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NETHERLANDS TRAVEL GUIDE
Hello, my name is Gwen, and here is my Netherlands travel guide for solo travel over 40, including budget, safety/female and eco-travel tips, photographs and interesting posts for your Netherlands travel planning.
WELKOM IN NEDERLAND!
Netherlands (aka Holland) – is home to wooden shoes (clogs), canals and bridges, tulips, 991 windmills, cheese, more bicycles than people, Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals, world’s largest ice-skating tour, Deft Blue earthenware, the tallest men in the world, licorice fans, the first country to legalize same-sex marriage, French fries with mayonnaise, Jenever, the largest flower garden in the world, the three-kiss greeting, Anne Frank House, The Hague, and a world-class city and capital, Amsterdam.
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LANGUAGES IN THE NETHERLANDS
The official language is Dutch, however the Dutch students learn many languages so it is not uncommon for the Dutch to heard speaking four to five languages.
How's Your Dutch?
Brush up on your Dutch before your trip to the Netherlands.
Located in Western Europe bordered by Germany, Belgium and the North Sea, the Netherlands was founded in 1648. The population is about 81% Dutch, with the remaining population comprising of Indonesian, German, Turkish, Moroccan, Surinamese, Antillean and Aruban ethnicities.
The Netherlands is described as a “consociational democracy” consisting of democratic parliamentary representatives, a constitutional monarchy, and a decentralized unitary state.
Education is required for children between ages 5 and 16 followed by a secondary education that is all funded by the Dutch government. Vocational and higher educations are basically free – families may pay small fees for attendance.
The Dutch have a universal healthcare system but all adults 18 years and older living and working in the Netherlands are required to have basic insurance for basic care. The Dutch family tends to be smaller with only one or two children, and the family is considered the foundation of social structure. Most women do not work full-time to be more available to the children and family.
The Dutch are seen as hardworking, practical, thrifty and well-organized. They place high value on privacy, respect and tolerance of differences, cleanliness and neatness. Appearances are important to the Dutch, and they may be perceived as disciplined and reserved, and conservative in terms of displaying wealth or drawing attention to themselves or their accomplishments. A typical greeting is with a firm handshake, but close friends may greet with the three-kiss greeting near both sides of the cheek.
About 40% of the Dutch do not affiliate themselves with a religion. 31% identify as Roman Catholic, 21% as Protestant, and Muslim and others affiliations comprising the rest of the population.
Cuisine depends on where you go in the Netherlands. Smaller towns may serve more traditional dishes while larger cities may serve all types of international cuisine. There are more than 100 Michelin-star restaurants in the Netherlands. Due to the history of colonization of the East Indies, Indonesian cuisine is also popular.
A typical Dutch breakfast is bread, cheese, sausage, butter and chocolate sprinkles (hagelslag) served with coffee, tea and/or juice. Lunch time is usually lighter fare of sandwiches and snacks followed with a fuller dinner of a meat, potato and vegetable combination.
Traditional Dutch cuisine can include dishes like Hollandse Nieuwe (Dutch new herring), a raw herring with chopped raw onions and gherkins; erwtensoep or “snert” (a split pea soup with celery, leeks, carrots and pork); rookworst (smoked sausage); stamppot (mashed potatoes mixed vegetables like kale, carrots, endive or sauerkraut); or friet, frites, patat or vlaamse frieten (thicker cut French fries with topped with mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, curry or peanut sauce).
Don’t forget the cheese! The Dutch have been making cheese since 800 B.C. Gouda and Edam are the most popular, and the Dutch eat an average of 46 lbs. (21Kg) per person per year!
The Dutch also love their snacks and sweets, such as stroopwafel (a waffle cookie filled with sweet and sticky syrup); kroket (a breadcrumb covered deep fried roll with meat ragout inside); poffertjes (fluffy baby pancakes served with a lump of butter and powdered sugar); “drops” which the Dutch call pieces of licorice that they consume more than anywhere else in the world; and, the Dutch favorite snack, Bitterballen (deep fried, savory meat-based balls traditionally served with mustard and enjoyed with beer).
The Dutch national drink is Jenever (Dutch gin), served chilled by itself or with a beer chaser – pilsner style lagers being the most popular.
POPULAR DUTCH ACTIVITIES
Sports clubs are very popular in Dutch culture with almost 7 million participating in some type of sporting activity, such as football (soccer), speed and leisure skating, tennis, and cycling. Football is the national game of the Netherlands and the Dutch love to cycle. After all, there are more bicycles in the Netherlands than people.
The Dutch are also lucky enough to get at least five weeks of vacation a year so, in addition to sports, they have more time to spend with family and friends, travelling, and socializing over food and drink.
The Dutch also do glamping – when the Dutch camp, they do it in style. The Netherlands holds many music, dance and film festivals, such as the Amsterdam Roots festival, the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, and the Holland Dance festival, to name but a few. The Dutch even hold the rather strange Amsterdam Stiletto Run where hundreds of (mostly) women can be seen running 100 meters in high heels.
Ok…. The Dutch also do their holidays big! The Christmas season kicks off with Sinterklaas celebrated on December 5h, Christmas on December 25, with a possible 2ndChristmas on December 26th. They celebrate Kings Day (Koningsdag) on April 27th, where everyone dresses up in orange, the official color of the Dutch royal family. To end the year, New Year’s Eve is celebrated with a lot (A LOT) of fireworks!
The Netherlands uses the Euro (€). Exchange rates are usually favorable for Europeans but could fluctuate in the other direction. Check throughout your travel planning phase on any exchange rate changes.
