There are many mistakes that tourists make while visiting the Netherlands. This post is made based on my experience with my life in the Netherlands (close to 8 years now!). These easy mistakes tourists make in the Netherlands are things that are well known to the Dutch, as well as from my own observations. So keep these all in mind for your next travel to Amsterdam, Rotterdam or somewhere else in the Netherlands.
This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclaimer here.
Easy Mistakes Tourists Make In The Netherlands
All Things About Biking
Where ever you are visiting in the Netherlands, do not walk across the red bike paths without looking both ways. You would think this is common sense, but even in Amsterdam on my daily commute I often see tourists crossing without even looking! And if the bike path is only for one way, don’t let that throw you off as there could easily be someone cycling against the bike traffic.
As a reverse to that, when cycling yourself that is, don’t cycle on pedestrian areas and pathways. This is just not allowed when there are thousands of bike paths in the Netherlands. Some exceptions are when you see small children learning on the pathways next to the bike paths. However even these kids are usually taught straight on the bike paths to learn the correct biking rules.
Don’t be surprised if you rent bikes* and there are no helmets supplied either, we don’t wear them here unless we are under 4 years old and still with learner wheels on. Some places do provide them though, so please take them if you are not confident as the Dutch can be quite fast!
*Unless using a racing bike, then please take always use one!
One last thing – You are not allowed to cycle while using your phone! As of July 1st 2019 this is something that you will be stopped and fined up to €95.00 euros. So keep your phone in your pocket.
We recommend that you don’t bring a massive suitcase if you are just visiting for a weekend to Amsterdam. Do you really need so much stuff? The streets of Amsterdam will not treat your heavy large suitcase well as most streets are cobblestones. Walking the city streets and the public transportation can be very busy so make your life easier by having something that doesn’t take up much space. Else if you are travelling with a large suitcase, don’t get stressed by taking your time.
Plus depending on where you are staying, you might find yourself struggling to carry your suitcase up some very skinny but steep old fashioned Dutch stairs (especially in Amsterdam).
Cafes vs Coffee shops
Make sure you understand the difference when looking for a good mug of coffee vs a good coffee shop for drugs. And when you are interested in the coffee shops for drugs, go to them rather than buying on the streets. Illegal street sellers will most likely sell you talcum power or paracetamol. Plus you must be legally 18 years old for visiting coffee shops so be responsible.
Be Alert With Your Belongings
Don’t become an easy target in locations like Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport and other bigger cities with leaving your suitcases, handbags and other items unattended. There are pickpockets even active on public transport so don’t put your guard down too much. So don’t be fooled if someone is trying to trick or distract you, while someone else steals from your bag behind you. Those trying this is both male and females, so again, don’t get tricked or leave belongings unattended or out of sight.
In Amsterdam and touristic places like Zaandam there are often undercover police working the streets dressed like tourists to catch the pickpockets in the act. This is one of our main easy mistakes tourists make in the Netherlands, so please avoid being one of these victims by being alert with your belongings.
Public Transportation – NS Trains
Don’t be scared to take public transport in the Netherlands, even if you arrive in rush hour and need to stand during the journey. This will avoid you paying way more for a taxi. The only acceptable time to take a taxi is when you are truly stuck at Schiphol Airport and all the trains are all cancelled (especially as an average/budget traveller). But this is in very rare situations (like a 24 hour strike in the Netherlands which happened in May 2019) and it’s usually still better to wait for a delayed train. This is because it is much cheaper and easier to get a train ticket and public transportation too. You can buy your train tickets at the blue and yellow machines, else at the ticket counter at the bigger stations.
And when you do take the train, make sure you understand that red seats are for 1st class and blue seats for 2nd class. This can also be seen on the outside doors of the train what class the carriage is.
If you find yourself in 1st class and you’ve only paid for second, don’t be surprised when you get a fine up to €50 euros. As for the Intercity direct (the faster train between Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Breda) make sure you buy the supplement for around €2.50 with your ticket at the station, else you will have to pay at least €10 to buy it from the train conductor onboard.
Lastly don’t get off the train and block the train exit with ur suitcase while looking confused at which way to walk. Stay calm if you are new and don’t stress with the amount of people around you. But please please please move out of the way to the middle of the platform to find your bearings. Rather than blocking everyone else on the side while getting excited that you have arrived at your destination. I personally see this so often in Amsterdam and it’s crazy the amount of locals who end up walking into and tripping up on peoples luggage coming off the train.
TIP: If you visiting the Netherlands for the first time, check out this Lonely Planet Netherlands guide that is great for all up to date information and recommendations for the country! Else they have a brand new Lonely Planet Amsterdam guide book for the capital, as well as a pocket-sized Lonely Planet Pocket Rotterdam for Rotterdam, which I also own and can highly recommend.
Public Transportation – Trams
Wanting to cross the road before the tram? I wouldn’t even try it! These tram drivers think they own the road so my advice is to not race the tram. It is better (and mostly safer) to wait for them to pass, especially at busy junctions and shopping areas.
I personally find that the trams in Amsterdam are very aggressive towards everyone outside of their tram, however this is also needed due to the over tourism and public areas being extremely busy. Because they will end up not moving at all if they let everyone cross the road
Whereas in Rotterdam, if you plan to cross in front of the tram and its safe, the tram driver will likely wave you across to confirm that it is safe. It is also easier in Rotterdam with wider roads and less touristic areas.
