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The Netherlands Backpacker Money, Accommodation, Food

 


MONEY

US$1 ≈ 0.65€ (euro)

Banks stick to official exchange rates and charge 2.50% to 2.75% (with a minimum of 3 €) for exchanging cash, and 5 € commission for travellers cheques. De Grenswisselkantoren (GWK), the national exchange organisation, has similar rates but the commissions are slightly cheaper. There are GWK branches at all major border posts and train stations. With a student card there's 25% less commission on cash.

In larger cities there are many private exchange bureaus that close late but generally ask high commissions or offer lousy rates. Many post offices will exchange cash and travellers cheques. Although all major credit cards are recognised, the Netherlands is still very much a cash-based society. ATMs are located at Schiphol airport and at Centraal Station in Amsterdam, as well as countless other locations around the country.

Costs

Travelling costs relatively little due to the country's size. You can survive on about 30 € a day by staying in hostels and eating in cafes. Tipping is not compulsory, but 'rounding up' the bill is always appreciated in taxis, restaurants and pubs with table or pavement service.

ACCOMMODATION

Rarely cheap and often full, accommodation is best booked ahead especially in Amsterdam or if you're going to be in the Randstad during the Keukenhof season.

You can book hotel accommodation ahead (no deposit required) through the Netherlands Reservation Centre which has a Web site at www.hotelres.nl, or via the Amsterdam Reservation Center (777 000 888).

Camping grounds are copious but prices vary - on average 3/4/2 € per adult/tent/car. The NBT has a selective list of sites or there's the ANWB's annual camping guide (10 €), both available from some VVVs or bookshops.

The country's official hostel organisation is the Nederlandse Jeugdherberg Centrale (NJHC; 020-551 31 55), Prof Tulpstraat 2, 1018 HA Amsterdam. The Web site is at www .njhc.org. The NJHC has four categories of hostels, with nightly rates in a dorm varying from 6 € to 12 € for members (in July and August 10 € to 15 €) including breakfast. Category four hostels charge 15 € to 20 €. At all hostels, a nonmember pays 2 € extra. Some hostels have rooms - expect to pay between 40 € to 45 € for a single, and 50 € to 70 € for a double. Private hostels in large cities have similar prices.

B&Bs start at 18 € per person a night. Local VVVs have lists or you can book through Bed & Breakfast Holland (020-615 75 27), Theophile de Bockstraat 3, 1058 TV Amsterdam.

Hotels start at 40/50 € for basic singles/doubles with breakfast. In the mid-range, prices start from 60/100 €. Prices will sometimes rise during the high season (roughly 15 March to 15 November).

FOOD

What traditional Dutch cuisine lacks in taste sensation, it certainly makes up for in quantity. And thanks to the sizeable Indonesian, Surinamese and Turkish communities - and to the culinary revolution that has taken over Amsterdam in recent years - there are plenty of spicy or interesting options. Vegetarians will find at least one meat-free dish at eetcafes (eating pubs).

The national fast-food habit is frites -chips or french fries - usually sold from a frituur (chip shop). Broodjes (open-face sandwiches) are everywhere. Dinner traditionally comprises thick soups and meat, fish or chicken dishes fortified with potatoes. Most restaurants have a dagschotel (dish of the day) for between 7 € and 10 €, while eetcafes serve meals or cheap snacks. Otherwise, the Indonesian rijsttafel ('rice table') of boiled rice with oodles of side dishes is pricey but worth a try, as are Zeeland mussels (best eaten during months with an 'r' in their name according to local tradition).

As for sweets, appelgebak (apple pie) ranks up there with frites, while poffertjes (miniature pancakes sprinkled with icing sugar) are sure-fire tourist food, as are pannekoeken (pancakes) and stroopwqfels (hot wafers glued together with syrup).

DRINKS

Dutch beer is served cool and topped by a two-finger-thick head of froth - a sight that can horrify Anglo-Saxon drinkers. Many Belgian beers - such as Duvel and Westmalle Triple - have become immensely popular in the Netherlands, and are reasonably priced.

Dutch genever (gin) is made from juniper berries; a common combination, known as a kopstoot ('head butt'), is a glass of genever with a beer chaser - two or three of those is all most people can handle.

 

 

 

The Netherlands


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