What you need to know before traveling to Netherlands

A cyclist's dream, the Netherlands has fields of tulips, beautiful canals, and one of the most famous cities in the world: Amsterdam. Known for it's relaxed attitude towards virtually everything, Amsterdam is one of the hottest tourist destinations in the world and is a must if you plan to travel to the Netherlands. But there's more to Netherlands tourism than Amsterdam. The country is dotted with windmills and dairy farms, and other cities, such as Rotterdam, offer unique experiences. Famous for Rembrandt and Van Gogh, hop on your bike and take a cruise around the Netherlands.

  • Key facts
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    Bordering on both Belgium and Germany, one-fifth of the Netherlands lays below sea level, as continuous efforts are made to reclaim land. Rivers and canals cut across the flat countryside, which is populated by tulip fields. As you'd expect, any land that's been reclaimed from the sea is exceptionally fertile. If you're looking for the famous Dutch tulips, you'll want to head to the fields in the west. You'll find lakes in the north, and sensational coastal dunes near the beach.
    When you visit the Netherlands, keep in mind that the official language is Dutch. However, English is also widely spoken – and when the Dutch find out you speak English, they may want to practice with you! As with most of western Europe, the currency is the Euro. If you're making any phone calls, the country code is 31.
  • Weather & when to go
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    A moderate climate means you can visit the Netherlands year round. Warm summers – think 68 F (20 C) – make anywhere from April to October an ideal time to visit. Winters aren't bad either, as the temperature will stay slightly above freezing. Most tourists will hit the Netherlands – and Amsterdam in particular – in July and August, so if you travel to the Netherlands then, expect to see higher prices.
    However, if your hoping to see the famous bulb fields, plan your trip for late-April to early-May. Imagine row upon row of brilliant colors, pinks, yellows, oranges and purples. It's one of the more spectacular sights to behold, and with warm spring weather, you won't need a parka, either! But to be on the safe side, be sure to bring a light jacket regardless of when you visit the Netherlands.
  • Getting around
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    The roads and highways throughout the Netherlands are excellent. However, parking – particularly in Amsterdam, is always busy, and you should try to avoid rush hour at all costs. While it's easy enough to drive around the Netherlands, where the country truly excels is with their bike lanes.
    You can rent a bike for a day for fairly cheap, and cruise on over 20 000 kilometers worth of bike lanes. These lanes wind throughout the city and are a quick and inexpensive travel option from spring through fall. Don't feel like biking? Buses and trams will get you around the major cities, along with ferries to take you across the rivers and canals when necessary. Another great part about tourism Netherlands is that a first-class train network will help you travel between major cities.
  • Know before you go
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    Bring your passport – but if you're North American, you can stay without a visa for 90 days. You will, however, need a return ticket. Once you're in the Netherlands, the food and drink are both of excellent quality, and as you'd expect, tap water is safe to drink. Many tourists are deceived by the heat – it may not feel too hot out, but you should slather on the sunscreen anyway, as the UV rays are powerful in the summer months.
    As for holidays, May is particularly busy, with King's Day (April 27), Liberation Day (May 5), Ascension Day (May 14) and Whit Monday (May 25).
    Emergencies? Dial 112 for access to fire, police, and medical.
  • Travel tips & recommendations
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    • Remember to keep your wallet close – pickpockets are notorious for targeting tourist areas and people who look like tourists. However, other than that, the Netherlands are mostly safe.

    • Amsterdam, the capital, is much more than a red light district. You can take a romantic cruise along the canals, visit the spectacular Rijksmuseum, or admire the local architecture.

    • The Dutch are known for their cheese. Stop by Waagplein during a Friday in the summer and you'll see hundreds and thousands of wheels of cheese. Guildsmen dress in traditional costumes to weigh and taste-test the cheese, and it is an interesting sight to see.

    • Of course, you can't visit the Netherlands without going to the Keukenhof Gardens, which feature nearly 10 miles of footpaths and are home to more than 4 million tulips. The gardens are the most spectacular in April and early May.

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