TELEPHONES. Pay phones require a Chipknip card, which can be bought at hostels, train stations, and tobacconists for as little as ‚4.50. Even when using a calling card, a Chipknip card is necessary to gain access to the phone system. Mobile phones are an increasingly popular and economical alternative (30). For directory assistance, dial a 09 00 80 08; for collect calls, dial a 06 04 10. International dial direct numbers include: AT&Ta0800 022 91 11; Australia Direct 0800 022 20 61; BT Directa0800 022 00 44; Canada Directa0800 022 91 16; Ireland Directa0800 02 20 353; MCI WorldPhone Direct a0800 022 91 22; NZ Direct a0800 022 44 64; Sprint a 0800 022 91 19; Telekom South Africa Direct a 0800 022 02 27.
Country code: 31. International dialing prefix; 00. From outside The Netherlands, dial int’l dialing prefix (see inside back cover) + 31 + city code + local number.
MAIL. Post offices are generally open Monday to Friday 9am-6pm, and some are also open Saturday 10am-l:30pm; larger branches may stay open later. Mailing a postcard or letter (up to 20g) in the EU or a postcard outside of Europe costs ‚0.54; letters to outside of Europe cost ‚0.75. Mail takes 2-3 days to the UK, 4-6 to North America, 6-8 to Australia and New Zealand, and 8-10 to South Africa. Address mail to be held according to the following example: Firstname SURNAME, Poste Restante, Museumplein Post Office, 1071 DJ Amsterdam, NL.
INTERNET ACCESS. Email is easily accessible within The Netherlands. In small towns, if Internet access is not listed, try the library or even your hostel.
ACCOMMODATIONS AND CAMPING
ACCOMMODATIONS under ‚30 ‚30-49 ‚50-69 ‚70-100 over ‚100
VW offices supply accommodation listings and can almost always reserve rooms in both local and other areas (fee around ‚2). Private rooms cost about two-thirds as much as hotels, but they are hard to find; check with the VW. During July and August, many cities add a tourist tax of ‚1.15 to the price of all rooms. The country’s best values are the 34 HI youth hostels, run by Stayokay International Hostels, formerly the Dutch Youth Hostel Federation (NJHC). Hostels are divided into four price categories based on quality. Most are exceedingly clean and modern. The VW has a list of hostels, and the useful Jeugdherbergen brochure describes each one (both free). For more information, contact Stayokay at P. 0. Box 9191,1006 AD, Amsterdam ( 010 264 60 64; www.stayokay.com). Camping is available across the country, but many sites are crowded and trailer-ridden in summer.
Traditional Dutch cuisine is usually hearty, heavy, meaty, and wholesome. Expect a lot of bread and cheese for breakfast and lunch, and generous portions of meats and fishes for dinner. Popular seafood choices include all sorts of grilled fish and shellfish, fish stews, and raw herring. To round out a truly authentic Dutch meal (especially in May and June), ask for white asparagus, which can be a main dish on its own, served with potatoes, ham, and eggs. The Dutch conception of a light snack often includes tostjes (piping hot grilled cheese sandwiches, occasionally with ham), broodjes (sandwiches), oliebol-len (doughnuts), or poffertjes (small pancakes). Colonial history has brought Surinamese and Indonesian cuisine to The Netherlands, followed closely by near-relatives from other South American and Asian countries. Indonesian cuisine is probably one of the safest bets for vegetarians and vegans. Wash it all down with a Heineken or Amstel.
CUSTOMS AND ETIQUETTE
DRUGS. The Netherlands’ policy towards soft drugs is one of tolerance (not legalization or decriminalization, as many believe), meaning that smoking cannabis or hash is an offense, but one that is rarely prosecuted. Smoking up outside coffeeshops is not only illegal, but is considered extremely impolite.
LOVE FOR HIRE. A walk in the Red Light District will make it abundantly clear that prostitution is legal in Amsterdam. All of the prostitutes you see belong to a union called The Red Thread and are tested for HIV and STIs, although testing is on a voluntary basis. Do not take photos unless you want to explain yourself to the angriest and largest man you’ll ever see. Keep in mind that prostitution is an entirely legal enterprise, and windows are a place of business. Show up clean and sober. Prostitutes reserve the absolute right to refuse service to anyone. Specifically state what you get for the money you’re paying that means which sex acts, in what positions, and especially how much time you have in which to do it. Always practice safe sex. A prostitute will never touch a penis without a condom.
HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS
Holidays: New Year’s Day (Jan. 1); Good Friday (Apr. 9); Easter Sunday and Monday (Apr. 11 and 12); Liberation Day (May 5); Ascension Day (May 9); Whitsunday and Whitmonday (June 3-4); Christmas Day (Dec. 25) and Boxing Day (Dec. 26; also called Second Christmas Day).
Festivals: Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day; Apr. 30) turns the country into a huge carnival. The Holland Festival (in June) features more than 30 productions in a massive celebration of the arts. Bloemen Corso (Flower Parade; first Sa in Sept.) runs from Aalsmeer to Amsterdam. Many historical canal houses and windmills are open to the public for National Monument Day (2nd Sa in Sept.). The Cannabis Cup (November) celebrates the magical mystery weed that brings millions of visitors to Amsterdam every year.
Netherlands Map Photo Gallery
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