When you are travelling to The Netherlands, there are things you should know. As a local, I’m used to these things, and I know that my local intel will help you out. This way, once you arrive in The Netherlands, you won’t be surprised by these things that you have to know about The Netherlands like many other people are.
Interesting things to know before you visit The Netherlands
1. Being Direct
Dutch people are straightforward. Some perceive this as us being rude, although that is not the case. It is not appreciated when you are acting all lovey-dovey in front of us, but gossip about us once we are gone. Also, I’m not going to act friendly to people that I know but do not like. Not everyone has to like me. Instead, I don’t pay my attention to them and don’t say anything at all.
Bikes rule every part of both Holland and The Netherlands. We have more bikes than people (17 million people, but way more bikes). You have to see bicycles as our primary mode of transportation within cities. That means there are bikes and cyclists everywhere. And to make cycling safe we created a lot of bike paths and adjusted our public transport to bicycle traffic. That means you should be aware of the bike path wherever you are. Don’t walk on the bike path. And don’t even think about crossing one without looking. This tip is one of the most important things you should know when you’re travelling to The Netherlands.
3. Small and populated
The Netherlands is a small country but very populated. That means that if you are looking for significant natural areas comparable to Yellowstone Park, you entered the wrong country. We have nature. But we regulate it.
Have a look at the Schoorlse Duinen nature reserve, for instance. Here you can find the broadest and highest dune region of The Netherlands.
4. OV Chip Kaart
Buy an OV Chip Kaart if you are planning on travelling throughout the country at a kiosk and VVV offices. You can buy a train ticket at the ticket machine in the train station if you’re planning on not using public transport a lot. For public transportation within Amsterdam, you can buy a travel card. But if you’re planning on travelling through The Netherlands beyond Amsterdam, then you will be glad to have an OV Chip Kaart.
This card is valid for all public transportation companies in The Netherlands. The only thing you have to do is top up the card with money. You need 20 euros on the OV Chip card to use it for train travel in The Netherlands. The bus, metro and trams want around 5 euros as a minimum.
5. Airports and budget airlines
If you’re going to travel to The Netherlands by aeroplane from another destination within Europe, keep budget airlines in mind. There are five airports in The Netherlands, and all of them cater to budget airlines. Transavia is a great Dutch budget airline. It has many planes on Eindhoven or Rotterdam airport, as well as Amsterdam Schiphol (not pronounced as skiphol by the way. The sch makes for a hard g sound that doesn’t exist in English).
6. Knowing Dutch
If you are headed out of the big Dutch cities in The Netherlands and into smaller towns or villages, it could be helpful to know a few sentences of Dutch. In The Netherlands almost, all of us speak English. But not everyone is confident in speaking it, so it’s better if you embarrass yourself first. I’m not even joking. That way they won’t feel embarrassed about speaking ‘bad’ English. Also, not everyone from the older generation knows English, think 70+.
7. Validate your tickets
In The Netherlands, you need to validate a train ticket. You can do so by holding your ticket, or OV Chip Card, at the gates at the station of the poles on the platforms.
Keep in mind to get an e-ticket for a select date. Otherwise, you’d pay a fine. If you don’t check-in, you will pay a fine as well. In many other European countries, you’d need to print the time and dates on the ticket.
8. Have a call with your bank
Tell your bank you are travelling to The Netherlands, so they won’t freeze your account and think its fraud.
9. Sim card
Get a sim card when you arrived in The Netherlands. This is way cheaper than having some abroad contract with your provider. Make sure your phone is unlocked though, otherwise this won’t work.
10. Suitcase tip
If you are bringing a suitcase to make sure it has a side handle. This works way better for getting off and on the train, stairs, etc.
11. Euro Rail
Don’t waste money on a Euro rail pass. Unless you’re certain, it’s cheaper than the airlines. Or if you want a relaxing and beautiful view of the country (recommended though).
