Communication and money matters
Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Two-pin round European-style plugs are used.
Dutch is the official language. English is widely spoken.
There are no health risks associated with travel to the Netherlands and no inoculations are required. It is safe to drink tap water. The standard of health care in the Netherlands is very high, but the necessary health insurance provisions must be made before travelling. A reciprocal agreement exists with other EU countries, which entitles nationals to low-cost emergency medical treatment. A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is necessary for this purpose.
Service charges are included in hotel rates, restaurant bills and taxi fares, usually at 15%. Tipping for good service is always appreciated but not necessary. It is customary to tip taxi drivers and waiters 10%.
Traveling in Holland is fairly safe. Travellers should however always exercise caution in empty streets at night and be aware of pickpockets, particularly in central Amsterdam and at Central Station. There have been several incidents on trains from Schiphol Airport where heavily laden passengers have been targeted by thieves.
Everybody from the age of 14 is required to show a valid identity document to law enforcement officers on request. Tobacco smoking in cafés, bars and restaurants is prohibited.
The international access code for the Netherlands is +31. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)71 for Leiden. Five local mobile phone operators have the Netherlands extremely well covered with GSM 900 and 1800 networks. Internet cafes are widely available.
Single European currency, or Euro (EUR), is the official currency of the Netherlands, and is divided into 100 cents. Major credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. To avoid additional charges take travellers cheques in Euros, Pounds Sterling or US Dollars. Foreign currency or travellers cheques can be changed at banks, post offices or bureaux de change (usually indicated by the letters GWK). Banks are closed on weekends but bureaux de change are open. ATMs are widely distributed and most are open 24 hours a day.
Phones & Phone calls
Mobile phones are widely used in the Netherlands. You can easily bring your own phone and buy a pre-paid sim card at one of the many phone companies. However, before you do so, please check the specifications of your phone to see if it will work in Europe.
Cheaper ways of making international calls
With international calling cards you can phone abroad for a much lower rate.
These cards can be bought in various internet cafés and calling card shops in Leiden. It is also much cheaper to phone to a international fixed telephone connection than to an international mobile phone.
Phone calls within the Netherlands
Phone numbers are made up of 10 digits. The first 3 or 4 digits make up the area code, e.g. in 071-527 7287, "071" is the area code of Leiden.
You will only need to dial the area code when you dial a number outside the area or from a mobile phone.
International calls FROM the Netherlands
Example: +27 (0)21 567 8990 = dial 0027 21 5678990
"+" stands for international dialling code.
The international dialling code for the Netherlands is "00"
International calls TO the Netherlands
Example: dialling +31(0)71 527 7287 from outside the Netherlands = dial your international dialing code, then 31 71 527 7287
"+" stands for your international dialling code
"31" is the country code for the Netherlands
"(0)" omit this zero when dialing from outside the Netherlands
Most Internet café's can be found in the centre of Leiden, near the station, in the Breestraat and Hooigracht street and in many international calling card shops.
Letters can be sent by depositing them in the red, letter boxes found on the street. The boxes have two slots: the one on the right is for mail with local postal codes while the left-hand slot is for all other postal codes (in the Netherlands as well as abroad).
The Post Office (postkantoor) offers a wide range of services: you can purchase stamps, bus and tram tickets (strippenkaarten) and telephone cards, as well as tickets for concerts and insurance policies. You can also exchange money at the larger post offices. You will also find a branch of the TNT at most post offices.