The Netherlands is a remarkable place, stunning in both its scenic beauty and culture. Considered in many ways the gateway between Scandinavia and the rest of Europe, the Netherlands (also called Holland) retains culture from both "halves" of Europe, making it truly one of a kind.
Its capital city, Amsterdam, has a reputation for being unique in its own right. The laws in Amsterdam regarding drug usage reflects its laid-back culture, where there is a certain "to each his own" quality, and the city is among the most beautiful in Europe.
Red Light District
Windmills of Kinderdijk
Anne Frank Museum
Van Gogh Museum
With affordable flights from the US, minimal culture shock, almost no language barrier, and a well-organized tourist trade, the Netherlands is a good place to start a European trip. Virtually every city I mention is within an hour (or so) train ride from centrally located Amsterdam. The best home-base cities are Amsterdam, Haarlem, and Delft.
Depending on the length of your trip, and taking geographic proximity into account, here are my recommended priorities:
3 days: Amsterdam
5 days, add: Delft
7 days, add: Haarlem and Rotterdam
9 days, add: Alkmaar or Edam/Waterland
11 days, add: Arnhem, Utrecht, or The Hague
Language: Dutch, however nearly everyone in Holland speaks multiple languages. In major cities, in isn't uncommon for locals to speak four or more languages, and English is a given.
Currency: Euro (EUR). EUR is currently 0.93 for 1 USD.
Power Adapter: In the Netherlands (Holland) the power sockets are of type C and F. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
Crime & Safety: Holland is very low in crime, and should be traveled to with only the normal precautions one would take traveling anywhere in regard to carrying a money belt and preventing against pick-pocketing.
Emergency Number: 112
Read more about The Netherlands!
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