The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before travelling to The Netherlands. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.
Irish Citizens should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
You should also obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) free of charge which entitles you to emergency medical treatment. This card is NOT a substitute for travel insurance. See www.ehic.ie for further details. The EHIC replaces the Form E111, which is no longer valid.
Irish citizens do not require a visa to enter the Netherlands.
It is advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you. During your stay you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Along with other European countries, there is potential for the Netherlands to experience international terrorism.
In general, the Netherlands is a very safe country. Dutch people are warm and friendly, and most speak excellent English. The vast majority of Irish people who visit The Netherlands never encounter any problems, but unfortunately, every year a small number of people will have difficulties, particularly with pickpockets in the major cities. Most problems can be prevented by taking a few simple precautions:
DO keep your passport, money and cards in a safe place, but don't keep them all in the same place, to minimise the chances of losing them all at once. From 1 January 2005, every person over 14 is required to have valid identification on them, and must present it on request by the police. Please note that driving licences are not accepted as valid identification.
DO make a photocopy of your passport, and keep it separate from the original.
DO enter the details of your next of kin in the space provided in the back of your passport.
DO keep friends/family in Ireland aware of your movements, where you are supposed to be on any given day, and how they can contact you.
DON'T carry around more money than necessary. If you have a lot of cash, keep it in a secure place (such as a hotel safe-deposit box). Don't carry large amounts of cash around, as ATMs (called "Geldautomaat" in Dutch) accept most Irish bank cards and are widely available throughout the country. The use of credit cards is not as widespread as in Ireland and you should check, before making a purchase, that the shop, restaurant or other establishment in question accepts your brand of credit card. Where credit cards are accepted, you may be asked to produce photo ID if you wish to use them.
DO keep a look out for pickpockets, especially in Amsterdam. Pickpockets operate in groups and prey on tourists. Often, one will try to distract you, while another picks your pocket. Take particular care in central Amsterdam (especially Central Station), in Schiphol airport, and on the trains between Schiphol airport and Amsterdam.
DON'T leave your baggage unattended, even for a short time.
DON'T walk around dark or unfamiliar areas alone at night. If you are with friends, stay together in a group.
Loss/Theft of Passport
If your passport is lost or stolen, contact the Embassy as soon as possible. You must also go to the nearest Police Station and make a report. Keep a copy of your statement to the police as you will have to submit it with your application for a new passport. If your passport is stolen a police report is accepted by some airlines in lieu of a passport, but always check with your airline before going to the airport. If your airline will not accept the police statement, the Embassy can issue you with an Emergency Travel Certificate.
LOCAL LAWS & CUSTOMS
The Dutch police ("Politie" in Dutch) are friendly and helpful, and most speak excellent English. Don't hesitate to ask them for assistance if you have a problem.
If, for whatever reason, you have been arrested by the police in The Netherlands, you will be informed of your rights (e.g. to make telephone calls, to see a lawyer). At any point, you can also request to speak with a Consular officer from the Embassy. The Embassy can provide you with a list of English-speaking lawyers, can arrange for your next of kin to be informed of your detention and can help you keep in contact with friends and family. However, the Embassy cannot provide legal advice, pay for a lawyer or interfere with local judicial proceedings.
Consumption of Alcohol / Illegal Drugs
The legal minimum age for drinking beer and wine in The Netherlands is 16. The legal minimum age for drinking other forms of alcohol is 18. Contrary to popular belief, so-called "soft drugs" are NOT legal in The Netherlands. In practice, however, they are tolerated, but only in designated premises in the major cities. NEVER carry drugs around with you, and under no circumstances should you attempt to bring drugs into another country. Conviction for possession of any illegal substance carries a prison sentence.
Traffic travels on the right in The Netherlands. Bicycles (and mopeds) usually travel in dedicated lanes (generally coloured with red tiles), often adjacent to the footpaths. It should be noted that bicycles (and mopeds) are frequently allowed travel in either direction on one-way roads, and are afforded priority at many junctions. Particular care should be taken whenever crossing roads to watch out for all forms of traffic - trams, bicycles, cars and mopeds, and, when driving, to watch out for cyclists. Care should also be taken, particularly in Amsterdam, to avoid walking in bicycle lanes.
The Netherlands in general has a very good road-safety record. Public transport is efficient and relatively inexpensive. Motorway speed limits are 120kph, except where lower limits are posted. City limits are generally 50kph.