Netherlands travel guide
As flat as a local pannenkoek, the Netherlands is a land of colourful tulip fields and canals, sophisticated cities and some of the most striking coastline in Northern Europe. It punches well above its weight culturally, laying claim to the likes of Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Mondrian, amongst others.
At the head of the state sits the country's constitutional monarchy, whose palaces dominate many of the larger cities, including The Hague and the capital city, Amsterdam. The latter, renowned for its step-gabled houses, ubiquitous bikes, seedy red light district and hazy coffeeshops, is bisected by a UNESCO-listed network of waterways, many of which are spanned by beautiful, latticed bridges.
To the south lies Rotterdam, an industrial port city that has benefitted from a complete makeover in recent years, acquiring a slew of excellent museums and an unlikely affinity for hip-hop in the process.
The butt of many a northern joke, the southern city of Maastricht lies in the much-maligned Limburg region. Despite the teasing, this is a city of delicate beauty, dotted with churches, bisected by a mighty river and home to what is almost certainly the best bookshop in the world, Selexyz Dominicanen.
Back towards the coast, the Netherlands becomes more stereotypically Dutch, with vast colourful fields of tulips dotted with windmills and dairy farms producing the wheels of cheese for which the country is so famous. The low-lying Dutch countryside is scattered with a network of charming towns and villages such as Edam, Haarlem and Leiden, which have changed little over the centuries.
Best of all though, are the sandy, North Sea beaches of Zeeland, which stretch for an almost unbroken 650km (403-miles). With more sunshine than any other part of the Netherlands, Zeeland is the Dutch riposte to the Caribbean – and with better cycling trails and museums, if not the hot weather, to boot.
41,543 sq km (16,039 sq miles).
17,020,000 (2016 World Bank).
488 per sq km.
King Willem-Alexander since 2013.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte since 2010.
Check separate travel advice pages for advice on travel to the constituent countries and special municipalities located in the Dutch Caribbean.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:
- advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
- information for women, LGBT and disabled travellers
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in the Netherlands set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Netherlands’ embassy in the UK.
Countries may restrict travel or bring in rules at short notice. Check with your travel company or airline for changes.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Visit TravelHealthPro (from the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre) for general COVID-19 advice for travellers.
Travel to the Netherlands
There are no COVID-19 travel restrictions for the Netherlands. See the Dutch government website for information on COVID-19.
Passport validity requirements
If you are planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.
Your passport must be:
- issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
- valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)
You must check your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.
At Dutch border control, you may need to:
show a return or onward ticket
show you have enough money for your stay
Check your passport is stamped if you enter or exit the Schengen area through the Netherlands as a visitor. Border guards will use passport stamps to check you’re complying with the 90-day visa-free limit for short stays in the Schengen area. If relevant entry or exit stamps are not in your passport, border guards will presume that you have overstayed your visa-free limit.
You can show evidence of when and where you entered or exited the Schengen area, and ask the border guards to add this date and location in your passport. Examples of acceptable evidence include boarding passes and tickets.
If you are a resident in the Netherlands, read our living in the Netherlands guide.
You can travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. This applies if you travel:
- as a tourist
- to visit family or friends
- to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events
- or for short-term studies or training
If you are travelling to the Netherlands and other Schengen countries without a visa, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries within the previous 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.
To stay longer (to work or study, for business travel or for other reasons) you must meet the Dutch government’s entry requirements. Check which type of visa or work permit you may need on the Dutch government website.
If you are travelling to the Netherlands for work, read the guidance on visas and permits.
If you stay in the Netherlands with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.
Vaccination requirements (other than COVID-19)
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and vaccination certificates you may need on TravelHealthPro.
There are strict rules about goods that can be brought into and taken out of the Netherlands. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
Taking food and drink into the Netherlands
You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions for medical reasons, for example certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food required for medical reasons. Check the rules about taking food and drink into the EU on the European Commission website.
You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in the Netherlands
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in the Netherlands.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners. You should remain aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities. Recent attacks include:
in 2019, 4 people were killed and 6 injured in a shooting incident in Utrecht
in 2018, 2 people were seriously injured in a knife attack at Amsterdam Central Station
Protect your belongings
Pick-pocketing and bag snatching are common, particularly in central Amsterdam and around Amsterdam Central Station. Thieves often operate in gangs on the trains and trams to and from Schiphol airport and Central Station. One thief distracts you while another steals your bag. Sleeping on trains can make you an easy target.
Thieves can enter restaurants attempting to sell you something or look for someone. Bags have been stolen from between people’s feet while they were distracted.
- be alert
- keep sight of your luggage and belongings
- keep valuables safely on you
- not leave bags or jackets hanging on the back of a chair in restaurants
- avoid falling asleep in public or on public transport
If you are a victim of theft, contact the nearest police station and get a police report.
