What makes Netherlands a unique country to travel to?
The Netherlands is a highly developed, stable democracy. Tourist facilities are available throughout the country.
While the rate of violent crime in the Netherlands is low, tourists are often targeted by thieves. Visitors frequently fall prey to pickpockets, bag snatchers, and other petty thieves who target automobiles and hotel rooms. You should use your room or hotel safe, and keep your baggage locked or secured when you’re away.
While thieves may operate anywhere, the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam receives frequent reports of thefts from specific areas. Within Amsterdam, thieves and pickpockets are very active in and around train and tram stations, in the city center, and aboard public transportation. Theft is especially common on trains to and from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and international destinations, where hand luggage and laptop computers are often targeted. Thieves often work in pairs; one distracts you, often by asking for directions, while the accomplice moves in on your momentarily unguarded property. The timing of these thefts usually coincides with train stops, enabling the thieves to escape. In addition, many U.S. citizens have reported the theft of purses and briefcases while eating in downtown restaurants, including hotel breakfast rooms. Never leave your personal items or baggage unattended when going to the restroom, buffet table, etc.
Although still relatively limited, electronic theft has increased dramatically in the Netherlands in recent years. In March 2012, the Dutch Banking Association reported 2011 losses at 92 million euros – nearly double that of 2010. Most of the theft involved “skimming,” a technique that copies bank card information. ATM and credit card users are advised to keep an eye on their cards at all times. If you feel uncomfortable using your card for any reason, use cash. Contact your credit card provider for further guidance.
Confidence artists have victimized U.S. citizens around the world, including in the Netherlands. Typically, a U.S. citizen is notified via email of a winning lottery ticket, an inheritance, or other offer requiring his or her assistance and cooperation. The U.S. citizen is asked to forward advance payments for alleged “official expenses,” “taxes,” etc. and, often, to come to Amsterdam to conclude the operation. Another common scam involves an Internet friend or partner who is reported to have been detained by immigration authorities in the Netherlands en route to the United States, and will not be released unless additional funds are paid to the “traveler.” In every case, these reports have been determined to be confidence schemes. Several U.S. citizens have lost tens of thousands of dollars in such scams. Funds transferred in response to such offers can rarely be recovered. Information on fraud schemes can be found on the U.S. Consulate General's website, and the Department of State's International Financial Scams page. If you suspect you have been targeted by a scam based in the Netherlands, you may report it to Dutch law enforcement authorities by email at email@example.com, or at the following address:
KLPD, Financial Crimes Unit
PO Box 3016
2700 KX Zoetermeer
Attention: Project Apollo
The Dutch Embassy in Washington, D.C. has a prepared letter that can be used to inform the Dutch Police of fraud.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in the Netherlands, you are subject to its laws even though you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. Under Dutch law, for example, you may be taken in for questioning if you are unable to present your passport to local authorities. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not in the country you are visiting.
Note that your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution if you break local laws. If you are arrested in the Netherlands, however, you do have theright to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the Consulate General of your arrest, and to havecommunications from you forwarded to the Consulate General. This accommodation is based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Good medical facilities are widely available. Emergency medical response can be accessed by dialing 112. Pharmacies (“Apotheek”) are widely available and can assist with emergency prescription needs. Some common medications are not available in the Netherlands without a prescription, and some prescription drugs cannot be sent to the country. Travelers are urged to carry an adequate supply of prescription drugs in their original container, in their carry-on luggage. Please carry a letter from your pharmacist or medical doctor with you, as some drugs are subject to confiscation by local custom agents. Those traveling with any pre-existing medical problems should bring a letter from the attending physician, describing the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic name of prescribed drugs.
Vaccinations are not required for travel to the Netherlands.
Safety and Security
Since 2004, Dutch government security measures have been in place in response to concerns about terrorist activity in the Netherlands by international and domestic extremist groups. The Dutch Government has determined the current terrorist threat level to be "substantial." According to the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism, this level, the second-highest of four levels, means that “there is a realistic possibility that an attack will take place in the Netherlands.”
We encourage you to keep up with the latest news while in the Netherlands and to take steps to increase your security awareness. As with other countries in the Schengen area, the Netherlands’ open borders with its European neighbors allow for the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity.
Demonstrations are commonplace in the Netherlands and may range in number from a few demonstrators to several thousand. Prior police notice is required for public demonstrations, and police oversight is routinely provided. Nonetheless, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. We urge you to avoid areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if near one. Visitors should stay informed about demonstrations from local news sources and hotel security.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in the Netherlands, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
In the Netherlands, travel in, around, and between cities is possible via a highly developed national public transportation system, an extensive system of bike paths, and by automobile and motorcycle on a modern highway system. Rail is often a convenient alternative to driving, particularly in the areas around Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotterdam, where road congestion is frequent. Rail network information is available online. Intercity travel by road is relatively safe in comparison to some other European countries.
A valid driver’s license issued by a Department of Motor Vehicles in the United States is valid for use in the Netherlands for up to 180 days while in tourist or visitor status. You must use seat belts and child seats. Driving is on the right side of the road, as in the United States. Speed limits are strictly enforced via radar. Traffic cameras are pervasive throughout the Netherlands and tickets for traveling even 2-5 km/h over the limit are common. The maximum speed limit on highways is 120 km/h, with a highway speed limit of 100 km/h posted in most urban areas. Secondary roads and some urban-area highways have a speed limit of 80 km/h. The speed limit in towns and cities is 50 km/h, with 30 km/h zones in residential areas. The Dutch Government has reduced speed limits on certain roads near cities in an effort to reduce air pollution. You should be aware that speed limit signs are electronic, and therefore speed limits may be changed remotely by authorities depending on traffic conditions. Drivers must yield the right-of-way to drivers and bicyclists coming from the right at intersections or traffic circles unless otherwise posted. The maximum allowable blood-alcohol content in the Netherlands is 0.05%. Use of cellular telephones while driving without the use of a hands-free device is prohibited, and is punishable by severe fines.
Lanes in the center of many urban two-way streets are reserved for buses, trams, and taxis. In cities, pedestrians should be mindful of trams, which often cross or share bicycle and pedestrian paths. Serious – and sometimes fatal – accidents involving pedestrians or bicyclists colliding with trams occur each year. Motorists should be especially mindful that bicyclists have the right-of-way; motorists must yield to bicyclists. Pedestrians should not walk along bicycle paths, which are often adjacent to the sidewalk and usually designated by red pavement.
Bicyclists and pedestrians should be particularly cautious during the winter months, when paths, roads, and especially bridges can be icy and extremely slippery.
Taxi service in the Netherlands is safe but expensive. Trams and buses are both convenient and economical, but are often frequented by pickpockets.