This ultimate Netherlands travel guide has must-know information about the country, which cities to visit, budgeting tips and more.
The Netherlands, a peaceful country in northwestern Europe, is best known for its charming canals, colorful tulip fields, windmills, and bikes. Its capital, Amsterdam, has a plethora of fun and insightful things to do from visiting the Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank House to going clubbing at local underground techno clubs.
Since moving here, I’ve absolutely fallen in love with so many aspects of this country and want your trip here to be amazing! Use this Netherlands travel guide as your end-all resource for your trip in Amsterdam and surrounding cities. Enjoy this country as I do!
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The currency for the Netherlands is the Euro (€).
Since the Netherlands is part of the Schengen Agreement, U.S. Citizens can visit the country up to 90 days for any tourist or business purposes without a visa.
If you are not a European or U.S. Citizen, make sure to check with your local government with what visa you may need to apply for to enter the Netherlands.
People in the Netherlands speak Dutch. However, in larger cities like Amsterdam, many people speak English so language should not be an issue.
The Netherlands uses the socket Type C and F. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
This universal travel adapter will work converting US appliances to EU sockets and has space for two USB cords.
However, it will not work with appliances that heat up such as a hair straightener or clothes steamer. Head to this post to learn about using hair appliances abroad.
The Netherlands is a very safe country. It is the #16 safest country in the world.
Nonetheless, be wise about pick-pocketers, especially in crowded, touristy areas.
Best Time to Go
A lot of the Netherlands is quite rainy and cloudy so the best time of year to go is May to August for drier seasons. Of course, April and September are great months to go too.
For tulips, you’ll want to go at the last week of April. Depending on how warm or cold it is, sometimes tulips bloom earlier or later, but based on experience, I would say come the last week of April to be safe.
Of course, the months mentioned above tend to be more popular times to visit. As a result, accommodations may be more expensive.
If you want to save money and come at less crowded times and don’t mind the cold and rainy weather, then November to February is a good time to come for you.
Holidays to Be Aware Of
Netherlands specific holidays may make your trip here more expensive or crowded. Here are some holidays and dates you may want to be aware of:
- Good Friday to Easter weekend
- King’s Day on the 27th – a unique celebration worth experiencing
- Gay Pride Parade, usually on the first weekend of August, which also coincides with Dekmantel Music Festival
New Year’s Eve is a special night in the Netherlands. All residents are allowed to light off fireworks as they please, which is quite the spectacle to see.
Although you can travel through any country specific to your budget, based on my experience, the Netherlands is not the cheapest place to visit, especially if you stay in Amsterdam. Here are estimated prices for accommodation, meals and transportation.
Here are prices per night based on Amsterdam since it’s the most popular city for tourists to visit in the Netherlands. They are cheaper than this if you go to other cities in the Netherlands, but not by too much. Accommodation in the Netherlands is relatively expensive.
- Hostels: €30-100
- Budget Hotels: €100-175
- Mid-range Hotels: €175-350
- Luxury Hotels €350+
- Airbnb Private Rooms: €50-200
- Airbnb Entire Place: €150-500
Important Note on Airbnb: You are not allowed to have more than four people in an Airbnb in Amsterdam so this may not be an option for large groups. I am not sure if this rule also applies outside of Amsterdam.
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Dining out is relatively expensive in the Netherlands, but keep in mind that both tax is included in the price, and tipping is either non-existent or quite minimal.
Here are prices of meals for one:
- Markets and Snack Foods: less than €6
- Lunch and Fast Casual Places: less than €20
- Restaurants: €20-45
- Fine Dining: more than €70
If you are on a budget, eating at markets or foods like fries and shopping at grocery stores and cooking in your Airbnb may be the best budget-savvy option.
- The Ten Kate Market or Albert Cuyp Market are great outdoor markets to shop at. The food there is extremely cheap.
- Albert Heijn is the most popular grocery store and has great food items such as pre-made salads, fresh pasta, marinated meats, already cut up vegetables without an exorbitant convenience premium, and more that’ll make cooking
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Trams and busses are the most popular way to travel within a city and generally cost about €2-3. Trains between cities cost about €12-20.
Getting around the Netherlands is really easy, especially with Google Maps, which you can use offline without wifi or data. This is because the entire transportation system of the Netherlands is synced perfectly with Google. You can use Google Maps to get bus, tram, metro and train directions.*
Within large cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, you’ll most walk, take the tram, use the bus or ride the metro as it doesn’t take too long to get from neighborhood to neighborhood.
As locals do, you can also ride a bike everywhere. The infrastructure for biking is well-developed and extremely useful for getting around.
From city to city, there are frequently running trains, which you can find on the Dutch NS International site. However, within the country, there are no assigned seats so you could just buy tickets right at the train station.
You will also be riding the NS International intercity trains when arriving in the Amsterdam airport and traveling to Amsterdam center or any other cities in the Netherlands. You can buy these tickets right at the airport at a yellow kiosk.
