- Holland v Netherlands Do not call the Netherlands ‘Holland’; Holland is two provinces (Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland) within the country.
- Going Dutch When dining out, expect to pay your own way. Splitting the bill is common and no reason for embarrassment.
- Marijuana & alcohol Don’t smoke dope or drink beer on the streets.
- Smoking Don’t smoke (any substance) in bars or restaurants; since 2018 designated smoking rooms in bars and restaurants have also been banned.
- Straight talking Don’t be offended if locals give you a frank, unvarnished opinion. It’s not considered impolite, rather it comes from the desire to be direct and honest.
- Picnics in the park Don’t litter. In parks, look for a plastic picnic-rug dispenser to enjoy your picnic on and scoop up your litter in one fell swoop afterwards.
There are no domestic flights in the Netherlands.
Car & Motorcycle
Dutch freeways are extensive but prone to congestion. Those around Amsterdam, the A4 south to Belgium and the A2 southeast to Maastricht are especially likely to be jammed at rush hour and during busy travel periods; traffic jams with a total length of 350km or more aren’t unheard of during the holiday season.
Smaller roads are usually well maintained, but the campaign to discourage car use throws up numerous obstacles – two-lane roads are repainted to be one-lane with wide bike lanes or there are barriers, speed-bumps and other ‘traffic-calming schemes.
The Netherlands is extremely bike-friendly and a fiets (bicycle) is the way to go. Many people have the trip of a lifetime using nothing but pedal power. Most modes of transport, such as trains and buses, are friendly to cyclists and their bikes. Dedicated bike routes go virtually everywhere.
Any Dutch town you visit is liable to be blanketed with bicycle paths. They’re either on the streets or in the form of smooth off-road routes.
Buses are used for regional transport rather than for long distances, which are better travelled by train. They provide a vital service, especially in parts of the north and east, where trains are less frequent or nonexistent. The fares are zone-based. You can usually buy a ticket on board from the driver (aka a single-use, disposable OV-chipkaart; €2 to €5 for modest distances), but most people pay with a credit-loaded OV-chipkaart.
There is only one class of travel. Some regions have day passes good for all the buses; ask a driver – they are usually very helpful.
Dutch trains are efficient, fast and comfortable. Trains are frequent and serve domestic destinations at regular intervals, sometimes five or six times an hour. It’s an excellent system and possibly all you’ll need to get around the country, although there are a few caveats.
National train company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen; http://www.ns.nl) operates all the major lines in the Netherlands. In the north and east minor lines have been hived off to the private bus and train operators, but scheduling and fares remain part of the national system.