Planning your first trip to the Netherlands can be overwhelming. There’s a lot to figure out – when to visit, what to see and do, what to pack, and what to watch out for. The good news is that planning a trip to the Netherlands is easier than you think! There’s great transport, various accommodation options, and a whole host of awesome things to do and see! However, there are a few things you should know before visiting the Netherlands. Here are my 16 top Netherlands travel tips to help you plan the perfect trip and avoid any unnecessary hiccups during your Holland adventure!
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Table of Contents
Netherlands Travel Tips: 16 Things to Know Before Traveling to the Netherlands
Choose the right time to visit
Let’s kickstart this guide on top travel tips for the Netherlands with one of the most frequently asked questions. When is the best time to visit? Fortunately, the Netherlands is a great year-round destination, but the best time to visit is April to October.
Spring is the most popular season, with the tulip season typically running from the end of March through early May. However, note that flowering times may vary slightly from year to year, so if you’re planning to visit the dreamy tulip fields, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the Amsterdam Tulip Festival’s webpage. In 2024, the best time to see tulip fields is from mid-April to early May.
Summers can be hot and jam-packed with tourists. Prices are usually at their highest as this is peak tourist season. While the sun might be out, always be ready for rain.
Autumn is a great time to visit the Netherlands, especially if you want to see the beautiful fall colors and do some good old leaf peeping. Hotel prices are usually more reasonable than in spring and summer.
Winter is the slowest season. It’s generally cold, gloomy, and rainy. But if you don’t mind the cold (and rain), there are plenty of cozy Christmas markets to attend in December, and prices will be much lower than during peak tourist season.
Book accommodation well in advance
Hotels in the Netherlands can be expensive, especially in Amsterdam during peak season. Therefore, booking accommodation at least a few months in advance is best to guarantee a good rate. Booking sites like Agoda and Booking.com often have good deals on hotels and hostels, but if you prefer a cozy apartment, Airbnb is the go-to.
Always carry a raincoat or jacket
Another Netherlands travel tip you need to know is that the Dutch weather is unpredictable and can change from sunny to rainy in an instant! In fact, it’s not uncommon to experience both of them (coupled with some nasty winds) in a single day!
If you’re like me and hate the cold (and rain), it’s best to be prepared. Carry a compact raincoat or a waterproof jacket, even during summer, to keep yourself dry and protected from the chilly winds.
The public transport is fantastic
The Netherlands has a world-class public transportation system with trains, trams, buses, and metros connecting you to all corners of the country.
You’ll want to download the NS app – the country’s official public transport network with train, bus, tram, and metro connections. The app is super handy and allows you to check schedules, routes, prices, and delays on all of the transport options in the Netherlands.
You can also buy tickets on the app (scan the QR code to gain entry at the gate). Alternatively, get an OV-chipkaart (Netherlands’ public transportation card) or use your contactless credit and debit cards to tap and go at the gates. Just remember that you need to tap out!
Another handy tip for the Netherlands you should know is that not all stations have gates; some only use check-in or check-out poles. Finding them might take a few minutes, so a good rule of thumb is to see what the locals do. This article on checking in and out at stations might also be useful.
Get a local SIM card
Most hotels, restaurants, and even trains in the Netherlands have free wifi. However, getting a local SIM card or eSIM is still a good option to ensure you always have data. You’re going to need Google Maps – trust me!
With that said, SIM packages aren’t the cheapest thing to buy in the Netherlands, especially from the airport. If you can, invest in an Esim. There are many providers available online today, like Holafly and Airalo, offering great packages at affordable rates.
If that’s not an option, you can still get a local SIM card upon arrival in the Netherlands – just not at the airport because it’ll literally cost you an arm and a leg! I paid EUR 50 for a 30-day unlimited data package at the airport, only to find the same package at a local store a few days later, going for EUR 29.
KPN, Lebara, and Simya are among the most popular providers.
Book museum tickets in advance
If you love all things art and like spending hours in museums and galleries, you’re really going to love the Netherlands! With more than 400 museums, it’s a fantastic destination for culture seekers.
There is a catch, though – visiting the museums is among the top things to do in Holland, so getting tickets to some of them can be quite challenging. To avoid disappointment, a really important Netherlands travel tip is always booking tickets for must-see attractions in advance.
Some of the most famous museums in Amsterdam, like the Anne Frank House, require booking months in advance. Other places, like the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Moco Museum, are a little more flexible but don’t leave buying tickets to the last minute as you’re likely to be disappointed. Another thing to know is that most museums in Amsterdam work on a time slot basis, meaning you can only enter at the time specified on your ticket. Check the museum’s opening hours beforehand and stick to your time slot.
Make use of city or attraction passes
Checking out all the awesome sights in the Netherlands adds up quickly. So investing in attraction passes is a good idea to save some money.
If you’re only sticking to Amsterdam, the I Amsterdam City Card covers the entrance to more than 70 major museums and attractions and unlimited access to GVB bus, tram, and metro transport. Another handy card is the museum card, which will give you access to more than 400 museums around the country. You can buy a temporary Netherlands Museum Pass at most museums nationwide. It is valid for 30 days and costs EUR 75.
You need to pay to use public toilets
Believe it or not, public toilets are not free in the Netherlands and usually cost around 70 cents in malls, train stations, and gas stations.
While some places accept cards, having coins ready is always best. That said, free toilets can be found in restaurants, bars, cafes, and museums. For the guys, keep an eye out for public urinals on the street.
