As life in Holland and in other European countries is slowly returning back to normal, perhaps you start thinking about travel again. So what are the possibilities to travel to Holland at the moment? What restrictions are still in place? Is it safe to visit Holland right now? In this blog I describe the present situation regarding COVID-19 (or corona, as we call it in Holland). I answer some of the questions you may have.
Last update: July 1st, 2020
First let me refer you to the official point of view of the Dutch government on tourism. Foreign tourists from countries where the health risks are similar to or lower than in Holland are officially welcome to spend their holidays here this summer. These are mainly other EU countries and a couple of others that have been whitelisted.
The situation in Holland concerning COVID-19 is as changeable as our weather. Rules change quite often. Make sure you check on the most recent information before you travel to Holland and even during your journey here.
It’s important to know that you will need to book your accommodation before you enter Holland. You may be stopped at the border if you don’t have a valid reservation.
How safe is it to travel to Holland right now?
COVID-19 hasn’t left Holland yet. However, we managed to flatten the curve and we’ve seen extremely few new cases recently. We would like to keep it that way. That means Dutch people try to keep some common safety measures. At least, most of them do. Some people find it difficult to keep to the measures, either because they just don’t feel like it anymore, or because they don’t understand the rules, or because they don’t believe in them.
However, as a visitor, it woud be wise to adhere to these rules as good as you can even if it were only to avoid fines.
Common safety measures against COVID-19 in Holland
- Don’t go out or refrain from traveling to Holland if you’re ill or if have any symptoms of COVID-19
- Keep a social distance of 1,5 meter to other people (excluding your partner and your children). That’s about 5 feet.
- Avoid crowded places
- Wash your hands regularly
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow
- Don’t shake hands
Except for in public transport you don’t need to wear a face mask in the Netherlands.
Traveling to Holland: passing the border in times of COVID-19
Are you from a non-EU country?
The Dutch government strictly enforces the European Union’s travel restrictions banning all non-essential travel from outside the EU, the UK and the Schengen countries. Read more about these measures on the website of the Dutch Government.
From July 1st visitors from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Morocco, Algeria, Georgia, Montenegro, Serbia, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay are welcome too. If you’re from another country you’ll have to postpone your trip to Holland I’m afraid.
Visitors from EU countries, Schengen countries and the UK
Dutch borders have never officially closed to fellow European citizens. That doesn’t mean it has been easy to reach Holland in the past months. That’s because other European countries closed their borders. And because most airlines cancelled their flights.
Reaching Holland overland: by road and by railroad
Borders between Belgium and the Netherlands and between Germany and the Netherlands are open. You’re allowed to cross the border by road.
International train travel to France and Germany is possible. However there are still less trains than usual. Check the website of the Dutch railways if you plan to travel by international train. Always book ahead. And be sure to bring a face mask.
Reaching Holland by air (from other EU countries)
Air travel is starting up again. Check with the airlines when you can travel. And consider if you feel safe using a plane. That’s your call. You may have to use a face mask on board the plane. Dutch airline KLM aks its customers to bring their own face mask.
Traveling in Holland in times of COVID-19: using public transport
I am a big promotor of using public transport and I use public transport a lot myself. It’s one of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel around. Since recently, all restrictions for train travel have been lifted. Be aware of the following:
- Everyone using public transport is obliged to wear a face mask. You’ll have to bring your own. You can buy them in many Dutch stores now.
- You must enter buses through the back entrance. You won’t be able to get close to the driver, or to buy a ticket with the driver. Buy a public transport card before you travel by bus. Check my previous blog on using public transport in Holland to learn more about buying tickets.
- Try to avoid the rush hour.
Alternatives to public transport
Even our largest city, Amsterdam, is actually pretty small. Especially the touristic part. When going on a city trip, consider walking to places. You’ll discover much more that way too.
