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Holland / Netherlands Country Information
This country of tulips, windmills and bicycles stretches out over a predominantly flat landscape of reclaimed land. Sophisticated urban centres and sleepy rural towns are contained within the expansive vistas broken here and there by canals, castle walls and dikes. Europe's most densely populated region is located within an area of the Netherlands called the Randstad. This urban hub is spread in a circle from Amsterdam, and includes The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht and the smaller towns of Haarlem, Leiden and Delft. The metropolitan centres buzz with the activity of seasonal festivals, cultural activities, vibrant art scenes and excellent pubs and restaurants.

The cultural heritage that flavours much of Dutch life can be traced back through time. During the 1600s the Netherlands dominated the world both economically and culturally. The Dutch East India Company established trading links with the East and West Indies bringing back an abundance of merchandise and cultural influences. The Golden Age reached its zenith in the artworks of the Dutch Masters - Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Jan Vermeer. Today their paintings hang from the walls of the cities' numerous museums and galleries.

The Basics
Time: Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).

Electricity: Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Two-pin round European-style plugs are used.

Money: Single European currency, or Euro (EUR), is the official currency of the Netherlands, and is divided into 100 cents. Major credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. To avoid additional charges take travellers cheques in Euros, Pounds Sterling or US Dollars. Foreign currency or travellers cheques can be changed at banks, post offices or bureaux de change (usually indicated by the letters GWK). Banks are closed on weekends but bureaux de change are open. ATMs are widely distributed and most are open 24 hours a day.

Language: Dutch is the official language. English is widely spoken. Fries (as well as Dutch) is spoken by the people of Friesland province.

Travel Health: There are no health risks associated with travel to the Netherlands and no inoculations are required. It is safe to drink tap water. The standard of health care in the Netherlands is very high, but the necessary health insurance provisions must be made before travelling. A reciprocal agreement exists with other EU countries, which entitles nationals to low-cost emergency medical treatment. A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is necessary for this purpose.

Tipping: Service charges are included in hotel rates, restaurant bills and taxi fares, usually at 15%. Tipping for good service is always appreciated but not necessary. It is customary to tip taxi drivers and waiters 10%.

Safety Information: Travel in Holland is fairly safe. Travellers should however always exercise caution in empty streets at night and be aware of pickpockets, particularly in central Amsterdam and at Central Station. There have been several incidents on trains from Schiphol Airport where heavily laden passengers have been targeted by thieves. There is a risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks and visitors should be vigilant in public places and tourist sites, particularly since extra security measures have been set up around the country in response to concerns about a possible terrorist attack. Police in Amsterdam are warning travellers of a new scam whereby tourists will be approached by 'plain clothes policemen' who claim to be investigating credit card fraud and counterfeit currency. Tourists are shown fake identification in the form of badges (Dutch police do not carry badges and plain clothes police will rarely conduct such an 'investigation'), and asked to hand over credit cards and money. This will be returned but with some money/cards missing. If approached, travellers are advised to ask for proper identification or to accompany them to the nearest police station. There is also an increase in the number of spiked drinks occurring in Europe.

Local Customs: In Holland, the use of cannabis is tolerated in designated 'coffee shops' in major cities. This policy exists to prevent the marginalisation of soft drug users thereby exposing them to more harmful drugs. However the trafficking in hard or soft drugs outside licensed premises is illegal and the possession of soft drugs in public places will incur a prison sentence. Everybody from the age of 14 is required to show a valid identity document to law enforcement officers on request. Tobacco smoking in cafés, bars and restaurants is prohibited.

Business: Business in the Netherlands is conducted in an efficient and professional manner. Punctuality is important, dress is usually formal (suits and ties are standard), business cards are exchanged and greetings are made with a handshake. Titles and surnames are used, unless otherwise indicated. Women tend to be well received in Dutch business and it is not uncommon for women to hold high positions. Most Dutch people speak excellent English. Business hours are usually 8.30am to 5pm.

Communications: The international access code for the Netherlands is +31. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)20 for Amsterdam. Five local mobile phone operators have the Netherlands extremely well covered with GSM 900 and 1800 networks. Internet cafes are widely available.

Duty Free: Duty free items for travellers to the Netherlands include 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g smoking tobacco; 1 litre spirits, 2 litres spirits or aperitifs made of wine or 2 litres of sparkling wines, liquor wines or still wine; perfume up to 50g or 250ml eau de toilette; 500g of coffee; 100g tea. Prohibited items include the import of all birds.

