I wish I had known this my first week in Holland:
Do not stand on the red brick bike path, as the person may not stop on time! Yes you will get run over even if you think this is picture perfect moment.
Getting around town
US television programs
Slingbox – box you attach to your USA cable box and enables you to watch US TV on your laptop. If you have a VPN, that should work as well.
Products like Netflix, Hulu, etc. will work here, though you may have different selections available than when you were in the US.
There is a “Mall” in Amstelveen called Gelderlandplein. It has a large Albert Heijn supermarket with free underground parking. It also has many handy shops for everyday needs.
Supermarket Munten are free at Jumbo. Munten are these coins, which can be used to release the shopping cart without worrying about having the required change. AH, Hanos, Jumbo and David Lloyd Gym all have coins available. Sometimes they have them sitting by the cashiers. It never hurts to ask.
In the Netherlands, most pipes and cables for gas, water, sewage, telephone, Internet and electricity are buried beneath the street. Electricity is produced from various sources, including coal-fired power stations and wind farms, i.e. green power (groene stroom). Gas for household use is piped into almost all homes in the Netherlands. Drinking water in the region is provided by Waternet.
Most accommodation is already connected to the water supply of drinking water provider Waternet, and can be used immediately. A water meter in the home measures consumption. You will be sent a form each year requesting the current meter reading.
In addition to the cost of water itself, Waternet will also send a tax bill to everyone registered in the municipal register (bevolkingsregister). This bill includes a wastewater purification tax (zuiveringsheffing) and a maintenance fee for the dykes and the water level.
Waternet also maintains the sewers and monitors dykes and the water level in the Netherlands. Municipality tax (gemeentebelasting) also contributes to the cost of this.
Registering with Waternet Not yet a Waternet client? Contact them on telephone number 0900 93 94 (local rate). Do not forget to note the water meter reading not only when moving into a new home, but also (if necessary) when moving out. It is also possible to notify Waternet of the meter reading online.
Problems with drinking water or sewage system For problems with the sewers, telephone 0900 93 94 (local rate).
Please note: interior pipes are not the responsibility of Waternet. For blocked or leaking pipes in the home, contact a plumber (loodgieter). Consult the Yellow Pages (Gouden Gids) for one in the neighbourhood. No running water may be the result of excavations in the street or freezing temperatures. In case of problems, telephone 0900 93 94 (local rate) day or night.
Gas and electricity
Gas and electricity are both supplied by the same provider. The Dutch energy market was privatised years ago, and there are now many providers. It is important to quickly arrange gas and electricity in a new home.
Power is usually kept on for the first few days, but it will be switched off as soon as the previous occupants close their account. When moving into a new home, note the meter reading and notify the energy supplier. Customers can choose their own supplier, but the choice may be limited by those operating in the community.
The major suppliers are:
Choosing a supplier
There are various websites comparing prices and services. The majority of these sites are unfortunately only in Dutch:
Many suppliers offer green energy (groene stroom). Also termed sustainable energy, green energy is electricity produced from environmentally friendly sources such as the wind, sun, organic matter or water power. Green energy is available from some suppliers at no extra cost; others charge a higher rate.
For all enquiries about the water board tax (Waterschapsbelasting) and pollution levy (verontreinigingsheffing), please contact:
1090 GJ Amsterdam
Telephone: 0900 93 94
(Monday to Friday 8:00 to18:00)
From abroad: +31 889 39 40 00
Sources: I amsterdam
If you want to use public transport in the Netherlands, an OV chipcard – Openbaar Vervoer Card (Public transport card) is a must. It is the most economical and efficient way to access public transportation. These cards are good for buses, trams and trains. You can purchase an “anonymous” card at places like Albert Heijn or the transportation office across from Central station for 7 euros. Once you have the card, it can be reloaded at special machines located around town at stores like Primera and Albert Heijn. Note that these cards do have an expiration date.
You can also get a Personal OV Chipcard, which you can have, funds automatically withdrawn from your account once the card reaches a certain amount. To order your personal OV Chipkaart click here.
