can change buses and trams (even between companies) an unlimited number of times, or pause your trip and return in opposite direction for a fixed amount of time dependent on the number of strips:

*up to 3 zones: 1 hour
*up to 6 zones: 1,5 hours
*up to 9 zones: 2 hours
*up to 15 zones: 3 hours
*16 or more zones: 3,5 hours

When using the strippenkaart, it is often most convenient to tell the bus driver your destination, and he will stamp the card in the right place. In some busses and trams, you can stamp the card yourself at the yellow boxes at the platforms or inside. On the sneltram in Utrecht, this is even necessary as you cannot speak to the driver.

You can get 15- and 45-strippenkaarten in many places, including bus stations, post offices, cigarmagazine shops and some supermarkets (at the service desk or from a vending machine). On the bus smaller strippenkaarten of 2 and 3 strips are available. These are more more expensive (it costs about twice as much) and not recommended, unless you don"t want to use the buses more than once or twice.

The strippenkaart can also be used for multiple-party travel for yourself and other people at the same time. In this circumstance, stamp the last strip for every passenger. For example, when travelling with two passengers for three zones (which corresponds to three strips) on a blank card, stamp strip number four and eight.

If the card is nearly full, you can split up a trip on the old card and a new card. In this case, also stamp the last strip of the old card.

In general this "card" is valid up until one year after new pricing. If you are eligible for discount (due to the fact that you are a Dutch student with special student-OV-card, or under 12 or over 65) you can buy special reduced - cheaper - pink ones, which will get you the same mileage for a better price.

Keep in mind that you don"t pay to get to a certain destination, but rather for the distance that you travel from your departure point. For example, if you stamp 2 zones in Eindhoven center, the following ride is possible:

Eindhoven center -> Woensel -> Eindhoven center -> Veldhoven

because it"s all in a 1 zone radius from Eindhoven center.
Again, be sure that your stamp is still valid (you can always ask the driver).

The strippenkaart is not valid on some highway (Interliner) busses and night busses.

OV-chipkaart

Introdution of the card

The "strippenkaart" and paper train tickets are being replaced by the contactless smart card "OV-Chipkaart" (OV-Chipcard ) on all forms of public transport (OV stands for "Openbaar Vervoer" meaning Public Transport). The introduction takes place in three phases: (1) region-wise introduction of the new system; (2) co-existence of the old and new systems; (3) region-wise withdrawal of the old system. These phases happen at different speeds for the strippenkaart (bus, tram, metro), where the introduction phase has finished and the withdrawal phase is almost ended, and for train tickets, where the introduction phase is now almost finished and the co-existence phase will last until December 2012.

The new system is now operational in almost all forms of public transport. Now it is advisable to use it for traveling by bus, tram or metro. If you travel by train by multiple transport companies it is advised to travel by paper train tickets because every time you change transport company you have to check in and out (thus including paying boarding rate). Also it is more difficult to get compensation if you have delay when traveling by train with the OV-chipkaart.


Card types and obtaining a card

The OV-chipkaart comes in three versions:
* Disposable OV-chipkaart sold with a travel product that cannot be recharged or reloaded with another product. It does not contain an electronic purse and is meant for people who rarely use public transport in the Netherlands. They are available for a range of fares, such as a three-day pass to all public transport in one city. The single-trip variants are sold on the bus by the driver, and sometimes on the tram.
* Anonymous OV-chipkaart available for €7.50 at ticket offices and vending machines valid up till 5 years. This card is reusable and has an electronic purse. It is transferable, and therefore cannot be used for discounted travel, or for monthly or annual season tickets. However, the anonymous card can contain multiple products simultaneously, as long as those are "simple" travel products, like those available for the disposable card.
* Personal OV-chipkaart is useful for anyone entitled to travel with a discount. It is also the only type that can hold a monthly or annual season ticket. Because of these characteristics, the personal card is non-transferable and features the holder"s photograph and date of birth. The personal OV-chipkaart has an electronic purse. In addition, it can be set to automatically top its balance up when it drops below a certain level. The personal card is the only one that can be blocked if it is lost or stolen.

Which card you should choose, depends on how often and how long you are in the Netherlands and how often you use public transport. If you are likely to use the bustrammetro three times or more per year, it usually pays to get an anonymous card, rather than buy a disposable one for every trip. If you are likely to do a lot of travelling in a relatively short time, you could opt for a disposable one-day or multi-day card.

Travelers can buy a travel product, for example a one-day pass for an entire city or a monthly season ticket for a certain route. When they check out after the trip (see next section), the system will recognise that a certain product has been used and, if necessary, deactivate it.
The other option is to use money from the electronic purse on the OV-chipkaart. On checking in, the system will charge a checking-in fee (€20 for NS trains, €4 for metro, tram and bus), which will be refunded as soon as the traveller checks out, minus the fare for the trip actually made. If a user fails to check out, the checking-in fee, which is higher than the fare for most actual journeys, is not refunded.
Loading travel credit can be done at station ticket machines and at ticket offices.
During a trip, personnel can check cards with a mobile card reader. You must be travelling away from the point where you checked in.

Usage

When travelling by train or metro, the OV-chipkaart is held against a card reader as soon as the traveller enters the platform. The card has now been "checked in", and the boarding fee will be charged to the card. When the passenger leaves at another station, the card is held against the card reader again in order to "check out"; the boarding fee is refunded (minus the fare for the journey actually made if the traveller is using the e-purse).
There are two types of card reader systems on train and metro stations: free-standing card readers, and card readers integrated into ticket gates.
When travelling by tram or bus, travellers check in and out when entering or leaving the vehicle. Card readers are placed near each door for this purpose.

Checking in and out is required when you transfer from any one form of transport to another, except when you transfer from one train to another. When you cannot check-out (i.e. the check-out device is defective), you can claim costs with your public transport company.

Unused credit

It is possible to get a refund of unused credit on Personal and Anonymous cards at a ticket office for a €2.50 fee. The anonymous and personal OV-chipkaart have a validity of four to five years. Any credit that"s still on an old card can be transferred to a new card; for free if the old card is still valid, or for €2.50 if it isn"t.

Travel information
*"9292ov.nl - Journey planner for all Dutch public transport" - All public transport companies participate in the OV Reisplanner, which can plan a door-to-door trip for you using all public transportation types. The site mostly relies on scheduled detours, but delays are incorporated to a limited degree. 9292 OV-informations is also available by telephone: 0900-9292 (€ 0,70 per minutemax. € 14,-).
*"Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways)" - Information about the trains can be found at the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) website , which includes a trip planner which uses the latest information about train delays and detours. For the information of the other transport types they use 9292ov information.
*"Google Maps (Transit)" - Some public transport is also in Google Maps, the planner is however not reliable. Beside is has no current information it makes lot of mistakes. This year more transport companies will participate, and Google will enhance the planner.
*"During the journey" - At large train stations are (yellow) information desks, at most smaller stations there is an informationSOS kiosk. If you push the blue information button you are connected to an operator from 9292ov. If you ask train-staff, they often look for you in their smart-phone journey-planner. Almost all vehicles have digital displays with current travel information. Most train platforms and some bus stops have electronic information. Both 9292ov and NS also have mobile sites.

By car
A car is a good way to explore the countryside, especially places not connected by rail, such as Veluwe, parts of Zeeland and The North Sea islands. The motorway network is extensive, though heavily used. Congestion during peak hour is usual and can better be avoided. Roads are well signposted.
When driving in cities, always give priority to cyclists when turning across a cycle lane. If you are involved in a collision with a cyclist, you will be automatically liable (though not guilty). If you wish to see only cities, a car is not the best option. Due to limited road capacity and parking, cars are actively discouraged from entering most bigger cities.

"Public transport buses have the priority when leaving a bus stop", so be careful as they may pull in front of you expecting that you will give way.

Drive on the right. The speed limit in built up areas is 50 kmh with some zones limited to maximum of 30 kmh. Outside of towns speed is limited to 80 kmh (this includes most N-roads). On some local roads the speed limit is 60 kmh. On the highways the limit is 120 kmh except on some roads where the limit is 100 kmh or 130 kmh. During rush hour signs above many roads indicate the current speed limit. On semi-highways and some of the N-roads the speed limit is 100 kmh.