Visa and Entry Information

  • Entry requirements for Americans: United States citizens require a valid passport. No visa is required for a stay of up to three months in the Netherlands.
  • Entry requirements for UK nationals: No visa is required by British passport holders, irrespective of endorsement, for a stay of up to three months in the Netherlands.
  • Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadians must have a valid passport. No visa is required for a stay of up to three months in the Netherlands.
  • Entry requirements for Australians: Australians must have a valid passport. No visa is required for a stay of up to three months in the Netherlands.
  • Entry requirements for South Africans: South Africans must have a valid passport and Schengen visa for entry into the Netherlands
  • Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand citizens must have a valid passport. No visa is required for a stay of up to three months in the Netherlands.
  • Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals require a passport valid for at least the period of intended stay. No visa is required for a stay of up to three months in the Netherlands.

Passport/Visa Note: All passports, unless stipulated above, must be valid for at least three months after intended stay, except for British nationals who require a passport valid on arrival. Return or onward tickets, all necessary documents for next destination and sufficient funds are required by most nationalities. The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option that allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all.

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Weather and Climate in Holland/Netherlands

The climate of the Netherlands is temperate, with four distinct seasons, the coastal weather influenced by the ocean. Summers are warm, winters fairly chilly, and rainfall is distributed throughout the year. A popular time to travel to the Netherlands is during springtime when flowers come into bloom, particularly the beautiful Dutch tulips.

Amsterdam has a mild, damp climate but the weather can be variable with temperature extremes even in summer. Spring and autumn especially bring changeable, unsettled weather. In the winter months clear, frosty days are the norm, the coldest months being December to March. Rain is likely all year round.

Attractions in Holland/Netherlands

  • Anne Frank House - This museum is dedicated to the memory of Anne Frank whose famous diary, recorded over a two-year period, describes the experiences of a Jewish teenager during World War II.
  • Van Gogh Museum - The Van Gogh Museum is a definitive attraction in Amsterdam. Situated in a modern building, the simple architecture subtly underscores the artists' colourful and extraordinary work.
  • Rembrandt House - This museum provides an insight into the life and times of the famous painter. Rembrandt lived here between 1639 and 1658 at the height of his career. The museum presents a permanent collection of Rembrandt’s work, a reconstructed 17th century studio together with temporary exhibitions and a collection of paintings done by his teacher, Pieter Latman, and those of Rembrandt’s pupils.
  • Red Light District (De Wallen) - A visit to Amsterdam would not be complete without a stroll around the notorious Red Light District. The atmosphere can be chaotic with throngs of tourists jostling for space alongside city slickers, pimps and drug dealers.
  • Heineken Experience - One of the most popular tourist attractions in Amsterdam, the Heineken Experience is not to be missed. After opening its doors in 2001, with Heineken Experience has been attracting international beer lovers for almost a decade.
  • Amsterdam Coffee Shops - Amsterdam's coffee shops are an iconic part of the city and for many tourists they constitute a unique and essential part of any visit to the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, 'coffee shop' means a place where cannabis is openly sold and smoked, while 'café' refers to somewhere that sells coffees, tea and cakes.

Events in Holland/Netherlands

  • Amsterdam Pride - One of Europe's most popular and well-attended 'gay pride' festivals, Amsterdam's Pride takes place annually in early August. The highlight is the Canal Parade on the Saturday in which about 75 decorated craft carry revellers along the Prinsengracht, Amstel and Stopera canals to the delight of about 25,000 spectators.
  • Amsterdam Roots Festival - Now a major event on the global music calendar, Amsterdam's Roots Festival started in 1983 as a celebration of African music. Today the annual programme draws top artists from everywhere around the world, and hordes of concertgoers who come to enjoy their talents.
  • Holland Festival - The Holland Festival is a yearly trend-setting and innovative presentation of the dramatic arts, the highlight of the cultural season in the Netherlands. During the month of June each year about 30 productions take to the boards across the full spectrum of the arts, music, opera, theatre and dance. The programme includes everything from pop music to topical high drama.
  • New Year's Eve in Amsterdam - On New Year's Eve locals and tourists pack into the streets and squares of central Amsterdam to celebrate before heading to one of the city's many bars and clubs.
  • Holland Flowers Festival - A huge plant and flower show, the Holland Flowers Festival is an annual riot of colour and fragrance with a vast array of tulips, irises, daffodils and other blooms covering the halls.