You can purchase a train discount card through NS by clicking here. This card entitles you and up to three people traveling with you to 40% off the normal fare during off peak hours.
We all know that the Netherlands is a very bike friendly country; however bringing your bike on the train is not always an easy experience. The trains can be crowded, only certain carts are equipped for bikes, not all trains accept bikes and you have to buy a r/t ticket for your bike. As an alternative, you can buy an annual subscription to the OV-Fiets and pick up a bike once you have reached your destination. For more information click here.
There are other products and discounts that can be found by visiting http://www.ns.nl/.
This is a working document whereby input from the AWCA members are always appreciated to help maintain the validity of the information. If you would like to add to the list or if you have any other suggestions or comments, please contact Web Manager.
OTC in the Netherlands for Adults
Your local pharmacy is called the “Apotheek” and this is where your doctor’s (huisarts) prescription medications can be given too. In Amsterdam the “DA Apotheek “ located at the Leidsestraat 74-76 is open 24 hours a day. A drugstore (drogist) is not a pharmacy this is common at Etos, DA
OTC in the Netherlands for Babies and Children
VSM is one of the homeopathic products available at most drogist i.e. Etos, DA,
The Netherlands is renowned for having a strong, well-balanced education system. From age three or four, children go to primary school for eight years and then transfer to secondary school. There is a large variety of schools: regular state schools, Montessori schools, religious schools, international schools… the possibilities are manifold, so everyone can find exactly the right school for their children.
Children living in the Netherlands for any length of time are required to attend school. This means children must attend school from their 5th birthday until the end of the year of their 16th birthday. In practice, almost all children in the Netherlands are in school from the age of four.Every child in the Netherlands receives free education until the age of sixteen. The cost is borne by the government. Schools are permitted to request a voluntary contribution (ouderbijdrage), which is used to fund school activities such as school trips and swimming lessons.
Amsterdam has more than 190 primary schools (basisscholen), including Montessori, Steiner and Dalton schools, various religious schools and special needs schools.
After year 8 (groep 8), the final year of primary school, pupils transfer to secondary school (middelbare school) for secondary education (voortgezet onderwijs). There are three branches of secondary education: VMBO, HAVO and VWO, and a report from the primary school will advise which branch best suits the child. Children also undergo a test in the last year of primary school. Amsterdam has more than 30 secondary schools; some schools only offer one secondary education branch, others several.
For more information on primary and secondary schools in Amsterdam excluding international schools, read about Dutch education on iamsterdam's website. Furthermore, a school guide (scholengids) can be obtained from your city district (stadsdeel). During the process of choosing a school, it is possible to visit schools – most organise information days (voorlichtingsdagen) or accept private appointments.
Please note that both for primary and for secondary schools, it’s important to register a child with the school of choice in good time as some primary schools have a waiting list and it does happen that a secondary school has too many applicants and must reject some of them. It is therefore important to apply in good time and consider alternatives.
The Netherlands’ already varied and well-balanced education system is further bolstered by a host of options for international schooling, with a number of international schools in and around Amsterdam covering a wide spectrum of learning, languages and cultures. Many international schools that focus on education in English follow the standardised International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes, meaning students can receive an internationally recognised education and easily transfer to other international schools around the world.
There are two types of international school: independent international schools (private schools) and those partially funded by the government or municipality (public/private schools). The latter, called community schools, place a lot of emphasis on connecting with Dutch society.
Alongside special education there are also special needs schools, directed towards handicapped children or those with behavioural problems. These are grouped in so-called ‘clusters’: cluster 1 for children with a visual impairment, cluster 2 for children with a hearing and/or speaking impairment, cluster 3 for mentally and/or physically challenged children and cluster 4 for children with behavioural and/or social difficulties. Click here for more information (in Dutch only).
Please note that school attendance is compulsory for children aged 5-16. If a child is often absent from school, the school will notify the municipality. As a parent you are responsible for compliance with the rules of compulsory education, and if parents consciously allow their children to miss school, they can be prosecuted. Parents and young people over the age of twelve can be fined, receive a study order (leerstraf), or, in extreme circumstances, be jailed. In the case of ‘luxury absence’ (luxeverzuim) (extra holiday during school time without permission) there is a very good chance of an official report being made. If your child has a reason to be absent, you must notify the school.