Sometimes trains can be cheaper, especially if you want to go from Amsterdam to Paris or London. So, I would recommend you to have a look at those destinations.
12. Credit card use
Not all places accept credit cards. This is because we don’t use them in The Netherlands. So our system isn’t built for the use of credit cards. So, take a little more cash.
But then again, some places don’t accept cash anymore. So, at the same time, it’s always good to have your card with you. Confusing, but right in The Netherlands. You can read more about that here.
When you are carrying a handbag on the plane, put your essentials in there. That means your phone, boarding pass, passport, travel adaptor and some money in there. The rest can be put in your other luggage.
14. No warm water
No warm water in the sink of the toilets. In The Netherlands, we usually only have cold water from the tap in the bathrooms. Also, during the ice-cold weather, yes.
15. Tap water
Tap water is delicious and safe to drink in The Netherlands. Sometimes tap water is free in restaurants in The Netherlands; sometimes it isn’t. It all depends on the location and the way you ask for free water. Never just ask for water, because they will give you the mineral water that you have to pay for.
Don’t sit somewhere and order only tap water because that is pretty rude. When you order a drink and some food, you can ask for tap water. With wine or rose, you can always ask for tap water to drink with it. That’s something very reasonable, and you will get that for free.
16. Cheap transportation options to other countries
When you are travelling from The Netherlands to another European country and don’t know what transport to use. You should use megabits, blablacar, flixbus or discount airlines to travel cheaply.
Pack less, way less than you think. You don’t need 20 tops, 15 sweaters and ten pairs of pants.
Plan, but only for a little. That means that you should know about important events, such as the Gay Pride, New Year’s Eve, tulip season and Christmas in The Netherlands. Otherwise, the rooms in specific cities can be completely booked, but at the same time don’t forget to go with the flow.
Uber is not used all over the place. Amsterdam and Rotterdam both have Uber, but many places don’t have it. You can better use a regular cab. Always, always ask for their price. And when they don’t have a taxi sign or ask you on a random street if you need a taxi, don’t get in.
20. Train tickets
You are spending your holiday in another part of Europe as well. So you want to take the train from The Netherlands to France. Book a ticket on time. If you’re going to take the Thalys or ICE trains you have to book on time. This way, you can get cheaper tickets, seating and can board the train as they sell out sometimes.
Within The Netherlands, there is no need to book a train ticket online. We have regular commuter trains and not high speed. So yes, you will pay money for your train journey even if you cannot take a seat because of an event or rush hour.
21. Public toilets
Have extra euros (coins!) for the public restrooms in The Netherlands. I know, you might think it’s a right to go to the toilets, and you shouldn’t have to pay. Most of the times you have to, and that’s that. They are spotless toilets.
22. Double-check your train pass
If you have a train pass, such as Euro rail, double-check that your trains don’t cross another country by accident. For instance, if you travel from The Netherlands to France via Germany, this will result in a fine if you’re allowed to go to two countries only.
23. Comfort zone
Get out of your comfort zone and explore. Travelling to new places can be scary, and that’s okay, but now you’re here anyway so you better make the most out of it.
24. Taking a day off
If you’re travelling for an extended amount of time, it’s okay to take a day off. No sightseeing, but relaxing. Take it when you need it, only you can feel the need and decide.
25. Tipping in The Netherlands
You don’t have to tip in The Netherlands. I sometimes do, but more often, I don’t. If you’re planning on tipping, have extra cash for tips.
Remember, you don’t have to tip 20% in The Netherlands as I explained in this article, but if you tip by card, the employees won’t always get the money. When there’s a place you can only pay with a card, then add it to the card anyway.
26. Bigger trip
Plan a bigger trip if you can. The Netherlands alone as a country has so much to offer. And there is more to see beyond Amsterdam (which is the whole reason why I started this website). As for Europe, Europe is a continent between 44-51 countries. Each has its own culture, language, norms, and values.
