The Netherlands’ status as a relatively affluent country in the European Union guarantees a certain level of accessibility for people with disabilities, particularly when it comes to public buildings, spaces and transport. However, as in much of Europe, older buildings may not be wheelchair-accessible and cobblestoned streets may be an issue for the mobility- or vision-impaired.
- Most offices and larger museums have lifts and/or ramps, and toilets for people with a disability.
- Many budget and midrange hotels have limited accessibility, as they are in old buildings with steep stairs and no elevators.
- Cobblestone streets are rough for wheelchairs.
- Restaurants tend to be on ground floors, though ‘ground’ sometimes includes a few steps.
- Bathrooms in restaurants may not be wheelchair-accessible or fitted with rails.
- Train and other public-transport stations sometimes have lifts.
- Most train stations and public buildings have toilets for people with a disability.
- Trains usually have wheelchair access.
- The Dutch national organisation for people with a disability is ANGO (www.ango.nl).
Accessible Travel Netherlands (www.accessibletravelnl.com) Hotel bookings, transport, accessible tours, activities and tailored itineraries; rents mobility equipment too.
Ongehinderd (www.ongehinderd.nl) Detailed access reviews of thousands of points of interest across the country, organised city by city. Smartphone app too; Dutch only.
Museum4All (www.museum4all.eu) City-by-city listings of museums indicating their suitability for the vision-impaired and wheelchair users.
Lonely Planet (http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel) Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides.
For information about using the national railway network, including requesting assistance, visit www.ns.nl/en/travel-information/traveling-with-a-functional-disability. Most buses and newer trams are wheelchair-accessible; not all tram stops have level entry with the trams. The wheelchair-accessible entrance is in the centre of the tram; if a platform doesn’t align with the entrance, the conductor will put a ramp out for you – but be sure that they notice you before the tram pulls away.
When using the route planner for public transport in Amsterdam (http://maps.gvb.nl/en/lijnen), select a line and wheelchair-accessible stops are indicated by closed circles. On the public transport website www.connexxion.nl, wheelchair-accessible stops are indicated by a solid diamond.
With the exception of the odd haggle at flea markets, little bargaining goes on in the Netherlands.
Dangers & Annoyances
The Netherlands is one of the safest countries in Europe. Amsterdam and other larger Dutch cities require the same 'big-city street sense' as any other big European city.
- Bicycle theft is common; always use two locks (the standard bike lock with key built into most Dutch bikes plus a sturdy chain lock) and park in guarded bike parks when possible.
- Watch out for speeding bikes when crossing the road. Straying into a bike lane without looking both ways can cause serious accidents.
- In Amsterdam, pickpockets work tourist-heavy zones such as Centraal Station, the Bloemenmarkt and Red Light District. Stay alert.
Visitors of various professions, including artists and teachers, may get discounts at some venues if they show accreditation.
Students regularly get a few euro off museum admission; bring ID.
Seniors over 65, and with partners of 60 or older, benefit from reductions on public transport, museum admission, concerts and more. You may look younger, so bring your passport.
Many cities (eg Amsterdam, Den Haag and Rotterdam) offer discount-card schemes that are good for museums, attractions and local transport. Ask at tourist offices.
Cultureel Jongeren Paspoort (Cultural Youth Passport; www.cjp.nl; card €17.50) Big discounts to museums and cultural events nationwide for people under the age of 30.
Holland Pass (www.hollandpass.com; 3/4/6 attractions €40/55/75) You can visit sights over a month, valid from the date of your first visit. Prices are based on the number of admissions to attractions, which you pick from tiers (the most popular/expensive sights are gold-tier). Also includes discounted rates on bike tours, canal cruises and organised excursions. Buy it online, then you'll receive a confirmation email with barcode enabling you to pick up your pass at a designated point upon arrival in the Netherlands.
