Travellers with restricted mobility will find the Netherlands somewhat accessible despite the limitations of most older buildings. Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
- Most offices and larger museums have lifts and/or ramps, and accessible toilets.
- 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.
- All train and metro stations in the city have wheelchair ramps, lifts and escalators.
- Most train stations and public buildings have accessible toilets.
- Buses have low boarding platforms for easy access.
- Some bus and tram stops have level-floor boarding.
- The Dutch national organisation for people with a disability is ANGO (033-465 43 43; www.ango.nl).
Dangers & Annoyances
Crime and accident rates are relatively low in Rotterdam.
- When walking through the city, be careful when crossing bike paths.
- By law, police and regulatory bodies (eg bus and train conductors) are allowed to ask you for proof of ID; carry your passport or some official form of ID with you at all times.
- Don't presume cars will stop for pedestrians at zebra crossings.
The Rotterdam Welcome Card (per adult 1/2/3 days €12/17/21) gives discounts of up to 25% on museum and attraction admission charges, as well as free public transport on RET metro, tram and bus services. Purchase it at Rotterdam's tourist offices.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Police||09 00 88 44|
|Fire department||010-446 89 00|
Pretty well anything goes here, although locals prize good manners (including queuing for entrance to public transport).
- 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.
- Straight talking Don't be offended if locals give you their frank, unvarnished opinion. It's not considered impolite, rather it comes from the desire to be direct and honest.
There is a thriving LGBTI scene in Rotterdam.
The biggest event of the year is Rotterdam Pride, a three-day festival in late September. This includes a Pride walk, parties, seminars and other events. There are also usually LGBTI events on King's Day (27 April).
Many bars and clubs are found in the ‘gay triangle’ of the city, which is edged by Churchillplein, Westblaak, Mauritsweg and van Oldebarneveldtstraat, near the Eendrachtsplein metro station.
In summer, the LantarenVenster arthouse cinema presents a Gay & Lesbian Summer Film Festival, with LGBTI films shown every Tuesday night.
Gay Rotterdam (www.gayrotterdam.nl/en) is a useful resource.
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_services. You can buy, extend and claim online any time – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
All accommodation options and most cafes and restaurants offer free wi-fi.
ATMs are widely available; some businesses don't accept credit or debit cards issued outside the Netherlands. A growing number of businesses don't accept cash payments.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
The Dutch do tip, but modestly and not always.
- Hotel porters €1 to €2
- Restaurants round up, or 5%
If you see a 'PIN only' sign, it signifies that the business doesn't accept cash payments. Be warned that it may not accept credit or debit cards issues outside the Netherlands, either.
Hours can vary by season and often decrease during the low season.
Banks 9am–4pm Monday to Friday, some Saturday morning
Cafes and Bars Hours vary wildly
General Office Hours 8.30am–5pm Monday to Friday
Museums 10 or 11am–5pm daily, most close Monday
Restaurants Lunch noon–2.30pm, dinner 6–10pm.
Shops 11am–7pm Monday, 10am–7pm Tuesday–Thursday, 10am–9pm Friday, 10am–7pm Saturday and noon–7pm Sunday
The Dutch postal service, PostNL (https://postnl.post/), is reliable and efficient.
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.
Nieuwjaarsdag (New Year's Day) Parties and fireworks galore
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; only an official holiday every five years
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
Sinterklaas (St Nicholas' Day) 5 December
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
A value-added tax (VAT, or BTW in Dutch) rate of 21% is levied on most goods and services in the Netherlands. A 6% rate 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; sales staff will provide documentation. Some department stores have dedicated VAT refund kiosks.
The Dutch phone network, KPN (www.kpn.com), is efficient, and prices are reasonable by European standards.
|Rotterdam area code||010|
|International access code||00|
|Mobile numbers||start with 06|
|Toll-free numbers||start with 0800|
|Collect call (international)||0800 01 01|
|Collect call (domestic)||0800 04 10|
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.
- There are public toilets (€0.70) on the upper floor of Centraal Station.
- The centrally located Bijenkorf Department Store has plenty of toilets.
- You will need to pay around €0.50 for the use of most public toilets.
- The app HogeNood (High Need; www.hogenood.nu) maps the nearest toilets based on your location, listing facilities in fast-food stores, department stores, public buildings, tourist offices and pubs.
Tourist Office Main tourist office, offering maps, free wi-fi, brochures and advice about the city. Also has a gift shop, 'Rotterdam Discovery' exhibition and garden cafe.
Tourist Office The Centraal Station branch of Rotterdam's tourist office is in the main station hall, next to the NS information desk. It provides maps and advice, and sells the Rotterdam Welcome Card.
Schiedam Tourist Information Centre This helpful office attached to the Grote Sint Janskerk (St John's Church) in the historic centre runs walking and canal tours and can provide information on city attractions.
Travel with Children
Rotterdam offers plenty of activities for families travelling with children. There are parks for little ones to play in, loads of museums with kid-friendly activities and an exciting array of boats and trams to board. If bribery is needed to ensure good behaviour, ice-cream parlours will assist.
- Maritiem Museum Rotterdam
Rotterdam's maritime museum has a fabulous 'Offshore Experience' exhibition that older children love. Little ones prefer the 'Professor Splash' experience.
- Museum Boijmans van Beuningen
Use its Time travel journal activity book (€2) to follow clues and make discoveries in this amazing art collection.
- Natural History Museum
Facts about the natural world are delivered in a fun way at this small museum.
- Museum Rotterdam: 1940-1945 NU
Immersive multimedia experience about the bombing of Rotterdam on 14 May 1940. Not for little ones.
- Museum Rotterdam
Tales of the city and a dedicated kid's activity space.
On the Move
- Whisper Boat, Schiedam
Float along the city canals in a whisper-quiet electric boat.
- Line 10
Hop on and off a historic tram while you explore the city.
Spot tall buildings and big bridges on a boat tour around the harbour.
Zoom from one dock to another in a powerful taxi boat; children under 13 travel half-price.
- De IJsmaker
The city's best ice cream, with a number of stores across the city.
- By Jarmusch
Teenagers will adore this 1950s-style American diner.
- Angelo Betti
Ice cream and pizza – a winning combination.
- Fenix Food Factory
Head to the Stroop Rotterdam stall in this indoor food market to sample a gooey sweet stroopwafel.
- Sammy & Pebbles Frietboutique
Start with fries and progress to ice cream. Enough said.
- Urban Bakery
This bakery cafe specialises in cupcakes, brownies and other sweet treats that will take any kid's fancy.
Need to Know
- Kids menus Many restaurants and cafes have dedicated menus for children; babyccinos are no problem.
- Museums Some offer free entry for children under 18.
- Transport Discounted rates for children usually apply.
Online resources Go Abroad (www.goabroad.com) and Transitions Abroad (www.transitionsabroad.com) may have some opportunities in the Netherlands. The same applies to Volunteers For Peace (www.vfp.org) and WWOOF Netherlands (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms; https://wwoofnetherlands.org).
The Dutch embassy or consulate in your home country will be able to confirm whether volunteering affects your visa status.