Amsterdam Travel Information
GMT +1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Two-pin round European-style plugs are used.
Dutch is the official language. English is widely spoken. Fries (as well as Dutch) is spoken by the people of Friesland province.
There are no health risks associated with travel to the Netherlands and no vaccinations are required for entry into the country. The water is safe to drink. The standard of health care in the Netherlands is very high, but the necessary health insurance provisions must be made before travelling. A reciprocal agreement exists with other EU countries, which entitles nationals to low-cost emergency medical treatment. A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is necessary for this purpose. Although medication is widely available in the Netherlands it is always best to take along any prescribed medication, in its original packaging, and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from your doctor detailing what it is and why it is needed.
Service charges are included in hotel rates, restaurant bills and taxi fares, usually at about 15 percent. Tipping for good service is always appreciated but not necessary. It is customary to tip taxi drivers and waiters about 10 percent.
Travel in the Netherlands is fairly safe and the vast majority of trips are trouble-free. Travellers should, however, always exercise caution in empty streets at night and be aware of pickpockets, particularly in central Amsterdam and at Central Station. There have been several incidents on trains from Schiphol Airport where heavily laden passengers have been targeted by thieves. As in all Western countries, there is a risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks.
Police in Amsterdam are warning travellers of a new scam in recent years whereby tourists will be approached by 'plain clothes policemen' who claim to be investigating credit card fraud and counterfeit currency. Tourists are shown fake identification in the form of badges (Dutch police do not carry badges and plain clothes police will rarely conduct such an 'investigation'), and asked to hand over credit cards and money. If approached, travellers are advised to ask for proper identification or to accompany them to the nearest police station.
In the Netherlands the use of cannabis is tolerated in designated 'coffeeshops' in major cities. This policy exists to prevent the marginalisation of soft drug users thereby exposing them to more harmful drugs. However, the trafficking in hard or soft drugs outside licensed premises is illegal and the possession of soft drugs in public places will incur a prison sentence. Travellers should note that the rules are somewhat different for foreigners, with the Netherlands tightening up drug laws in recent years: Amsterdam is the only city still fighting for the right of tourists to smoke cannabis in 'coffeeshops' and this has become a bit of a grey area with laws not always enforced on the ground. Everybody from the age of 14 is required to show a valid identity document to law enforcement officers on request. Tobacco smoking in cafés, bars and restaurants is prohibited.
Business in the Netherlands is conducted in an efficient and professional manner. Punctuality is important, dress is usually formal (suits and ties are standard), business cards are exchanged and greetings are made with a handshake. Titles and surnames are used, unless otherwise indicated. Women tend to be well received in Dutch business and it is not uncommon for women to hold high positions. Most Dutch people speak excellent English. Business hours are usually 8.30am to 5pm.
The international access code for the Netherlands is +31. Local mobile phone operators have the Netherlands extremely well covered with GSM 900 and 1800 networks, which have roaming agreements with most international operators. Internet cafes are widely available.
Duty free items for travellers to the Netherlands include 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g smoking tobacco; 1 litre spirits, 2 litres spirits or aperitifs made of wine or 2 litres of sparkling wines, liquor wines or still wine; perfume up to 50g or 250ml eau de toilette; 500g of coffee; 100g tea. Prohibited items include the import of all birds.
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