Museumkaart (Museum Card; www.museumkaart.nl; adult/child €59.90/32.45, plus registration fee €4.95) Free and discounted entry to some 400 museums all over the country, valid for one year. Strictly limited to five museum visits during the first 31 days; purchase a temporary card at participating museums and validate online prior to initial one-month expiry.
Embassies & Consulates
Amsterdam is the country’s capital but Den Haag is the seat of government. Many embassies (including those for Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Ireland) are in Den Haag, but Amsterdam has several consulates.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Drop the 0 when dialling an area code from abroad.
|Police, Fire, Ambulance||112|
|Netherlands country code||31|
|International access code||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Entering the Netherlands could not be more straightforward, providing your papers are in order.
For visitors from EU countries, limits only apply for excessive amounts. See www.belastingdienst.nl for details.
Residents of non-EU countries are limited to goods worth a maximum value of €430, including:
- Alcohol 1L spirits, or 2L wine or 16L beer
- Tobacco 200 cigarettes, or 250g of tobacco (shag or pipe tobacco), or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars
In principle, all passengers with passports are allowed entry to the Netherlands.
Generally not required for stays of up to three months. Some nationalities require a Schengen visa.
Tourists from nearly 60 countries – including Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, the USA and most of Europe – need only a valid passport to visit the Netherlands for up to three months. EU nationals can enter for up to four months with a passport or national identity card.
Nationals of most other countries need a Schengen visa, valid within the EU member states (except the UK and Ireland), plus Norway and Iceland, for 90 days within a six-month period.
Schengen visas are issued by Dutch embassies or consulates overseas and can take a while to process (up to two months). You’ll need a passport valid until at least three months after your visit, and will have to prove you have sufficient funds for your stay and return journey.
- Government of the Netherlands (www.government.nl) Lists consulates and embassies around the world.
- Immigration & Naturalisation Service (www.ind.nl) Handles visas and extensions. Study visas must be applied for through your college or university in the Netherlands.
- Holland v Netherlands Do not call the Netherlands 'Holland'; Holland is two provinces (Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland) within the country.
- Going Dutch When dining out, expect to pay your own way. Splitting the bill is common and no reason for embarrassment.
- Marijuana & alcohol Don't smoke dope or drink beer on the streets.
- Smoking Don't smoke (any substance) in bars or restaurants; since 2018 designated smoking rooms in bars and restaurants have also been banned.
- Straight talking Don't be offended if locals give you a frank, unvarnished opinion. It's not considered impolite, rather it comes from the desire to be direct and honest.
- Picnics in the park Don't litter. In parks, look for a plastic picnic-rug dispenser to enjoy your picnic on and scoop up your litter in one fell swoop afterwards.
Travel insurance is a good idea if your policies at home won't cover you in the Netherlands. Although medical or dental costs might already be covered through reciprocal health-care arrangements, you'll still need cover for theft or loss, and for unexpected changes to travel arrangements (ticket cancellation etc). Check what's already covered by your local insurance policies or credit cards.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online any time – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
- Free wi-fi is widespread in hotels, restaurants, bars and coffeeshops (you may need to ask for the code), as well as many tourist offices and other public places.
- To search for free wi-fi hot spots in the Netherlands, visit www.hotspot-locations.com. In Amsterdam check www.wifi-amsterdam.nl.
- In Amsterdam rent a pocket-sized mobile wi-fi device to carry around with you, ensuring a fast wi-fi connection while roaming the city, from Pocket Wifi Amsterdam (www.pocketwifi-amsterdam.com); order online and arrange delivery to your hotel, apartment or Schiphol airport. Alternatively, try HipPocketWifi (http://hippocketwifi.com), Travel WiFi (http://travel-wifi.com) or My Webspot (http://my-webspot.com).
- Internet cafes are scarce. Some tourist offices, coffeeshops and hotels provide internet terminals (sometimes free).
- Co-working cafes providing unlimited, fast internet access are widespread in Amsterdam and increasingly common in other urban areas.