Consider bringing your bike, or renting one. If you’re staying in Amsterdam you can easily reach places such as Zaanse Schans, Marken, Monnickendam, Broek in Waterland and even Haarlem by bike. Those are nice day trips and you’ll get to enjoy the Dutch countryside. Hopefully it won’t rain!
I hate to say it, but right now having a car may make your life a lot easier, especially when traveling outside of the larger towns. So if you plan to go touring or to visit the countryside you may want to come by car or rent a car.
Remember that parking in cities such as Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam is extremely expensive.
Spending the night: hotels, hostels, apartments and campsites
The good news: hotels, campsites, bed&breakfasts, apartments and hostels have never been forced to close. The bad news: to adhere to the rules to stop COVID-19 from spreading most of these places have a lower availability than usual. And you’re officially not allowed to share a room with someone who is not your partner or direct family. I don’t know how strict the owners of hotels and apartments will be on this. It may be wise to check before you book.
Staying in Dutch hostels in times of COVID-19
With their shared rooms hostels may not be the safest of places right now. Still, most Dutch hostels have reopened recently. The official hostels strictly adhere to the safety measures and made sure that even if you share a room you’ll always be able to keep a safe distance from others. Read more on the website of the Dutch hosteling organization. I can’t vouch for the cheap hostels (that are no member of the hosteling organization).
Staying on a campsite in times of COVID-19
Camping may now be the cheapest and safest option to spend the night. This may be a solution if you’re traveling with friends, as you can all bring your own little tent. Communal showers and toilets were allowed to reopen in June 2020.
Hiking in Holland in times of COVID-19
One of the main themes of my blogs: hiking in Holland. Hiking is healthy and fun. During the past months, it was one of the few things that we could still do here in Holland, so it’s become rather popular. This means that at some places it can get really crowded. And impossible to keep a social distance of 1,5 meter.
My advice: go to the less famous places. And hike on the less popular days. Sunday is a typical hiking day for many Dutch people. So go on other days, on week days or on a Saturday afternoon (to avoid the joggers on Saturday morning).
Visiting Dutch towns in times of COVID-19
Another major theme of my blog is visiting Dutch towns. As there are so few tourists right now, this may be your chance to visit major tourist towns in a relaxed way. Be aware that many Dutch towns have historical city centers with narrow streets. Local mayors may have have imposed extra rules. For example one-way traffic. Follow these rules to avoid fines.
Visiting bars and restaurants in Hollland
Since June 1st restaurants and bars In Holland are open. There are many restrictions though:
- Make a reservation if you want to sit inside a restaurant. Reservations aren’t obligatory anymore, but many restaurants still stick to that system. And as there are less tables available right now it’s smart to book ahead. The owners are obliged to ask you if you have any health issues. They will refuse you if you do.
- When sitting on a terrace, you need to keep a social distance of 1,5 meters (5 feet) to other customers. This means that there are less places available on terraces. You don’t have to make a reservation.
- Restaurant and bar staff officially need to keep 1,5 meters distance to their customers too. In practice I haven’t seen a single waiter who did that. Still there could be places where they don’t serve you at your table. All restaurants have found their own solution to this problem, so the situation may differ per restaurant.
Visiting museums in Holland
Dutch museums reopened at June 1st. There are some rather strict restrictions in place though. Museums have to make sure that their visitors can keep the 1,5 meter social distance. That means less visitors are allowed in than usual. Practically all museums now ask you to book ahead. Check the websites of the museums to find out how to book your ticket and time-slot. On the positive side: this is your chance to visit popular museums in a rather relaxed way.
Visiting cinemas and theaters in Holland
Cinemas and theaters in Holland reopened on June 1st as well, with restrictions. The main restriction is that they have to make sure that their customers can keep a 1.5 meter distance. For this reason there are less seats available.You will need to book ahead to make sure that you can see a movie or a play.
Visiting Holland in the future
If you don’t feel safe enough, or don’t want to be bothered with all the COVID-19 restrictions, postpone your visit to Holland. Visit Dutch museums online, or read some novels by Dutch authors instead!