The municipality (gemeente) employs school attendance officers (leerplichtambtenaren) to check whether children are going to school. Should a student play truant for more than three consecutive days, the school is required to notify the school attendance officer. They will investigate the reason behind the absence and may take action. They can draw up an official report.
Only in exceptional situations can a child be temporarily exempted from compulsory education, e.g. if your profession makes it impossible for you to be free during the school holidays. Your employer must provide proof of this. The period of leave may not take place during the first two weeks of the school year.
Under other special circumstances, a child may also obtain leave-of-absence from their compulsory education. This is for a maximum of ten days. In cases of longer leave, the school attendance officer will decide, in consultation with the school's head teacher. Applications must be submitted to the school's management for exemptions from compulsory education.
If a child reaches the age of 16 and has not obtained a diploma, they must train for a qualification (kwalificatieplicht). This means they must stay at school until their 18th birthday or until they have obtained a diploma.
For more information about the school system in the Netherlands, visit the website of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap, OC&W).
Sources: I amsterdam
Below are some doctors and dentists which AWCA members have used. The listing below is in no way a recommendation by the AWCA, but merely a sharing of information from other members. All members are welcome to add names to this list by emailing the AWCA Web Manager:
Central Doctors - A general practice at Amsterdam Central Station offering service for residents and visitors to Amsterdam. They have a lab, an adjacent pharmacy and extended hours, including weekends.
De Ruyterkade 24A, 1012 AA Amsterdam, Tel: 020 235 7823, Email: email@example.com
Expat Medical Centre - Medical service "in your own language", by dedicated experienced professionals. Located in Central Amsterdam & Central Amstelveen. A team of fully registered practitioners offers doctor service, psychotherapy, physiotherapy, dietician advice, etc.
Bloemgracht 112, 1015TN Amsterdam, Tel: 020 427 5011
Burgemeester Haspelslaan 131 1181NC Amstelveen, Tel: 020 240 4044
Lassus Tandartsen/Amsterdam Dental Practice - A modern dental practice with three offices located in the center of Amsterdam. Through a combination of high-quality dentistry and a people-oriented approach, we assist the client in the maintenance of healthy teeth and provide you with the best in dental care services. We offer you a wide range of dental treatments, such as dental hygiene, restorative and esthetic dentistry, implantology, braces, endodontology and more.
Lassusstraat 9, 1075 GV Amsterdam, Tel: 020 471 3137
Keizersgracht 132, 1015 CW Amsterdam, Tel: 020 422 1912
Stadionplein 125, 1076 CK Amsterdam, Tel: 020 210 4007
Birthday invites: go green and email the invitations! Depending on your child’s teacher, handing out an invitation may not be preferred, as other children may feel left out.
Birthday presents: the most common and practical way is to provide an email with a list of items and links. A birthday gift can also be one big gift and one brave parent may buy the gift if there are enough willing parents to chip-in. Alternatively, the birthday parent(s) may buy the one big gift and at the birthday party you can drop-in your envelope with contribution. The maximum gift amount is 10.00 euros, this avoids over giving and embarrassing the parent(s).
If you would like to add to the list or if you have any other suggestions or comments, please contact our Web Manager.
Party at Home
Clowns come in various types and themes to help match to your child’s birthday theme. The clowns play games, magical tricks, face painting, balloon making swords and musical chairs. Clown Ellebel
Dreaming of being in a circus? In a safe environment children can learn how to balance on a ball while juggling or balance on a trapeze. Parents are invited to see a 15-minute performance before they are collected to go home.
Go Dutch and get these city kids to a farm! Kids need to dress for outdoor activity rain or shine and ask parent(s) to bring dry clothes when they collect their children.
Parents need to be around to help out make these events for the kids, especially if you go to the fun forest as there are kids that may be scared of heights.