Scams – fake police ID
Amsterdam police have warned of criminals using false police identities to trick tourists into handing over cash and credit cards. They will usually say that it is part of and investigation into counterfeit money and false credit cards. Be very cautious about any approaches.
Genuine plain-clothed police will rarely carry out this type of inspection. Dutch police don’t have shiny badges, which the fake police sometimes present as ID.
- be cautious if approached
- ask for identity and check it thoroughly
- not let them intimidate you
Call 0900-8844 to contact the nearest police station if you are unsure whether a police person is genuine.
Avoid confrontation with anyone offering you drugs. Stay away from quiet or dark alleys, particularly late at night.
There is a risk of drink spiking, particularly for young women and solo travellers. Don’t leave your drink unattended. If you think your drink has been spiked, seek immediate medical help and inform the police. If you are in a group, make sure you leave together.
Laws and cultural differences
By law, anyone from the age of 14 and over must always be able to show a valid form of identification. British nationals should use their passport as ID. Dual-nationals can show a valid Dutch driving license, passport or Dutch/European identity card. For people aged 16 or over who fail to comply with the requirement to identify themselves, the fine is 100 euros. For persons aged 14 and 15, the fine is 50 euros.
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
Don’t carry or use drugs. The Netherlands has a reputation for being tolerant on the use of ‘soft drugs’, such as cannabis. However, drugs are illegal and drug use is only tolerated in designated premises in the major cities. Buying or possessing prohibited drugs and substances outside of designated areas, is illegal and can result in a prison sentence.
Buying or smoking soft drugs in public places is an offence. There are specific cafés where the use of cannabis is tolerated.
The sale of dry and fresh psychoactive mushrooms is illegal. However, the truffle (sclerotium) form of psychoactive (psilocybin) mushrooms are not covered under Dutch law (Opium Act) and are still sold in regulated ‘smart shops’. Be extremely careful as mixing alcohol, cannabis and wild mushrooms can be fatal.
Licences and permits
When driving in the Netherlands, always carry your:
- driving licence
- insurance documents
- vehicle documents
- photo ID such as a passport or residence permit
If you are driving a vehicle that does not belong to you, you may need written permission from the registered owner. You are not allowed to drive on a provisional license.
If you’re living in the Netherlands, check the living in guide for information on requirements for residents.
Driving a British car abroad
You may need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK. From 2021, UK stickers have replaced GB stickers. Find more information on what to do if you are driving outside the UK.
Traffic offences can carry heavy, on-the-spot fines. If you are fined, always ask for a receipt.
Watch out for trams. They have priority over other traffic. You must stop if a tram or a bus stops in the middle of the road to let passengers on and off.
Speed cameras, speed traps and unmarked vehicles are widely used. Motorway speed limits can vary. You must follow overhead illuminated lane indicators when in use.
Pedestrians and road safety
Be careful when crossing roads, especially on zebra crossings. Look out for cyclists and mopeds, who have right of way over motor vehicles and often ignore road traffic rules and red lights.
You could be fined for jaywalking.
Every year people drown in the canals of Amsterdam. The majority of drownings happen after heavy drinking or smoking cannabis. Take care when travelling beside canals.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Dial 112 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
For more information, read our guidance on healthcare when travelling in Europe.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on health risks and what vaccinations you need for the Netherlands on TravelHealthPro (from the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre)
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
TravelHealthPro explains best practice when travelling with medicines.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in the Netherlands
You can view a list of English speaking doctors in the Netherlands.
COVID-19 healthcare in the Netherlands
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms during your stay, follow the advice about preventing the spread of respiratory infections on the Dutch government website.
If you need a COVID-19 self-test, you can buy them at a chemist or a pharmacy.
Self-isolate if you have a confirmed or suspected case of mpox (monkeypox). Report any mpox symptoms to the Dutch Municipal Health Service (GDD). Find your local GGD centre on the GGD website or GGD Amsterdam. See further information on what to do if you have mpox on the Dutch Government website.
Health insurance cards
Apply for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. If you already have an EHIC, it will still be valid as long as it remains in date.
The GHIC or EHIC entitles you to state-provided medical treatment necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Dutch nationals. If you do not have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, contact the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team.
It’s important to take out appropriate travel insurance for your needs. A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both before you travel. An EHIC or GHIC does not cover all health-related costs, for example, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.
EHIC and GHIC cover state healthcare only, not private treatment. You will be responsible for the cost of any treatment provided by a private doctor or private clinic.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in the Netherlands
Telephone: 112 (ambulance, fire, police)
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors and translators and interpreters in the Netherlands
- dealing with a death in the Netherlands
- being arrested in the Netherlands
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you are affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
Help abroad in an emergency
If you are abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
You can also contact FCDO online.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.