- Dutch politie (police) are pretty relaxed and helpful unless you do something clearly wrong, such as littering or smoking a joint right under their noses.
- Police can hold offenders for up to six hours for questioning (plus another six hours if they can’t establish your identity, or 24 hours if they consider the matter serious). You won’t have the right to a phone call, but they’ll notify your consulate. You’re presumed innocent until proven guilty.
- Anyone over 14 years of age is required by law to carry ID. Foreigners should carry a passport or a photocopy of the relevant data pages; a driver’s licence isn’t sufficient.
- Technically, marijuana is illegal. However, possession of soft drugs (eg cannabis) up to 5g is tolerated. Larger amounts are subject to prosecution.
- In April 2018 Den Haag became the first Dutch city to officially ban smoking cannabis in its city centre, train station and major shopping areas.
- Don’t light up in an establishment other than a coffeeshop without checking that it’s OK to do so.
- Hard drugs are treated as a serious crime.
- Never buy drugs of any kind on the street; fatalities can and do occur.
- Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands. The industry is protected by law and sex workers pay tax. Much of this open policy stems from a desire to undermine the role of pimps and the underworld in the sex industry.
- In Amsterdam’s Red Light District you have little to fear as the streets are well-policed, but the back alleys are more dubious.
The Netherlands was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage (in 2001), and Amsterdam is frequently cited as one of the world's most LGBT+-friendly places.
- Amsterdam's gay and lesbian scene is huge, and there are smaller thriving scenes in Rotterdam, Den Haag, Utrecht and most university towns.
- Attitudes towards homosexuality tend to be more conservative in the countryside and villages, but remain refreshingly liberal nonetheless.
- Pride Amsterdam, rebranded in 2017 to embrace transgenders, bisexuals et al as well as gays, features a traditional boat parade and march; it's celebrated over nine days in late July and early August.
COC Nederland (www.coc.nl) Government-subsidised and the best national source of information since 1946; branches throughout the country can offer advice.
Gay Amsterdam (www.gayamsterdam.com) Lists hotels, shops and clubs, and provides maps.
PANN (https://pann.nl) Active in Utrecht since 1969 and host to a monthly ‘straight-friendly’ gay party, frequently voted the country's best gay party.
The best road maps of the Netherlands are those produced by Michelin and the Dutch automobile association ANWB (www.anwb.nl). The ANWB also puts out provincial maps detailing cycling paths and picturesque road routes. You'll find a wide variety of maps for sale at any tourist office, as well as at bookstores and news-stands.
Tourist offices sell all forms of maps, including local city-walk maps or brochures in English (€3.50).
- Newspapers Dutch-language newspapers include De Telegraaf (www.telegraaf.nl), the Netherlands' biggest seller; and Het Parool (www.parool.nl), Amsterdam's paper, with the scoop on what's happening around town. Keep abreast of news back home via the International Herald Tribune or the Guardian, or weeklies such as the Economist or Time, all widely available on news-stands.
ATMs widely available. Credit cards accepted in most hotels, but not all restaurants, cafes and shops. Non-European credit cards are quite often rejected.
ATMs, aka cash 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 cards from the Plus and Cirrus networks. 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.
You can use your ATM card to keep stocked up with euro throughout the Netherlands so there's no need for currency exchange. However, using your ATM card as a debit card, as opposed to a credit card, to pay for purchases won't always work, as an astonishing amount of businesses – including many restaurants, cafes and shops – only accept Dutch PIN cards.
Cash is commonly used for everyday purchases throughout the Netherlands.
All the major international credit cards are recognised, and most hotels and large stores accept them. But many shops, restaurants and other businesses (including Dutch Railways and supermarket chains) do not accept credit cards, including European cards with security chips.
Some establishments levy a 5% surcharge (or more) on credit cards to offset the commissions charged by card providers. Always check first.
