NEED TO KNOW
Capital City: Amsterdam
Population: 16.4 million
Area: 16,000 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 31
Electricity: 230V, 50 Hz
Currency: As of Nov 22, 2011:
1 Euro = $1.36 US Calculate Other Amounts
The Netherlands, a member of the EU, does not require visas for citizens of the United States. A valid passport is sufficient for a three-month stay.
GOOD TO KNOW
Books and Movies
Put down the tomes on Dutch history filled with unpronounceable names and too many vowels, and head to the art department instead. Discover the Netherlands' artistic glory through the Dutch Masters: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, and Mondrian.
Dutch cuisine will never be mistaken for one of the world's finest, but simple dishes like roasted meat, stews, and savory pancakes provide a basis for the relaxed hospitality that pervades this small country. Aside from these basic meals, authentic Dutch food is slowly disappearing, as it is increasingly abandoned by the Dutch themselves. You'll be hard pressed to find stewed eel, fried whiting, kale and sausage, and thick vegetable soups that used to comprise the Dutch diet. But Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants (particularly from countries that used to be Dutch colonies) seem to be springing up everywhere.
Luckily some Dutch traditions, like great beer brewing, are not even close to dying. You will still find some of the world's best beers—Amstel and Heineken being the most popular—everywhere.
Quintessentially Dutch crafts like wooden shoes and Delft blue pottery are some of the favorite things for tourists to pick up, but they are rarely good deals. But there are still areas where you can get a real find. Silver from Schoonhoven, crystal in Leerdam, and diamonds in Amsterdam all rival Europe's best, as do many of the second-hand shops, where the collected treasures of centuries are there for the taking.
A value added tax (VAT) of up to nineteen percent is added to every purchase in The Netherlands, but tourists can get a refund on big purchases at the airport or by mail.
Tipping is not compulsory in the Netherlands, but rounding up the bill is always appreciated in taxis, restaurants, and pubs with table service.
This isn't France, so you can get by with English, guilt-free. Some helpful phrases, however, are hoi (hi), lekker (delicious), bedankt (thanks), and tat ziens (see ya). The only words you really need are duwen (push), and trekken (pull)—pushing the door that needs to be pulled looks stupid no matter the language.
Did You Know?
Large areas of The Netherlands have been reclaimed from the sea, and consequently nearly half of the country lies below sea level.
January: 1, New Year's Day
April: 30, Queen's Day
May: 4, Remembrance of the Dead; 5, Liberation Day
December: 5, Saint Nicholas Eve; 25, First Day of Christmas; 26, Second Day of Christmas
Spring: Friday before Easter, Good Friday; Easter; day after Easter, Easter Monday; sixth Thursday after Easter, Ascension ; seventh Sunday after Easter, Pentecost; eighth Monday after Easter, Pentecost Monday