*Important Note: When going from city to city within the Netherlands, Google Maps might show you an option that includes the Thalys. I DO NOT recommend taking a Thalys within the Netherlands because it is almost four times the price on average. Stick to inter-city trains.
Local Customs & Tips
Local customs don’t differ too greatly from America or other Western countries, but there are a few that stick out.
- Bikers generally have the right of way so make sure to watch out for them. Do not walk in the bike path, which are red, and on streets where there are no designated bike lanes, walk to the right side so bikers can pass you by.
- The Dutch are generally quieter and respectful people. When at restaurants, keep conversations to a reasonable level. No need to speak so loudly!
- At restaurants, if you want tap water, you have to specifically ask for tap water. Otherwise, they will serve you bottled still or sparkling water.
- If the bill feels like it’s taking awhile to come, feel free to go up to the counter or hostess’ stand, and pay your bill. Dutch servers will let you sit as long as you want instead of shooing you out!
- Be patient at restaurants and in stores. If a host or cashier is busy, just say hello so they know you’re there, but otherwise you’ll need to wait for them to be free with whatever they’re doing at the moment.
- It’s a pretty rainy country, but if you download the Buienradar app (iPhone, Android), you can see the rainfall prediction within an hour or two. It’s very accurate and can help you decide if you should stay inside a half hour longer to let the rain pass by before going out.
These are the most important local customs and tips you should be aware of, but head to these Amsterdam travel tips to get a full list of them.
As always, a simple ‘Dankjewel’ pronounced Dank-yoo-well, which is Dutch for ‘Thank you’, can go along way.
What to Pack
For Your Electronics: Since the Netherlands’ standard voltage is 230 volts, and they use a Plug Type C and F, you’ll want to bring a universal travel adapter that also has two USB ports for your phones.
If you prefer plain adapters, then I recommend these smaller ones as they’ll fit into any socket the best. I previously bought ones with a square base, and they continuously have fallen out of the European sockets.
Important Note: Your heated appliances like a clothing steamer or hair straightener will only work abroad if it’s dual-voltage. Here is a post fully dedicated to using hair straighteners abroad.
For the Weather: As mentioned above, the Netherlands is quite the rainy country. It also gets quite windy. As a result, having a windproof umbrella on you at all times is your best bet. Here’s the exact travel windproof umbrella that I own and use in Amsterdam.
You may also want to pack a stylish, reusable raincoat, which many locals wear. Locals do not wear those cheap, one-time use plastic raincoats because it rains so often. They’re purely not functional.
For Clothing: Dutch men and women dress simple but classy. They often wear dark jeans with solid or patterned sweaters and t-shirts and a pair of sneakers or boots.
They do not dress up so often and women barely wear heels, even at clubs. It’s a pretty casual dress code.
Although they don’t dress up too often, they definitely do not wear sweatpants, yoga pants, or clothing with holes in public. The only time you’d wear these items outside your home is if you are going to and from your gym and yoga classes.
You might like: How to Keep Your Clothes Wrinkle Free While Traveling
For Traveling: Roads, apartments, planes and cars tend to be smaller in the Netherlands than in the USA. As a result, I recommend traveling with a carry-on size luggage such as this eBags Fortis one that I’ve used in the Netherlands, Spain and France. Its wheels roll so smoothly, which makes walking through airports and train stations a breeze.
Miscellaneous: The Netherlands charges for plastic bags so it’s a good idea to bring a foldable, reusable one. Besides them being handy for shopping, they’re really convenient to have when traveling in general. Read why a reusable, foldable bag is a must when traveling, or get some on Amazon here.
You might like: Ultimate European Packing List
Best Things to Do
For the best things to do, you’ll want to check out places to visit in Netherlands such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and some of the smaller towns and cities.
Explore Amsterdam, the Largest City in the Netherlands
Amsterdam, the largest city in the Netherlands, is a must-visit when coming to the Netherlands. Besides its infamous UNESCO World Heritage canals and world famous museums like the Anne Frank Museum, Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, there are unique things to do here for the modern traveler.
For example, Amsterdam has several local breweries, which you can drink craft beer at. It’s also home to some of the world’s largest DJs and has a down-to-earth yet vibrant music scene with clubs like de School, music venues like Paradiso and the Melkweg, and music festivals like Amsterdam Dance Event.
Last but not least, Amsterdam is almost a lawless city, which you could hardly imagine because of how orderly and efficient it is. By lawless, I mean you can smoke and drink openly in the streets and parks (except for areas that have signs saying it’s not allowed) and visit the Red Light District if you’re curious.
