The canals are one of the top things to do when in Amsterdam

The Netherlands Travel Guide

This travel guide for the Netherlands features the top places to visit, how to get there, safety, scams, logistics and more to help you plan your trip.

Officially the Kingdom of the Netherlands, this country is full of rich Dutch history, top-notch museums, amazing canals, fascinating architecture, a vibrant nightlife, a culture of tolereance, and one of the world’s largest flower gardens. There truly is something for everyone here.

Note: All the information in this travel guide and posts on Netherlands have been updated as of November 2022.

Top Attractions In The Netherlands

Amsterdam

Amsterdam, the capital, is the Netherland’s top destination with over 20 million visitors annually (pre-pandemic) to explore its captivating canals lined with Golden Age architecture, visit world-class museums, and learn about its culture of tolerance and openness with its famous coffeeshops and Red Light District.

Canal-side cafes are one of the top things to do when in Amsterdam

Keukenhof Gardens

Keukenhof, one of the biggest flower gardens in the world, opens annually from mid- to late-March to mid-April, with around 7 million hand planted flower bulbs set in stunning English garden style.

The canals of Amsterdam are a top site in the Netherlands travel guide
Keukenhof Gardens


Located in Lisse, about 40 km southwest of Amsterdam, it’s an easy day trip. To read more about the best way to get to Keukenhof Gardens and what to expect there, see my updated post on Keukenhof for 2024. And if you really love tulips, it’s worth trying to drive, or bicycle, by the miles tulip farms, called Bollenstreek, too.

The Hague

The Hague, the political heart of the country, is south of Amsterdam, located on the western coast of the Netherlands. You can visit the seat of Parliament, at Binnenhof, by booking a tour, and admire the King’s working Palace, Noordeinde.

It’s also home to top notch art at museums like the Mauritshuis, known for its Golden Age Dutch masterpieces like The Girl With A Pearl Earring, The Goldfinch, and more. And a museum devoted to M. C. Escher, at former Lange Voorhout Palace, and the world’s largest collection of Mondrian art at Gemeentemuseum.

There’s also easy access to coastal beaches, which are only 3 miles (5 km) from the center of town via tram or bicycle.

Best Time To Visit The Netherlands

If you want to see the gardens at Keukenhof, they’re open mid- to late-March to mid-May. The flowers at the gardens are set up to always be amazing, and although weather conditions can shift things, the peak is generally considered to be towards the end of April.

Many people tie a trip to Amsterdam with a visit to the gardens, so this time of year can be busy, as well as more expensive. But early Spring is a beautiful time to visit, as Amsterdam feels vibrantly alive with smiling people out enjoying the canals and cafes lining them, especially on sunny days. The weather in spring can be a little unpredictable though, so be prepared for what it brings.

Summer is also a a peak time, also very busy with higher prices.

Languages In The Netherlands

Dutch is the official language in the Netherlands. Almost 90% will be able to speak English and 70% German.

Netherlands Travel Guide: Money Matters

Currency: The currency is the Euro. The following conversation rates are from of January 1, 2024.

  • 1 USD=.91 Euro
  • 1 CNY=.13 Euro

Credit Cards: The Dutch typically do not like debit cards, as they are very debt adverse people. In fact, the word for debt here, schuld, also means guilt! Therefore, places that cater to international customers, like hotels, major restaurants, and tourist spots, are likely to accept MasterCard and Visa (and sometimes American Express), but other places may not. Those that do, may add a 2-6% charge to your bill to use them (so ask in advance). The Dutch use Maestro, which is owned by Mastercard, but this is not an option for most tourists, so cash in king here. Because of this frustrating fact, however, pickpocketing is common, so only carry what you need and keep it close!

ATM’s: The best place to get cash is at an ATM, which are prevalent and easy to find in larger cities. Most Dutch owned banks do not charge fees, but the screen will alert you to fees above and beyond fees charged by your bank. Unfortunately, most ATM’s here will also not let you know what the exchange rate is until after the transaction, or until you look at your statement. ATMs at airports, hotels, and near tourist areas usually charge higher fees (convenience), so try to avoid them. When prompted, select the local currency (not your home currency) for the best conversion rate. Dutch ATMs use 4 digit pins, so if yours is longer, change it before you travel.

Money Exchanges: Money exchanges, or Geldwisselkantoor, are the second best place to get cash. Look for exchanges away from airports and touristy areas for the best exchange rates. Banks will not exchange money unless you have an account with them.