Your speed will be checked nationwide by the police and fines are heavy. Pay extra attention to "Trajectcontrole" signs: that means that in the road you"re driving there is an automatic system that checks your average speed on a long section. Radar detectors are illegal devices to have in your car. They will be impounded and you will be fined €250. Keep in mind that the police use so-called radar detector detectors to track down radar detector users, so it is best to turn them off. Drinking and driving is not allowed and this is enforced strongly. Breathalyzer tests occur frequently, both on an individual basis (i.e. you get pulled over and the police see it necessary for you to undergo a breathalyzer test) as on a bigger scale (i.e. the police has set up a designated control checkpoint on a highway). A unbroken yellow line next to the sidewalk means "no stopping", a broken yellow next to the sidewalk means "no parking". Some crossings have "shark teeth" painted on the road, this means you have to give way to the other traffic.

Note that police also use unmarked traffic surveillance cars, especially on the highways. They have a video surveillance system and often they "don"t" stop you right after doing a violation but they keep on following you. That means if you do more violations, you"ll be fined for everything you did. Note that the policemen in unmarked cars are "obliged" to identify themselves after pulling you over, which means you shouldn"t have to ask. Policemen in marked cars have to show their ID only when you ask them for it, but they too are obliged to show it when asked.

If your car breaks down on the highway you might go to the nearest roadside emergency telephone; these "praatpalen" can be recognized as they are about 1.5m high, yellow and have a rounded bunny-eared cap on top. This is the direct connection to the emergency and assistance services.

Alternatively, you might use a mobile phone to reach the ANWB autoclub via toll-free number 0800-0888; your membership of a foreign autoclub might entitle you to discount rates on their services. Leased (business) cars and rental cars are usually serviced by the ANWB services included in the leaserental price; but you may want to check any provided booklets.

If you are involved in an accident, both drivers need to complete and counter-sign a statement for their respective insurance companies (damage form"schadeformulier"). You are required to have this form on hand. The police need to be notified if you have damaged (public) property (especially along the highways), if you have caused any sort of injury, or if the other driver does not agree to sign the insurance statement. It is illegal to hit and run. If the other driver does this, call the police and stay at the scene. The emergency telephonenumber is 112 (tollfree, will even work from disconnected mobile phones); the telephonenumber for non-emergency police presence is 0900-8844.

Road signs with directions are plenty, but having a map is useful, especially in cities where there are many one way streets, and getting from one part of the city to another is not always so straightforward. Be careful not to drive on buslanes, often indicated with markings such as "Lijnbus" or "Bus", nor on cycling paths, marked by the picture of a bicycle, or by a reddish color of asphalt. Also, do not use the rush-hour-lanes ("Spitsstrook") when the matrix display above the designated lane indicates a red "X" - this means they cannot be used.

Fuel is easy to come by. Along highways many gas stations are open 247. More and more unmanned gas stations can be found, even along highways, selling petrol for a lower rate. These unattended stations accept all common debit and creditcards. All gas stations sell both petrol and diesel; the "premium" brands have the same octane level (they alledgedly contain compounds that improve fuel efficiency to offset the higher price). Liquid Petroleum Gas is sold at relatively many gas stations along the high ways, but it is never sold in built-up areas. The symbol for LPG gas is a green-colored gaspump-icon, set beside the general case black-colored gaspump-icon. LPG fueled cars need regular petrol to start the motor, and can also be operated using strictly petrol, though it is more expensive.

If you come in the Netherlands with your LPG fueled car, probably you will need an adaptor. If you buy in your country, ask for the "specific" Dutch adaptor. The plug sold as "european" (screw style), is used in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany but won"t fit Dutch pumps.


Parking fees within cities can be pretty steep. When considering going to bigger cities, such as Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Rotterdam, consider use of public transportion to avoid traffic jams and the great difficulties involved in finding a parking spot.
P+R "park and ride" facilities are available at the outskirts of bigger cities; you can park your car cheaply there, and continue your journey via public transport.

By taxi

Taxi service was traditionally a tightly guarded monopoly. In recent years, the market was deregulated, but prices are still high. Taxi drivers are licensed, but they do not, as of yet, have to pass a proficiency exam, providing they know the streets. This is planned in the future, since the taxi market is being re-regulated. In the bigger cities taxi drivers can be un-friendly to very rude. One will find that especially in the western part of the country the cost of a taxi are very high for very little politeness and service. The public transport system often proves to be cheaper and a lot faster.

Some taxi drivers refuse short rides (e.g. under €10). This is illegal, but it"s hard to enforce this prohibition. There is a maximum tarriff, and it"s built into the taxi meters. If you negotiote a price before you get in, the price you have to pay is the negotiated price, or the metered price, whichever is lower. Getting in a cab without enough money to pay for the ride is illegal, so it"s wise to negotiate a price.

All legal taxis have blue license plates. So do some other vehicles for group transport, such as minibus services for the handicapped.

By thumb
Making your way on thumb is accepted and locals that take you typically expect no payment in return. It"s less suited for short rides from small towns or minor streets, as the lack of traffic may cause a long wait. Hitch-hiking "on" the highwaysmotorways is not allowed but generally tolerated on the interchangesaccess points, provided you do not create a dangerous traffic situation. Try to stay before the traffic sign "highwaymotorway" on a spot where cars have slow speed and where it is possible for drivers to stop and let you get it. The same safety rule applies to highway gas stations and rest places, ans to traffic lights on non-motorway roads.

For longer distances, the large amount of highway crossings make it difficult to find a driver going to your exact destination, while the limited number of gas stations make it hard to change cars half way. A simple (cardboard) plate with your destination written on it is a common way to increase chances of finding the right driver, and may also convince suited drivers that they will not be stopping in vain.

There are official hitch-hiking spots ("liftershalte") (lift-stops) and recommended unofficial spots at the centre or edge of a few major cities:

Amsterdam
Liftplaats at Prins Bernardplein
* Prins Bernhardplein , before NS Station Amsterdam Amstel (on east side of the river Amstel) (past the bus stop). Leads to the ramp of the S112 of the A10, direction E231-A1E35-A2. It is recommended for the directions Middle-East-Netherlands. For other directionsroutes try also alternative spots.
"Alternative spots other directions"(recommended for the directions West-South-Netherlands):
* Amstel (on the west side of the river Amstel) near traffic-lightsUtrechtsebrug and near beginning-end-stop of Tram-line 25. Leads to the ramp of the S111 of the A10, directions E35-A2-E25E231-A1.
* Junction S109 of the A10, close to NS Station RAI (RAI Congress Centre; specially when there are large events or congresses). Leads to the ramp of the S109 of the A10, directions E35-A2-E25E19-A4E231-A1.
*At bus stop Amstelveenseweg Ringweg Zuid just northeast from metro station Amstelveensweg. There is an on-ramp which leads to the A10 North, A4 South and A9 (both directions). What makes this location convenient is that cars can easily stop in the bus lane in order to pick you up.

Den Haag
* Utrechtsebaan next to the northside of the Malieveld, at the beginning of the E30-A12 towards Utrecht. Also possibilities towards E19-A4 Delft-Rotterdam or E19-A44 Leiden-Amsterdam
"Alternative spots other directions:"
* edge northwest-side of Malieveldcrossing Zuid-Holland-laanUtrechtse baanBenoordenhoutseweg, towards Leidsestraatweg N44 and Leiden E19-A44 and Amsterdam E19-A4.

Nijmegen
* Graafseweg (Venlo and Den Bosch), at the major city-centre roundabout ("verkeersplein") Keizer Karelplein (hitch-hiking on the roundabout itself is not recommended)
* near the Waalbrugbefore the bridge in direction Arnhem,
* at the Annastraat, close to the Radboud University (RU)University Medical Centre (UMC)
* at the Triavium, across shopping centre Dukenburg

Other cities:
* "Groningen": Emmaviaduct ("200m west of Centraal Station"), on the road to A28
*"Maastricht" at the beginning of A2 near the soccer-football stadium "De Geusselt", to E25-A2 (Eindhoven) and A79 (Heerlen).
*"Utrecht" close to petrol station and ramp of the Waterlinieweg near "De Galgewaard" soccer-football-stadium, north to A27A28, south to A2A12A27.

