From the lively capital of Amsterdam to the traditional Royal residence of The Hague, from the vibrant city of Rotterdam to the exciting Eindhoven a trip to this little-big country is bound to be memorable. With the lively mix of tradition; tulips, bicycles, clogs and windmills, with modern; fast-paced European life, contemporary architecture and a laid-back attitude, the Netherlands is a fascinating country with lots to offer.
The Netherlands have a temperate, maritime climate with the sea having a great effect on the weather. Summers are generally warm with excessively hot weather quite rare. Winters are generally cool but can get bitterly cold with snow a possibility. Rain is to be expected all year round but particularly so in autumn and spring.
The Dutch observe a number of public holidays throughout the year including:
30 April - Queen's Day
5 May - Liberation Day
The main airport in the Netherlands is Amsterdam Schiphol Airport - which is approximately 15km (9 miles) southwest of the city. Due to Holland's small size, domestic air travel is relatively limited.
Express trains operate between Holland and major European cities. Holland boasts a highly developed rail network, connecting all towns and the cities, which is efficient, cheap and reliable.
Holland is easily accessible by water. The main ports are the Hook of Holland and Rotterdam. Regular car and passenger ferries run between the UK and the Netherlands.
Regular ferry services run to the Wadden Islands across the Ijsselmeer and Schelde Estuary. There is also a service to the Frisian Islands across the Waddenzee and popular river and canal cruises available.
The Netherlands is connected to the rest of Europe by a superb network of motorways. There is an excellent road system and all roads are well sign posted with green 'E' symbols indicating international highways, red 'A' symbols indicating national highways and yellow 'N' symbols indicating smaller routes. Traffic drives on the right. Speed restrictions are 120kph (75mph) on motorways, 80kph (50mph) on major roads and 50kph (30mph) in towns. Be aware of cyclists, there are a lot around but there are often special cycle lanes.
Holland has an extensive regional bus network with long distance coach services operating between towns and cities. The cost of travelling by coach is generally on a par with that for trains.
The bicycle is a popular way to travel around towns, cities and villages in Holland. The Netherlands boasts an impressive network of bicycle paths with over 15,000km (9,300 miles)across the country. Bikes can be hired easily.
Dutch is the official language but English, German and French are widely spoken. Fries is spoken by the majority of people in the northern province of Friesland.
Here are a few useful Dutch phrases:
Hello - Hoi
Goodbye - Dag
Please - Alsjeblieft
Thank you - Dank u
Do you speak English? - Spreek je Engels?
The currency of the Netherlands is the Euro, which divides in to 100 cents.
The domestic electricity voltage is 220V, 50Hz. Standard European two-pin plugs are used. Adaptors are widely available.
The country dialling code is 31 followed by 20 for Amsterdam, 10 for Rotterdam and 70 for The Hague.
The emergency number is 112 which can be dialled for any emergency.
Shop opening hours tend to be from 9am to 6pm Tuesday to Friday, between 8.30am and 5pm on Saturdays and 11am and 6pm on Mondays. Larger supermarkets and shops in tourist areas tend to be open for longer hours.
Many shops do not accept banknotes of 100, 200 and 500 Euros to avoid accepting counterfeit notes.
It is customary to leave a small tip when paying a bill. Most hotels and restaurants include a service charge of 15% plus VAT. A tip of one Euro is the usual tip for porters and doormen and around 10% for taxi drivers and waiters.
The I Amsterdam Card provides over 30 free and 20 discounted offers on major tourist attractions, restaurants and public transport services in Amsterdam. The cards are valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours and are available online or at several offices of the Amsterdam Tourism and Convention Board (ATCB).
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