The Netherlands uses the euro (€). Denominations of the currency are €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 notes, and €0.05, €0.10, €0.20, €0.50, €1 and €2 coins (amounts under €1 are called cents).
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
In the Netherlands you'll notice people gleefully using 'PIN' cards everywhere, from shops to supermarkets and vending machines. These direct-debit cards look like credit or bank cards with little circuit chips on them, but they won't be of much use to visitors without a Dutch bank account.
The Dutch do tip, but modestly.
- Hotel porters €1 to €2
- Restaurants round up, or 5% to 10%
- Taxis 5% to 10%
Hours can vary by season and often decrease during the low season.
Banks 9am–4pm Monday to Friday, some Saturday morning
Cafes and Bars Open noon (exact hours vary); most close 1am Sunday to Thursday, 3am Friday and Saturday
General Office Hours 8.30am–5pm Monday to Friday
Museums 10am–5pm daily, some close Monday
Restaurants Lunch 11am–2.30pm, dinner 6–10pm
Shops 10am or noon to 6pm Tuesday to Friday, 10am–5pm Saturday and Sunday, noon or 1pm to 5pm or 6pm Monday (if at all)
The national post office in the Netherlands is privatised and post offices are not always easy to find. To mail a letter or package, go to a PostNL (www.postnl.nl) postal service shop that may be a supermarket or tobacco shop or something else; use the website to find a location near you.
Most museums adopt Sunday hours on public holidays (except Christmas and New Year, when they close) even if they fall on a day when the place would otherwise be closed, such as Monday. Many people treat Remembrance Day (4 May) as a day off.
Carnaval is celebrated with vigour in the Catholic south. Huge parties are thrown in the run-up to Shrove Tuesday and little work gets done.
Nieuwjaarsdag (New Year's Day) 1 January. Parties and fireworks galore.
Goede Vrijdag Good Friday
Eerste Paasdag Easter Sunday
Tweede Paasdag Easter Monday
Koningsdag (King's Day) 27 April (26 April if the 27th is a Sunday)
Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day) 5 May. Not a universal holiday: government workers have the day off, but almost everyone else has to work.
Hemelvaartsdag (Ascension Day) Fortieth day after Easter Sunday
Eerste Pinksterdag (Whit Sunday; Pentecost) Fiftieth day after Easter Sunday
Tweede Pinksterdag (Whit Monday) Fiftieth day after Easter Monday
Eerste Kerstdag (Christmas Day) 25 December
Tweede Kerstdag ('Second Christmas' aka Boxing Day) 26 December
- Smoking The Netherlands bans cigarette smoking inside all bars and restaurants, but you're free to light up outdoors on terraces where they're completely open on one side.
Taxes & Refunds
The standard value-added tax (VAT) rate of 21% is levied on most goods and services in the Netherlands. A 6% rate, always included in the advertised price, applies to food and drinks, books, pharmaceuticals, public transport, museum admissions and hotel rates.
Non-EU residents can claim a VAT refund on same-day purchases over €50 in the same shop; retailers have details.
The Dutch phone network, KPN (www.kpn.com), is efficient. Prices are reasonable by European standards.
Collect Call (0800 01 01 for international, 0800 04 10 for domestic) Both numbers are free.
To ring abroad, dial 00 followed by the country code for your target country, the area code (you usually drop the leading 0 if there is one) and the subscriber number.
Netherlands country code 31
Free calls 0800
Mobile numbers 06
Paid information calls 0900; cost varies between €0.10 and €1.30 per minute.
Drop the leading 0 on city codes if you’re calling from outside the Netherlands (eg 20 for Amsterdam instead of 020). From a landline, don't dial the city code if you are in the area covered by it.
Local SIM cards can be used in European and Australian phones. Most American smartphones will work.
- The Netherlands uses GSM phones compatible with the rest of Europe and Australia but not with some North American GSM phones. The EU has abolished international roaming costs, but beware of high roaming charges from other countries.