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Airports in Holland / Netherlands

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS)

  • Location: The airport is nine miles (15km) southwest of Amsterdam. It is 36 miles (57km) from The Hague and 46 miles (73km) from Rotterdam.
  • Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
  • Contacts: Tel: +31 207 940 800, or from the Netherlands: 0900 0141.
  • Getting to the city: The quickest and easiest way to travel into the city (or anywhere else in the Netherlands) from Schiphol is by train. The station is directly below the airport. Ticket machines and offices are near the platforms at Schiphol Plaza. There are also night trains running hourly to Amsterdam Centraal Station and other Dutch cities. Private and shared taxis are also available as well as the Schiphol Travel Taxi, which is a national taxi service. These can be booked in advance on the airport website. Travellers heading for hotels can make use of the Connexxion airport hotel shuttle service, leaving the airport from the front of Arrivals hall 2 every 20 minutes and serving 55 hotels in and around Amsterdam. The airport is also well served by local bus services. CityHoppa operates shuttle vans as well as private cars from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam city centre.
  • Car rental: Rental companies include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt. Renting a car is not advised for those going to central Amsterdam, as parking is very difficult.
  • Airport Taxis: A taxi to the city centre from Schiphol Airport will take around 20 minutes. Visitors can go to Schiphol Plaza where they will find the metered Schiphol taxis which will display their rates. Avoid touts and unlicensed taxis. National taxi service, Schiphol Travel Taxi, has fixed rates for everyone who travels to and from the airport.
  • Facilities: Facilities include banks, ATMs, bureau de change, a post office, conference and business services, wireless Internet, children's play areas, duty-free shops, a medical centre and pharmacy. Shower facilities and saunas are located at the terminal hotel. The airport has several restaurants and bars and even an art gallery and a casino. Disabled facilities are available, those with special needs can contact the airport on: +31 (0)20 316 1417.
  • Parking: Schiphol has numerous long and short-term parking facilities, also catering for VIP valet parking and a luxury car park (credit card payment only). Parking can be reserved in advance on the airport website.
  • Departure Tax: None.

Rotterdam Airport (RTM)

  • Location: The airport is located five miles (8km) north of Rotterdam.
  • Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
  • Contacts: Tel: +31 (0)10 446 3444.
  • Getting to the city: The RET Airport Shuttle Bus 33 runs between the airport and Rotterdam Central Station, taking about 20 minutes, from where trains can be taken to all destinations. A 'strippen' card can be used for the bus and can be bought at the AKO shop or at the information desk at the airport, otherwise the fare is €2.70. Taxis can be found outside the arrivals hall; the fare to central Rotterdam will be around €23, and the fare to The Hague around €45.
  • Car rental: Rental companies include Avis, Sixt, Europcar, Hertz and Budget (no desk at airport but possible to collect or return car from airport with prior arrangement).
  • Facilities: Facilities include airline lounges, bureau de change, ATMs, a post office, restaurants and bars, wireless Internet access, duty free shops, facilities for the disabled and baby facilities.
  • Parking: The airport has three parking areas, two long-term and one short-term (directly in front of the terminal). Parking must be paid for at automatic machines before collecting your vehicle.
  • Departure Tax: None.

Groningen Eelde Airport (GRQ)

  • Location: The airport is situated nine miles (15km) from Groningen.
  • Time: GMT +1 (GMT +2 between March and October).
  • Contacts: Tel: +31 (0)50 308 1300.
  • Getting to the city: The airport is served by Arriva bus number 52 and 53, which connect to the Groningen Central Station twice an hour on weekdays, and hourly on Sundays (only number 52). Various private bus services also run shuttles, and there are plenty of taxis available.
  • Car rental: Avis, Hertz and Europcar are car rental companies represented at the airport.
  • Facilities: Groningen's airport is small and has no currency exchange facilities, but there is one ATM available in the terminal building. There is a shop offering duty-free items for those travelling outside the EU, and staples like magazines, newspapers and sweets. The airport restaurant (part of the airport hotel) has an outdoor terrace where patrons have a view of the runway. There is also a children's play area and a travel agency.
  • Parking: Long and short-term machine-ticketed parking is available within walking distance of the terminal.
  • Departure Tax: None

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Driving Information

Drinking and driving:
Nil percentage of alcohol allowed in drivers' blood; amounts of less than 0.08 per cent incur a fine, more than 0.08 per cent legal proceedings.

Driving licence:
Minimum age at which a UK driving licence holder may drive a temporarily imported car and / or motorcycle 17. All valid UK driving licences should be accepted in Hungary. This includes the older all-green style UK licences (in
Northern Ireland older paper style with photographic counterpart) although the EC appreciates that these may be more difficult to understand and that drivers may wish to voluntarily update them before travelling abroad, if time permits. Alternatively, older licences may be accompanied by an International Driving Permit (IDP).

On-the-spot, only payable in HUF. Credit cards are not accepted. On the spot fines can be paid by post within 30 days. The police must give a receipt for cash payments. Wheel clamps are in use.

