Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

There are few countries in this world that inspire whimsy and wonder quite like the Netherlands.

Just mention the name and your brain leaps to sprawling tulip fields, bright wooden clogs, picturesque canals & comically tall cyclists going at the speed of light.

Delightful imagery aside however, there are many simple Netherlands must-knows that elude first time visitors – from what the country’s actually called to all the secret ways to save on transport and attraction tickets.

Luckily, you’re here! And you’ve landed straight in the den of an immovable Netherlands fan who has gone crawling back six or seven times over the years for “research”.

And in this post I’m finally putting that research to use. Keep scrolling for a list of my best Netherlands travel tips and must-knows, sourced over a decade of first-hand experience.

1. There is a difference between the Netherlands and Holland

For years, the name Holland has been used interchangeably with the Netherlands to refer to the delightful country we’re talking about today.

… I mean, even the country’s official tourism website is Holland.com.

BUT if we’re being technical, doing so is actually…. incorrect.

The reason is simple: the Netherlands is a country comprised of twelve provinces, only two of which (North Holland and South Holland) make up “Holland”. This means calling the Netherlands “Holland” would be like calling the entirety of the US “New England” or “the Midwest”.

… In other words, it doesn’t really make sense. And also isn’t fair to the rest of the country.

This branding crisis has complicated roots that I won’t get into here, but just know that there has been a movement lately to rebrand and remind people that the country is known as “the Netherlands”, not Holland.

So, keep that one in mind.

2. There’s much more to the Netherlands than just Amsterdam

A big reason why the name “Holland” has stuck is because historically, this has been one of the most visited parts of the country in terms of tourism (with Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the Hague all situated in Holland).

But as we now know, there’s much more to the Netherlands than just Holland, and far more for tourists to see than just Amsterdam.

So be sure to diversify your itinerary a bit during your trip! Given the compact size of the country and the ease of public transport, you really have no excuse.

From Amsterdam, you can reach tons of cool cities like Haarlem, Utrecht, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Delft within an hour, all of which offer a calmer alternative to the crowded chaos of Amsterdam.

And those who dare venture further will find everything from adorable villages like Giethoorn and Valkenburg to picturesque beaches, islands and national parks all over the country.

… So yes, there’s plenty more places to see in the Netherlands than just Amsterdam. Be sure to take advantage.

Magical views in Delft

3. Spring may be the best (though busiest) time to visit the Netherlands

In terms of when to visit, you really can’t beat Spring.

Granted, Dutch weather is notoriously hit and miss, meaning Spring time can yield just as many downpours as it does sunny days, but this time of year is the ideal period to catch those world famous Dutch tulips… and let me tell you, every bit of rain (and crowds) is worth it!

Of course, tulip season varies year to year so it’s tough to predict exactly when it happens, but if you are specifically planning a trip to see tulips, mid April is usually the safest time.

4. Winter or Fall are also great times to visit if you’re looking to avoid crowds

Of course, the major downside of Spring travel in the Netherlands is crowds.

Every year, millions flock to the country for a glimpse of those vibrant bulbs…

So if you value your personal space and sanity over cute photos of flora, my best Netherlands travel tip for you would be to visit during Winter or Fall, while steering clear of July and August, as well as school holidays like Easter because that’s when crowds and prices are at their worst.

5. Use 9292 to plan your journeys on public transport

In terms of getting around, public transport in the Netherlands is honestly a dream.

And one really great Netherlands transport tip I have for you is to check out the website/app known as 9292.

This magic wizard app shows you all the best connections from Point A to Point B using Dutch trains, buses, and trams. All you need to do is enter your Departure Point and Destination, and it’ll even tell you how much it should cost (giving it a clear edge over Google Maps).

So, be sure to save it for your trip!

7. For ease, use your contactless cards for train travel

If you plan on taking trains in the Netherlands, one good thing to know is that Dutch train prices are fixed based on distance, meaning no difference whether you buy tickets ahead of time or on the day of (apart from a 10% off-peak advance discount if you book early enough, which I’ll discuss later).

All that to say, planning train travel in advance is much less important here than in some other countries.

To make things even easier, as of 2023, you can even use contactless credit and debit cards to pay at the fare gates, which means you can show up at the station without a ticket and go right through by tapping in and out with your card.

The correct amount will then be charged to your card automatically. It genuinely couldn’t be simpler.

8. Learn all the ways to save money on train tickets

As you could probably tell from my feverish rants, I’m a huge fan of train travel in the Netherlands – squeaky clean, easy to use and ultra widespread, with about 400 train stations across the country.

Sadly, there is a downside. Trains in the Netherlands can cost many a penny.

But before you start docking funds from your Stroopwafel fund, here are some easy ways to save money on Dutch train tickets:

  • Off-Peak Early Booking: Often you can get a small discount of 10% for booking a digital ticket at least four days in advance for offpeak periods (meaning weekdays before 06:30, between 09:00 and 16:00, and after 18:30, as well as all day during weekends and public holidays).
  • Off-Peak Group Tickets: Buying a group ticket for off-peak periods often means lower prices per person.
  • Day tickets: Buying a day ticket means you pay one price and get unlimited travel during the day. This kind of ticket would be ideal for big day trips.
  • Attraction / special deal tickets: The official NS website here has a page of special deals and offers, usually including admission to attractions with some food and the train tickets all for one set price.

9. Don’t miss the free train WiFi

Okay: last piece of positive Dutch train propaganda – there’s usually WiFi on board – just look for the network WiFi in de trein.

10. Dutch is the official language, but don’t stress about learning beyond the basics

Language-wise, the official language of the Netherlands is Dutch…

But honestly, it’s incredible how well some Dutch people speak English. Especially younger Dutchies living in big cities.

Not only do they have immaculate grammar most of the time – they get the slang, they get the humour… it’d be borderline enraging if it wasn’t so impressive.

So, that said – don’t worry too much about mastering Dutch before your trip, although knowing some basics like greetings and thank you (dankjewel, pronounced “donk-yeh-vel!”) is advised.

I hope this list of Netherlands travel tips was helpful!

I admit this was a VERY long list of tips for Netherlands travel, but if you have any more questions, let me know in the comments.

Source: https://happytowander.com/

By Lala