By bicycle

Cycling in the Netherlands is much safer and more convenient than in other countries, because of the infrastructure - cycle paths, cycle lanes, and signposted cycle routes. However, the proliferation of bicycles also means that you"re seen as a serious part of traffic - motorists will hate you if you don"t keep by the rules. Some things to know:

* Cycle lanes and cycle paths are indicated by a round blue sign with a white bike icon, an icon on the asphalt, or by red asphalt. Using them is mandatory.
* Cyclists must obey the same traffic signs as motorists, unless exempted. For example, a cycle icon under a no-entry sign, usually with the text "uitgezonderd" (except), means cyclists may use the street in both directions.
* Where there is no cycle lane or path, use the regular road. This is unlike the rule in Germany and Belgium, where you are supposed to use the footpath in many places.
* On some narrow streets that do have a cycle path parallel to them, mopeds may be required to use the cycle path, rather than the main street (as is usual).
* Bicycles must have working front (white) and rear (red) lights. Reflectors are "not" sufficient. You may be fined (€ 40) for cycling in the dark without a light, and you seriously endanger yourself and other traffic by doing so. Small, battery-operated LED lights attached to your person are allowed.

There are different ways to use a bicycle:

* if you are staying in a city, you can use the bike as a means of transport, to get from A to B. This is the way local people use it, for short journeys it is faster than car, bus or tram. You can use the bike to get to places near the city, which may not be accessible by public transport.
* you can cycle around on the bike, in a city, or in the surrounding area. The bike is then a means to see places and landscapes. The many "signposted cycle routes" are designed for this, most of them are octagonal and take you back to the starting point. Some rural routes go through areas inaccessible by car. Signs for bicycle routes are usually white, with a red border and lettering. In most parts of the Netherlands it"s possible to create your own routes by connecting marked and numbered points called "knooppunten".
* you can take the bike on a train, for a day trip to another city or region. It costs € 6, and you may not travel with a bike in the rush hour. You must carry a supplementary ticket called "dagkaart fiets", which is easily obtained from the automated kiosks. As an alternative, you can easily rent bikes at (or near) stations. Folding bikes can be taken on board for free when folded.
* you can load your tent on the bike, and set off across the country. For this you do need to be fit, and not afraid of rain. The national "long-distance cycle routes" are designed for this type of holiday, see Cycling in the Netherlands Long-distance routes .
The best online routeplanner for cyclists can be found at a wikiplanner made by volunteers of the Dutch cyclist union "Fietsersbond".

Bike theft

Bike theft is a serious problem in the Netherlands, especially around train stations, and in larger cities. If possible, use the guarded bike parking ("stalling") at train stations and in some city centres. They will cost up to €1.20 per day. In general, "use 2 locks of different kinds" (for example, one chain lock and one tube lock). This is because most bike thieves specialize in a particular kind of lock, or carry equipment best suited to one kind of lock. Ideally, you should lock the bike to a lamppost or similar. Bike thieves have been known to simply pickup unattached bikes and load them into a pickup truck, so they can crack open the locks at leisure.

In cities, most bikes are stolen by drug addicts, and they sell most stolen bikes too. They often simply offer them for sale to passers-by, if they think no police are watching. Buying a stolen bike is itself illegal, and police do arrest buyers. If you buy for a suspiciously low price (e.g. € 10 to 20), or in a suspicious place (in general, on the street), the law presumes you "know or should have known" the bike was stolen. In other words, actual ignorance of the bike"s origins is no excuse.

Bike shops are the best place to buy a second-hand bike legally, but prices are high. Some places where you can rent bikes will also sell their written off stock, which is usually well maintained. Most legal (and often cheap) second-hand bike sales now go through online auction sites like marktplaats.nl - the Dutch subsidiary of Ebay.

The Dutch bicycle-share system "OV-fiets" is only accessible for residents of the Netherlands or those who have a Dutch bank account. The member fee of 9 euros a year and 3 euros per trip is written of automatically.

By plane
Due to the small size of the country as well as the abundance of road and rail connections, domestic flights have proven to be unprofitable in the past. Therefore, none exist at the moment.

Talk
The national language in the Netherlands is Dutch. It"s a charming, lilting language punctuated by phlegm-trembling glottal "g"s (not in the south) and "sch"s (also found, for example, in Arabic). Dutch, especially in spoken form, is partially intelligible to someone who knows other Germanic languages (especially German and Frisian), and you might be able to get along at least partially in these languages if spoken slowly.

Besides Dutch, several other languages are spoken in the Netherlands, in the eastern provinces of Groningen, Overijsel, Drenthe and Gelderand people speak a local variety of Low Saxon (Grunnegs or Tweants for example). In the southern province of Limburg the majority speaks Limburgish, a language unique in pe because of its use of pitch and tone length to distinguish words (for example: "Veer" with a high tone means "we", while the same word with a low tone means "four").

Officially, the Netherlands is bilingual, as Frisian is also an official language. Frisian is the closest living language to English. Despite its status as official language, it is spoken almost exclusively in the province of Friesland. Other forms of Frisian are also spoken by small minorities in Germany. When travelling through Friesland you will come across many roadsigns in two languages (similar to Wales and South Tyrol). This is also the case in southern Limburg. Everybody speaks Dutch, but the Frisians are so protective of the minority language that ordering a beer in it might just get you the next one free. In areas bordering Germany, German is widely spoken. However, outside of the eastern provinces, a good amount of people (especially amongst the younger generation) can also speak basic German too. French will be understood by some as well, especially the older generations. Immigrant languages are prominent in urban areas, they include Turkish, Arabic, Sranan-Tongo (Surinam) and Papiamento (Netherlands Antilles).

"They all speak English there" is quite accurate for the Netherlands. Education from an early age in English and other pean languages (mostly German and French) makes the Dutch some of the most fluent polyglots on the continent. Oblivious travelers to the major cities should be able to make their way without learning a word of Dutch. Dealing with seniors or finding yourself in a family atmosphere, however, will probably require learning a bit of the native tongue.

Foreign television programmes and films are almost always shown in their original language with subtitles. Only children"s programmes are dubbed into Dutch.

See
Historic city centres
Wandering through the magnificent city of Amsterdam, with its lovely canals and hundreds of 17th century monuments, is a delightful experience. For most people, no visit to The Netherlands would be complete without at least a good day in its bustling capital. Nevertheless, it is only one of many towns in the country to offer a beautiful, historic centre. Before Amsterdam"s rise to fame in the late 16th century, the fortified city of "Utrecht" was the country"s most important town, and it is still the religious capital today. Much of Utrecht"s Medieval structure remains, with canals flanked by warf-based structures, lots of buildings from the Early Middle Ages and some impressive ancient churches. "Maastricht", all the way in the south, holds a claim to be the most beautiful city in the Netherlands. It is known for its romantic lanes, ancient monuments, and for what the Dutch call a "Burgundian" atmosphere. "Leiden", birthplace of Rembrandt and home to the oldest university of the country, is yet another beautiful place with canals, narrow streets and over 2700 monuments. "The Hague", famously host to the International Court of Justice, has a more spacious layout, with large estates and the ancient Binnenhof, where the Dutch Government has had its seat for ages. If you want more, consider the gorgeous old town centres of "Haarlem", "Delft", "s-Hertogenbosch", "Delft" or "Amersfoort".

Countryside, picturesque villages & castles
Thinking about the Dutch countryside, you might imagine wide, flat grass lands with black and white cows. If you do, you"re not far off. Tulip fields are quite specific to the "Bulb Region", and large parts of the country side are grass fields with cows on them or farm lands. Quite a large part of the lands, especially in the western part of the country, are polders; reclaimed lands, separated by ditches. And they are, indeed, remarkably flat, except for the lovely rolling landscapes in the very south. The rural countryside is dotted with picturesque villages, old farms, impressive summer estates and of course beautiful castles. They make great destinations for a recreational bike trip or can serve as a laid-back base, from where you can explore cities in the area. The hilly landscape of "South Limburg" has characteristic timber-framed houses and lots of castles, while the province of Gelderland combines its many castles (Palace "t Loo being the highlight) with the natural beauties of the "Veluwe". Don"t worry if you"re headed somewhere else: you"ll find these treasures of the Dutch countryside in every province.

Windmills, clogs, tulips and more
For many foreigners, nothing says "The Netherlands" more than windmills, wooden shoes, tulips and remarkably flat lands. Although some of these characteristics have become stereotypes as far as daily life is concerned, there"s still a lot of historic truth to them and plenty of authenticity to be found. The Dutch have well preserved many elements from this part of their past, both for touristic and historic reasons. "Kinderdijk" (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) boast a system of 19 wind mills, once used to drain the adjoining polder. "Zaanse Schans" has windmills as well as a nice museum and a range of traditional, old Dutch houses that have been moved here to preserve them in a museum-like way. "Schiedam" (world famous for its gin) has the tallest wind mills on earth, and they"re right in its lovely old town centre. At Schokland you"ll find an 1850"s ghost village which remains largely intact. For a touch of folklore, see traditional clothing and fishermen"s boats in Volendam or Marken. The Netherlands are still a major international player in the flower industry, and if you"re visiting in Spring, the tulip fields in the Bulb Region are a lovely Dutch alternative to the lavender fields you"d find in France. In March-May the famous "Keukenhof", the world"s largest flower garden, is a great way to see the best that the flower industry has to offer.