Unleaded petrol (95 octane), diesel (Dizel or Gazolaj) and LPG available. No leaded petrol. Petrol in a can permitted, maximum 40 litres. Credit cards accepted at some filling stations, check with your card issuer for usage in Hungary before travel. Cash is the most usual form of payment.

Driving Distances:

1 hrs 2mins
1hrs 12mins
1hrs 56mins
2hrs 24mins
5hrs 13mins
4hrs 25mins
15hrs 48mins
6hrs 23mins
Amsterdam Calais 4hrs 25mins 381km
Amsterdam Vienna 3hrs 47mins 1160km
Amsterdam Rome 15hrs 48mins 1670km

Please click here http://www.viamichelin.com/ for more driving distances

Use of dipped headlights compulsory at all times outside built-up areas. At night the use of full beam, in built up areas, is prohibited.

Use of dipped headlights compulsory at all times. The wearing of crash helmets is compulsory for both driver and passenger.

Motor Insurance:
Third-party compulsory. Should a visitor cause an accident with a Hungarian citizen they must report it to the Association of Hungarian Insurance Companies.

Passengers / Children in cars:
A child under 3 years of age may only travel in a vehicle if using a suitable child restraint system appropriate for their weight, they are permitted to travel in the front of the vehicle using this restraint if it is rear facing and there is no airbag or it has been deactivated. Children under 1.5m and over 3 years of age must use a suitable child restraint system and be seated in the rear of the vehicle.

Seat belts:
Compulsory for front and rear seat occupants to wear seat belts, if fitted.

Speed limits:
Standard legal limits, which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles without trailers: In built-up areas 31 mph (50 km/h), outside built-up areas 55 mph (90 km/h) or 68 mph (110 km/h) on semi-motorways and 80 mph (130
km/h) on motorways. Vehicles with snow chains must not exceed 31mph (50km/h). In city centres, areas with an 18 mph (30 km/h) speed limit are increasingly common.

Compulsory equipment in Hungary:

  • First-aid kit
  • Warning triangle
  • Reflective Jacket - All pedestrians walking on a road, or road shoulder outside a built up area must wear a reflective jacket at night and in case of bad visibility. Any person exiting a vehicle outside a built up area in a
    breakdown situation becomes a pedestrian and therefore must wear a reflective jacket.
  • Snow chains - The use of or their presence in a car can be made compulsory
    on some roads when weather conditions require.

Other rules / requirements in Hungary:

Spare bulb kit recommended as its carriage is compulsory for Hungarian registered vehicles.

Recommended that the driver of a conspicuously damaged vehicle entering Hungary obtain a police report confirming the damage at the time of entry, otherwise lengthy delays may be encountered at the frontier when leaving Hungary. This report should be obtained from the police of the country where the car was damaged.

Motorway tax payable for use of:

  • M1 (Budapest – Hegyeshalom),
  • M3 (Budapest -Gorbehaza – Nyiregyhaza)),
  • M5 (Budapest – Kiskunfelegyhaza – Szeged - Roszke/border with Serbia),
  • M6 (M0- Erd - Dunaujvaros)
  • M7 (Budapest - Lake Balaton – Letenye, border with Croatia)
  • M30 (Emod - Miskolc)
  • M35 (Gorbehaza-Debrecen)

The electronic vignette and any toll charges must be paid in forints. Credit cards accepted: Visa, Eurocard/Mastercard, DKV and UTA. The vignette can be purchased in person, online, or by telephone (land line or mobile). When a motorist has purchased an e-vignette, a confirmation message will be sent or a coupon issued.

This document must be kept for one year after the expiry of validity. The motorway authorities check all vehicles electronically, and verify the registration number, the category of toll paid and the validity of the e-vignette. Further information: www.motorway.hu – available for 4 days (vehicles up to 3.5t only), 1 week, one month or 13 months. Fines imposed for non-display. The Hungarian motoring Association recommend foreign motorists wishing to purchase a vignette at the border have cash in Hungarian Forints. Vignettes should only be purchased from
outlets where the prices are clearly displayed at the set rate.

Motorists should be wary of contrived incidents, particularly on the Vienna–Budapest motorway, designed to stop motorists and expose them to robbery.

A new directive by the Hungarian authorities means that traffic will be restricted from entering Budapest when the dust in the air exceeds a fixed level on two consecutive days. The restriction depends upon the number which a registration plate ends, licence plates ending in odd numbers will be permitted to enter Budapest on odd numbered days, even number on even days.

The restriction also applies to UK registered vehicles, however as UK registration plates tend to end in a letter rather than a number we are waiting for confirmation as to how the restriction will apply. The restriction will be applicable from 0600 to 2200 with a fine imposed for non compliance.

Spiked tyres prohibited.

The use of the horn is prohibited in built-up areas, except in the case of danger.

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