- Alternatively, local prepaid SIM cards are widely available and can be used in most unlocked phones. Look for Phone House, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone shops in major shopping areas.
- The Netherlands is in the Central European time zone (same as Berlin and Paris), GMT/UTC plus one hour. Noon in Amsterdam is 11am in London, 6am in New York, 3am in San Francisco and 9pm in Sydney.
- For daylight savings time, clocks are put forward one hour at 2am on the last Sunday in March and back again at 3am on the last Sunday in October.
- When telling the time, be aware that the Dutch use ‘half’ to indicate ‘half before’ the hour. If you say ‘half eight’ (8.30 in many forms of English), a Dutch person will take this to mean 7.30.
- Public toilets are not a widespread facility on Dutch streets, apart from the free-standing public urinals for men in places such as Amsterdam's Red Light District.
- Most people duck into a café (pub) or department store.
- The app HogeNood (High Need; www.hogenood.nu) maps the nearest toilets based on your location; it covers some 4000 toilet locations countrywide.
- For pre-trip planning, www.holland.com is a useful resource.
- Within the Netherlands, VVV (Vereniging voor Vreemdelingenverkeer, Netherlands Tourism Board; www.vvv.nl) is the official network of tourist offices around the country. Each tourist office is locally run and has local and regional info. Few VVV publications are free but tourist offices are a good place to buy maps and guides.
- ANWB (Dutch Automobile Association; www.anwb.nl) has maps and guidebooks for sale. It provides a wide range of useful information and assistance if you're travelling with any type of vehicle (car, bicycle, motorcycle, yacht etc). In some cities the VVV and ANWB share offices. You'll have to show proof of membership of your home automobile club to get free maps or discounts.
Travel with Children
The Netherlands is one of Europe's most kid-friendly countries. The famous Dutch tolerance extends to children, and locals are exceptionally welcoming towards them (and their parents). Many attractions are tailored to or specifically designed for younger visitors, and enduring icons such as castles and windmills captivate all ages.
Best Regions for Kids
One of Europe’s most kid-friendly cities, with an atmosphere that’s cheerfully accommodating to children. In fact, most areas – except the Red Light District, of course – are fair game.
- North Holland
Cute old towns, lots of cows, some fun museums and the island of Texel, a huge sandy playground with plenty of cycling trails and easy walks.
Cool canals to explore, castles to bike to and the fantastic 'Dom Under' archaeological adventure trail that takes young trigger-happy explorers 5m underground, armed with a smart-torch audio-gun.
- South Holland
The neatest old Dutch cities, a fun amusement park in Den Haag, ubercool things to do in the increasingly happening city of Rotterdam, plus windmills and beaches in Zeeland.
The hottest summer spot for Dutch holiday-makers: think fields specked with black and white cows, beautiful islands laced with golden sandy beaches, sailing and water sports galore, kilometres of quiet and scenic cycling paths.
The Netherlands for Kids
Children's needs have been thought of at every turn in the Netherlands.
Children are welcome in all but the most formal restaurants. In fact, the trend towards stylish bistro-style eateries with high ceilings and a slightly raucous atmosphere is all the better for little ones. Everyone is pretty tolerant of any antics children may get up to when dining out. You'll see Dutch families enjoying meals inside and out at cafes, pubs and restaurants, as well as sitting on benches sharing a quick repast from a fish stall, frites (French fries) stand or sandwich shop.
Kids' menus are common and often include deep-fried treats that always go down well. You can also ask for high chairs and crayons in many restaurants.
Facilities for changing nappies (diapers) are limited to the big department stores, major museums and train stations, and you'll pay to use them. Breastfeeding is generally OK in public when done discreetly.
On the Road
Most bike-rental shops have trailers for towing younger children, bicycle child seats and kid-sized bikes. Few offer helmets (for any age) so you might want to consider bringing your own.
