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Netherlands

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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions in the Netherlands. Use common sense. Look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the news and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions
  • There remains a heightened threat of terrorist attack in a number of European countries, including the Netherlands. Be alert in public places and report any suspicious activity to police. Monitor media for any new or emerging threats to your security
  • The Netherlands' national terrorism threat level is at 'substantial'. This is the fourth of five levels, and means 'there is a real chance of an attack'. See Safety and security
  • There are new security measures at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Allow extra time for pre-departure and transfer formalities. See Safety and security
  • Robbery, pickpocketing and bag snatching are common, particularly around tourist attractions. See Safety and security.

Entry and exit

Visas

The Netherlands is a part of the Schengen area. This allows you to enter the Netherlands without a visa in some circumstances. Read the Smartraveller Schengen Convention bulletin before you travel.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the Netherlands, or visit their website for up-to-date information.

Other formalities

Dutch authorities introduced additional security measures at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in 2016. If you're departing through Schiphol Airport, allow at least two hours for Europe flights and three hours for other international flights to check in and clear customs, immigration and security.

Border control authorities pay particular attention to children travelling with only one parent or guardian. Non-travelling parents can help to facilitate a smooth departure by completing a 'Permission to Travel' form before the child's travel.

More information:

Passport

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia. Carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you're forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

Declare cash of 10,000 Euros or more (or the equivalent in another currency) if you're travelling between the Netherlands and any non-European Union (EU) country. This includes notes and coins, money orders, cheques and travellers cheques. If you fail to declare your cash or give incorrect information on entry to, or exit from, the Netherlands, you'll be fined. You don't need to declare cash if you're travelling to or from another EU country.

Safety and security

Terrorism

There remains a heightened threat of terrorist attack in a number of European countries, including the Netherlands. This threat is posed by those motivated by the current conflict in Iraq and Syria. Possible targets include major sporting events and mass gatherings.

Since 2013, the Dutch Government has maintained its national terrorism threat level at 'substantial'. This indicates there is a credible threat of a terrorist attack in the Netherlands. This is level four of five, and means 'there is a real chance of an attack.' 

  • On 31 August 2018, two foreign tourists were seriously injured in a knife attack at Amsterdam Central Station.

Terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities. Targets have included public transport and transport hubs, and public places frequented by foreigners. In addition, a number of planned attacks have been disrupted by European security services in recent years.

  • Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places
  • Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Monitor the news for any new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously and follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so. 

More information:

Crime

Robbery, pickpocketing and bag snatching are common.

Pickpocketing occurs frequently around Amsterdam's main tourist attractions, in restaurants and tourist accommodation, on public transport and at transport hubs. Bag snatching often happens on trains and trams, including those operating through Schiphol Airport. Mobile devices are an attractive target for thieves on public transport systems.

Thieves sometimes operate in pairs, with one attempting to distract you while the other steals your possessions. Automatic teller machines (ATMs) around nightclubs and bars are frequent targets.

Thieves can pose as plain clothes police officers. The thieves ask to check money and credit cards looking for counterfeits. Tourists handing over money have been robbed.

Theft from hostels and other budget accommodation also occurs.

Incidents of drink spiking have been reported.

  • Take care of your personal belongings, particularly on public transport and in key tourist locations, such as airports, train stations, hotel lobbies and restaurants.
  • Carry passports and other valuable possessions in your pockets, rather than in a bag.
  • If plain clothes police ask to check your money or credit cards, offer to walk with them to the nearest police station, where you can verify their identity and their demands.
  • Don't leave drinks unattended. Don't accept drinks from strangers.

Scams

'Advance fee fraud' and lottery scams occur in the Netherlands. Australians have lost large amounts of money in such scams.

In the 'advance fee fraud', you receive an email letting you know you have an inheritance of another offer of money. The email usually comes from a country in Africa. The scammer asks you for an advance payment for 'official expenses', and you're invited to visit the Netherlands to finalise the transaction. No money is paid to you and, upon return to Australia, you may receive more bogus offers of help from sham lawyers to retrieve your lost funds.

In the lottery scam, you are contacted as the winner of a bogus foreign lottery. The scammers request you to pay administration costs to receive the lottery winnings.

