Practical Travel Guide
There is no specific visa for the Netherlands. Travelers from the European Union and Schengen area, North and South America don’t need a visa for the Netherlands or any other Schengen country. They can stay a maximum of 90 days without a visa, and can travel to any Schengen country within that time span (see map for a list of Schengen countries).
Citizens of countries mentioned here need a Schengen visa. Because you won’t apply for a specific visa for the Netherlands but for an entire region, we will link you to the Dutch government website for the most up-to-date information about getting a Schengen visa.
If you are visiting several Schengen countries, you need to apply for a Schengen visa at the embassy of the country you will stay the longest. If you plan to visit all countries for the same amount of time, apply at the embassy of the country you will visit first.
The Netherlands is by no means a cheap country to travel in. Though one can easily spend a few days simply walking around Amsterdam (it’s one big UNESCO site, after all), you’ll eventually need to shell out quite a few euros on food or accommodation.
The costs mentioned below apply to the main cities.
Food and drinks
- Beer or soda: €3-5
- Coffee or tea: €2.50-3.50
- Breakfast: €5-10
- Lunch entree: €7-10
- Dinner entree at a cheap/mid-range restaurant: €12-15
- Fast food “entree”: €1-3
- Budget hostel: €25-30 a night
- Mid-range hotel/Airbnb: €50-100
- Luxury hotel/Airbnb: €150 and up
- Museum: €10-25
- Movies: €12,50-17,50
- Opera or orchestra: €25-75
You can get almost anywhere with public transport. It’s not cheap, but super convenient. There are trains, trams, busses, metros and ferries. You can plan your entire journey with the 9292 app (available in the Apple App Store and Google Play store) or 9292.nl. This super handy service will tell you exactly how to get where you need to go, from door to door.
Paying for public transport.
You can either pay for each journey separately at the ticket counter/driver, or use an OV-chipcard. Paying for each journey separately if very costly, and should be avoided at all times. Use an OV-chipcard.
OV-chipcard (OV stands for Openbaar Vervoer, which means public transport in Dutch) can be used for all forms of public transport. An OV-chipcard can be bought at major train stations, supermarkets and Bruna stores. The card has an RFID chip in it, and you can put money on it to use for travel. You use it by swiping the card at a card reader associated with the type of transport you are using. For buses and trams these are in the bus or tram. For trains and metro’s these are at the station. Ferries are often free.
If you are using several types of public transport (e.g. first a train, then a tram and then a bus) make sure to check in and out each time you switch between types of transport. For some annoying reason you need to have around €20 on your card at all time. So top it up with €50 and you’ll be fine for most trips. You can top it up at almost any train station or major transport hub.
Taxis are expensive, and especially in cities not at all convenient. All taxis are required to use a meter, and usually will. Late at night this might change though, depending from where you hail a taxi. You can also use an UBER, but the price might not materially differ since you are still using a licensed taxi. If you must use a taxi, try to hail one from an official taxi stand. Better yet, use public transport.
The Dutch cycle out of their mothers uterus and are very adept at cycling in cities. Tourists not so much. It might sound like fun to rent a bike and explore Amsterdam, but you are annoying the locals and the chance of stress is high.
Cycling in the countryside is fine, but for the sake of everyone involved, don’t try to cycle through the cities, you are a menace and everyone hates you. Walk or take public transport instead. Go here to find nice cycle routes throughout the Netherlands (site in Dutch, English, German, Frisian and French).
Cities and towns are very nice to walk in. Almost anything is walkable, and especially on nicer days this is a very pleasant way to get around. Good cities for walking include Haarlem, Leiden en Maastricht. Do watch out when you try and cross the street, cyclist don’t adhere to traffic rules at all.
Entering and exiting
Most people will come in through Schiphol, the main airport, which is located about 20 minutes from Amsterdam. Other, smaller, airports include Rotterdam/The Hague and Eindhoven airport.
There are trains to Germany and Belgium almost every hour. For high-speed trains you need to book a ticket in advance. If you want to take regular trains go to ns.nl to plan your journey. We recommend the high-speed trains. If you want to use this option, it pays to shop around on both the Dutch and German or Belgium (depending or where you want to go) train ticket website. The Dutch website is usually the most expensive.
The Netherlands has several border crossings with Germany and Belgium. All should be easy to travers. Note that due to the recent influx of refugees, the Dutch government (in its almighty wisdom) has decided to reintroduce border checks. It is not as bad as it used to be before Schengen, but can still take some time. This border checks seem to be random, and they don’t occur at all borders.
Unless you are secretly smuggling drugs or tigers or something like that, you should have no trouble crossing any border within the Schengen area. Always make sure to have a valid passport on you, and if necessary your visa or residence permit.
Biking in the Netherlands
Biking in the Netherlands is not like biking in any other country (except maybe Denmark). There are rules to be followed, and you can’t just cycle willy-nilly wherever you please! You may be run over, and if not, you’ll have loads of raging Dutchies on your tail.
Check out the 5 commandments of cycling in the Netherlands, or if nothing else, make sure to always cycle on the right side of the road, and ALWAYS lock your bike when it’s left unattended.
Dutchies are (painfully) good at English. If you speak English (or French, or German) you’ll be able to get around in the Netherlands and communicate with people in cities quite easily. Outside of the cities, the vast majority of the people speak English, though some older people may struggle a bit. You’ll have to venture pretty deep into the country to find those people, though.
Dutchies greet each other with 3 kisses on the cheeks, not two! Make sure to get this right, for fear of accidentally frenching random people. The order is right-left-right.