Trains have 'silent' cars where people can escape noise and everyone (youngsters included) is expected to be quiet. In contrast, other cars can be noisy, including kid-noisy during school holidays in particular.
Green spaces, parks, windmills and canals galore add up to plenty of fresh-air fun with the little (and not so little) ones. During winter kids will love the skating rinks and outdoor merriment at the carnivals that spring up in many Dutch cities and towns.
- Vondelpark, Amsterdam This vast play space, with leafy picnic spots and duck ponds, has cool space-age slides at its western end and a great playground in the centre.
- Westerpark, Amsterdam Kids can splash about in the summer paddling pool.
- Amsterdamse Bos, Amsterdam Tykes can feed goats and climb trees in the woods.
- Apenheul, Apeldoorn A habitat for apes and monkeys, where children get a chance to observe the primates.
- Keukenhof Gardens, Lisse The millions of flowers might delight kids for a while but they'll really love the huge playground.
- Canal Bike, Amsterdam Take a unique pedal-powered ride through Amsterdam's beautiful canals.
- Canals, Den Bosch Most canal towns have short canal-boat tours; those in Den Bosch travel through underground waterways.
- Artis Royal Zoo, Amsterdam The big cats, shimmying fish and planetarium will keep young eyes shining for hours; teenagers and adults will love the beautifully landscaped historical grounds.
- Ecomare, Texel A nature centre with all sorts of native island animals, including injured seals recuperating, and lots of exhibits designed for kids.
- Zaanse Schans Explore windmills north of Haarlem, with gears, pulleys et al.
- Watertaxi, Rotterdam Sail at speed, beneath bridges and past every other vessel afloat on the Maas River, aboard a nippy black-and-yellow water taxi.
- De Zelfpluktuin, Texel Kids love picking their own fruit, vegetables and flowers at this family-friendly Texel farm.
Sand & Surf
- Beaches Texel and the Frisian Islands have excellent beaches for kids. Much of the west coast is one long beach; Scheveningen near Den Haag is well suited to families.
- Horse Riding & Surfing Stables on the island of Texel offer beach rides and surfing for kids.
- Windsurfing Amsterdam's newest neighbourhood, IJburg, offers great windsurfing, with rentals available from Surfcenter IJburg.
- Mudflats North of Groningen, you can spend a day playing out on the mud. Wadlopen (mudflat-walking) lets you head out to sea when the vast tidal areas are clear of water at low tide. It's hours of muddy enjoyment, and you're expected to get dirty.
Pancakes, frites, cheese, ice cream – even adults love fun Dutch food. Every city and town has at least one weekly outdoor market where there are often stalls selling all sorts of tasty items; don’t miss the unique holiday treats such as poffertjes (tiny Dutch pancakes), which are served up in winter.
- Albert Cuypmarkt, Amsterdam For stroopwafels (caramel-syrup-filled waffles), fruit smoothies, chocolate, sweets and fresh fruit.
- De IJsmaker, Rotterdam A trio of urban ice-cream parlours serving absolutely fabulous, Italian-style gelato.
- Oudt Leyden, Leiden Some of the biggest, best traditional Dutch pancakes around.
- Villa Augustus Restaurant, Dordrecht Delicious, healthy dishes made from ingredients growing in the organic garden out front; kids can run around alfresco.
- Oost, Vlieland One of the country's hippest beach restaurants on the sand; kids can hone their sandcastle-building technique while parents feast on top-notch seafood.
- Vleminckx, Amsterdam This hole-in-the-wall is an old frites standby; part of the fun is deciding between dozens of sauces.
- Friture Reitz, Maastricht A favourite for frites.
- De Haerlemsche Vlaamse, Haarlem Local frites institution.
- IJsboerderij Labora, Texel Working dairy farm where you can see the cows that help make your ice cream.
