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The Netherlands is relatively small and has a dense road and motorway network with good public transport so getting a r o u n d i s q u i c k a n d easy. Whether you are going to Amsterdam, the Veluwe, Maastricht or Zandvoort, you can get there from anywhere in the country very quickly by car or by train. The flat landscape with its many canals and dykes means that holidaymakers have plenty of opportunity to explore the countryside by bicycle or by boat . Another option is to take a trip by steam train. The best place to find out what’s available in your area – and in the country as a whole – is the local VVV (tourist information) office.


The best source of information for tourists is the local or regional VVV office. Many towns and places of interest have VVV offices where you can drop in and ask for advice and brochures about places of interest, local events, walks, cycle routes and excursions in the town or region. In addition, they can provide maps and books about other parts of the Netherlands. The VVVgidsen series in Dutch is very practical, with information and facts about individual provinces and regions

provinces and regions. At VVVs you can also book domestic excursions, hotels, short breaks and theatre tickets anywhere in the country. Annual museum cards and CJPs are also on sale here. Smaller VVV outlets, although providing comprehensive information about their local area, do not provide other services

ANWB offices in the Netherlands also have a ANWB logo The logo of the Amsterdam Tourist Board selection of cycling, rambling and motoring guides, tickets, camping guides and road atlases. ANWB members have access to specialized membership information about various subjects and holiday offers. In many cases the VVV and the ANWB share the same premises. If you are travel ling to the Netherlands from abroad you can obtain information in advance from the Netherlands Board of Tourism (NBT) in your own country


The Dutch have been linguists for centuries, and most students learn English, some German and French. English is certainly very widely and fluently spoken in Amsterdam. However, it’s always appreciated if you can handle a few niceties: greeting a Dutch person with “Dag” (“good day”), for example, before asking whether they speak English. The Phrase Book on pages 479–80 is a useful place to start.


Many VVV-gidsen guides have an annual review of events in a particular region or province. For up-to-date information on events, exhibitions, performances and films, it is worth looking in the entertainment supplements issued by daily papers , or ask at the local VVV office. Plays, concerts, special events and festivals are usually advertised on billboards or in cafés. Special regional and local entertainment guides are also a good source of information; for example, the monthly Uitkrant tells you what’s on in Amsterdam in the way of theatre, while the weekly Uitloper is Utrecht’s entertainment guide. These guides are distributed at many sites free of charge. Tickets for concerts and events are available not only at the box office of the venue itself but also via the national Ticket Service and at VVV offices. Some towns also have their own booking bureau; for instance, in Amsterdam you can book your tickets at the AUB , and in The Hague you can get your tickets at the Bespreekbureau Haagsche Courant .


The Annual Museum Card (Museumjaarkaart) has quickly risen to huge popularity. It costs ¤39.95 for people over the age of 25, and ¤19.95 for under-25s. It gives the holder free entry to over 440 museums in the country. However, you usually have to pay a supplement for special exhibitions. The card is available at all participating museums and at VVVs, and requires a passport photograph. It can also be ordered from the Stichting Museumjaarkaart (also available over the Internet).


Most public buildings have good facilities for travellers with disabilities. Museums, art galleries, cinemas and theatres generally are wheelchair-accessible. Only some establishments in very old buildings are less accessible, but there are always staff who are able to lend a hand. If you require assistance it’s a good idea to phone in advance. Accessibility information for hotels is given on page 387.

In Amsterdam and other major cities, all main pedestrian crossings are equipped with sound for the blind. For disabled people travelling by train, the NS has issued a pack entitled Gehandicap ten. This contains information on Dutch railway stations and what facilities they have, and also lists the stations (there are approximately 150 of them) where people in wheelchairs can get assistance when boarding and alighting from trains. Many trains have wheelchair-accessible doors, and most new double-decker trains have wheelchairaccessible toilets. If you need help, it’s best to contact the Bureau Assistentieverlening Gehandicapten three hours before travelling.


 Although until recently just about every shop in the country was open from 9am to 6pm, today there is an increasing variety in shop opening hours. Many retail stores and supermarkets are open until 7pm or later. In the cities, shops tend to stay open longer. Many towns have a “shopping evening” (koopavond) once a week, when most shops remain open until 9pm: Thursday in Amsterdam and The Hague, Friday in Utrecht. In an increasing number of towns shops open on Sundays at least once in the month. Many shops have half-day closing one day a week, usually Monday, but varying from one region to another.

