Holland (The Netherlands)
The open-minded, liberal country of the modern world. The Netherlands leads the way in political progress concerning human rights and has many controversial policies on issues such as prostitutuion, canabis and homosexual relations. There is so much colour not only in political aspects but also the land itself; beautiful expanses of greenery where you can literally see for miles due to the remarkably flat geography. Windmills, tulips and canals are everywhere you look and decorate the beautiful scenery with Dutch identity. Amsterdam, the outstanding capital, is a partying city with so much culture to experience that people tend to spend longer here than a lot of other cities, just dont forget your clogs!
- Currency: Euro (€) = 100 cents
- Time Zone: GMT + 1
- Language: Dutch. English, French and German are also spoken
- Telephone Services: Country Code + 31, International access code 00
- Emergency Numbers: 112 for all services
The Netherlands experience a mild climate with prevalent rainfall all year round. The summer months are reasonably warm, but hot weather is not very common. Wintertime is generally quite cold and snow can be expected.
Things to see and do
Amsterdam is host to so many sight-seeing treats; the numerous flowing canals and renowned museums deserve to have the high reputation that they have been given. One of the most famous is The Van Gogh Museum and it is definitely worth a visit if you are taken by this artists work. The museum has some of his most famous work from the beginning of his life as an artist in Holland until his death in France.
The story of Anne Frank, the Jewish teenager who spent the end of her days in hiding before being deported to a concentration camp, is known and felt by millions. The house where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis during Second World War has been named The Anne Frank House and has developed into a memorial site, which is a very moving place to see.
Amsterdam undeniably attracts thousands of tourists every year not only for its culture and atristic brilliance but also due to the fact that it is host to loads of Coffeeshops, which are in fact Marijuana cafes. In a city where you can have a spliff with your cup of coffee, rather than a biscuit, and legally have sex with prostitutes, it is clear why Amsterdam is such a big attraction.
Rotterdam is another of the Netherlands beautiful cities and renowned for its architectural brilliance. There is so much to see and do, but one of the best sights, and a starting point, is a boatride which leaves from Europort, the world's largest port, and tours around the city for over an hour. The outstanding Erasmus Bridge, constructed by a Dutch architect, Ben van Berkel, is a light blue colour so during the day it can actually be difficult to see in bright sun-light, but at night-time white light illuminates the bridge and you can really see what an incredible masterpiece this Bridge is.
There are almost thirty museums in Rotterdam and every one is wonderful for different reasons. The Museumpark is very convenient for you if you want to see several in a limited time-scale. The Museumpark combines five museums dedicated to architecture and art. If you are impressed by the architecture you see in Rotterdam then you should look into doing one of the architecture walks through the city organised by The Netherlands Architecture Institute.
The Hague is the political centre in the Netherlands and the 'Binnenhof' is host to the parliament buildings. You can go on guided tours around the complex and the 13th century Knights Hall is fascinating. There is also The Peace Palace where the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration are situated, and again these outstanding buildings are accessible by guided tours. Finally, Lang Voorhout, an extensive lane between Kneuterdijk and Tournooiveld, has developed into the residential area for members of the governement. There are lime trees along the roadside which decorate this famous area, where you can also find the Diligentia Theatre.
The public transport system in the Netherlands is very efficient.You are able to travel anywhere in the country thanks to this well-thought-out system where no matter how small the village is, you can be assured that it is linked to the transportation network.
The railway network is modern and notably the trains run by the Netherlands Railways (NS) are among the best in Europe. The Intercity IC network runs a direct and rapid service between major cities, only making a limited number of stops. There are even trains that run throughout the night and, departing every hour, these trains connect the major cities, including Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Train Timetables can be found on the NS website.
If you are travelling short distances then the bus is also a great means of transport. There are city buses, regional buses and express services. The buses run reasonably regularly to destinations in and around the cities, but it is during peak hours when the buses run most frequently. There is also the Interliner service available for longer distances.
The main cities of Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam offer a tram service and Amsterdam and Rotterdam also have an underground network. Services by both these methods of transport are rapid and run from early morning until late at night.
There are public transport tickets for use on buses, trams and the underground. The Nartional Strippen Card can be used all over the country and is also valid on trains which run within the major cities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague. The Strippen Cards can be purchased at railway stations, post offices, newsagents and department stores. It is cheaper to buy it from one of these stated places as if you by it on the bus or tram it is more expensive. The transport system has been divided up into zones and the tariffs relate to these zones. To travel to one zone you pay two 'strips' and then every zone after you pay one 'strip'. Once in a zone you travel 'free' within a certain time limit.
The Netherlands has a huge variety of accommodation options, ranging from extremely expensive to very affordable. Youth hostels are the least expensive choice and generally you will pay no more than €12 per night. For more information you can visit the website of the Dutch Youth Hostel Association; Stayokay: www.stayokay.com . Another reasonably inexpensive way of visiting the Netherlands is to stay in one of the many campsites. Not all campsites offer pre-booking so it is just a matter of asking on the spot. The Netherlands Board of Tourism can give you a full list of available campsites and reservations for some can be made through the Stichting Vrije Recreatie at www.svr.nl.
Bed and Breakfast accommodation is another affordable option and can be found and booked on-line at www.bedandbreakfast.nl . Hotels can be cheap if you look around and The Netherlands Reservation Centre (NRC) give help and advice on hotel reservations, email them or visit their website. The Netherlands Board of Tourism approves hotels which meet the standards laid down by Dutch Law by issuing a shield to be placed on the outside of the hotel.
You require an E111 form which entitles you to emergency medical treatment on the same terms as Dutch nationals. This form is free of charge and can be collected from any post office, who also stamp it after you have completed it. You are recommended to take adequate medical and travel insurance too, and the post office offers good cover for around £30.
- Netherlands Railways (NS) website for timetables
- The Dutch Youth Hostel Association offers advice on hostels all over the Netherlands
- SVR provide help with reservations for campsites which offer advance booking service
- Bed and Breakfast accommodation available and on-line booking
- The Netherlands Board of Tourism offers a range of travel advice and tourist information for visitors to Holland