Art museums
This very small country has brought forward an impressive number of world-famous painters. Especially during the Dutch Golden Age (17th century), arts in general and painting in particular flourished in the prosperous Dutch Republic, but renown artists lived here long before and after too. Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, Vincent van Gogh, Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Jacob van Ruysdael and Piet Mondriaan are just a few of the many Dutch painters who"s works now hang on the walls of the world"s greatest museums. Fortunately, some of these world-class museums can be found in The Netherlands itself and even many smaller museums have some works by major artists on display. In Amsterdam, you"ll find the "Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh-museum and Stedelijk Museum" right next to each other, all with excellent collections. "Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen" in Rotterdam modern and ancient Dutch art, including Rembrandt and Van Gogh, as well as foreign masters and a huge collection of drawings. The "Kröller-Müller Museum" is beautifully located in the Hoge Veluwe National Park and boast the second largest Van Gogh collection. Less focused on the Dutch arts but still with unique (modern) collections, The "Van Abbe-museum" in Eindhoven and "Groninger Museum" in Groningen have good collections and at times brilliant expositions. The fairly new "Hermitage Amsterdam" has all the grandeur of its big sister in Saint Petersburg, with changing Russia-oriented exhibitions ons display.

Living with the water
The Dutch are famous for their struggle with the sea. As a great naval power, the Netherlands owed its 17th century Golden Age to the water, and still depends heavily on it for modern day trade and fisheries, as the massive, modern harbour of Rotterdam can testify. However, with much of the country"s land below sea level, the water also caused terrible floods and great losses over the centuries. Dutch attempts to protect their lands with dikes are well recorded from the 12th century, but started some 2000 years ago. An enormous flood in 1287 created the large Zuiderzee bay, now the IJsselmeer. From then on, a long process of reclaiming the lands lost to that sea began. Windmills and extensive networks of dikes were used to pump out the water, slowly creating polders and even the whole current province of Flevoland. The "Beemster" polder is a World Heritage Sight and when you visit, you get a few fortifications of the Defence Line of Amsterdam (a World Heritage Sight of its own!) as a bonus. After another devastating flood in 1916, the country started a massive undertaking to reclaim and tame the Zuiderzee. In the 1930"s the impressive "Afsluitdijk" was finished, turning the sea into a fresh water lake called "IJsselmeer". The "Zuiderzeemuseum" in lovely Enkhuizen is devoted to the cultural heritage and folklore of the region, as well as the maritime history of the Zuiderzee. The world famous "Delta Works" reflect the struggle against the sea in Zeeland and Zuid Holland and has a visitors themeparc called "Neeltje Jans". The American Society of Civil Engineers recognized the Zuidezee works and Deltaworks collectively as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.


Do

*Efteling: Founded in Fairytales

Efteling was officially opened on 31 May 1952. The original park included several sport pitches, a playground and a Fairytale Forest with ten fairytale characters. In those early years, it was primarily thanks to the pioneering efforts of Efteling Nature Park Foundation Chairman Van der Heijden, illustrator Anton Pieck and inventorengineering expert Peter Reijnders that the magical spirit of Efteling was brought to life. Over the years, Efteling has continued to foster that original spirit. Today, while Efteling’s history stretches back almost 60 years, its World of Wonders continues to draw inspiration from the same source: its fairytale foundations.

*In miniature city Madurodam you will see the well-known buildings and scenes in The Netherlands replicated on a scale 1:25. The Parliament buildings of The Hague, the canal houses of Amsterdam, the Alkmaar cheese market and little trees and gardens, all replicated in minute detail. Windmills turn, ships sail and modern trains are tracersing the city on the world"s largest miniature railway.

*During a visit to the Vodka Museum you`ll receive a personal guide, who will walk you through the 3-story museum and tell you everything there is to tell about vodka. The visit to the museum will teach you everything about the long and interesting history of vodka, the production process, the different types of vodka, and the taste of course! It`s an adventure that takes you back in time, from the origins of vodka, to the world of cocktails and bar-tending today.

Events
* Every two years, the country goes "football crazy" as either the pean Championship or the World Cup is held. It"s not uncommon for literally fifty percent of the population to be watching a game if it"s a particularly important one. Often bigger cities will put up large tv screens for the general public, like on the Rembrandtplein in Amsterdam. Likewise, cafes and bars are another popular place to watch games.
* In the Southern Netherlands (North Brabant, Limburg and to a smaller extent also in Twente, Overijssel and the south of Gelderland), the Catholic celebration of "Carnival" is held since medieval times. It occurs immediately before Lent; which is usually during February or March. Parades can be seen almost in any town on Sunday, sometimes also occurring on Monday. Parades can also be held in the evening, usually on Saturdays all the wagons are then lit up by numerous small lights. The other days of the week, many activities can be found ranging from street painting (stoepkrijten) to beer drinking contests. The cities of "s-Hertogenbosch, Breda and Maastricht are advisable for attending Carnival.
* "Queen"s Day" ("Koninginnedag") is held every year at April 30th all over the country (except if this day is a Sunday, then it will be held at the Saturday before). In every village and town, you will find frollicking Dutch, free markets and authentic Dutch games. Nowadays Queen´s day much more becomes a day of festivals and partys. It is advised to wear orange clothes, most Dutch people walk around in their national colour. An advisable city to attend at this day is Amsterdam, because it"s one of the largest events of the year there. In several larger cities (most notably The Hague and Utrecht), the festivities start in the evening of the 29th of April.
*"Pinkpop" is a three-day pop festival every year with Pentecost ("Pink"steren") in Landgraaf, Limburg.
* "Lowlands" popfestival - every last weekend of August at Biddinghuizen, Flevoland.
* "Summercarnaval" - A big parade through the center of Rotterdam. One of the biggest events in The Netherlands.
* "Heineken Dance Parade" - A big dance parade through Rotterdam. Much in the spirit of the popular Love Parade in Germany.
* "Northsea Jazz Festival" - Big summer jazz festival, held in the Ahoy stadion, Rotterdam since 2006 as it moved there from The Hague. Around 1,800 jazz, blues, funk, soul, hip Hop, latin and r&b acts play during this 3 day event.
* "Vierdaagsefeesten" - Summer festival in Nijmegen lasting seven days, during the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse, which always starts on the 3rd Tuesday in July. The celebrations though start already the weekend before and over 1 million people attend. During the festival, there is a section for all the top Dutch bands such as Moke and Racoon, De Affaire which is focussed on alternative and rock, The Matrixx which has all your electronic dance music needs, and of course the numerous terraces and bars.
* "Sensation" - (Formely known as "Sensation White") One of the best-known parties in the world organized by ID&T. 40,000 people all dressed in white gather to hear some big and upcoming house music DJs. Tickets usually sell out very fast. Several international editions are being organized several times a year around the world with the main concert being held in Amsterdam ArenA every summer. Sensation Black (with hardstyle music) was previously hosted annually in the same location but is now being held in Belgium instead.
*"Dance Valley" - The largest dance festival, with over 40,000 visitors. Annually mid July in park Spaarnwoude, near Schiphol Airport. The focus is on celebrating summer, and has circus tents in which every tent is a different genre in dance music.
* "Mystery Land" - Dance festival with a flower-power theme. In the last week of August near Schiphol Airport. Most dance genres are present, including even electro. Also has activities such as workshops and theatre, which are usually uncommon with dance festivals.
* "Defqon.1" - Dance festival focussing on the harder dance styles, such as hardstyle and hardcore. Residing in Flevoland, usually in mid June, but in 2009 is held in mid September.

Parties for every day of the year (mostly electronic music) in the whole Netherlands can be found listed on Partyflock.

Buy


A lot of shops do not accept banknotes of €100, €200 and €500, due to concerns about counterfeiting and burglary. Shops usually open by 9AM and they usually close by 5:30PM or 6PM. Most shops are closed on Sundays, except at the "koopzondag". "Koopzondag" means the biggest part or all the shops are open. It depents from town to town wich Sunday is the "koopzondag". In most towns it is the last or first Sunday in a month. In a few cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag and Leiden) the shops are open every sunday, in most cases they are open from noon till 5PM or 6PM. In Amsterdam centrum area is an exception, since you can see the shops open till 9PM and Sundays from noon till 6PM. The shops can be crowded with people coming into town from outside the city. In some areas shops are closed on Monday morning.