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- 11 Local Travel Tips for Amsterdam
- Best Restaurants in Amsterdam
- Best Things to Do in Amsterdam
- Where to Stay in Amsterdam
- Most Instagrammable Places in Amsterdam
- 8 Fun and Free Things To Do in Amsterdam With Kids In the Summer
- Helpful Tips for Visiting the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
- Rent Your Own Boat for the Amsterdam Canals
Revel in the Architecture Disneyland of Rotterdam
Rotterdam is the Netherland’s second largest city, and unlike the other cities, Rotterdam is truly unique in design because of its history. In 1940, Rotterdam was bombed by the Nazis in WWII, which almost completely wiped out the city.
During the rebuilding process, the city decided that instead of preserving the old like the other cities do, they’d allow all types of unique architecture to bYoue built. Hence why parts of Rotterdam city looks like an architectural Disneyland.
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You can book Amsterdam, Rotterdam and tulip activities all in one place here.
Immerse Yourself in the Beauty of Tulips
It’s no secret that the Dutch have the best green thumb in the world. That’s why you’ll find beautiful tulip fields and Keukenhof, the largest tulip garden in the world, just 45 minutes outside of Amsterdam.
The tulip season is quite short, and tulips generally only bloom for a couple of weeks between the 2nd week of April to 1st week of May so to be safe, come at the last week of April.
You might like: When, Where & How of Visiting Tulip Fields in the Netherlands
Discover a Fairytale Village with No Cars/Roads
The fairytale village of Giethoorn has a population of 2,600 and no cars/roads. You can only get around by boat on the quaint canals. As you sail around town, you’ll find adorable brick homes with perfectly manicured lawns.
Get a Feel for a True Dutch City
The Dutch consider Amsterdam a very international city so to get a feel of a truly Dutch city, you’ll want to head to the Hague (den Haag) or Utrecht. Both of these cities are quite charming and are worth exploring by simply meandering through the streets without plans.
Note that many shops and restaurants in these cities close at 6:00PM so make sure to come here earlier in the day rather than pushing it off. Because these cities are so small, you probably only need a day trip here!
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Geek Out in This Gorgeous Bookstore
If you love bookstores, then you’ll want to visit the Boekhandel Dominicanen in Maastricht. It may be one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world.
Furthermore, just a short 15 minutes away is Château St. Gerlach, a boutique hotel with a spa and delicious fine dining restaurant comparable to Michelin quality. With a art dispersed around the yard, multiple restaurants and the relaxing pool and spa included your stay, this is the place to go to treat yourself.
Experience the Sight of Traditional Windmills
In Zaanse Schans, you can see traditional windmills still turning as they saw wood or mill oil, flour, spices and pigments. Whether you go inside the mill and climb to the deck for a panoramic view or see the colorful mills from afar, you’ll have a beautiful, unique view of the Netherlands.
Stay Right on the Beach in Zandvoort, Netherlands
Only 45 minutes from Amsterdam is Zandvoort, a beach town in the Netherlands. There’s tons of beach clubs on the beach, a national park nearby and fun activities to do.
While you’re there, you can stay at the Zandvoort beach hotel with the best sunset view and everything you need to feel at home away from home.
What to Eat in the Netherlands
Common Dutch foods you must try are bitterballen, stroopwafel, apple pie, pancakes, poffertjes, and more. You can get a detailed background of what each food is and where exactly to find them in Amsterdam in this post.
Places to Stay
My favorite neighborhoods in Amsterdam are:
- Jordaan where the UNESCO World Heritage canals are,
- Oud-West, more of a local neighborhood just a quick 10 minutes outside of Jordaan,
- and de Pijp, also a local neighborhood that many people in their 20s-40s go out for bars and trendy cafes.
Wherever you stay within the A10 ring, a highway that surrounds Amsterdam proper, will be a great neighborhood because Amsterdam is a relatively small city. As a result, getting to where you want to go won’t take long regardless of where you stay.
Amsterdam is relatively expensive when it comes to accommodation so I’d recommend booking today on Booking.com, the hotel booking site I use, so that the prices don’t go up soon.
Latest Blog Posts About the Netherlands
In case you didn’t get all the information you wanted above in my Netherlands travel guide, here are my latest posts to help you travel in this country. Most of them are related to Amsterdam as this is where I currently live.
- Which Zandvoort Beach Hotel to Stay At (All With Beachfront Properties)
- 8 Magical Things to Do in Amsterdam in December (Local Guide)
- Local Guide: Valentine’s Day in Amsterdam
- 7 Places to Eat in Rotterdam
- The Ultimate Netherlands Travel Guide
- 3 Best Hotels in Rotterdam (That I’ve Stayed At)
- Best Rotterdam Shopping Guide for Vintage and Local Goods
- Boekhandel Dominicanen, the Most Beautiful Bookstore in the World
- Fine Dining with Wine at Bistrot de Liège
Thanks for making it all the way down to the end of the post. I’d love to connect. Come say hi to me my Instagram @sarchetrit, especially if you found any part of this post to be helpful.
Till then, thanks for stopping by, and have a great day!
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