The Netherlands are influenced by a temperate maritime climate with little variation between regions. The average January temperature is 2C (36F), though it can seem much colder owing to high humidity. The summer temperatures are pleasant. The average annual precipitation for the country is about 760 millimetres (about 30 inches), which is spread evenly throughout the year. Clear skies are a rare treat in Holland.
The Euro is now the official currency of 12 EU member states (including Holland). Euro (A^EUR) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of A^EUR500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of A^EUR2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents.
If you have a foreign bank card with a Cirrus logo, you can get money from an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM). Some ATMs of the ABN AMRO bank also accept cards with the PLUS logo. Check your card and the ATM for EDC, EC and Maestro logos. You can also use most credit cards to obtain money from an ATM. The many ATMs are usually open 24 hours per day. All major credit cards are accepted widely, but not everywhere. If in doubt, ask in advance. Cash advance services are available from selected American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa Card addresses. These cards are also accepted by all GWK currency exchange outlets and Change Express Offices. It is handy to take some cash with you for the first few days in Holland. Traveller's checks are a safe alternative to cash and are handy if you do not have a credit card.
UTC / GMT (+1 hour) Holland is in the Central European Time Zone, one hour ahead of London. During daylight saving time (end of March - end of October) clocks are turned forward one hour. As a result, in summer Holland is on GMT +2.
Most shops are open from Tuesday to Friday between 9 am and 6 pm. On Saturdays, business hours differ by possibly opening a half hour earlier and closing between 4 and 5 pm. Mondays shops open between 11 am and 1 pm and close at 6 pm. Most cities have late-night shopping (until 9 pm) on Thursdays or Fridays. In tourist centres, many shops are open at night and on Sundays. Business hours differ between banks. Most banks are open from Tuesday to Friday between 9 am and 4 pm. On Mondays, business hours start mainly at 1 pm. On Saturdays and Sundays, banks are closed. Regular post offices are open from Monday to Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm. Bigger ones are also open on Saturdays between 9 am and 12 noon/12:30 p.m. Chemists / pharmacies are open on a rotation schedule to cover nights and weekends.
Holland enjoys modern telecommunications throughout the country. Orange-and-grey coloured telephone booths are located inside and around most Netherlands Railways stations. From these booths, you can make calls with coins, credit cards and special telephone cards. Telfort telephone cards are available from the GWK - Holland Welcome Service, Wizzl Shops at a wide range of railway stations and all ticket offices at the Netherlands Railway stations. If you wish to make a telephone call from a green telephone booth (located outside railway stations) you need a different telephone card.
220V, 50Hz Hotels may have a 110-volt or 120-volt outlet for shavers, but travellers are advised to bring a power converter and an adapter for two-prong, round-prong plugs with side grounding contacts.
Dutch is the national language of Holland, however, English is spoken by almost everyone. In addition, many Dutch people speak German and / or French. The people in the province of Friesland speak Fries, in addition to Dutch. The Dutch outside this province do not understand this language.
One of the nice things about Holland is that the Dutch are relaxed about clothes. You wear what you feel good in, particularly in Amsterdam when an opera audience happily turns up in jeans and t-shirts; this is not to say you cannot dress up if you want. Men should bring a tie and women a skirt or dress if you plan to frequent fine dining establishments. Otherwise, feel free.
The network of roads and highways is very well developed in Holland. If traveling in a rental car or travel-van, be aware there is usually a toll for thoroughfares. Practical, fast and comfortable, the train is one of the best ways of getting about in Holland. Ticket prices vary according to the level of comfort. Please note that bus connections are often slower and more complicated, when covering long distances, than train connections. Taxis are prevalent in all urban areas.
The 'Strippen Card' is valid throughout the country for travel on buses, trams and subways. It is also valid on trains that travel within the city boundaries of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague / Zoetermeer. Holland has been divided into transportation zones with set tariffs. To travel one zone you have to pay two 'strips'. You pay an extra 'strip' for each subsequent zone. Within the same zone, you may change within a time limit mentioned on the back of the card. You can buy 'Strippen Cards' at railway stations, in post offices, department stores and tobacconists. You can also buy it on the tram or bus, but the price is quite a bit higher. If you visit Amsterdam, Rotterdam or The Hague for just one day, your best bet is a one-day travel card. This is valid on all public transportation. Day tickets are available from tram and bus drivers and at subway stations.
For police assistance, fire or ambulance emergencies, dial 112 anywhere in the country.
Tourists covered by health insurance in their home country (with the exception of private patients) have the right to medical assistance in Holland in accordance with the Dutch health service, provided: care cannot be delayed until the patient returns to his/her country; an international insurance form or copy thereof is submitted to the doctor, chemist or hospital. It is important that the treatment costs be settled directly between the doctor, chemist or hospital involved and the foreign department of the ANOZ Health Service, based in Utrecht. For this reason, it is advisable to make several copies of your insurance policy before traveling. If the need arises, you will have a copy of the policy handy to prevent having to pay on the spot. Holland has reciprocal agreements with all EU countries and Morocco, Yugoslavia, Cape Verde, Tunisia, Turkey and Sweden. Tourists from a country with which Holland does not have an international agreement are urged to take out travel insurance before departure. Ifyou use medication, be sure to note the generic name of we recommend you pack a prescription in Latin.
The standard of health care is very high, with an unusually high proportion of national income devoted to public health. Certain medications may be brought into Holland provided you have a doctor's prescription.
For the record, trafficking in (importing or exporting), selling, producing and processing either hard or soft drugs are offences in Holland. The possession of soft drugs for personal use (up to 30 grams) is a summary, non-indictable offence. Coffee shops can sell soft drugs without being prosecuted, providing they observe strict rules. The aim of this policy is to prevent users of soft drugs from becoming marginalised and prevent users of soft drugs from being exposed to more harmful drugs.