TRAVELING THE NETHERLANDS
Netherlands has all modern forms of transportation, including Uber (research in advance if they are in your destination area), and other regional ridesharing services and apps, so getting around and booking transportation in advance or working on the fly, is no problem.
TIPPING IN THE NETHERLANDS
Traveling in a new country is easier when you know the country’s tipping etiquette in advance as each country has its own rules. That said, country rules and norms can shift, so here is an international tipping resource for over 70 countries to use as a general guideline that I have found is constantly updated.
What’s not on there is how to tip a concierge, beauty salons or spas, travel or tour guides, etc. For these extras, it is acceptable to tip 10% at minimum. Remember, tipping is for good service only.
Additionally, you should always tip in the local currency (if tipping in cash), and do not be offended if your tip is refused as it may not be the norm. I feel it’s always better to offer a tip for good service than not, unless I know it will be considered offensive, like in Japan.
THE NETHERLANDS' HOLIDAYS
A key activity to do in your early planning stage is to know, at minimum, the national holidays. I so suggest also looking into the local holidays. It’s a complete bummer to spend time and money to take the holiday of your lifetime and when you show up at one of your key attractions, it’s closed due to a holiday. It’s also not fun trying to travel and have a hard time accessing travel or other essential resources when no one is around because, yes, it’s a local holiday. So take just a few moments to look at Netherlands’ holidays.
THE NETHERLANDS ELECTRONIC ESSENTIALS
Besides money, required ID and your ticket, Netherlands voltage is 230V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz, so bring Type C and F adapters (it doesn’t hurt to bring two of each) for Netherlands outlets and research if your electronics require a voltage converter, if not already included in the adapter; or, you can bring electronics already adapted for Netherlands outlets or wait to purchase them there (I recommend just bringing the adapters with converter). Remember, most smart phones, tablets and laptops don’t require a converter, but double-check your device(s) before you leave home. If you are going to another country in addition to the Netherlands on your trip, you can check the global adapters list to make sure you’re prepared. I have also provided suggested adapters below for your convenience!
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TRAVEL DOCUMENTS FOR THE NETHERLANDS
From the U.S., you will need a valid passport. Visas are not required if your stay is less than 3 months. Make sure your passport expiration date is greater than 6 months from your return to the U.S. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to Netherlands. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
VACCINATIONS FOR THE NETHERLANDS
There are normally no vaccinations required for Netherlands travel. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to Netherlands. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
SAFETY / FEMALE TRAVEL TIPS
NETHERLANDS TRAVEL SAFETY
The Netherlands is ranked 16th safest country to visit and laws are strictly enforced. Amsterdam, although still considered safe to visit, could have its theft and pickpocketing instances or worse in more dangerous parts of the city. Be careful in touristy areas and at night. I felt safe in Amsterdam and the Netherlands overall so, beyond that, there is nothing I can recall from making the Netherlands more of a “safety concern” than traveling in my own home country. Therefore, my standard tips for female and solo travelers are:
- always carry photo ID with you; if you don’t want your passport on you at all times, at least carry a copy of it.
- always be “street wise”.
- always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you feel the need to imbibe or feel the need to “let loose” – you’re on vacation so have fun!
- never leave your food or drink unattended.
- keep your belongs on your person, or at least in your view in close proximity, at all times.
- be open to meeting and talking with new people – that is where a lot of the travel experience lies – but be careful on how you divulge personal information.
- research places in advance, if possible, so you know what to expect (i.e., “have a familiar view” – I like to Google the street view of new addresses I’m going to first).
- if something, someone or someplace makes you feel uncomfortable, go with your gut – leave.
BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS
BEST TIME TO VISIT THE NETHERLANDS
Like other countries in Europe, the Netherland’s high, tourist season, and most expensive time, is the summer (June to August). Crowds are not as heavy in the spring (mid-March to mid-May) but the weather is chillier at that time as well. September and October offer better than summer prices with mild weather. Amsterdam may be pricier than other Netherland destinations. The least expensive time to go to the Netherlands would be the winter months of November to February. For overall best weather and prices, try booking well in advance for spring or autumn but plan on wearing layers.
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SUSTAINABILITY / ECO TRAVEL TIPS
It is very easy to do your part for the planet and implement environmental sustainability into your travel. If you would like to learn more about how you can implement environmentally sustainable, or eco-friendly, travel measures into your travel, please see my 10 Easy Eco Travel Tips and suggested Eco Travel Resources.
Additionally, if you are flying to, or within, the Netherlands consider purchasing carbon offsets through your airline or through a third party, like MyClimate.org, Carbonfund.org, or terrapass. Carbon offsetting allows you to buy a certificate to reduce carbon emissions, a major contributor to climate change, which in turn contribute community projects across countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There are several ways to go about this to help reduce your impact to climate change through your travel. Check it out!
The Netherlands was the first country I visited in Europe. I mostly spent my time in Amsterdam enjoying the night life, the Rembrandt House Museum, Dam Square and, most especially, the Anne Frank House. You used to be able to go up to the attic behind the bookcase where the family actually stayed, but I believe they have closed off that section since. Still, I would highly recommend visiting the museum for its historical and literary value. I hear lines are long so I would get there early! I’m not a big fan of Heineken beer, but if you are, you can take the Heineken Tour.
The Amsterdam architecture and endless canals are very picturesque so don’t forget your camera. The Dutch are nice and most speak many languages, including English. Don’t be grossed out if you order chips (French fries) and they give you mayo on the side. The city is very walkable and easy to just wander around in. I would recommend a visit to Amsterdam to anyone. Be careful, however – there are so many bicycles, trams, cars, and buses that if you’re not paying attention, you could be hit. I almost did on my first day!