27. Closed shops
Many shops close on Sunday in The Netherlands. Nowadays that doesn’t always happen in the big cities anymore, but stores aren’t open in smaller towns; on Sunday. The supermarket sometimes opens a few hours on Sunday. If you are arriving in a small town, while hoping all the shops are opened, then you’re in for a treat. So this is one of the things you should not forget when you’re travelling to The Netherlands.
28. Pack light
Pack light. If you can, travel with a carry-on only as this will help you stick to your budget with transportation. You’d have to pay for the luggage in an aeroplane if it’s beyond the carry-on size.
You probably want to bring two pairs of shoes, but need to be very comfortable. There are a lot of cobblestoned streets in The Netherlands, so you don’t want to be uncomfortable. Make sure your shoes are waterproof! You can find the best shoes for your Dutch and European adventure here. For more information on what to pack, have a look at my packing list for The Netherlands for women here.
30. Luggage preparation
Once you have packed your suitcase or backpack, drag it around your house like you would for local transportation. If it’s already a hassle, take out a lot of items until you can carry it like normal people.
31. Arrival to accommodations
If you book accommodations online check to see if they post suggestions for the best way to arrive at your place. This way you don’t have to spend money on a taxi, for instance.
32. Backpack versus suitcase
If you can carry a backpack, bring a backpack to The Netherlands. Not only do we have cobblestoned streets that don’t work well with the little wheels, but we also have steep buildings with stairs. Steep stairs. And you don’t want to lift a suitcase by yourself the way up. Also, most old and beautiful buildings don’t have an elevator.
33. Currency value
Know your conversions and remember your currency value when you’re looking at buying a coffee or train ticket. This way, you can stick to your budget. Remember, we use the Euro in The Netherlands.
Don’t be as freaked out about pickpocketing. Does pickpocketing happen in Amsterdam? Well, yes. But, if you’re aware of your surroundings, belongings and trust your gut, you’ll probably be fine. Try to not look like a tourist too much. If you want to know how you can blend in, you can see my article for my packing list for all seasons here.
35. Get lost
Don’t be afraid to get lost. People will try to help you if you are lost. Even if you don’t speak Dutch, because most of us do speak English. Have a look at an article I wrote about the languages we speak in The Netherlands here to ease your mind. If you’re lost, go into a local shop or restaurant and ask them where to go.
36. Aeroplane tips
When you’re using an aeroplane to go to The Netherlands, bring a scarf or pashmina. Usually, planes are pretty cold. This is an essential item to bring to stay warm during your travels.
If you have a phone that needs to be charged, a laptop, camera or something else that requires electricity, don’t forget to bring a universal adapter.
38. Have enough space
When you leave home, don’t fill up your luggage. Keep room in your bag for souvenirs. Some of the best Dutch souvenirs and gifts can be found here.
You won’t see Dutch people walking around in yoga pants, when they don’t need to go to the gym. Workout clothes in The Netherlands are reserved for working out only. If they are comfortable for you, go ahead and wear them, but I think you would prefer to wear the more toned and reserved styles, such as entirely black or something.
40. Accommodations during the weekend
If you want to book accommodations during the weekend in The Netherlands, you have to act quick. Most accommodations book up quickly and are more expensive during the weekend, so plan your weekend.
41. Do you
Go off the beaten path or not. As long as you make your trip, yours, that’s all that matters. If you like to stick to the touristy places, that’s fine. If you want to see other things, that’s also cool. Travel your way and do not let someone dictate the way you should travel.
42. Public transport in The Netherlands
It is easy to get around The Netherlands and the rest of Europe. Public transportation is excellent and fast. Within The Netherlands, we use trains for long-distance and from there transfer to buses, trams or metros.
43. Small rooms
Like I said before, The Netherlands is a tiny country, that means our houses and rooms can be smaller if you’re from the U.S.A for instance. We don’t have much space, thus making use of the space we have is a very efficient way.