- IJs van Co, Hoge Veluwe National Park Admire Van Gogh masterpieces in the Kröller-Müller Museum, then pedal to this ice-cream shop to devour the country's finest soft ice cream (and local, syrupy sweet strawberries in season).
Kid- & Teen-Friendly Museums
While dragging museum-resistant kids through an exhibition of sombre Dutch Masters' paintings might give parents nightmares, ample museums are accessible, educational and fun.
- NEMO Science Museum, Amsterdam Tailor-made, kid-focused, hands-on science labs inside; a splashy water feature and amazing views on the roof outside.
- Het Scheepvaartmuseum, Amsterdam Climb aboard the full-scale, 17th-century replica ship and check out the cannons.
- Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam Lest the kids be left out of the masterpieces, children get their own audio tour to explore the museum's treasures.
- Maastricht Underground, Maastricht Explore 2000-year-old tunnels and caves underground. It's spooky and very cool – literally.
- Maritiem Museum, Rotterdam Bags of hands-on fun (drive a virtual forklift, work out the best locations for wind turbines in the North Sea, take a seafaring safety quiz) at this maritime museum, with historic boats in the neighbouring harbour to scramble on post-museum.
- Miffy Museum, Utrecht Miffy is one of the most beloved cartoon characters in the Netherlands and you can see a lot of her and other characters at this museum aimed at toddlers.
- Natuurcentrum Ameland, Nes The seaquarium here has more than 200 North Sea species, including barracudas and manta rays, plus a viewing theatre.
- Fort Kijkduin, Den Helder Hilltop fortress with military museum and a subterranean aquarium full of Waddenzee and North Sea marine life.
- Markiezenhof, Bergen op Zoom Miniature versions of rides from the southern town’s famed Carnaval celebration.
- Model Train Museum, Sneek Woo-hoo! Trains roll over bridges and through mountain tunnels in a series of incredibly elaborate dioramas.
- Nederlands Stripmuseum, Groningen Besides the comic strips by leading Benelux artists, there are films, figurines and more.
- Natuurmuseum Fryslân, Leeuwarden A fish-eye stroll round a Friesland canal and a simulated bird flight are among the highlights at this kid-friendly nature museum.
- Nederlands Openluchtmuseum, Arnhem Like a set from a period film, this village-sized open-air museum recreates the Netherlands' past with plenty of hands-on activities.
The ultimate kid attraction.
- Efteling, Kaatsheuvel This is the most popular amusement park in the Netherlands and it seems every Dutch person of any age has memories of the fun they've had here. Thrill rides, cartoon characters and more. It's in the south near Tilburg.
- Madurodam, Den Haag See the Netherlands in miniature outdoors at Madurodam; it's what a kid would build with unlimited time and cash.
- Miniworld Rotterdam See the Netherlands in miniature indoors at Miniworld; a huge model train layout duplicates much of the country.
- Waterland Neeltje Jans, Zeeland Amid the amazing and vast Delta Project, kid-friendly exhibits here tell the story of how the Dutch have battled the sea; there are also seals, a water park and rides.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
When to Go
The Netherlands is an all-year-round affair, although families may appreciate the warmer, drier months the most – from Easter to September – when the climate is more conducive to outdoor action, be it on the beach, cycling, sailing or simply frolicking in a city park.
The Dutch festival repertoire is another planning consideration: cold wet February ushers in kid-friendly street parades during carnival season; Sinterklaas brings presents to kids on 5 December; while summer translates as a bonanza of fun festivals and sporting events.
Very few hotels have a 'no kids' rule; those that do are more upmarket addresses mostly in areas of Amsterdam that you wouldn't consider taking children to anyway.
Countrywide, family rooms sleeping four are common and most hotels will happily add an extra bed (for a minimal extra cost) or a baby cot (free of charge) in a double room. New-wave design-driven hostels, with private rooms sleeping up to five or six, are a handy alternative for families with more than two children.
