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The Netherlands

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					                      General Information on the Netherlands

The Kingdom of the Netherlands has three parts: the Netherlands and two countries in the Caribbean – the
Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. With an area of 41,528 km and a population of over 16 million, the
Netherlands (the European part of the Kingdom) is one of the world's smaller countries.

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system, in which the government
consists of the queen and the ministers. For historical reasons, The Hague is the seat of government, but
Amsterdam is the capital.

Currency
The currency used in the Netherlands is the Euro which is made up of 100 Cent. Notes come in
denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, 0.50C, 0.20C, 0.10C, 0.05C,
0.02C and 0.01C.

Language
The native language spoken in the Netherlands is Dutch but the majority of natives speak English which
should be a big help to most of you visiting the country. In addition, many also speak French or German.

Climate
The Netherlands enjoys a maritime climate which means that there are very little extremes in summer or
winter. Summer temperatures average temperatures about 16 or 17 degrees Celsius but highs of 30
degrees Celsius are not unheard of. Winters are mild with increased rainfall and average temperatures of
between 1 and 5 degrees Celsius. The most popular months to visit is between May and October when
temperatures are at their highest and rainfall is at its lowest.

Time Zone
The Netherlands lies one hour ahead of GMT but summer times adds on one hour between the end of
March and the end of September.

Opening Hours
Shops are generally open between 8.30am or 9.00am until between 5.00pm and 6.00pm from Monday to
Saturday although some may close at 4.00pm or 5.00pm on Saturdays. In more rural areas some shops
may close for lunch and have one half or full day off but there are signs which will fully inform you about
all closing times. In the bigger cities many stores and shopping centres are now open on Sunday too
between noon and 5.00pm. Office hours in the Netherlands are between 8.30am and 5.00pm from
Monday to Friday and banks are open between 9.00am and 4.00pm from Monday to Friday but many
open during late night shopping and on Saturday mornings.

Electricity
The electric current is 220V, 50Hz and the plugs in use have two round prongs so those of you travelling
from countries which use anything else should bring an adapter with you.

Tax
In the Netherlands VAT (BTW) is charged at a rate of 19% and is included in the sales price of all items.
It is worth double-checking before making a purchase, however, to avoid any confusion when it comes to
payment. For non-EU nationals the good news is that you can reclaim this VAT when leaving the EU. In
order to avail of this service, however, you must make purchases in stores which state that they participate
in this scheme. Your purchases must exceed F300 in one shop in on day and the good must be exported
from the EU within ninety days of the month of purchase. When departing you must show the purchases,
the receipts and the Global Refund Cheque which you received in the store. Following this you will have
several choices as to how to get your money back. You can get an immediate refund at the Cash Refund
Office in Amsterdam Airport, you can get a refund on your credit card or receive a cheque.

Visa Requirements
Visitors from the EU, the US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand require nothing more than a valid
passport for a stay of up to three months but you must ensure that your passport is valid right up until the
end of your stay. Nationals of all other countries, those who intend to stay for a period exceeding ninety
days or those who intend working during their stay should contact the Dutch Embassy in your home
country before travelling.

Post Office
Post offices in the Netherlands are generally open between 8.30am and 5.00pm from Monday to Friday
and between 8.30am and 12.00pm on Saturday. In larger towns and cities, however, the opening hours are
more extensive so you really need to check with a specific branch to see what their hours are.

Currency Exchange
Banks generally offer the best exchange rates as well as charging the least commission and you will find a
bureau de change in any branch of any bank but you should note that their opening hours are not always
the same as that of the bank. Many close an hour earlier so bear this in mind when using this facility.

As well as using Dutch banks, you can also avail of the services of GWK (De Grenswisselkantoren), the
national exchange organisation. GWK offers similar rates and fees and you will find branches at all the
major railway stations and border crossings as well as at Schipol Airport. These are open between 8.00am
and 8.00pm from Monday to Saturday and between 10.00am and 4.00pm on Sundays. The branches at
Schipol Airport and at the Centraal Station in Amsterdam are actually open twenty-four hours a day. You
can also purchase traveller’s cheques in all of these offices.

All major credit cards are also widely accepted and if you have the PIN you can use these to receive cash
in compatible bank machines. The same applies to bankcards which are members of any of the
international banking networks or Eurocard.

Telephones
The country code for the Netherlands is 31 so if you are calling from abroad you need to dial 00, followed
by 31, the local area code and the local number. The same instructions apply when you are making an
international call from within the country. You should also note that you need to omit the 0 from the local
code where applicable.

Public phone booths are widespread, particularly in the main towns and cities. They accept f0.25, 1, 2.50,
and 5 and a local call will cost you f0.25. . Many public phones now also use telephone cards which you
can purchase at any railway station, post office and most newsagents. These come in denominations of f5,
10 and 25. International calls can be made from most public telephones by either dialing 00 followed by
the relevant country code. If a public phone can’t be used to make an international call make your way to
the nearest post office where they should be able to help you out.


Tipping
By order of the Dutch government, all taxes and service charges must be included in the prices printed by
hotels, restaurants, cafes and nightclubs. Even taxi fares include taxes and a fifteen per cent tip. If you’re
in doubt, particularly in restaurants and cafes, look for the words ‘inclusief BTW en service’ and this is a
guaranteed that the service charge is included. As with any other country where this is the case, however,
a small additional tip is greatly appreciated if you feel that the service merits it. In cafes or snack bars any
small change is fine and in a more upmarket establishment add a little more. It is worth noting, however,
that at no point is tipping essential, it is entirely at your discretion.
Public Holidays
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of
businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In the Netherlands they take place on January 1st,
Good Friday, Easter Monday, April 30th, May 5th, Ascension Day, the first Monday in June and
December 25th and 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also
shut down during special events.

				
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