*
Credit cards & ATM"s
For safety reasons, credit card use in the Netherlands increasingly requires a PIN-code. Credit card use in general is reasonable common, but not by far as much as in the US or some other pean countries. The Dutch themselves often use (debit) bank cards, for which even small shops and market stands usually have a machine. In tourist destinations you will generally find credit cards widely accepted, as well as in larger shops and restaurants in the rest of the country, but ask in advance or check the icons that are usually displayed at the entrance.

ATM"s are readily available, mostly near shopping and nightlife areas. The very smallest ones excluded, even villages usually have an ATM.

Costs

Accommodation and food is on the expensive side. Rail travel, museums, and attractions are relatively cheap. Retail prices for clothing, gifts, etc. are similar to most of Western pe; consumer electronics are a bit more expensive. Gasoline, tobacco and alcohol are relatively expensive due to excise taxes.

Shop

The Netherlands is a good place to buy "flowers". Outside florists, you can buy them pre-packaged in most supermarkets.

Klompen
The Netherlands is famous for its wooden shoes. However, nowadays almost no one, except for farmers in the countryside, wear them. You could travel through the Netherlands for weeks and find no one using them for footwear. The only place where you"ll find them is in tourist shops. Wearing wooden shoes in public will earn you quite a few strange looks from the locals.

If you do try them on, the famous "wooden shoes" are surprisingly comfortable, and very useful in any rural setting. Think of them as all-terrain footwear; easy to put on for a walk in the garden, field or on a dirt road. If you live in a rural area at home, consider taking a pair of these with you if you can. Avoid the kitschy tourist shops at Schiphol and Amsterdam"s Damrak street, and instead look for a regular vendor which can usually be found in towns and villages in rural areas. The northern province of Friesland has a lot of stores selling wooden shoes, often adorned with the bright colors of the Frisian flag.

Eat
A fancy serve of herring at a restaurant
Pea soup ("snert") with bacon

The Netherlands is not known for its cuisine, but hearty Dutch fare can be quite good if done well. A conventional Dutch meal consists of meat, potatoes and some type of vegetable on the side. The Dutch, however, are known for their specialties and delicious treats:

* Dutch cheese is particularly famous, especially Gouda, Edam, Leerdammer, Maaslander and Maasdam.

* "Raw herring" ("haring"), which is actually cured in salt. It"s available both from ubiquitous herring stands and fancy restaurants, usually served with chopped onion and occasionally even plopped into a bun to make "broodje haring". New herrings ("Hollandse Nieuwe") is a special treat available around June.

* "Pea soup" ("erwtensoep" or "snert"), made of green peas and smoked sausage. Can be very hearty and a meal itself if there are enough potatoes and other veggies mixed in.

* "Bitterbal" (a round ball of ragout covered in breadcrumbs and deep-fried), served in bars as snacks with drinks and usually arrive in groups of at least five or as part of a bittergarnituur, always with mustard. Be sure to try these, Dutch people love them.

* "Bittergarnituur", a plate containing different warm and cold snacks, like blocks of cheese, slices of sausage, bitterballen, perhaps something like chicken nuggets or mini spring rolls, and mustard or chili sauce for dipping. One usually orders a bittergarnituur along with (alcoholic) drinks, from which the name of the dish is derived (translated to English "bitterganituur" would become "Dutch gin garnish").

* "Borecole mash pot" ("boerenkool"), mashed potatoes with borecole, often served with a sausage.

* "Asperges Flamandes". White asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, ham, crumbled hard-boiled egg and served with boiled new potatoes. Highly seasonal and usually only eaten between spring and summer.

* "Dutch Sauerkraut" ("zuurkool"), mashed potatoes with sauerkraut.

* "Hotch-potch" ("hutspot"), mashed potatoes with onions & carrots. Served with slowly cooked meats or sausage.

* "Stoofvlees" is the slowly cooked meat eaten with "hutspot".

* "Endive mashed pot" ("stamppot andijvie"), potatoes mashed with endive and bacon.

* "Rookworst" (literally "smoked sausage"), available to go from HEMA department store outlets, but also widely available in supermarkets.

* "Dutch pancakes" (pannenkoeken), which are either sweet ("zoet") or savoury ("hartig") in variety of tastes, like apple, syrup, cheese, bacon etc. Eat them in pancake houses ("pannenkoekenhuizen")

*"Food from former colonies" like Indonesia and Suriname. Many traditional dished from these countries have become part of the Dutch kitchen or even staple foods.

For dessert:

* "Poffertjes" are small slightly risen pancakes with butter and powdered sugar Eat them in "poffertjeshuizen".

* "Syrup waffle" ("Stroopwafel"). Two thin layers with syrup in between. Available packaged from any supermarket or made fresh on most street markets and specialized stalls.

* "Limburgse vlaai" (predominantly in the Southern Netherlands), dozens of kinds of cold sweet pie, usually with a fruit topping.

Other "typically Dutch" foodstuffs are:

* "Chocolate sprinkles" ("Hagelslag"), sprinkled on top of buttered slices of bread (much like jam).

* "Chocolate spread" on bread (like Nutella).

* "Unadorned chocolate bars" ("Pure chocolade").

* "Dutch peanut butter" on bread, which is considerably different from e.g. US peanut butter. Dutch peanut butter is also the basis for Dutch Indonesian or "Indo" saté (satay) sauce which also contains lots of Asian herbs and spices.

* A bread roll with butter and a slice of cheese for lunch, rather than more elaborate lunches,

* "Dutch coffee" (dark, high caffeine grounds, traditionally brewed),

* "Liquorice" ("drop") is something you love or hate, you can buy all kinds of varieties. You can get it from sweet to extremely salty (double salt) and in a hard or soft bite.

* "Tompouce" (a mille-feuille or Napolean).

* "Nonnenvotten" (a Limburgish braided doughnut sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Usually seasonal in the winter).

Some of these "typically Dutch" foodstuffs taste significantly different from, but do not necessarily improve upon, specialties from other countries. For example, while Dutch coffee and chocolate can instill feelings of homesickness in expats and might be seen as "soul food", fine Belgian chocolate and Italian coffees (espresso, etc.) are considered to be delicacies.

Other seasonal food: "Pepernoten", "Kruidnoten", "taai-taai", "kerststol", "paasstol", "oliebollen".

Restaurants

As Dutch people usually eat Dutch food at home, most restaurants specialize in something other than local fare. Every medium-sized town has its own "ChineseIndonesian restaurant", often abbreviated as Chin.Ind. restaurant, where you can eat a combination of Chinese and Indonesian dishes. Usually you get a lot of food for a small amount of money. Do not expect authentic Chinese or Indonesian cuisine though, the taste has been adapted for Dutch citizens. These restaurants have been influenced by the Dutch East Indies (currently Indonesia) from when they were a colony of the Netherlands. Typical dishes are fried rice (Indonesian: "nasi goreng"), fried bakmi ("bami goreng") and prawn crackers ("kroepoek"). A suggestion is the famous Dutch-Indonesian rice table ("rijsttafel"), which is a combination of several small dishes from the East Indies, not unlike the "nasi padang" of Indonesia. Most of them have a sit-in area and a separate counter for take-away with lower prices.

Besides ChineseIndonesian, the bigger cities offer a good choice of restaurants with "Middle Eastern cuisine" for a bargain price (such as the Nieuwmarkt in Amsterdam). Popular dishes are shawarma ("shoarma"), lahmacun (often called "Turkish pizza") and falafel. The Argentinian, French, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Spanish, Surinam and Thai cuisines are also well-represented in the Netherlands.

Modern Dutch restaurants serve good quality food and are relatively expensive compared with surrounding countries. Most of the time, profit is made from the drinks and the desert, so be careful ordering those if you are on a budget. In the Netherlands, going to a restaurant is generally not seen as a quick way to eat food, but as a special night out with friends or family, which can take a couple of hours. Service fees and taxes are included in the menu prices. Tipping is not mandatory and seen as a sign of appreciation, not as means to make up a tiny salary. In case you do want to tip as a rule of thumb rounding up to the next is normal or 10 percent.

Since 1 July 2008, smoking has been banned in all restaurants, cafes, bars, festival tents and nightclubs. Smoking is allowed only in separate, enclosed, designated smoking areas in which employees are not allowed to serve. Staff may enter such smoking rooms only in emergency situations.

