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The Netherlands Hostels, Eurail Passes, and Backpacking Tips

 

 

 

A small country with a big reputation for liberalism, the Netherlands (Nederland or Holland as it's commonly, but incorrectly, known) swims in a sea of familiar images. A land of bikes, dikes, fields of blazing flowers, windmills and few hills - these quintessential images of the Netherlands do exist outside the major cities and the once-radical, still exuberant, capital of Amsterdam.

The countryside's endlessly flat landscape, broken only by slender church steeples in scenes which inspired the nation's early artists, is a cyclist's nirvana. And while you may be pressed to find untouched spaces and solitude, you'll discover a hard-fought-for land, with proud people and farmers who, yes, still wear traditional clogs.

Highlights

Amsterdam has three not-to-be-missed museums: the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frankhuis (Anne Frank's house). The Keukenhof gardens are a must, especially for flower aficionados. Museum and cycling buffs will be in their glory throughout - a visit to the Kroller-Muller Museum can superbly combine the two.

When to Go

Spring is the ideal time to visit as there's less chance of rain and the bulbs are in bloom -daffodils from about early to late April, and tulips from about late April to mid-May.

Dangers

Petty crime is fairly common in Amsterdam - pickpockets often use distraction as their key tool, so keep your hands on your valuables, especially at Centraal Station in Amsterdam, the post office, and other tourist strongholds. Bike thefts are also common. Locals use two chains to lock up their bikes, and even that's no guarantee.

Despite popular belief to the contrary, drugs are illegal. Possession of more than 5g of marijuana or hash can, strictly speaking, get you a large fine and/or land you in jail -hard drugs can definitely land you in jail. Small amounts of 'soft' drugs for personal use are generally, though not officially, tolerated, but could complicate matters if you're already in trouble with the police over something else. Don't buy drugs from street dealers - you'll end up getting ripped off or mugged.

Time

One hour ahead GMT/UTC.

Business Hours

The working week starts leisurely at around lunchtime on Monday. For the rest of the week most shops open at 8.30 or 9 am and close at 5.30 or 6 pm, except Thursday or Friday when many close at 9 pm, and on Saturday at 4 pm. In Amsterdam and tourist centres, you will find many shops open on Sunday. Banks are generally open 9 am to 4 or 5 pm Monday to Friday. Many museums are closed on Monday.

Public Holidays & Special Events

Public holidays fall on New Year's Day, Good Friday (but most shops stay open), Easter Sunday and Monday, Queen's Day (30 April), Ascension Day, Whit Sunday and Monday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

The Holland Festival brings many of the top names in music, opera, dance and theatre to Amsterdam for performances throughout June. Another big event in Amsterdam is Koninginnedag (Queen's Day), the 30 April national holiday held on the former Queen Juliana's birthday.

Religious celebrations like carnival are confined to the southeastern provinces of North Brabant and Limburg.

Emergency

In the event of an emergency, the national telephone number for police, ambulance and fire brigade is 112.

Foreign Embassies

Countries with diplomatic representation in the Netherlands include(all in The Hague):

Canada (070-311 16 00), Sophialaan 7, 2514 JP
UK (070-427 04 27), Lange Voorhout 10, 2514 ED
USA (070-310 92 09), Lange Voorhout 102, 2514 EJ

 

 

 

The Netherlands


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