This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to Health section (EHIC) and General (EU Aviation Regulations). The overall level of the advice has not changed.SAFETY AND SECURITY
Amsterdam is a busy city and you should exercise caution particularly in central Amsterdam (especially in and around Central Station). As in many large cities, pick-pocketing and bag snatching are commonplace. Thieves often operate in gangs (particularly (but not exclusively) on the trains to and from Schiphol airport and Central Station as well as on the trams. While one will attempt to distract you (often by asking for directions or by banging on your window) another picks your pocket or steals your bag. Newly arrived and heavily laden passengers are a particular target for thieves. Be alert at all times. Do not lose sight of your luggage or your belongings. Sleeping passengers make particularly easy targets.
Opportunist thieves are also widespread and sometimes enter restaurants with the excuse of selling you something or looking for someone. Bags have been known to be stolen from between people's feet whilst they were distracted. Ensure you keep your valuables safely with you at all times and do not leave them unattended or hanging on the back of a chair.
You should avoid carrying valuables and large sums of money with you, but it is important to carry copies of identification details. If you are the victim of a theft you should contact the nearest police station and obtain a police report. If your passport is stolen a police report is acceptable to some carriers instead of a passport but these carriers also reserve the right to refuse to take you if you do not have any other proper alternative identification. You will need a police report as part of the process for replacing your passport.
Amsterdam Police are warning travellers of an increasing trend whereby men –usually originating from Eastern European countries – make themselves out to be plain clothed policemen. The trend is that one man usually addresses people to find out if they are tourists. When confirmed, two fake policemen (in plain clothes) show false police identities and pretend to be investigating counterfeit money and false credit cards. People are asked to hand over their money and credit cards for verification – sometimes they also ask for PIN numbers. Often people are searched for drugs. After the ‘inspection’ the fake policemen return all the money and cards – at least that is how it seems. Victims usually find later on that part of the money and/or credit cards are gone.
Fake policemen never wear a uniform and like to show shiny police badges. Dutch policemen don’t have badges. Also, Dutch police in plain clothes will rarely carry out this type of inspection. Always ask for identity, check it thoroughly and don’t let yourself be intimidated. Call 0900-8844 to get in touch with the nearest police station if you are not entirely happy.
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 the purchase of them outside these designated areas can carry a prison sentence.
Since January 2006, the purchase or smoking of soft drugs in public places is an arrestable offence in Amsterdam. There are specifically designated cafés where the use of cannabis is tolerated.
In November 2005 a football fan was fatally stabbed in a busy part of central Amsterdam after being approached by a known drug dealer and asked to buy drugs. His friend was badly wounded. 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.
Although there is no direct evidence to show the practice is being carried out in the Netherlands, there is an increasing trend throughout Europe (particularly Eastern Europe) of drinks being spiked. Always be aware of your drink and don’t leave it unattended. If you believe you have been the victim of a spiked drink seek medical help immediately and if possible, inform the police.
Traffic regulations in the Netherlands are very similar to those of other countries in continental Europe. Roads are good and well sign posted, but are overcrowded. Long traffic jams can be expected on motorways, particularly near the major cities. Traffic offences can carry heavy, often on-the-spot fines. Using a mobile phone whilst driving is illegal and carries a heavy fine, and drivers are encouraged to use "hands free" equipment. If you are fined, you should always ask for a receipt.
The Dutch drive on the right and give priority to the right, unless otherwise indicated. They drive "assertively" and do not practice road courtesy. 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.
Be extra vigilant 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 to monitor speeding; exceeding the maximum speed limit can incur heavy penalties including substantial fines. Be vigilant on motorways where the maximum speed can vary. Overhead illuminated lane indicators - when in use - are mandatory. Never exceed the indicated speed limit.
Most cities have a policy of reducing non-essential traffic flows within their boundaries. Narrowing roads, obstacles, traffic lights and speed cameras are often in place to achieve this. Paid parking is the norm. It is expensive and there are insufficient parking spaces to meet demand. Clamping and towing vehicles away are commonplace and the fines are high.
Motorists must use dipped lights after dark and in misty conditions. If safety belts are fitted, they must be used. A warning triangle must be carried and, in the event of a breakdown, placed 30 metres behind the vehicles. To comply with EU legislation, children under 1.35m in height must now be carried in a proper child seat in the rear of the car.
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 as well as red lights. In Amsterdam in particular, be aware that many cyclists do not use lights at night and are therefore very difficult to see. Dedicated cycle tracks are common but can also be used by invalid vehicles and mopeds, which often reach high speeds.
Several deaths (of all nationalities) occur each year due to drowning in the canals of Amsterdam. The majority of these happen as a result of celebrations that include drinking heavily and/or smoking cannabis. Particular care should be taken when travelling beside canals.
All budget airlines travelling into Schiphol are now directed to the new 'H' Pier. This is a brand new building with no retail or catering facilities and only a limited number of toilets. This has led to complaints from some passengers. You should be aware that once you pass through final security and passport control to enter the H Pier you will have a long walk. You will also have to descend stairs to the final departure area. Elderly and infirm passengers or those travelling with young children may wish to bear this in mind.LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
The Dutch Government introduced compulsory identification on 1 January 2005. Everybody from the age of 14 is required to 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 living in or visiting the Netherlands and are a national of the European Union (or the European Economic Area) you can use your passport or EU/Eer-vreemdelingendocument.
If you are a dual national you can identify yourself with a valid Dutch driver’s licence, passport or Dutch/European identity card.
Photocopies are accepted as a temporary measure but police may insist on seeing the original document as well.
If you are arrested, you have the right to contact the nearest diplomatic mission if you so wish. We cannot get you out of gaol but we can ensure that relatives are made aware of your arrest (if that is what you want) and will ensure that you are treated properly. We can also supply you with a list of lawyers. You should let the Embassy know if you have been refused the right to contact them. Please see: What We Can Do To Help.
MOVING TO THE NETHERLANDS
If you intend to live in the Netherlands, you are advised to get important documents (eg your birth certificate and marriage certificates) officially certified (apostilled) at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. Failure to do this prior to your arrival in the Netherlands may cause a delay in obtaining necessary documents (and registering any future births) as the authorities insist on the proper legalisation of all formal documents. You should also be aware that there is no facility to legalise educational documents in the Netherlands so this should also be done prior to leaving the UK.ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
Holders of British passports, describing them as "British Citizens", do not require visas to enter the Netherlands.
All British passport holders require a valid passport to enter the Netherlands.
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact the Netherlands Embassy in London: http://www.netherlands-embassy.org.uk/.HEALTH
We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. Please see: Travel Insurance.
The Form E111 is no longer valid. You should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC is not a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but entitles you to emergency medical treatment on the same terms as Dutch nationals. You will not be covered for medical repatriation, on-going medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature. For more information abo9ut how to obtain the EHIC please see Europe and the EHIC.
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk.GENERAL
If things go wrong when overseas, please see: What We Can Do To Help
EU Aviation Regulations
The revised EU-wide security measures that came into effect for all passengers departing from UK airports in November 2006 are also being implemented in the Netherlands. For more details about this please see DfT - Airline Security Update.
You are reminded that the currency of the Netherlands is the Euro.
Information on the EU can be found at: Travelling and Living in the EU (pdf) and Britain in the EU.