Snackbars

Fast food vending machines at Febo
A mashed potato and mushroom "kroket"

In town centers, near public transportation areas or even in more quiet quarters you can find a "snackbar", sometimes known as "frituur" or "cafeteria". These snackbars are pretty much the antithesis of high cuisine, but their snacks are considered typical for the country, and many Dutch expats miss them the most when going abroad. The popular Febo chain"s outlets are basically giant vending machines, just slot in a euro or two and take out the snack of your choice.

The most popular snack is French fries, known as "patat" in most of the country and as "friet" in the Southern Netherlands. The "standard" way is to order them with mayonnaise ("patat met"), although the local mayo is not the same as you"d get in France or most of the rest of the world: it is firmer, sweeter and contains less fat, whilst remaining just as unhealthy. Other sauces are tomato ketchup, curry ketchup (unlike regular curry, tastes more like ketchup), Indonesian peanut sauce ("satésaus"), cut raw onions ("uitjes"), special ("speciaal", a combination of mayonnaise, curry ketchup and optionally cut raw onions) and war ("oorlog", a combination of mayonnaise, peanut sauce and optionally with cut raw onions). The following fried snacks are considered typical for the country as well:

* "Croquette" ("kroket"), a crispy roll filled with ragout. Can be ordered on bread as well.
* "Frikandel", a long, skinless and dark-colored sausage, kind of like a minced-meat hot dog. Can be ordered on bread, or as "speciaal" (with mayonnaise, curry ketchup and cut raw onions).
* "Kaassoufflé", cheese snack popular with vegetarians, can also be served on bread.
* "Bear"s claw" ("berenklauw"), often called "bear"s snack" ("berenhap") or "bear"s dick" ("berenlul"), is a sliced meatball with fried onion rings on a wooden skewer, often served with peanut sauce ("pindasaus").

Vegetarianism

Vegetarians should not have any major trouble. 4.5 percent of the Dutch population is vegetarian and most restaurants have at least one vegetarian option on their menus or can make you one if you ask for it. Most supermarkets sell vegetarian products or even have a part of their supermarket dedicated to vegetarian products. It is advisable to specifically mention what you do and do not eat (meat, fish, dairy, eggs) as not everyone has the same definition of vegetarianism. Finding a vegetarian option in a fast food restaurant might provide more of a challenge. Chip shops that sell veggie burgers are the exception rather than the rule; chips and "kaassoufflés" are often the only options.

Drink
The Netherlands has two drinking ages: 16 years for alcohol under 15% (beer, wine, etc.*), and 18 for stronger alcoholic drinks.
Beverages with an alcohol content lower than 0.5% aren"t counted, anybody can buy then, and they may be called "alcohol free" or in the case of beer "malt bier".

Although technically illegal beers and wines with over 15% can be bought in most shops even if you"re under 18.

Beer
Wieckse Witte, a popular white beer ("witbier")

Although the Dutch "beer" "Heineken" is one of the world"s most famous beers, it is just one of the many beer brands in the Netherlands, and many Dutchmen consider it to be only a second-rate pilsener. You can get all kinds of beers from white beer to dark beer. Popular brands are Heineken, Grolsch, Brand, Bavaria, Amstel etc. There"s a certain regional variety in the beers you"ll find; whereas, in the Netherlands, many pubs serve Heineken or Amstel, pubs in Brabant will generally serve Bavaria or Dommelsch, in Limburg Brand and in Gelderland Grolsch.

In addition to the usual lagers, try Dutch "white beers" ("witbier"), which are flavored with a spice mix called "gruit" and thus taste different from the better-known German varieties. Fruit-flavored varieties are also available.

Traditional beers come from monasteries in the South of the Netherlands (Brabant and Limburg) or Belgium. You can visit a traditional beer brewer in for instance Berkel-Enschot (just east of Tilburg) at the "Trappistenklooster". It needs to be said that the brewery is now owned by the big brewer Bavaria, so it"s not so traditional any more.

There are also a lot of excellent small and micro breweries (Brouwerij "t IJ, Brouwerij de Molen, Brouwerij de Prael etc.), if you"re a beer lover in Amsterdam consider visiting the beer shop "De Bierkoning" near "De Dam" (central square of Amsterdam), it was over a thousand beer, about half of it is Dutch and "Brouwerij "t IJ".

Most breweries have nowadays also produce a non-alcoholic variant of their beers, like Bavaria Malt or Amstel Malt. Which consist sometimes 0% or less than 0,5 alcohol and is very suitable for people who would like to drive and don"t drink (or sometimes called "de Bob" as promoted in its campaign).

Bitters and gin
Also popular in winter are alcoholic "bitters". Originally from the province of Friesland the bitter called Beerenburg is served in the entire country. Most other regions also produce their local, less famous variants of a bitter.

* "Orange bitter" ("Oranjebitter"), this bitter liquor is drunk only on Queen"s Day (Koninginnedag)

* "Dutch gin" ("jenever" or "genever"), the predecessor of English gin. It"s available in two types, called "oude" (old) and "jonge" (young), which have nothing to do with aging, just the distillation style. The more traditional "old-fashioned" "oude" is sweeter and yellowish in color, while "jonge" is clearer, drier and more akin to English gin.

* "Beerenburg" ("Beerenburg"), is an alcoholic drink, made by adding herbs to jenever. It has an alcohol percentage of around 30%. The original Beerenburg was made halfway through the 19th century with a secret mixture of spices of the Amsterdam spice merchant Hendrik Beerenburg, to whom it owes its name. Despite it being "invented" in Amsterdam, it is considered typically Frysian.

Tea and coffee

Dutch drink black "tea", and it comes in many different tastes, from traditional to fruit infusions etc. Luckily, if you"re English, you get the teabag served with a cup of hot (but never boiling) water, so you can make your own version. Milk in your tea is almost unheard of and given only to children.

Coffee is almost compulsory when you are going to visit people. One of the first questions when coming through the door is often "Koffie?" and it is served in small cups (a half mug) with cookies.

If you"re from the States or Canada, you can drink one cup of Dutch "coffee" in the morning and add water the rest of the day! If you order "koffie verkeerd" (which means "coffee the wrong way "round") you get a cup of more or less half milk and half coffee, more like the French "café au lait" or the Italian "caffe latte".

Hot chocolate
"Hot chocolate" with whipped cream is a winter tradition in the Netherlands. It really fills you after a cold walk. In the summer you can also get it in every decent bar, however sometimes it"s made from powder as opposed to the traditional kind, and doesn"t taste that good.

Drugs

The Netherlands are renowned for their liberal "drug policy". While "technically" still illegal because international treaties, "personal use" of (soft) drugs are regulated by the Ministry of Justice under an official policy of "gedogen"; literally this means "to accept" or "tolerate", legally it is a doctrine of non-prosecution on the basis that action taken would be so highly irregular as to constitute selective prosecution.

Note that this does not mean the Dutch are all permanently high. In fact drug usage is much lower in the Netherlands than it is in countries with more restrictive policies. Much of the clientèle of the coffeeshops (see below) is in fact tourists. Be sure you are among like-minded people before lighting up a spliff.

You are allowed to buy and smoke small doses (5 g or less) of cannabis or hash. You must be 18 or older to buy. For this you have to visit a "coffeeshop", which are are abundant in most larger towns. Coffeeshops are not allowed to sell alcohol. Minors (those under 18) are not allowed inside. Coffeeshops are prohibited from explicit advertising, so many use the Rastafari red-yellow-green colors to hint at the products available inside, while others are more discreet and sometimes almost hidden away from plain view. In the border province of Limburg, it will be possible to buy cannabis products in a coffeeshop only if you"ve got a "wietpas" ("weed pass") from 2010. This measure will be introduced in an effort to combat drug related crime and nuisance. This pass will be necessary for coffeeshops in Amsterdam too starting in Autumn 2011. To gain such a pass, you need to be a Dutch citizen!

Beware that cannabis sold in the Netherlands is often stronger than varieties outside, so be careful when you take your first spliff. Be particularly wary of cannabis-laced pastries ("space cakes") as it"s easy to eat too much by accident — although there are also unscrupulous shops that sell space cakes with no weed at all. Wait "at least" one hour after eating!

Hallucinogenic ("magic") mushrooms, once legal, are banned as of December 1st, 2008. Though the last time I was there in 2009 there were shops in the Red Light District openly offering them via "Magic Mushrooms for sale here" signs, caution is needed.