Banks are usually open on weekdays from 9am to 5pm, and VVVs are also open on Mondays to Fridays from 9am or 10am to 5pm (sometimes on koopavond until 9pm). On Saturdays they close early or even all day, and most are closed on Sundays. Some VVVs are closed during the winter. Many museums are shut on Mondays, and open from 10am to 5pm for the rest of the week. On Sundays and public holidays they tend to open later. Practically all museums are closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day. Open-air museums and small museums tend to close for the winter.


Travellers from other EU countries can travel freely in and out of the Netherlands provided they have a valid passport or European identity card. For a stay lasting up to three months, travellers from Australia, New Zealand and North America need only a valid passport. EU residents may bring an unlimited quantity of goods into the country provided they are for their personal use. For tobacco and alcohol, the following quantities are considered limits for personal use: 800 cigarettes, 400 cigars, 1 kg of tobacco, 10 litres of spirits, 20 litres of liqueurs, 90 litres of wine (or 60 litres of fortified wine) and 110 litres of beer. Duty will be charged on quantities exceeding these specified limits.

For travellers from outside the EU, the limits are 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250 g of tobacco, 2 litres of unfortified wine plus 1 litre of spirits or 2 litres of fortified wine or liqueur wine or spirits, 50 g of perfume, 0.25l of eau de toilette and other items up to a value of €175. Residents of other EU countries may no longer import goods on which VAT has not been paid. If you are entering or leaving the EU, you can take non-VAT paid goods with you. More details are available from the Customs Helpline (Douanetelefoon), which gives precise information on customs regulations. Travellers from outside the Netherlands may be able to obtain information at the local embassy


 Like all its neighbouring countries, the Netherlands is on Central European Time, which is 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time in winter and 2 hours ahead in the summer. Summer time starts on the first weekend in April and continues until the last week of October. Sydney is 9 hours ahead in winter (8 hours in summer), Johannesburg 1 hour (the same as the Netherlands in summer), New York is 6 hours behind, Los Angeles 9 hours behind.


Taxi drivers expect a tip of around 10 per cent, except on longer journeys. Although a service charge is included on restaurant bills, it is customary to round the bill up slightly . In hotels you may if you like leave something for the chambermaid after a longer stay, even though it is not generally the rule


 There is a limited number of public conveniences in the Netherlands. In some cities you will find toilets where you have to insert money into a slot to open the door. Popping into a café to use the toilets there is accepted practice in the Netherlands; some establishments have an atten dant who should be paid a small amount. Large retail stores and stations also have toilets, and you generally need to pay a small fee to use these. The latter also have nappy-changing facilities for babies. On motorways you will find toilets at all service stations.


The television programmes on offer in the Netherlands are undergoing a great deal of development at the moment. The traditional system was to have a large number of broadcasting networks, each with their own political or religious leanings, being given a certain amount of air-time on each of the three public TV stations (Nederland 1, 2 and 3). More recently, however, commercial television stations have emerged to compete with Hilversum (the town where the Netherlands’ main networks are based,

As well as national TV networks, the Netherlands has a number of regional and local providers, such as Omrop Fryslân, Omroep Flevoland, Omroep Gelderland and the Amsterdam local network AT5. In addition, large numbers of foreign programmes can be received on cable TV, the range varying depending on the local cable company.

The Netherlands has five national radio stations, each of them with their own “personality”: Radio 1 deals mainly with current affairs and sport, Radio 2 broadcasts light music and various information programmes, Radio 3 rock and pop and Radio 4 classical music. 747 AM is a news channel.

NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES The Netherlands has five national morning newspapers (De Telegraaf, de Volkskrant, Algemeen Dagblad, NRC Next and Trouw) and two national evening papers (Het Parool and NRC Handelsblad). These tend to focus on the west of the country. Regionally the more popular papers are the Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, Friesch Dagblad, Tubantia, De Gelderlander, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Provinciale Zeeuwsche Courant, Brabants Dagblad and Dagblad De Limburger, which contain information on local holiday activities and events. The more famous Dutch weekly news magazines include HP/De Tijd, Elsevier and Vrij Nederland. The major bookshops in the large cities (as well as the main railway stations) sell many major international newspapers and magazines.


 If you bring your dog or cat to the Netherlands from abroad, you need to be able to prove that your pet has been immunized against rabies. This is shown by a valid pet’s passport provided by your veterinarian which indicates when the animal was last vaccinated.


If you are visiting from abroad and your passport happens to be lost or stolen, you should report the loss immediately either to your con sulate or embassy. Most embassies are situated in the administrative capital, The Hague. A number of countries, including the UK, USA, France, Germany and Italy, also have consulates, and these tend to be located in Amsterdam.


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