The Netherlands or Holland is a small country with a lot to offer. Dutch people are very easy going and direct. Some people like it, some don’t. I, myself, am Dutch and I can tell you that I am very direct and it is not always a good quality.
So I decided to write this ultimate guide to the Netherlands for you. At least this gives me the perfect opportunity to warn and prepare you for this.
So in this guide to the Netherlands, I will tell you all you need to know to make the best of your trip, how to stay on the good side of the Dutch, how to get around, what to eat, where to go and of course, the must-know words and sentences.
The Netherlands is one of the smallest but is pretty touristic and well known. Before you plan your trip, you must know some of the basics, so here it is.
Language: Dutch and a lot of English
Currency: the Euro
Ways of payment: You can pay with cash, credit and debit card actually anywhere.
Timezone: Summertime UTC+2, Wintertime UTC+1
Best travel time: All year, but be prepared.
‘All year, but be prepared’ what does that mean? Well, let’s just say that the weather is very unpredictable in Holland. They will say it will be sunny and it is snowing or they say it 20 degrees Celcius (68 Fahrenheit) and it will be 10 Celcius (50 Fahrenheit) or 30 degrees Celcius (86 Fahrenheit).
So always be prepared. Take a throwaway poncho, an umbrella and a sweater with you, but also something light and airy. Of course, if you come in the middle of winter, you don’t need to bring a bikini. It is not that unpredictable, although there is a Dutch tradition (holiday) to go swimming on New Years Day!
In summer it can be sunny, cloudy and rainy and most times it is around 18-35 degrees Celcius. Do you see the difference? In winter it is mostly cloudy, windy and very rainy. It can be 15 degrees Celcius, but also -5 degrees Celcius.
Be sure to check the weather report!
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Where to go?
Even though the Netherlands is a small country, it has a lot to offer and a lot of places worth visiting. However, most of the places are nice for a day or two. The best you can do is hire a car or go to different cities by train.
The capital, most people know the name and associate it with sex and weed. There is so much more to offer and see. This is a must for every holiday. Even if it is just a day or two, do not forget it.
My personal favorite. The Hague is a smaller city, but just as lively. This is the city where the government is located. A city full of history and its own beach. I, personally, can spend days and days in the Hague.
If you like canals than Utrecht is the city for you. Yeah, Amsterdam has them, but those in Utrecht are so much nicer! The buildings are so nice and it is one of the more famous cities with international students. It will be no surprise that there is a lot to do and there are always people to talk to.
I can keep talking about every city worth visiting, but then I will keep repeating. Holland is full of cities with a lot of history, nice architecture, lovely people, amazing sights and more.
The cities that are worth visiting:
I know. It is a long list, but the good part is that Holland is surprisingly small, so this is all doable in 14 days. Or just choose 3-5 cities and go a bit slower. There is so much to see, but most cities only need a day.
How to get around?
This is the good part. It is so easy to get everywhere in Holland. Well, unless you live in really small towns with only one bus every hour or something, not even a bus. There are good connections with trains and buses, but you can also go by car.
The biggest train company in Holland is the NS. It stands for Nederlandse Spoorwegen, translated to Dutch Railways. There are great connections between the big cities and middle big cities.
If you pick the right route, you only have to use one train every time. If you pick the wrong route, you may need to change trains once or twice. As they go a few times every hour, this is no problem.
If you go from one side to Holland all the way to the other, it might take an hour or 3. If you go from city to city, it is possible to only travel an hour a day.
When you are in the city that you want to visit, the best you can do is to take the tram or bus. The buses go every 10 minutes to once an hour. It all depends on the city and time. They go more often during the day than in the evening or at night.
If you want to visit smaller towns, it is possible to go by bus. The train does not go there, but there is a bus from the train station to the towns.
The tram and metro are practically the same with just one huge difference. The tram is above the ground and the metro is mostly under the ground.
They drive through big cities and are often faster than the bus. This is because they have their own rails and are not that often stuck in traffic. It is still possible, but the bus is stuck more often.
Holland is one of the countries with the best roads. You will find no holes and bumps in the road, except the speedbumps of course. We drive on the right side on the road.
There are a few different kinds of roads.
