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Summary: The Netherlands are found in western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between Belgium and Germany, and having a terrain that is mostly coastal lowland and reclaimed land (polders), with some hills in the southeast. The Netherlands has a prosperous and open economy, which is the international home to the diamond industry and an under and above-ground drug industry.

Capital: Amsterdam
Time Zone: DST +0200 UTC
Population: 16,318,199
Languages: Dutch, Frisian, English
Power: 230 V, 50 Hz
Currency: Euro - Currently 1 EUR € = 1.4607 USD $
Climate: The climate is overall temperate and marine, with cool summers and mild winters.

Amsterdam: "Sin City" is a nickname Amsterdam didn't get by mistake. From the cafes serving smokable or edible substances, through to its infamous Sex Museum on the main street from the train station, not to mention its red light district, the moniker has gained truth. There are great works of art of masters like Rembrandt in the Rijksmuseum, as well as at the Van Gogh Museum.

The Hague: The Binnenhof, or center of The Hague's old town, is a pretty place to visit, and the many embassies and stately government buildings give the city a cosmopolitan feel while serving home to some of the wealthier citizens. Also, you can tour the Peace Palace, home to the International Court of Justice, and see some of the country's best art galleries while walking past canals and cafes.

Maastricht: Maastricht has a long history dating back to 50 BC to the Romans, with churches dating back to the 13th century, including the oldest, the Church of Our Lady, and makes for an excellent stop to see Dutch life. In addition to the fortified stone walls and gates which still surround the city center, there are 6 miles of tunnels underneath the western part of the city that are great for exploring.


Bicycle: A great way of exploring the cities and beyond is to rent a bicycle, a common way for the local residents to get around.

VVV: Visitor information offices are marked with the triple V and you can get friendly help and advice there. Don't buy maps there - they are overpriced and you can find them cheaper in a bookstore.

Local Culture: Locals manage to speak English very well, along with German, French and their native Dutch, and are generally reserved yet friendly. Handshakes are common with kisses reserved for close acquaintances.

When To Visit: Spring and summer are the two best times of year to visit. Spring because of the tulips and daffodils that have made the Netherlands famous, and summer because of the weather that's great for biking around.

Food: Seafood, meats, desserts and beer and some of the highlights here, other foods of note are raw herring with onions, drop (a salty licorice), and gouda cheese.

Tipping: A service charge is included in hotels and restaurants, and people normally leave their small change. A Euro is an acceptable tip for doormen and cab drivers.

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