More information: Scams

Civil unrest and political tension

Civil unrest is rare in the Netherlands but demonstrations and large public gatherings can turn violent. 

Monitor the news and plan your movements to avoid any possible or actual protests, rallies or demonstrations. If you're in an area affected by unrest, follow the advice of local authorities.

Local travel

Since 2015, there have been significant pressures on border controls in Europe due to the movement of asylum seekers. Carry your passport when crossing borders, even within the Schengen area. Keep up-to-date on border conditions by checking local news sources and asking transport providers directly.

Road travel

Road conditions are similar to those in Australia but some basic rules differ.

  • Vehicles drive on the right hand side of the road.
  • Give way to traffic and cyclists approaching from the right, unless otherwise indicated.
  • Trams, cyclists and mopeds have right of way ahead of other vehicles.
  • Ensure you have a warning triangle and fluorescent jackets in your vehicle in case of breakdown.

More information: Road safety and driving

Driver's licence

You don't need a Dutch driver's licence if:

  • you have a current Australian driver's licence and
  • you're 18 years or older and
  • you have been in The Netherlands for less than 185 days. 

After the 185-day period, you'll need a Dutch licence.

If you plan to rent a vehicle, get an international driver's permit (IDP).  Car rental companies may need you to provide an IDP for insurance purposes.

Air travel

The Australian Government doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in the Netherlands.

More information: Air travel

Laws

Local laws

You're subject to local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular services charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

The minimum age for purchasing alcohol and tobacco in the Netherlands is 18 years.

The purchase and personal use of drugs such as cannabis is only allowed in designated premises (so called 'coffee shops') and by residents of the Netherlands.

You could face criminal penalties, including heavy fines and/or imprisonment if:

  • you buy or use drugs such as cannabis outside of designated premises or
  • you buy or use drugs such as cannabis in a designated premises but you're not a resident of the Netherlands or
  • you possess or traffic illegal drugs or narcotics, including psychoactive ('magic') mushrooms.

Remember taking drugs will weaken your decision making ability and may make you more likely to become a victim of violence, robbery or sexual assault.

More information:

Other laws

Under Dutch law, everyone over the age of 14 needs to carry identification, such as a valid passport, driver's licence, identity card or Dutch residency card. Dutch police officers and other law enforcement officials can request to see your identification at any time.

You can be fined if you fail to present identification when requested.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • drug trafficking
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

Dual nationals

Our Dual nationals page provides important information for dual nationals.

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government won't pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • you're covered for the whole time you'll be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

If you need counselling services while overseas, contact the Australian Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 and ask to speak to a Lifeline telephone counsellor.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Take prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

Before you leave Australia:

  • check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Health risks in the Netherlands are broadly similar to those in Australia.

Medical facilities

Medical facilities and care are comparable with those in Australia but medical costs are high.

There is a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement between Australia and the Netherlands. Under this agreement, you can get urgent or emergency medical treatment in the Netherlands' public hospital system by providing your valid Medicare card.

The Reciprocal Health Care Agreement doesn't:

  • cover treatment in private hospitals or as a private patient in a public hospital
  • cover your treatment if you travel to the Netherlands specifically to get medical treatment
  • replace the need for travel insurance.

More information: Medicare

Natural disasters

Severe weather can have an impact on your travel overseas. Monitor local media for up-to-date information.

If you're visiting an area recently affected by severe weather:

  • confirm your plans and activities with your tour operator or travel provider
  • check the condition of infrastructure and facilities with local tour operators and hotels.

More information: Severe weather

 

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer, or airline. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Firefighting and rescue services: 112
  • Medical emergencies: 112
  • Criminal issues, contact police: 112. Get a police report when reporting a crime.

For non-urgent criminal issues, contact the police at the nearest police station.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

For consular assistance, contact the Australian High Commission in The Hague:

Australian Embassy, The Hague

Carnegielaan 4
2517 KH The Hague
NETHERLANDS
Telephone (31 70) 310 8200
Facsimile (31 70) 310 8250
Website: netherlands.embassy.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in the Netherlands

Check the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you're unable to contact the Embassy in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional resources