How to: The Postal Service

Post Offices and Receiving Packages

Postal services

When you first arrive, you may want to send postcards of your adventures to friends and family back home. But how do you do this? PostNL is the main company that takes care of the mail in the Netherlands. Sandd is another mail delivery company, so you may have different deliveries of mail at different times, depending on who brings it and how frequently they operate. There are no longer any stand-alone post offices, since all have been transferred to postal counters/desks inside various shops, such as grocery stores and office supply shops. You can use the PostNL location finder (in Dutch) to find the closest post office counter to buy stamps, send a package or even transfer your car title after selling your car (yes, this is done at the post office!). Stamps can also be purchased at the customer service counters of Albert Heijn and Jumbo. PostNL also offers the ability to purchase postage stamp codes online, which replace normal stamps. You need to know how much your letter weighs to purchase the correct postage (yet another reason to buy a digital cooking scale), and you receive a nine symbol code made up of letters and numbers, which you write on your letter in place of a normal stamp. You can find the rates for letters and packages here.   

Packages

PostNL delivers packages, but so do DHL and DPD (among others). If you’ve ordered something online, you will usually receive a tracking number so you can check the expected delivery day and time. If PostNL is doing the delivery, you can (also) find this info in the PostNL app. That doesn’t mean, however, that the delivery will always arrive during the stated window of time. As a result, you can expect your packages to be left with neighbors and vice versa. If you are often at home during working hours and your neighbors do a lot of online shopping, you may find that you are becoming a substitute for the local post office branch! If you miss a delivery, you should receive a slip that tells you either when delivery will next be attempted or where you can find your package (with a neighbor or at your nearest pick-up point). Some delivery companies are better about this than others. It is also not unheard of to receive an email informing you that the company was unable to deliver your package, even though you waited at home all day to receive it. You will then need to pick it up, usually at the nearest pick-up point. You can often choose to have a package delivered at a pick-up point instead of your home to ensure you don’t miss the delivery. Be aware that packages must be collected within a limited period of time. Often you only have seven days to collect a package before it is returned to the sender.  

Good to know

Additional information that will make your daily (postal) life in the Netherlands easier:

  • Basic Dutch postal vocabulary:

(post)zegel: (postage) stamp

brief / brieven: letter / letters

kaart: card or postcard

volg je pakket: trace your package

postcode zoeken: search for postal code

adres zoeken: search for address

iets versturen: send something

PostNL-punt: PostNL pick-up point / counter

ontvanger: recipient / addressee

frankeer (frankeren): (to) pay postage

voornaam: first name

tussenvoegsel: insertion (van, van der, etc.) or surname prefix

achternaam: surname

bedrijfsnaam: company name

straatnaam: street name

huisnummer 

   en toev.(toevoeging): house number and addition (A, HS = huis, etc.)

postbus: post office box or P.O. Box

antwoordnummer: freepost number (free to send to these addresses)

woonplaats: city or town

postcode: postal code

  • To address a letter or package, use this format:

First name, prefix (van, van der, etc.), surname

Street name, house or building number / PO Box for a business (sometimes)

Postal code, city/town

Example:

My Friend

Marktstraat 15

1234 AA Amsterdam

  • Click on these links to find an address or postal code (in Dutch) once you know one but not the other.

Have any questions or comments, or want to share more ideas? In the American Women’s Club member-only Facebook group, you can join the lively conversation! Not yet a member? We’d love to have you!