The First Time To Holland

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The first time I have ever traveled solo, I was in my teens and was scared to almost being mortified. I was travelling to Holland and it was the first time I was completely on my own.

Holland is arguably one of the most popular holiday destinations, be it for a city break in Amsterdam or a family vacation by the sea. The small country of only 7,494 square kilometers  is situated below sea level and is world-wide famous for its massive production of tulips, delicious old cheese (oud Kaas), clogs (wooden shoes) and the extensive use of windmills.

However, it is not these stereotypes that attract millions of tourists all throughout the year. Intense night life in Holland’s big cities, such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Maastricht or up North in Groningen. If you are looking for advice for your first trip to Holland you have come to the right place. Here are a few tricks that will help you make the most out of your experience.

A Few things to Know About your First Time to Holland

#1Holland’s official language is Dutch, which is a mixture of German, French and English. Dutch is very difficult language, pronounciation is a nightmare for most people and the first time you hear it can shock you, as it sounds brutal.

#2 Most people speak English incredibly well, so before dusting off your English-Dutch dictionary, a ‘Spreekt u Engels’  is in order, as the answer will almost be affirmative.

#3  Dutch people are extremely helpful and you may actually find them a bit intrusive. I happened to come across a nice -maybe too nice Dutch woman- who tried to explain directions for 15 minutes. It turned out that they were too complicated.

#4 You should not mistake their kindness for friendship. As nice as they may seem, there is a Dutch saying that goes something like this: Everyone gets a biscuit, but only friends get two. Which means you should not take too much advantage of their amability.

#5 Dutch nightlife is one of the most exciting things you will ever experience, but that doesn’t mean you should spend your days sleeping in so you can save up energy for drinking and partying. Make the most of your stay in Holland by riding a bike during the daytime, stopping for a quick bite at a sandwhich shop and visiting museums.

#6  Speaking of riding the bicycle, this is experience is not to be missed.  I was fifteen when I first went to Holland and before that, I had no idea of how to ride a bike.  Dutch people learn how to ride their bikes before they can walk and they can do it while texting and also eating a sandwhich. Big cities have bike rental spots spread all over town and the prices are more than reasonable ( 10 euros for a whole day). Most of the times, hotels have free bikes for their guests, so make sure you ask when you check in. But be careful. Most bikes are one speed bikes, so take it easy at first.

First time traveling to Holland

#7 And while we’re on the subject, accommodations in Holland vary from small, family based Bed and Breakfasts, to hostels, which are fun if you’re a young wanderer like myself, or even luxurious hotels. It depends to what experience you’re looking for and of course, your budget.

Getting to Holland

Holland is part of the EU, so if you’re European, you only need your ID card or Passport. Eitherway, your passport must be valid for at least three months beyond your planned date of departure from the  Schengen area. Also, tourists do not need any visa. There is a currency restriction of 10,000 Euros or the equivalent and there are no vaccinations required.

Arriving to Holland by plane is the most convenient way of travelling. Holland has many airports, but the most important ones are :

  • Amsterdam Airport Schiphol,the 4th busiest airport in Europe – and the world’s 14th – is located 20 minutes southwest of Amsterdam. From my experience, I can assure you that getting lost in the airport is part of the process, sort of a ‘welcome to Holland’ rite of passage. Managing to find your way out of the infinite halls and terminals is exhausting and sometimes requires a coffee break or two.
  • Eindhoven Airport, the second largest airport in the Netherlands and is located 7 km from Eindhoven and also, is situated just off the A2 motorway which offers direct connections to cities like Amsterdam, Utrecht and Maastricht.  Buses leave Eindhoven Airport twice and hour and since Holland it is a rather small country, you can get anywhere in almost no time.
  • Groningen Airport Eelde, the third largest airport in the Netherlands, is only 9 km from the city of Groningen. You can leave the airport by car, using public transportation or even by bike, riding along the bicycle paths parallel to the  A28/E232 motorway.

Now that you’ve arrived, what do you do next?

When I first got to Holland I was torn between hitting the streets or absorbing as much culture as humanly possible. Eventually, I found a golden mean.

#1 The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is dedicated to Arts and History, and has more than 8,000 objects on display, among which are some masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Johannes Vermeer. The museum is open daily from 9AM to 5PM and the entrance fee is around 18 EURO, and is free for people under 18 . You can either purchase your ticket at the counter, at your hotel or you can buy it online. Do not worry that finding it will be hard. The Rijksmuseum is situated right in the heart of Amsterdam.

Reopening of the Rijksmuseum

#2 Close to the Rijksmuseum, stands the Van Gogh Museum. The museum’s collection is actually the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings in the whole world. The museum is open from 9 AM to 6 PM and on Fridays it stays open until 10 PM. What more could you wish for? You can purchase your tickets either online, or at the counter and the prices vary somehwere around 15 Euro.

#3 If you go to Holland, and not stop by to pay an homage to Anne Frank, at Anne Frank Huis, you may regret it later. Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl, who kept a diary during World War II, while hiding from the Nazi  in a Secret Annex. Anne did not survive the war, but her father did and he later published her journals, turning his daughter into the symbol of persecution and discrimination. I visited Anne Frank Huis when I was only fifteen and I do not regret it up to this day, although I never went back in the years that followed.  As this tiny place is such a popular attraction, I highly recommend purchasing the tickets online, or scanning the QR code, so you could skip the enourmous lines. Adult pay 9.5 Euros, and young people, from 10 to 17, only pay half the price.

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#4 My favourite place in Holland is the Artis Royal Zoo. It is one of the largest zoos in Europe. It is quite pricey, as the ticket can go up to 30 Euros, but I strongly advise you to give it a go.

#5 If you want to get a grip of what the Dutch spirit means, you must visit Zaanse Schans, a quaint town that was pieced together to form an outdoor museum. Walking along the streets , you can get a real taste of what 18th century Holland was all about. Definitely not to miss. The entrance fee is 10 Euros so if you’re ever in the area, don’t hesitate.

First time traveling to Holland

#6 As you might already know, Amsterdam is one of the most liberal cities in the world. It is, however, not totally freewheeling, drug wise, and there are some regulations to consider. With Marijuana being legal, you may find yourself willing to try it. But before you do, keep these tips in mind:

  • Do not buy Marijuana off the street. The only legal way to smoke it is within cofee shops.
  • You must be over 18 to enjoy this. No exceptions. Do not try to trick the sellers, you could get in trouble.
  • Cofee shops only sell soft drugs, so they do not represent a danger zone. So, with this in mind, do not venture on the streets to light up your new purchase, even though it is really tempting.
  • Prices vary and you should be able to read the menu most coffee shops put on display.
  • And most importantly, do not hesitate to ask the seller questions about what you are about to buy. Especially if you’re a rookie, you need to know everything beforehand.
  • Have your fun, but be resposible.

Prices

Prices in Holland are quite high, but there are a few tricks that will help you not go back home bankrupt. Yes, restaurants are a nice experience, and you should do it once, but supermarkets offer a large range of products, for reasonable prices.

Albert Heijn is the most popular one. Also, taking the bike instead of a cab or taking the bus will not only be ten times cheaper, but will also keep you in shape and more in touch with the culture.  Before you leave, you should put some money aside in case of an emergency, and enough money for your fare to the airport and snacks while you wait for the plane. Always plan ahead.

Holland is a wonderful place and as far as I’m concerned, should the oportunity to visit it arise, take it. Make the most of your stay, as I did,  and the next time, you’ll be even more prepared for the magic that this country holds. We hope that you will enjoy your first time to Holland!

First time traveling to Holland

Have a nice trip!

Tot ziens!

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