Money & costs
The Netherlands really isn’t a budget buy, but neither is it the most expensive European destination. If you’re happy eating chips, sleeping in hostels and walking around, it’s possible to hang in the country for around €35 per day. Those who prefer a couple of solid meals a day, a comfy bed with private facilities and travelling by public transport are looking at €80 per day as a starting point. Things start to feel comfortable on €110 per day. Add between €5 and €10 to each category when in Amsterdam.
There are a lot of free activities to stretch your budget, especially in Amsterdam in summer, and discount passes like the Museumkaart and the Amsterdam Pass can save loads on admission. The first Sunday of the month is free at many museums, the Concertgebouw holds lunchtime concerts for free and some restaurants have cheaper kiddie meals.
Tipping is not essential as restaurants, hotels, bars etc include a service charge on their bills. A little extra is always welcomed though, and it’s an excellent way to compliment the service (if you feel it needs complimenting). The tip can be anything from rounding up to the nearest euro, to 10% of the bill.
Like other members of the EU, the Netherlands currency is the euro, which is divided into 100 cents. There are coins for one, two, five, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and €1 and €2. Notes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500. The one- and two-cent coins are still in circulation but are unofficially being phased out; most, if not all, shops now round up or down to the nearest five cents.
Automated teller machines can be found outside most banks and at airports and most train stations. Credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard/Eurocard are widely accepted, as well as cash cards that access the Cirrus network. Be aware that, if you’re limited to a maximum withdrawal per day, the ‘day’ will coincide with that in your home country. Also note that using an ATM can be the cheapest way to exchange your money from home –but check with your home bank for service charges before you leave.
Cash is still common and nothing beats it for convenience – or risk of theft or loss. Plan to pay cash for most daily expenses. However, staff at upmarket hotels might cast a furtive glance if you pay a huge bill with small-denomination notes rather than a credit card, and car-rental agencies will probably refuse to do business if you only have cash. Keep the equivalent of about US$100 separate from the rest of your money as an emergency stash.
All major international cards are recognised, and you will find that most hotels, restaurants and major stores accept them. But always check first to avoid, as they say, disappointment. Shops often levy a 5% surcharge (or more) on credit cards to offset the commissions charged by card providers.
To withdraw money at a bank counter instead of from an ATM, go to a GWK branch. You’ll need to show your passport.
Report lost or stolen cards to the following 24-hour numbers:
American Express (020-504 80 00, 020-504 86 66)
Diners Club (08000334)
Eurocard and MasterCard (030-283 55 55)
Transferring money from your home bank will be easier if you’ve authorised somebody back home to access your account. In the Netherlands, find a large bank and ask for the international division. A commission is charged on telegraphic transfers, which can take up to a week but usually less if you’re well prepared; by mail, allow two weeks.
The GWK is an agent for Western Union and money is transferred within 15 minutes of lodgement at the other end. The person lodging the transfer pays a commission that varies from country to country. Money can also be transferred via American Express and Thomas Cook at their Amsterdam offices.
Generally your best bet for exchanging money is to use GWK (09000566; www.gwk.nl) – note that calls to this number cost €0.25 per minute. Offices are in almost every medium-sized and larger train station as well as at the borders on major highways. Many locations, such as those at Amsterdam’s Centraal Station and at Schiphol Airport, are open 24 hours. Banks and the Postbank (at post offices) are also good options; they stick to official exchange rates and charge a sensible commission.
Avoid the private exchange booths dotted around tourist areas. They’re convenient and open late hours, but rates or commissions are lousy, though competition is fierce and you may do OK if you hunt around.
Travellers cheques (including eurocheques) are on the way out in the Netherlands – you’ll be very hard pressed to find a bank who will change them for you. If you insist on carrying cheques, take American Express or Thomas Cook: their offices don’t charge commission. GWK offices still exchange cheques.
Shops, restaurants and hotels always prefer cash; a few might accept travellers cheques, but their rates will be anybody’s guess.