Netherlands Travel Guide: Safety

The Netherlands is relatively safe, but pick-pocketing and petty theft do occur. In fact, you will likely see signs in the airport warning you if this, as credits cards are not widely accepted. Be especially cautious in crowded touristy areas, like transportation hubs, the Red Light District in Old Town Amsterdam, and Dam Square.

Take normal precautions, but remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings. Don’t carry too much cash and keep a close eye on your purse or wallet. 

Always check the latest situation on your government website. It’s also a good idea to sign up for STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program), or similar with your country to be updated if an issue does arise.

Tulips fields are top site in the Netherlands travel guide
Tulip Feilds

Netherlands Travel Guide: Scams

Generally the Netherlands is safe, but there are always a few people trying to take advantage of tourists. Especially in crowded touristy areas. Common scams in the Netherlands include the following.

Fake Police

Fake police may flash a fake badge, under the guise of looking for counterfeit money or drugs. If they ask to look through your bags, they are likely trying to steel your goods. Dutch police will rarely ask to look through your bags. Suggest moving to an official police station if this happens to you.

Fake Taxis

Fake taxi drivers have been known to hang around Schiphol airport, charging outrageous fees to take you to town. Always use official taxis in official taxi ranks and never accept personal taxi solicitations from inside the airport. Even better, use public transportation instead, which is outstanding here.

Fake Boat Operators

If someone randomly approaches you and offers you a boat ride, they could be scammers. They may take you out in the boat, but then demand an outrageous sum to bring you back.

The canals are one of the top things to do in Amsterdam Netherlands Travel Guide
Amsterdam

Cheap Used Bikes

With the massive popularity of biking in the Netherlands, and so many bikes, bicycle theft is a huge business here. Some thieves try to pawn stolen bicycles to tourists. You may think this is not a problem, but buying a stolen bike is a criminal offense in the Netherlands. Never buy bicycles from people selling on the street. Alternatively, you may be sold a bike that falls apart soon after your purchase.

Fast Food

Some fast food places are known to charge high prices for items not marked with a price. If prices are not marked, ask first.

Used Public Transport Tickets

Beware of people trying to sell you transportation tickets at discounted prices. They are likely used. Only buy from standard ticket locations.

Getting Around The Netherlands

Getting Into The Netherlands

The airport with the most international flights is Amsterdam’s Schiphol International airport. It’s also convenient as it’s only a 15-20 minute ride away from Centraal-Amsterdam station on Dutch Railways, with well over a hundred departures a day (which is also the most cost effective way to get to town). You can also take the NS train to Amsterdam Zuid, then the metro for slightly more. Look for ticket machines in the station hall and by luggage pick up.

Bus takes a little longer and is more expensive with the Amsterdam Airport Express Bus 397 going from Schiphol Plaza to Amsterdam Elandsgracht in about 30-minutes and GVB bus 69 to Amsterdam Sloterdijk in about 40.

A taxi, including Uber, which does serve Amsterdam, is the most expensive option, costing up to 10 times as much as the train, but easier if you don’t want to hassle with your luggage. Make sure to read about taxi scams above if this is your plan.

Keukenhof is a top site in the Netherlands Travel Guide
Keukenhof Gardens

Getting around Between Cities

Train is the most convenient, and usually the most economical way, to get between cities in the Netherlands. The train from Amsterdam Centraal to Den Haag Centraal takes about an hour and runs frequently. The city center is about a 10-minute walk, or short taxi ride, from there.

Getting Around In Cities

Both Amsterdam and the Hague have excellent public transportation with trams, the metro and buses. Cash is no longer accepted on most, so you need to buy tickets with debit or credit.

If Keukenhof Gardens are in your plans, there are many buses and detailed routes from both Amsterdam and Schiphol airport. It’s surprisingly easy to get there on your own, whihc is great if you’re not a fan of organized tours. To learn more, click here.

Visa Info For The Netherlands

The Netherlands is in the Schengen, so operates on the Schengen Visa policy. US citizens can enter visa free for up to 90 days, then can only re-enter after an additional 90 days.

Chinese citizens need to apply for a Schengen Visa. See the Schengen Visa Policy to learn more.

Netherlands Travel Guide: Top Destination Blogs

Click the icons below for more detailed information on the key sites in the Netherlands.

If this travel guide has been useful in planning, or just dreaming about visiting the Netherlands add a comment below.

Safe Travels!

Julie

If you want read more about me and my personal perspectives on travel, see my About Me.

Note: All efforts have been made to provide accurate information in the Travel Guide for the Netherlands, but from time to time things change. If you see something that is not right, please contact me below.

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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