Camping is big with Dutch families, especially on the Frisian Islands and other coastal areas.
Upscale hotels often offer child-minding services.
What to Pack
Babies & Toddlers
- A front or back sling for babies.
- Portable changing mat, handwash gel etc. Baby-changing facilities remain a rarity outside of cities and large towns.
- Canvas screw-on seat for toddlers. Only some restaurants have high chairs.
- Car seat. Rental companies lease them but at proportionately extortionate rates. In the Netherlands children less than 1.35m in height must, by law, be strapped in an appropriate car seat.
- Warm, wind-proof clothing, should you intend popping your young child into the front- or rear-mounted bike seat of your bike. Bike trailers and cargo bikes offer a little more protection from the elements, but can still be chilly for young children.
Six to 12 Years
- Bike helmet. The Dutch generally don't wear helmets and not all bike rental companies can provide helmets (for adults or kids).
- Binoculars. For young explorers to zoom in on canal-side wildlife, windmills, etc.
- Pocket video camera. Inject fun into 'boring' adult activities.
- Activities. Books, sketchpad and pens, travel journal and kid-sized day pack.
- Fold-away microscooter and/or rollerblades for scooting along silky-smooth towpaths and cycling lanes.
- Netherlands-related apps.
- Dutch phrasebook.
- A copy of The Diary of Anne Frank (1947), written by a 13-year-old in hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam during WWII.
- Kite (for windy beaches in Friesland).
Feature: Admission Prices
There is no rule on how much and from what age children pay – some museums (such as Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum) are free to under 18s, while others only offer free admission to under 17s (Van Gogh Museum or Royal Palace, Amsterdam) or under 12s. The Anne Frank Huis notably is only free to under 9s. In general, children aged four or five get free admission, while those aged five to 17 pay half-price. Some museums offer money-saving family tickets, worth buying once you count two adults and two children or more.
Draw up a list of the museums you plan to visit and check child admission fees carefully before investing in the under 18s version (€32.45) of the Museumkaart – valid for five museum visits in a 31-day period.
Feature: Top Websites
Holiday Sitters (www.holiday-sitters.com) Professional babysitting service for families visiting Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Den Haag; book directly online, stipulating the spoken language you desire, time slot and duration (from three to 10 hours).
I am Expat (www.iamexpat.nl) Hugely practical website aimed squarely at expats living in the Netherlands, with bags of information for families with children.
Baby Goes 2 (www.babygoes2.com) Why, where, how to travel guide for families.
- Check first with the Dutch embassy or consulate in your home country to find out whether volunteering affects your visa status.
- Online resources like Go Abroad (www.goabroad.com) and Transitions Abroad (www.transitionsabroad.com) throw up the occasional volunteering opportunities in the Netherlands.
- Volunteers For Peace (www.vfp.org) US-based nonprofit organisation. Can link you up with a voluntary service project dealing with social work, the environment, education or the arts.
- WWOOF Netherlands (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms; https://wwoofnetherlands.org) Work on a tulip farm, help with the blueberry harvest, help renovate an old farmhouse etc on a Dutch organic farm.
- Access (https://access-nl.org) Online resource covering everything internationals in the Netherlands need to know, with an excellent section on volunteering.
- I Amsterdam (www.iamsterdam.com) Volunteering organisations in Amsterdam.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used.
Work permits must be applied for by your employer in the Netherlands; in general, the employer must prove that the position cannot be filled by someone from within the EU before offering it to a non-EU citizen. Nationals from many countries must apply for a Temporary Entry Permit (MVV or Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf). Citizens of EU countries and Switzerland are exempt.
You'll need to apply for temporary residence before an employer can ask for your work permit. The process should take five weeks; contact the Dutch embassy or consulate in your home country.
In the Netherlands, residency permits are issued by the Immigratie en Naturalisatiedienst (https://ind.nl). For more information on working in the Netherlands see www.werk.nl.