Bring a contactless credit or debit card
While it is possible to pay with cash, the Netherlands is becoming increasingly cashless-oriented. Most convenience stores and places like Albert Heijn, Hema, and Etos have self-checkout counters where you can tap your card to pay. There is, however, a small possibility that your card might not work in some places (I’m looking at you, Albert Heijn). But for the most part, Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted nationwide.
If you prefer to have cash on you, ATMs are plentiful, and you’ll find them at malls, train stations, some stores like Albert Heijn, and even just one on the street (you might need to scout a bit to locate them). That said, Google Maps can go a long way in helping you find the one closest to you!
Whatever you do, avoid withdrawing money at Schiphol Airport’s ATMs! The conversion rates are much steeper there.
You should tip
It’s customary to tip in the Netherlands, although not entirely mandatory. The Dutch consider it rude not to tip for excellent service. So unless the service is really poor, it’s always best to leave a tip.
The standard tipping rate at restaurants is 10%. And if you don’t notice a tip section on your bill, simply tell the waiter you’d like to add a tip.
Tipping hotel porters is common practice, and most tour guides expect a tip. Remember to keep some spare change on you.
Learn a few Dutch phrases
English is widely spoken in the Netherlands, and the Dutch are known for their excellent English-speaking skills. As a result, you don’t need to worry too much (if at all) about running into any language barriers during your trip.
That said, knowing a few key Dutch phrases is always a good idea, as it can go a long way toward making your trip more enjoyable while showing respect for the country and its people.
If you prefer a more immersive experience, here are a few useful Dutch phrases to learn for your Netherlands trip:
- Hello — hello or hoi (hi) if you prefer a more casual approach
- Goodbye — dag or tot ziens
- Please/ If you please — alsjeblieft
- Thank you — dank je wel
- Yes — ja
- No — nee
- Excuse me — sorry or pardon
- I am sorry — het spijt me
- Where is the toilet? — Waar is het toilet?
- How much is this? — Hoeveel kost deze?
- I don’t speak Dutch — Ik spreek geen Nederlands
- Do you speak English? — Spreekt je Engels?
The tap water is safe to drink
If you’re planning to visit the Netherlands and wondering whether drinking tap water is safe, the answer is yes!
Dutch tap water is known for its high quality and is treated and distributed under strict regulations. The water supply is regularly monitored to ensure it meets the highest standards for drinking water.
While some restaurants might offer free drinking water, most will bring bottled water (at a charge) unless you specifically ask for tap water. In Amsterdam specifically, you’ll find more than 500 taps with free drinking water available throughout the city (see map), where you can fill up your reusable water bottle and do your part to reduce plastic waste.
Think twice before renting a bike in the Netherlands
Nothing seems more idyllic than cycling through a Dutch city with the wind blowing through your hair!
But the truth is, cycling in the Netherlands is tricky, with lots of dos and don’ts. In bigger cities like Amsterdam, cyclists tend to bolt down the streets at lightning speeds and can get quite impatient with tourists getting in their way. It can be dangerous, and you could cause an accident, especially if you haven’t ridden a bike in a while. Therefore, one of the most important travel tips for the Netherlands I can give you is to use public transport or walk instead, especially in bigger cities.
If you really want to experience the Dutch cycling culture, renting a bike in smaller towns like Gouda or Edam is a much better (and safer) option. There’s less bike traffic here, and you can explore the countryside at your own pace.
You might need a Blue Parking Badge
While the Netherlands has an excellent transport system with trains connecting you to all corners of the country, nothing beats a good road trip through the Dutch countryside.
If you’re planning a self-driving adventure, another NL travel tip you should know is that parking is expensive and limited. While most places have dedicated paid parking bays, a cheaper alternative is to look out for Blue Zones. These are parking spots where you can park for free, but only for a short period. Check the sign (usually at the entrance) to see how long you can park there, and remember to display your blue parking badge on the dashboard indicating your arrival time. You can get a blue parking disc at gas stations, VVV, or Hema for as little as EUR 1,25. If you’re renting a car, don’t forget to check if the badge is included.
Check if you need a travel adapter
The standard voltage in the Netherlands is 230V, with a frequency of 50 Hz. The most common plug types are type C and type F.
Some high-end hotels may have international dual-voltage plugs installed in the rooms, but it’s best to pack a good travel adapter to ensure you can charge your devices.
Oh, and for the ladies – if you’re traveling with hair styling tools that aren’t dual voltage, remember to pack a converter.
Don’t just stick to Amsterdam
When most people think of the Netherlands, they immediately think of Amsterdam. Yes, it’s as amazing as you think! But there’s more to the Netherlands than Amsterdam.
The Netherlands is absolutely gorgeous, with many beautiful cities like Utrecht, Haarlem, The Hague, and Rotterdam. The countryside and its quaint villages like Marken, Volendam, Edam, and Broek in Waterland are also well worth a visit.
Travel Tips for the Netherlands in Conclusion
Whether you’re visiting for the cheese, windmills, dreamy tulips, cobblestone streets, canals, or simply to soak up the city vibes, the Netherlands is one of the most charming destinations in Europe! Now that you know what to do (and not to do) in Holland, all you have to do is get on that flight!￼
Well, thanks for making it to the end of my Netherlands travel tips guide! I hope these travel tips for the Netherlands come in handy during your visit to this dreamy corner of the world! If you have any other tips or big mistakes travelers should avoid in the Netherlands, let me know in the comments below!
If you found these Netherlands travel tips useful, remember to pin this post for your upcoming trip!