44. High heels
Don’t take high heels. When we are going out in The Netherlands, no one, but no one wears high heels. I often see British women in heels and am worried that they will break an ankle. I praise them for their courage and the fact that they can wear heels like a champion, but you don’t have to wear them to get into clubs.
If we are going to party we wear sneakers, jeans, and a blouse or shirt. This is one of the things you should know before travelling to The Netherlands as a woman. Have a look at an article about the things you should and shouldn’t wear in The Netherlands and Amsterdam here.
45. Budget more
Budget way more than you thought. The rule is simple: take fewer clothes and budget more. Museums are expensive in The Netherlands, so is the accommodation, food, and transport.
You can get cheap food in The Netherlands at markets, especially by the end of the market day.
Another budget one. Hostels are not cheap in The Netherlands; in fact, they are still expensive. Often they take advantage of the popularity of the season, so in Amsterdam, it often happens that you pay 50 euros or more for a night. It is still cheaper than most hotels and apartments, though. For Europe, the idea is; the more East you are, the cheaper it gets.
If you’re feeling lonely or not okay, that’s okay. It is okay not to feel okay. As a solo traveller, it happens. Sometimes you won’t like the city or the people. In that case, go to another town or area. If you’re feeling lonely you should do something, so get up. Have fun. Ease your mind by taking a walk into nature and listen to the birds singing.
47. Hide your important stuff
Do not leave your wallet or other valuable stuff easily accessible in outer pockets of a backpack. This might sound obvious, but there are still many people who do have their important things placed there.
Take cash when you need it, but don’t walk around with a hundreds of euros in your pocket.
49. Don’t rush
Be flexible. Don’t rush through a country. No country. In The Netherlands, don’t think you have seen the country if you’ve been to Amsterdam for two days. My country has so much more to offer than that. Also, don’t try to squeeze ten countries in 10 days. Europe is small but too big and way too diverse for that.
50. Keep some emergency cash hidden
Keep some extra cash hidden in a shoe or bra. In case you do get pickpocketed, you always have some backup money.
51. Small talk
This is not something we are used to in The Netherlands. If you are using small talk to people in The Netherlands, you’re not going to make local friends. It’s weird. You can say things like ‘lovely weather huh’ and people won’t be creeped out. However, if you are saying ‘Hi, how are you?’ that is weird for us.
The reason being that we only ask people who we care about how they are. We know you only want to hear ‘I’m fine’, even when we have the most terrible day ever. To us, that’s superficial and perceived as fake.
52. Dinner time
If you expect to eat dinner at 22:00 or 23:00, you are going to have a hard time adjusting to our way of living. In The Netherlands, we eat dinner between 17:00 and 18:30. If we are going to a restaurant, we will start eating maximum at 20:00 (which is very very late for us). If you want to have dinner at 22:00 or 23:00, the kitchens of all the restaurants will be closed.
Don’t be alarmed when you hear a siren on the first Monday of every new month at noon. This is to test the alarm system. You need to be alarmed when you hear the siren on another day of the month.
Coffee shops are not what you think they are. You can get coffee in a coffee shop, but the main thing about a coffee shop are drugs. Weed is tolerated in The Netherlands, but not legal. This means you can buy marijuana in a coffee shop. For good coffee, go to cafés. But remember that The Netherlands is more than just weed and that most marijuana is consumed by tourists and not by Dutch people.
Visit new and beautiful places. And discover the best part of The Netherlands. And trust me when I say that the best part of The Netherlands is not weed.
Toilet paper in The Netherlands goes into the toilet. Our sewage system is pretty good, so there’s no need to throw any toilet paper in the bin. However, do always dispose ‘flushable’ wipes, tampons, etc. in the trash can. If you don’t this does clogg the pipes, as they’re for toilet paper only.
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Other articles of this local travel blog and guide to The Netherlands that you’ll love
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