Dress up like a princess or prince and enjoy a small show. Afterwards the disco lights go on, dance music is played, and bubbles are created via a machine.
The Wadden Islands are located in the North Sea, separated from the Dutch, German and Danish coasts by the Wadden Sea. The five Dutch Wadden Islands are located north of Northern Netherlands (the provinces of Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe) and North Holland (Noord Holland). These Dutch gems are just five of the total of 55 islands belonging to the Wadden Islands group. Texel is the largest of these, followed by the Danish Rømø and the German Sylt. A handy ezelsbruggetje (mnemonic) for remembering the order of the Dutch Wadden Islands is TVTAS: Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog.
Of course, you will have to take a ferry to get to each of these islands, and there are some ferries which run between islands. Some of the islands are car-free, and you can bring your car on the ferry to the others. Like much of the Netherlands, traveling by bike is a great way to explore the islands. You can either bring your own bike or rent one at the many bike-rental shops once you arrive at your destination.
The largest of the inhabited islands, Texel is actually part of the province of Noord Holland. It is just a short 20-minute ferry ride from Den Helder. Meredith Mani, AWCA VP, has shared her go-to list of tips and recommendations.
You can drive your car on Texel. Book your ferry ticket from Den Helder to Texel in advance online to save time. If you include your license plate number, you can drive directly up to the boat. Your ticket is always a return ticket and is not checked when leaving Texel. You can drive right on to the boat for the trip home.
Bring a cooler and lots of small change. There are great farm stores on the island to buy lamb. Texel lamb is famous and it is unbelievably good! The small change is because locals tend to sell veggies and potatoes from their front stoop. You will see this everywhere and trust me, you want a bag of these potatoes!!
Spar grocery stores have a local section. Texel is also famous for its beer and lavender. Spar will sell these much cheaper than the tourist traps.
Buy flower bulbs. The bulbs on Texel are fantastic and will produce for years.
Visit the old De Traanroeir mill (part of the Kaap Skil museum) and buy some local wheat flour. You can buy it at the gift shop if you don’t want to do the tour.
RUN to Het Kompas in Den Hoorn. A little old man and his wife run this restaurant and the food is fabulously authentic. The amazing thing is that the owner has been quietly amassing the largest collection of whiskey in Europe.
Bij Jef is a hotel with a terrific Michelin-starred restaurant in Den Hoorn. AWCA members had an excursion there a few years ago!
Hotel De 14 Sterren
Hotel De Lindeboom
De Smulpot Hotel and Restaurant
Bed & Breakfast Pastorie De Waal
Boutique Hotel Texel
Grand Hotel Opduin
The other four Dutch Wadden Islands are considerably smaller than Texel but offer just as much to do. They are part of the province of Friesland and are known for their nature and outdoor activities. Seal-sighting boat tours, horse riding and guided mudflat walking (wadlopen) are available on most of the islands. Walking, biking, beachcombing and lighthouse tours are staple activities on all of the islands. Given the windy nature of the islands, there are activities for the adrenaline junkies among us, too: blokarten (beach sailing), kite surfing and parasailing will get your heart racing! The best place to find out all about the islands is the VVV website of each island, which are all noted below.
Vlieland is a town as well as the second smallest Dutch Wadden Island. Nearly half of it is covered in sand but what it lacks in size, it makes up for with beautiful nature.
The ferry to Vlieland from the mainland departs from Harlingen (which, in itself, is a lovely Frisian city for shopping and dining*) and takes about 1.5 hours, although there are faster services (sneldienst). Besides the ferry from Harlingen to Vlieland, there is also ferry service (a 30-minute trip in a small covered boat) between Vlieland and Terschelling and vice versa. Tourists are not allowed to bring their cars to Vlieland, but it’s not necessary since the island has good bus service as well as taxis if you don’t care to walk or bike. Mainland parking in Harlingen is close by at Parking lot "Tsjerk Hiddes". You don’t need to reserve parking here (not even in the summer!) and it’s either a quick 10-minute walk to the ferry terminal or you can take their shuttle bus for a minimal p.p. cost. Other parking options abound.