- inside built-up areas: 50 km/h or 31 mph
- outside built-up areas: 80 km/h or 50 mph
- urban residential zones: 30 km/h or 19 mph
- expressway: 100 km/h or 62 mph
- highway: 120/130 km/ or 75/81 mph
Parking can be a bit of a problem in some parts. In big cities, there are a lot of paid parking garages. The price can be as low as €0.50 an hour to a high of €5.00 an hour.
In smaller cities and towns, it is possible to find free parking spots. Look at supermarkets or just a street further away. It can save you a lot of money!
A great tip from Dominika!
Stay safe as a walker
While traveling in the Netherlands, you will be surrounded by bikes everywhere. On the street, in the city center, in the park, sometimes even in closed spaces. A bike sea will flood you every day. How to stay safe in this two-wheeled crowd?
Once being in Amsterdam, I get a great tip from my local guide. He told me what to do if you will suddenly notice a speeding bike going straight to crush you. He made a dramatic face and said: “Stand calm. Focus on eye contact. And pray.”
This tactic actually works. Dutch are great cyclists, so when you will meet one of them on your way, do not run away and avoid any unexpected moves. Get frozen. While you will be standing still like a statue, then a biker will smoothly pass you by, cause he will control the situation. Once you will try to jump to the side, the chance that both of you will choose the same way will increase and cause a crash.
Dominika is from Sunday in Wonderland. Check out her site!
Tips for getting around
What and where to eat?
Okay, I already wrote an article about typical Dutch food. But I can never say it enough. So many people think we have weird food until they try them!
The most famous Dutch food is probably the Kroket and Frikandel. The fast-food of Holland. They are a kind of sausage, but different. You can also eat them on a bun and create a ‘broodje kroket’.
We also have a lot of weird snacks. Definitely try them! I recommend the ‘drop’, ‘stroopwafel’ and ‘Haagse Hopjes’ the most.
But where to eat them? The most candy you should just get at the supermarket. Except for the ‘stroopwafel’! On a lot of markets, you can find a stand where they make them fresh. They actually make the waffle and the caramel right before you and it is still warm!
The kroket and frikandel are available almost everywhere. So enjoy a seat in the (rarely there) sun and try it. Or for the real Dutch experience go to FEBO.
FEBO is a place where you can get food out of a wall. Put some money in it, the door opens and take the food out. This is ideal if you have to catch your train, but are hungry!
Tips about food
How to survive the Dutch?
This is a hard one. The Dutch are not all that bad, but some people do find them pretty harsh and direct. This is because the Dutch say everything they think.
The main trick is to not take anything too serious. Then it is already easier. The Dutch almost all speak English, and they will use it against you.
If English is your main language, watch out with talking about some locals. They hear everything. If you want to laugh at somebody, do it in another language or when they are really far away. (or just don’t)
The second tip is to be nice yourself. If you are nice, they will be nice. You also have to pick the right person, but okay. Like, don’t ask the guy in a suit that is walking so fast it is almost running. Ask the girls on the street that are shopping or something. They don’t have somewhere to be and maybe even invite you for a coffee with them!
The last very important thing is just to try and talk clearly in English and try to learn some words in dutch. You can find a list of handy words to learn a bit further in the guide.
Tips for surviving the dutch mentality
Necessary Dutch words and phrases
Welkom = Welcome
Dank je wel = Thank you
Ik ben … = I am …
Prettig kennis te maken = Nice to meet you
Waar is …..? = Where is …..? (a person or a building/place)
Waar kan ik … vinden? = Where can I find …?
Mag ik van het toilet gebruik mogen maken? = Can I use the toilet?
Een broodje kroket/frikandel alstublieft. = A ‘broodje kroket / frikandel’ please.
een / twee bier alstublieft = one / two beer please
Kan ik afrekenen? = Can I pay?
Ik zou graag willen … = I would like
So, I just tell you that you can just speak English and it will be fine and then I am going to learn you Dutch now? It is not necessary, but the Dutch love it if you try (we always do it on holiday too!) and a lot of tourists like to try it.
Tips from some friends
So, I asked my friends if they had some tips and here they are!
- Bring or buy a rain suit. Or at least an umbrella
- Do not try the sweets: Zwart-witjes (black whites), unless you want to get addicted
- If you have never ridden a bicycle, don’t cycle on the streets
- If someone offers you Gold Strike, say no! (A lot of people hate this liqueur)
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Enjoy your trip to the Netherlands!