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.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for the Netherlands on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Dutch Municipal Health Service (GGD) can only be used for testing if you are eligible. More information on the eligibility criteria and how to book a GGD test can be found here . See the Dutch Government’s website for more details of how and where to get tested for travel purposes.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in the Netherlands.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
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.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel in the Netherlands
The latest information on Dutch domestic coronavirus measures can be found on the Dutch government website (in English).
Face masks are no longer mandatory in airports in the Netherlands. Depending on your destination, a face mask may be required in aeroplanes. Check with your airline in advance of your journey.
Face masks are no longer mandatory when travelling on DFDS.
Face masks are no longer mandatory when travelling on P&O, except in medical areas.
Face masks are no longer mandatory when travelling on StenaLine.
Passengers are no longer required to wear a face mask on board trains, in stations and on platforms.
Public spaces and services
Most COVID-19 related measures have now been lifted. The following advice continues to apply:
- if you experience any COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and take a self-test;
- if you test positive for COVID-19, go into self-isolation. Advice on what to do if you do test positive can be found on the Dutch Government’s website.
A full overview of measures is available on the Dutch Government’s website
Tourists are not obliged to reserve their holiday accommodation before travelling to the Netherlands. See the Dutch government’s website for more information on tourist travel to the Netherlands.
If you develop symptoms during your stay in the Netherlands, you must follow the advice of the local authorities. Information on this can be found on the Government of the Netherlands website.
For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health
View Health for further details on healthcare in Netherlands.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. The Dutch Municipal Health Service (GGD) can only be used for testing if you are eligible. More information on the eligibility criteria and how to book a GGD test can be found on the Dutch Government website.
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
Take care particularly in central Amsterdam and especially in and around Central Station. Pick-pocketing and bag snatching are common. Thieves often operate in gangs on the trains to and from Schiphol airport and Central Station as well as on the trams. One thief will attempt to distract you (often by asking for directions or by banging on your window) while another picks your pocket or steals your bag. Be alert and don’t lose sight of your luggage or your belongings. Sleeping passengers make particularly easy targets.
Opportunist thieves are widespread and can enter restaurants with the excuse of selling you something or looking for someone. Bags have been stolen from between people’s feet whilst they were distracted. Keep your valuables safely with you at all times and don’t leave bags or jackets hanging on the back of a chair.
If you are the victim of a theft contact the nearest police station and get a police report. Amsterdam Police have warned of criminals using false police identities and tricking tourists into handing over cash and credit cards on the pretext of investigations into counterfeit money and false credit cards. Be very cautious about any such approaches.
Genuine plain clothes police will rarely carry out this type of inspection. Always ask for identity, check it thoroughly and don’t let yourself be intimidated. Dutch police don’t have shiny badges, which the fake police sometimes present as ID. Call 0900-8844 to get in touch with the nearest police station if you are not entirely happy.
Avoid confrontation with anyone offering you drugs of any sort and stay away from quiet or dark alleys - particularly late at night. Even if you are tempted to buy, you risk arrest for doing so.
Young women and those not in groups should be aware of the possibility of drinks being spiked. Don’t leave your drink unattended. If you believe you have been the victim of a spiked drink, seek medical help immediately and, if possible, inform the police. If you are in a group, make sure you leave together.
See Victims of Crime
In 2020 there were 610 road deaths in the Netherlands (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 3.5 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.3 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2020.
If you are planning to drive in Netherlands, see information on Driving Abroad.
Licences and documents
When driving in the Netherlands, you should 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 then written permission from the registered owner may also be required. You are not allowed to drive on a provisional licence.
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 28 September 2021 UK stickers have replaced GB stickers. Check the GOV.UK Displaying number plates website for more information on what to do if you are driving outside the UK.
Pedestrians should be extremely careful when crossing roads, especially on zebra crossings. Look out for cycles and mopeds, which enjoy right of way over motor vehicles and often ignore road traffic rules and red lights. Crossing the road without a green signal to do so can be interpreted by local law as Jaywalking, even if it is safe to do. Dutch police have been known to hand out fines in such instances.
Traffic offences can carry heavy, on-the-spot fines. If you are fined, always ask for a receipt.
Using a mobile phone while driving is illegal. Drivers are encouraged to use ‘hands free’ equipment.
The Dutch drive on the right and give priority to the right, unless otherwise indicated. Be particularly careful when using roundabouts: on some you have the right of way when on them but on others right of way must be given to vehicles entering.