The VVV Vlieland website has a wealth of information on places to stay, where to eat, things to do, and an extensive list of local businesses, from bike rentals to local delis to make your visit to the island enjoyable. Some favorites are listed below.
Vlieland has a cozy main street with interesting shops, a movie theater, and two museums. There are organized nature walks, monument tours, and trips to see seals, as well as the popular Vliehors Express off-road tour to what is called the ‘Sahara of the North’. If you hike up to see the lighthouse, don’t forget to stop in at the Kaasbunker (cheese bunker), either for a tour or to purchase some special cheeses made with island ingredients (seaweed cheese is delicious!). The annual Into the Great Wide Open festival, an event that showcases music and visual arts in the middle of the beautiful nature of Vlieland, is held in early September each year.
A trip to Vlieland would not be complete without an 8-km bike ride (one way!) to the Posthuys (which also has rooms to rent). Return on the path through the dunes, near the North Sea beach. Another favorite is the ‘t Badhuys beach restaurant on the North Sea beach. Most restaurants on the island are located in or near the main street, so they are either a refreshing bike ride or short walk away, depending on where you’re staying.
Hotel DoniaState Vlieland is about halfway between the village and the North Sea.
Westcord Strandhotel Seeduyn has a manege (horse stable) next door, is close to the wide North Sea beach, and hotel guests get free use of the island bus).
Badhotel Bruin is a premium hotel on the village’s main street.
Near the Strandhotel Seeduyn side of the island, there are individual houses for rent on the Ankerplaats, near the dunes.
And if you’re the real outdoors type, you can pitch your own tent at Campground Stortemelk but you can also reserve a tent from private owners who set up their very durable tents at the beginning of the season around May and leave them up until about September. Campground guests also get free use of the island’s public swimming pool.
Check the Vlieland VVV website or your favorite hotel booking sites for many other hotel and apartment options.
*Harlingen is a great place to start or end your trip, for example, by staying overnight (Hotel Zeezicht, for one, is well located) before taking the early ferry the next morning to get the most out of your trip to Vlieland. Should you wish to begin or extend your trip like this, a great place for dinner or lunch is fish restaurant De Tjotter. They know how to prepare fish to perfection!
While much larger in size than Vlieland, a large part of Terschelling is a nature reserve but it also offers more to see and do in its 5 main towns and many other small villages. It also boasts a sizable harbor, which is filled to the brim in the summer.
From Harlingen, you can take a 2-hour standard ferry (cars allowed) to Terschelling or a faster direct service (sneldienst), which takes just under an hour. You can also get to Terschelling via Vlieland as a foot or bike passenger, since no cars are allowed on Vlieland.
Cranberries are a local specialty (as they are also on Vlieland) and you will find cranberry products for sale around the island. The Oerol Festival, held since 1982, takes place in Terschelling each June and transforms the island into a natural theater for the arts. If you want to know about the various ships that wrecked along the Terschelling shores, then a visit to Wrakkenmuseum Terschelling is in order. Dating from 1594, the Brandaris lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in the Netherlands and is a must see. For other activities and a plethora of other information about Terschelling, see the VVV Terschelling website.
These Terschelling hotels come recommended (and the last four have bigger family accommodations):
Hotel / B&B “Altijd Wad”
Paal 8 Hotel aan zee
Stayokay Hostel Terschelling
Westcord Aparthotel Boschrijck
Westcord Hotel Schylge
Like the other Dutch Wadden islands, Ameland has unique and beautiful nature. The Oerd scenic area has dunes that are still expanding each year, and the wide variety of flora attracts over 60 different species of birds. While it has only four villages, Ameland offers a great variety of landscapes and some of the best maintained crushed-shell bike paths of all the Dutch Wadden islands.
Ferry service to and from Ameland departs from and arrives at Holwerd. Cars are allowed on the ferry, and the trip takes about 50 minutes.
The four main villages on Ameland are Hollum, Ballum, Nes and Buren. Once you drive off the ferry, you’ll see (right after the Ameland VVV office) the village of Nes. To the west is Ballum and Hollum, with Buren to the east.
