The currency used in the Netherlands is the Euro which is made up of 100 Cent. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, 0.50C, 0.20C, 0.10C, 0.05C, 0.02C and 0.01C.
The native language spoken in the Netherlands is Dutch but the majority of natives speak English which should be a big help to most of you visiting the country. In addition, many also speak French or German.
The Netherlands enjoys a maritime climate which means that there are very little extremes in summer or winter. Summer temperatures average temperatures about 16 or 17 degrees Celsius but highs of 30 degrees Celsius are not unheard of. Winters are mild with increased rainfall and average temperatures of between 1 and 5 degrees Celsius. The most popular months to visit is between May and October when temperatures are at their highest and rainfall is at its lowest.
The Netherlands lies one hour ahead of GMT but summer times adds on one hour between the end of March and the end of September.
Shops are generally open between 8.30am or 9.00am until between 5.00pm and 6.00pm from Monday to Saturday although some may close at 4.00pm or 5.00pm on Saturdays. In more rural areas some shops may close for lunch and have one half or full day off but there are signs which will fully inform you about all closing times. In the bigger cities many stores and shopping centres are now open on Sunday too between noon and 5.00pm. Office hours in the Netherlands are between 8.30am and 5.00pm from Monday to Friday and banks are open between 9.00am and 4.00pm from Monday to Friday but many open during late night shopping and on Saturday mornings.
The electric current is 220V, 50Hz and the plugs in use have two round prongs so those of you travelling from countries which use anything else should bring an adapter with you.
In the Netherlands VAT (BTW) is charged at a rate of 19% and is included in the sales price of all items. It is worth double-checking before making a purchase, however, to avoid any confusion when it comes to payment. For non-EU nationals the good news is that you can reclaim this VAT when leaving the EU. In order to avail of this service, however, you must make purchases in stores which state that they participate in this scheme. Your purchases must exceed F300 in one shop in on day and the good must be exported from the EU within ninety days of the month of purchase. When departing you must show the purchases, the receipts and the Global Refund Cheque which you received in the store. Following this you will have several choices as to how to get your money back. You can get an immediate refund at the Cash Refund Office in Amsterdam Airport, you can get a refund on your credit card or receive a cheque.
Visitors from the EU, the US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand require nothing more than a valid passport for a stay of up to three months but you must ensure that your passport is valid right up until the end of your stay. Nationals of all other countries, those who intend to stay for a period exceeding ninety days or those who intend working during their stay should contact the Dutch Embassy in your home country before travelling.
The national tourist organisation or VVV has offices in all the major towns and cities which are open between 9.00am and 5.00pm from Monday to Friday and between 10.00am and 12.00pm on Saturdays. In July and August in the larger cities, however, opening hours are extended. These offices should be able to provide you with all the information you need as well as maps and brochures for all the major tourist attractions in an area. The head office of the Netherlands Board of Tourism (NBT) is located at Vlietweg 15, Postbus 458, 2260 MG Leidschendam but it will only take queries by mail or telephone which really isn’t that useful if you are in the country already or are in a hurry for information. If you wish to call before you get there, however, the number is 070 370 57 05.
Post offices in the Netherlands are generally open between 8.30am and 5.00pm from Monday to Friday and between 8.30am and 12.00pm on Saturday. In larger towns and cities, however, the opening hours are more extensive so you really need to check with a specific branch to see what their hours are.
Banks generally offer the best exchange rates as well as charging the least commission and you will find a bureau de change in any branch of any bank but you should note that their opening hours are not always the same as that of the bank. Many close an hour earlier so bear this in mind when using this facility.
As well as using Dutch banks, you can also avail of the services of GWK (De Grenswisselkantoren), the national exchange organisation. GWK offers similar rates and fees and you will find branches at all the major railway stations and border crossings as well as at Schipol Airport. These are open between 8.00am and 8.00pm from Monday to Saturday and between 10.00am and 4.00pm on Sundays. The branches at Schipol Airport and at the Centraal Station in Amsterdam are actually open twenty-four hours a day. You can also purchase traveller’s cheques in all of these offices.
All major credit cards are also widely accepted and if you have the PIN you can use these to receive cash in compatible bank machines. The same applies to bankcards which are members of any of the international banking networks or Eurocard.
The country code for the Netherlands is 31 so if you are calling from abroad you need to dial 00, followed by 31, the local area code and the local number. The same instructions apply when you are making an international call from within the country. You should also note that you need to omit the 0 from the local code where applicable.
Public phone booths are widespread, particularly in the main towns and cities. They accept f0.25, 1, 2.50, and 5 and a local call will cost you f0.25. . Many public phones now also use telephone cards which you can purchase at any railway station, post office and most newsagents. These come in denominations of f5, 10 and 25. International calls can be made from most public telephones by either dialing 00 followed by the relevant country code. If a public phone can’t be used to make an international call make your way to the nearest post office where they should be able to help you out.
By order of the Dutch government, all taxes and service charges must be included in the prices printed by hotels, restaurants, cafes and nightclubs. Even taxi fares include taxes and a fifteen per cent tip. If you’re in doubt, particularly in restaurants and cafes, look for the words ‘inclusief BTW en service’ and this is a guaranteed that the service charge is included. As with any other country where this is the case, however, a small additional tip is greatly appreciated if you feel that the service merits it. In cafes or snack bars any small change is fine and in a more upmarket establishment add a little more. It is worth noting, however, that at no point is tipping essential, it is entirely at your discretion.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In the Netherlands they take place on January 1st, Good Friday, Easter Monday, April 30th, May 5th, Ascension Day, the first Monday in June and December 25th and 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.