It is forbidden to drive any motorized vehicle while impaired, which includes driving under the influence of both illegal and legal recreational or prescribed drugs (such as cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis and mushrooms) as well as alcohol, and medication that might affect your ability to drive.

Buying soft drugs from dealers in the streets is always illegal and is commonly discouraged. The purchase of other (hard) drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine, or processeddried mushrooms is still dealt with by the law. However, often people who are caught in possession of small amounts of illegal drugs for personal use are not prosecuted.

The act of consuming any form of drugs is legal, even if possession is not. If you are seen taking drugs, you may theoretically be arrested for possession, but not for use. This has one important effect; do not hesitate to seek medical help if you are suffering from bad effects of drug use, and inform emergency services as soon as possible of the specific (illegal) drugs you have taken. Medical services are unconcerned with where you got the drugs, they will not contact the police, their sole intention is to take care of you in the best way possible.

At some parties, a "drug testing desk" is offered, where you can have your (synthetic) drugs tested. This is mainly because many pills contain harmful chemicals in addition to the claimed ingredients; for example, many pills of "ecstasy" (MDMA) will also contain speed (amphetamines). Some pills don"t even contain any MDMA at all. The testing desks are not meant to encourage drug use, since venue owners face stiff fines for allowing drugs in their venues, but they are tolerated or "gedoogd" since they mitigate the public health risks. Note: the desk won"t return the drugs tested.

Please note that there are significant risks associated with drug use, even in The Netherlands" liberal climate
* while marijuana bought at coffeeshops is unlikely to be hazardous, hard drugs like cocaine and heroin and synthetic drugs like ecstasy are still illegal and unregulated. These hard drugs are likely to be in some way contaminated, especially when bought from street dealers.
* some countries have legislation in place that make it illegal to plan a trip for the purpose of commiting illegal acts in another jurisdiction, so you might be apprehended in your home country after having legally smoked pot in The Netherlands.

Alcohol and weed
Be very careful with alcohol and weed, don"t use any alcohol the first couple of times you smoke weed, drinking one beer after you"ve smoked can feel like drinking ten beers. However, alcohol and weed can be a very nice and trippy experience, especially for people who don"t feel enough from just smoking weed (to some people weed might be a little bit disappointing, others can space the whole night on 0.5 g). Alcohol and weed amplify each other, a little bit of alcohol can cause you to intensely feel the effect of the weed, but a tiny bit too much makes you really sick and can cause scaryunpleasant hallucinations (most of the time not dangerously, but it will definitely ruin the evening). If you decide to take some alcohol with your weed, make sure you"re with somebody that isn"t totally drunkstoned so heshe can tell you what"s real and what"s hallucinated. You may also feel dizzy or nauseous from the effects; drowsiness is also a common effect from this combination. In the end, be careful, pace yourself and know your limits. There"s loads of fun to be had, if you act responsibly.

Sleep
A wide range of accommodation is available, concentrated on the major tourist destinations. They include regions popular for "internal" tourism, such as the Veluwe. In non-touristed areas, accommodation may be very limited.

Prices are generally high. Budget accommodation starts at around €20 per person and prices go upwards from there. Seasonal demand affects availability and can cause prices to rise dramatically, especially in Amsterdam.

Official Dutch "Youth Hostels" are called "Stay Okay" , but they are not as widespread as in Great Britain. Also there is no kitchen available for guests, so either you eat what"s on menu or you eat out. Besides the Official Dutch Youth Hostels there are plenty of other hostels spread around the country. Popular are The Flying Pig Hostels in Noordwijk and Amsterdam, which do provide a kitchen for one"s own use and they have a liberal smoking policy.

Another option is staying at a "bed & breakfast". There is a wide choice in the big cities, but there are also plenty to be found in the smaller towns and villages. Prices are generally €40-100, depending on the number of occupants and the season. Bed & breakfasts may not offer all the facilities that bigger hotels do, but the service is generally friendly and personal. Also, many bed & breakfasts are to be found along popular hiking trails and cycling paths.

Short-term "apartment rental" is available in cities, but may not be legal. While most have a 3 night minimum stay, the process of making reservations and checking in is generally identical to that of staying in a hotel, the notable exception being that most require a credit card deposit, and the balance payment in € on arrival.

"Vacation rental homes" are popular in The Netherlands, especially in rural areas. These small homes come in broad varieties: they can be simple or luxurious, individual places or part of large parks with lots of identical homes and they are operated by private owners as well as large chains. Traversia has the largest collection of vacation rentals in The Netherlands, by Dutch owners . Large chains of vacation rental home parks are Center Parks and Landal Greenparks. Where privately owned options can sometimes provide a more authentic, local experience (e.g. located in old, timber-framed houses in South Limburg), the parks will offer additional services, restaurants and swimming pools. In most cases, you have to book at least a weekend. Although generally not very cheap, they have kitchens and therefore allow for self-catering.

If you are traveling by bicycle or by foot, there is a list of 3600 addresses where you can stay at private homes with bed and breakfast for no more than € 18,50 per person per night, although you must also pay € 9 for membership of this scheme. It is called Vrienden op de fiets .

Learn
The Netherlands has many universities. The country has recently converted their own titles into the bachelormaster system.
There are two types of universities:
* Academic (focussing more on theoretical knowledge, aka "Universiteit")
* Applied Sciences (focussing more on practical knowledge, aka "Hogeschool")
The Times Higher Education Supplement ranks 11 universities among the top 200 in the world.

English speaking students will have no problems finding suitable courses. A total of 1,456 courses are taught entirely in English.
There is also the added advantage that most locals under the age of 30 are reasonably able in English.

For international students, several scholarships are available.
They can be found on the Nuffic website . Here you will also find information regarding courses, institutions, housing, formalities, culture, traineeships and possible difficulties.

Work
Work opportunities for those from outside the pean Union are very restricted. Only when an employer can prove they"ve searched in the EU, they are allowed to hire a non-EU citizen. Official policy is to deter all non-EU immigration, unless there is an economic necessity.

Citizens of certain non-EU countries are permitted to work in The Netherlands without the need to obtain a visa or any further authorisation for the period of their 90 day visa-free stay - for more information see the "Get in" section above.

Students from other pean countries are eligible for study financing only when they have a fixed 32 hourmonth work contract or when they have lived in the Netherlands for five years.

Since 2005, the Dutch law enables what they call “knowledge immigration” the idea is to allow local companies to “import” foreign employees to work in the Netherlands. The process is straightforward and takes between 4 to 10 weeks.

Stay safe
The Netherlands is generally considered a safe country. However, be alert in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and other large cities that are plagued by pickpockets and bicycle theft, violent crimes are very rare. In the larger cities, certain areas are considered unsafe at night*. A small number are also unsafe in daylight.

* Police, ambulance and fire brigade have one general emergency number "112". There is one police force, organized in 25 police regions. Mostly visitors will deal with the regional police. Some specialized forces, such as the railway police and the highway police on main roads, are run by a separate national force (highway police being the KLPD - "Korps Landelijke Politie Diensten", and railway police being the "spoorwegpolitie"). When calling "112", if you can, advise on what emergency services you are in need of.

* Border controls, and port and airport security, are handled by a separate police force, the Marechaussee (or abbreviation "KMar" - "Koninklijke Marechaussee"), a gendarmerie. They are an independent service of the Dutch armed forces (making them a military service, not a civil one), and have among their duties the mentioned security tasks.

* In most cities, there are municipal services ("stadswacht", "Toezichthouder Openbare Ruimte" (abreviation: TOR) or "stadstoezicht") with some police tasks, e.g., issuing parking and litter fines. They often have police-style uniforms to confer some authority, but their powers are limited. For instance, only the police carry a gun.

* Prostitution in the Netherlands has been legalized but only if the prostitute consents. Pimping or otherwise exploiting women against their will is a crime, even in the Netherlands. Have sex only in safe locations that have a license to host prostitutes to engage in sexual activities with their clientele. Illegal prostitution in hotels or suspected illegal prostitution can be raided by the police and the client as well as the prostitute can be fined or be put in jail. Hotel personnel are obliged by law to notify the police if they suspect these kinds of illegal activities. Having sex with a minor is also illegal. Always ask for an ID from the prostitute to confirm her age.