Watch out for trams; they have priority over other traffic and are well known to exercise that right. If a tram or a bus stops in the middle of the road to allow passengers on and off, you must stop.
Speed cameras, speed traps and unmarked vehicles are widely used. Be vigilant on motorways where the maximum speed can vary. Overhead illuminated lane indicators - when in use - are mandatory.
You must use dipped lights after dark and in misty conditions. If safety belts are fitted, they must be used. You must carry a warning triangle and, in the event of a breakdown, place it 30m behind your vehicle. Children under 1.35m in height must be carried in a proper child seat in the rear of the car.
Deaths occur each year due to drowning in the canals of Amsterdam. The majority of these happen as a result of celebrations that include heavy drinking and/or smoking cannabis. Take particular care when travelling beside canals.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in the Netherlands.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. You should be vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities. On 18 March 2019 there was a shooting incident in the 24 Oktoberplein (24 October Square) area of Utrecht on a tram where 4 people were killed and 6 injured. A suspect was detained following this incident and has been charged with various crimes including murder with terrorist intent. On 31 August 2018, 2 foreign tourists were seriously injured in a knife attack at Amsterdam Central Station.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
This page has information on travelling to the Netherlands.
This page 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 unsure how the Netherlands entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.
It is no longer necessary to provide proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test or complete an entry form to enter the Netherlands.
UK nationals do not need a visa to enter the Netherlands. At passport control, UK nationals should use the ‘ALL PASSPORTS’ lane, irrespective of their residence status.
If you are travelling via France or Belgium, check FCDO Travel Advice for those countries, as testing requirements and validity may differ. The Dutch border police carry out random checks at the land borders to check compliance with entry requirements.
If you’re fully vaccinated
Entry requirements for the Netherlands are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
Proof of vaccination status
You don’t need to provide your vaccination status for entry to the Netherlands.
If you’re not fully vaccinated
Entry requirements for the Netherlands are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
If you’ve had COVID-19 in the past 180 days
Entry requirements for the Netherlands are the same for all travellers, regardless of whether you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past year.
Children and young people
There are no specific requirements for children and young people.
If you’re transiting through the Netherlands
Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination.
Check with your airline before departing.
There are no exemptions to the Netherlands’ entry requirements.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
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.
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 will need to meet the Dutch government’s entry requirements. Check with the Netherlands Embassy what type of visa and/or work permit you may need.
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.
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.
You may also need to:
- show a return or onward ticket
- show you have enough money for your stay
If you are a resident in the Netherlands, read our Living in the Netherlands guide
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from The Netherlands.
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.
Using public transport
Amsterdam public transport services (GVB) no longer accepts cash for buying tickets on trams, buses or metro trains in Amsterdam. You can buy tickets by credit card (not American Express) on buses and trams or at payment points at main bus and tram stops, Amsterdam Central Station and Schiphol airport. More information can be found on the GVB website.
Don’t carry or use drugs. The Netherlands has a reputation for being tolerant on the use of so-called ‘soft drugs’. In reality drugs are prohibited and this tolerance exists only for designated premises in the major cities. Possession of prohibited substances or buying them outside these designated areas can carry a prison sentence. Buying or smoking soft drugs in public places is an offence. There are specifically designated cafés where the use of cannabis is tolerated. Although popular, the sale of both dry and fresh psychoactive mushrooms is forbidden by law. Be extremely careful as combinations of alcohol, cannabis and wild mushrooms are a fatal cocktail and have resulted in several deaths.
Everybody from the age of 14 must be able to show a valid identity document to police officers and other law enforcement authorities on their request. The documents you can use to prove your identity depend on your nationality. If you are a British national living in or visiting the Netherlands you can use your passport. If you are a dual national you can identify yourself with a valid Dutch driving licence, passport or Dutch/European identity card.
If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.
See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the Embassy, High Commission or Consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
If you are living, working or studying in the Netherlands, there is guidance available on how to get state healthcare.
You should get 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 that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Dutch nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team on +44 191 218 1999 to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate.
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. It 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.
If you’re living in the Netherlands, you can also find more information on healthcare for residents in our Living In the Netherlands guide.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
If you have a confirmed or suspected case of Monkeypox, you should self-isolate. If you have Monkeypox symptoms, you must report this to the Dutch Municipal Health Service (GDD). You can find their contact details and the details of your local GGD centre, where you can be tested, on their website (in Dutch). If you are tested and it is negative, you can end your isolation. If you test positive, you should continue isolating until the infection is gone and the skin lesions have fully healed. Further information can be found on the Dutch Government website (in English).
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.