Walk Confident And Predictable
As well as being alert in my point above, you should also not be afraid.
Walk confident across pedestrian crossings and act predictable. I see it so often that people struggle with the amount of bikes, tram tracks and roads they need to cross. If there are no lights with a green man, be confident with a crossing and don’t stop half way. Cyclists will plan that you are crossing and will adjust to your speed to make sure they don’t hit you, so stopping half way is unpredictable.
Furthermore, in Amsterdam I have experienced that on busy cycling locations, locals do not stop at pedestrian crossings for pedestrians. This can be intimidating and they should stop, but they dont. Again, act confident and time your moment well in between the cyclists. Else put your middle finger up and look aggressive since its a pedestrian crossing!
Don’t Drive On The Left
Are you thinking of renting a car while visiting the Netherlands? Don’t make the easy mistake of driving on the wrong side of the road. In the Netherlands we drive on the right and it’s actually pretty hard to mess this up with the busy roads. However on one way streets and smaller neighbourhoods this mistake can be easily made.
This is something even I have to battle with when I visit the UK and forgetting which side to drive on. For example, last time we took the boat from Hoek van Holland to Harwich, you leave the boat on a single road until you reach the motorway. It was easy to not think about being on the right side rather than the left. Another example is our recent trip to the Isle of Wight, where our hire car was brought to us in a quiet neighbourhood and on a one way road to start with.
There isn’t a clear difference when it comes to upper class vs lower class in the Netherlands, which is good. But no matter what salary someone is on or location they are from, respect is #1. I sometimes see tourists being rude to those who are actually trying to help them, which is not very welcoming.
This also relates to the famous Amsterdam Red Light District. Please don’t take photos here, this is forbidden and disrespectful to those working there. We’re all adults here you do not need a photo. Plus you will find yourself being monitored by security and undercover police agents patrolling the area.
Others Posts About The Netherlands
Weekend Getaway Ideas In The Netherlands
Inspiring Photos To Make You Visit Rotterdam
National Parks In The Netherlands – The Full Guide
Summary Of The Easy Mistakes Tourists Make In The Netherlands
I hope this gives you an insight in the easy mistakes tourists make in the Netherlands, and how you can avoid them if you plan on visiting soon. Some things are just common sense of course. However I see these things happening by tourists that I felt the need to share!
- Trust your gut feelings with people distracting you as well as keeping an eye on your belongings
- Don’t stress in busy situations
- Enjoy being a tourist in The Netherlands!
Pin for later
Are you also living here and have noticed these easy mistakes tourists make in The Netherlands? Or have any new mistakes to add to this list? Let us know in the comments!
Curls en Route30th June 2019 at 12:33 am
I love the Netherlands, really enjoyed my time in Amsterdam. Really good tips you have in there!
Ujjainee1st July 2019 at 10:29 am
First of all thank you so much for sharing this points as these are very useful to me . I like the point of Cafe vs coffee shop, I have marked people confused about it and you have made the difference nicely .
Togetherintransit1st July 2019 at 9:44 pm
Thanks for commenting! We’ve heard that a few times! hehe
Meghan Emcee1st July 2019 at 2:19 pm
Great post, was so useful! I’m heading to Amsterdam in September and will definitely be referring back (I had no idea about the cafes vs. coffee shops, thanks for the heads up!)
Loretta Widen1st July 2019 at 3:03 pm
I’ve never been but It’s On the bucket list. Thanks for such useful information!
Togetherintransit1st July 2019 at 9:44 pm
Joanna Rath9th July 2019 at 1:59 am
The timing of this post is spot on as I will be in Amsterdam early August. Your post is full of great advice and I have saved it for reference while in Amsterdam. (I don’t have Pinterest.)
I still don’t understand the difference between a cafe for a mug of coffee and a coffee shop for drugs. Do they look the same? How will I know I have walked into one and not the other? Can I still get a good coffee without the drugs at a Coffee Shop?
Togetherintransit9th July 2019 at 9:20 pm
Thanks for sharing and commenting! We hope your trip to Amsterdam will be enjoyable in August!
As for the differences, its visibly noticeable if its a coffee shop for drugs with a cannabis leaf logo or a barrier at the entrance, also signs outside advertising the menu. As for an actual coffee shop, it will look more like a usual cafe with cosy tables to sit at.
I’ve personally never been actually inside for a coffee at one that sells drugs so i’m not sure if the coffee is good hehe!
Joanna Rath12th July 2019 at 11:45 am
That makes it very clear. Thank you.
Michaela16th July 2019 at 12:39 pm
Oh yes, you made me remember all the mistakes I did at least once whenever I was there! 😀 Such a great post to educate people, bravo!
madhu sharma18th April 2020 at 3:38 pm
Thanks for sharing this very useful tips.i m saving it for future
Tyra Seguin18th April 2020 at 3:56 pm
This is awesome! thanks for sharing all these tips!
Shalzmojo3rd October 2020 at 2:13 pm
Wow these are really some very clever and useful pointers. I am a bit blown away by the cafe vs coffee houses 😉 And the one about being fined while cycling and talking on the phone made me laugh a lot. I guess its a great rule if there are so many cyclists there and they do travel fast. I shall come back to this post if and when I get around to making that trip to Amsterdam someday.
Krista4th October 2020 at 12:02 am
Not going to lie, the bike paths in Amsterdam scare me so I always make sure to look both ways at least twice before crossing over it!