*) According to the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (Ministerie van VROM) these neighborhoods include:
Kolenkitbuurt, Amsterdam - Pendrecht, Rotterdam - Oude Noorden, Rotterdam - Bloemhof, Rotterdam - Ondiep, Utrecht - Rivierenwijk, Deventer - Spangen, Rotterdam - Oude Westen, Rotterdam - HeechterpSchieringen, Leeuwarden - Noord-Oost, Maastricht - Tussendijken, Rotterdam - Hatert, Nijmegen - Hillesluis, Rotterdam - Woensel West, Eindhoven - Overtoomse Veld, Amsterdam - Kanaleneiland, Utrecht - Schilderswijk, Den Haag - Poelenburg, Zaanstad - Tarwewijk, Rotterdam - Morgenstond, Den Haag
However these neighborhoods a nothing compared to some US suburbs.


Stay healthy

*The Netherlands has some of the best "tap water" in the world. (Near the coast and in Amsterdam*) it is even considered to be of similar or better quality than natural mineral or spring water and is distributed to every household and controlled by "water authorities". Food (either bought in a supermarket or eaten at a restaurant) shouldn"t pose any problem either. The health care system is up to par with the rest of pe and most cities have hospitals where usually most of the staff speaks English (at least all medical staff). In general, it"s a case of common sense.

*In summer, open air recreational (mainly fresh water) swimming areas might suffer from the notorious blue algae, a rather smelly cyanobacteria which when it dies, releases toxins into the water. When these occur, a signpost at the entrance to the area or near the water should tell you so by stating something like "waarschuwing: blauwalg". If in doubt, ask someone.

*When walking or camping in forests and dunes be aware of ticks and tick-carrying diseases such as Lyme disease. It is advisable to wear long sleeves and to put trousers into your socks.

*Prositution in the Netherlands has been legalized to a certain degree but even when endulging into these practices at brothels or other locations in the Netherlands where sex is sold do always use a condom since STD"s are still a problem in this industry.

Respect

The Dutch are among the most informal and easy-going people in pe, and there are not many strict social taboos to speak of. It is unlikely that Dutch people will be offended simply by your behaviour or appearance. In fact it is more likely that visitors themselves will be offended by overly "direct" conversation. Nevertheless, the standards for "overt" rudeness and hostility are similar to those in other western pean countries. If you feel you are deliberately being treated offensively, then you probably are.

The exception to this openness is personal wealth. It is considered vulgar to for instance reveal the height of your salary, so asking somebody about this will be considered nosy and will probably just get you an evasive answer. Likewise, it"s not advisable to be forceful about your own religion or to assume a Dutch person you"ve met is a Catholic or a Calvinist, since followers of traditional Christian religions make up only about 40% of the Dutch population. In the larger cities there will be even fewer people claiming to adhere to any faith at all. In urban areas it is not considered rude to ask somebody about this, but you"ll generally be expected to be entirely tolerant of whatever the other person believes and not attempt to proselytize in any way. Openly religious behaviour is usually met with bewilderment and ridicule rather than hostility. An exception is the Dutch Bible Belt which runs from Zeeland into South-Holland, Utrecht and Gelderland and consists of towns with many strong Dutch Reformed Christians, who are more likely to be insulted by different religious views. Openly nationalist sentiments are likewise viewed with some suspicion among the general public, though there are a number of nationalistic celebrations like queen"s day (koninginnedag, April 30th) and during the Soccer season. Mostly though, these nationalistic celebrations are used as an excuse to party together rather than being true "nationalistic events".

Gay and lesbian travelers
As mentioned above, the Netherlands is quite liberal when it comes to "homosexuality" and by far is considered to be "one of the gay-friendliest countries in the world." The Netherlands has a reputation of being the first country to recognize same-sex marriage, and openly displaying your orientation wouldn"t cause much upset in the Netherlands. However, even a gay friendly country like the Netherlands has room for some criticisms of homosexuality, but this varies depending on where one travels. Regardless, with violence and discrimination against gays being rare as well as the legal status of same-sex marriage in the Netherlands, this country may be considered a "gay utopia" and should be safe for gays and lesbians (except sometimes in Muslim neighbourhoods in the major Dutch cities, after big soccer matches or in demonstrations if there is a violent attitude in general).

Contact
The international calling code for the Netherlands is "31". The outbound international prefix is "00", so to call the US, substitute "001" for "+1" and for the UK "00 44" for "+44".

The cellular phone network in the Netherlands is GSM 9001800. The cell phone networks are operated by KPN, Vodafone and T-Mobile; other operators use one of these 3 networks. The networks are high quality and cover every corner of the Netherlands. With the exception of some low-end service providers, all mobile operators support GPRS.
KPN, Vodafone and T-Mobile offer UMTS (and HSDPA) service in almost all parts of the country.

There are few public phone booths left in the Netherlands. They are mostly found at train stations. Telfort booths accept coins, whereas most KPN booths accept only prepaid cards or credit cards. Some new public phones have been installed which accept coins again.
Be aware of public phones in a more public area as well as the same types in a more public-private area, where tarrifs (per unit or amount of calling time) can differ.

(National) Directory Inquiries can be reached -since 2007- on "1888", "1850" and various other "Inquiry-operators". Rates differ by operator, but are usually rather high, more than €1 per call, as well as per-second charges.

International Directory Inquiries can be reached on 0900 8418 (Mon-Fri 8AM-8PM, €0.90 per minute).

Phone numbers can also be found on the Internet, free of charge, on Telefoonboek.nl , De Telefoongids.nl or Nationale Telefoongids.nl .

0800 numbers are toll-free and for 09xx numbers are charged at premium rates. Mobile phones have numbers in the 06 range, and calls to cell phones are also priced at higher rates.

If you"re bringing your own (GSM) cell phone, using your existing plan to call (or receive calls) whilst in The Netherlands can be very expensive due to "roaming" charges. Receiving phone calls on a cell phone using a Dutch SIM card is free in most cases; charges apply if you"re using a foreign SIM card, as the call is theoretically routed through your country of origin. It"s cheaper to buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card to insert into your GSM phone, or even to buy a very cheap pay-as-you-go card+phone bundle. For example: lyca , lebara and ortel are providers that specialize in cheap rates to foreign countries. targets those traveling through multiple countries.

To enjoy "cheap international calls" from the Netherlands you can use low-cost dial-around services such as Qazza , BelBazaar , pennyphone , SlimCall , telegoedkoop , beldewereld , teleknaller or Wereldwijdbellen . Dial-around services are directly available from any landline in the Netherlands. No contract, no registration is required. Most dial-around services offer USA, Canada, Western pe and many other countries at the price of a local call so you can save on your phone expenses easily. They also work from public payphones.

Internet cafés can be found in most cities, usually they also provide international calling booths. Many public libraries provide Internet access.
Wireless Internet access using Wi-Fi is becoming increasingly popular and is available in many hotels, pubs, stations and on Schiphol, either for free, or at extortionate prices through one of the national "networks" of hotspots.


WikiPedia:Netherlands
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World66:europenetherlands







ar:هولندا
ca:Països Baixos
de:Niederlande
eo:Nederlando
es:Holanda
fi:Alankomaat
fr:Pays-Bas
hu:Hollandia
it:Paesi Bassi
ja:オランダ
nl:Nederland
pl:Holandia
pt:Holanda
ro:Ţările de Jos
ru:Нидерланды
sv:Nederländerna
zh:荷蘭
wts:Category:Netherlands
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REISEPORTAL
The "Netherlands" (; , ; ; Dutch Low Saxon: "Nederlaand") is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located in NorthWest Europe and with territories in the Caribbean. It is a parliamentary democratic
"Den Helder" () is a municipality and a city in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. Den Helder occupies the northernmost point of the North Holland peninsula. It is home to the country"s main naval base.The Royal TESO ferryboat service
The Hoofdtoren (harbour) from the lake"This is in the old city centre, where the port used to be. Most of the old port disappeared with the building of the Afsluitdijk""Hoorn" () is a municipality and a town in the Netherlands, in the province of
"Tilburg" () is a landlocked municipality and a city in the Netherlands, located in the southern province of Noord-Brabant.Tilburg municipality also includes the villages of Berkel-Enschot and Udenhout.Tilburg University is located in Tilburg, and so
"" ( or ; Limburgish (incl. ian) "Mestreech" ; French "Maëstricht" (archaic); Spanish "Mastrique" (archaic)) is a city and a municipality in the southern part of the Dutch province of Limburg, of which it is the capital. The city is situated on both
"" ( or ; Limburgish (incl. ian) "Mestreech" ; French "Maëstricht" (archaic); Spanish "Mastrique" (archaic)) is a city and a municipality in the southern part of the Dutch province of Limburg, of which it is the capital. The city is situated on both
 
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