The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch; spoken by roughly 23 million people. It actually originated from West Germany, tracing its origins back to Frankonian times. The vast majority of young people speak very good English as it is taught in schools. In Friesland, many residents speak Frisian and it is still used by the local government for official business and communication. There are several other local and regional dialects within the Netherlands including Limburgish, which is still spoken in large parts of Limburg in the southeast part of the country.
The official currency of the Netherlands is the euro, which replaced the Dutch guilder in 2002. ATMs are widely available, especially in city areas known for shopping. Currency exchange booths and independent money changers are also found around the major cities and commercial zones of the country.
The Netherlands is in the Central European Time Zone (CMT), which is one hour ahead of GMT (GMT +1).
The Netherlands uses electricity at 220-240V with the primary socket types C Europlug, E and F Schuko, which are standard European. For those traveling from the US and Canada with 110-120V appliances, a step down transformer/adapter will be needed.
The country code for the Netherlands is +31. It’s possible to make outgoing international calls from public phone booths, but it’s recommended to use internet cafés which can be found around downtown Amsterdam. The KPN telefoonkaart is a prepaid international calling card which can be bought from most tobacconists.
The Netherlands is as modern as anywhere in Europe, and aside from having many internet cafés and Wi-Fi in the coffee shops and hotel lobbies, there are also a number of business centers, libraries and public buildings where internet access is free of charge.
Being a part of the European Union, the Netherlands offers fragrances, cosmetics, champagne, wine, spirits and local souvenirs at tax-free prices. Those arriving from a non-EU country are allowed to import no more than 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250 g of tobacco, one liter of spirits or two liters of wine, 50 g of perfume or 250 ml of perfume as long as you're over the age of 17.
There are a number of tourist information offices spread around major Netherlands hotspots. The one in Amsterdam can be found at Stationsplein 10, across from Centraal Station, +31-20-201-8800.
Consulates in the Netherlands
US Consulate, The Hague: +31-70-310-9209
Canadian Consulate, The Hague: +31-70-311-1600
Australian Consulate, The Hague: +31-70-310-8200
Emergency services: 112