Hollum is the most western village and also where the lighthouse is located. It was built in 1880 and it’s 236 steps can be climbed for a great view — you may even see Terschelling! Hollum is also where you can see the impressive demonstration of a horse rescue boat (paardenreddingsboot demonstratie) that recalls Ameland’s long history of saving ships in distress off of its north coast. Ballum has a great cafe (Eetcafe de Boerderij) with a tractor built into the bar. In Nes you’ll find restaurants and cafés and shops housed in old buildings. The Agriculture and Beachcombers Museum (Landbouw en Juttersmuseum Swartwoude) is in Buren. Beach pavilion ‘t Strandhuys offers fantastic front-row seats to the North Sea surf. During the 17th and 18th centuries, whaling was a popular business on Ameland and its remnants can be seen overall — in the whale jawbones forming ports in front of the homes of former sea commanders to the whale sculpture that is part of the Ameland Nature Center (Natuurcentrum Ameland) in Nes. MadNes, a sustainable surf, skate and music festival is held one weekend each summer on the beach of Nes. And, of course, Ameland is a great place to ride horses.
Westcord Hotel Noordsee is a great place to stay with kids, since they have family apartments and a playground near the back terrace.
Hotel Nobel has a fantastic restaurant and is famous for their Nobeltje liquor.
Hotel Zee van Tijd Ameland is a bright, modern hotel with a restaurant and a shop featuring items used in the hotel.
The smallest inhabited Dutch Wadden Island, Schiermonnikoog is also one of 20 Dutch national parks. There are more than 300 bird species to see throughout the year along with over 500 plant species and 100 different kinds of shells. Schiermonnikoog is also one of the darkest places in the Netherlands so it is one of the best places to see the stars at night.
To get to Schiermonnikoog, take the regular (50-minute) ferry from Lauwersoog or a fast ferry (20 minutes). Schiermonnikoog is a car-free island unless you have permission from Gemeente Schiermonnikoog.
Biking is a popular pastime on Schiermonnikoog and, with its small size, is easy for getting to where you need to go. For covered wagon rides around the island, you can go with Harthoorn Huifkarren. If racing along the sand in a blokart is more your thing, you’ll want to check out Thijs’ Vliegerparadijs. Riding a horse on the beach or through the woods is also possible at Florida Stable (Stal Florida). About halfway from the village to beach pavilion De Marlijn you’ll come across Bunker Wassermann, which is now a freely accessible viewing point. Near the beach is also an interesting small museum about the activities of World War II on Schiermonnikoog, Bunkermuseum Schlei.
Beach pavilion De Marlijn may seem far away (it’s the northernmost restaurant location in the Netherlands) but you’ll be rewarded with great (sea)food and views at a funky beach restaurant with stained-glass windows and sunbleached terrace. (They also rent out a 2-person vacation house in the village.)
Vakantiehuizen Schiermonnikoog has vacation houses to rent. Hotel Graaf Bernstorff is located in the island’s only village and offers hotel and apartment accommodations, plus a café restaurant. Directly across the street is the Hotel Van der Werff, founded in 1726, with its historical wood-clad restaurant. Strandhotel Om de Noord is the northernmost hotel of the Wadden Islands and is near the part of the beach with organized activities.
Check the local VVV Schiermonnikoog website or your favorite hotel booking sites for more accommodation options.
If islands aren’t your thing, you can read the AWCA blog for previous member travel tips (and a whole lot more!) on other Dutch locations, including Maastricht, Utrecht, Rotterdam and Fryslân.
Although the pandemic has curtailed many of our travels, there are still great places to visit close to home! Each recommendation below comes from the real-life experiences of people you know and trust.
Due to the ever-changing nature of the global pandemic, be sure to check the Cologne tourism's coronavirus page for up-to-date information about rules, closures, and prevention measures.
Do you have tips you'd like to add? In our member's only Facebook group, join the lively conversation!
Next, we'll be sharing tips for Friesland! Please help fellow AWCAers by sharing your experiences in our our very short survey.
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