If you’re planning to travel to the Netherlands, here’s what you’ll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Netherlands introduced a strict lockdown in December 2020, following a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases. The country’s first night time curfew since World War II was brought in in January, leading to rioting in major cities. The Netherlands entered another strict lockdown on December 19 due to yet another increase in coronavirus infections.
While restrictions were eased as the country looked to return to normal life, officials have since been forced to bring some of them back due to a rapid rise in cases.
What’s on offer
Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ biggest draw, with its picture-perfect canals, spectacular architecture and cafe culture. But beyond the capital there is much to love, from elegant administrative capital The Hague to the increasingly hip port of Rotterdam. Outdoor lovers won’t feel shortchanged either, with excellent cycling routes and water sports options on offer.
Who can go
European Union residents are allowed to enter the Netherlands for any reason, but there are different rules for those traveling from “safe” areas within the EU/Schengen area and those traveling from areas deemed high risk.
Travelers arriving from safe areas must fill in a health declaration before their arrival and take a Covid test once they’ve entered the Netherlands. At present, there are no countries within the EU/Schengen area that are designated “safe.”
Those arriving from destinations deemed “high risk” within the EU/Schengen area must provide proof of vaccination, evidence of recovery from Covid-19 or a negative test result.
As of December 22, all travelers from countries outside the EU/Schengen that are not deemed “very high risk” with a variant of concern must produce a negative test before entry, along with a proof of vaccination or evidence of recent recovery from Covid-19.
Those from destinations that have been designated “very high risk” areas are required to quarantine for 10 days. The quarantine period can be shortened if the traveler returns negative test result on the fifth day of isolation.
Travelers who’ve received a booster shot at least seven days before entering the country are now exempt from quarantine.
Currently, the following destinations outside the EU are considered “safe”: Bahrain, Chile, Colombia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Kuwait, New Zealand, Peru, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates and Uruguay. A full list of safe countries, regularly updated, can be found on the Dutch government website.
A number of destinations outside the EU are considered as “very high risk.” They include Barbados, United Kingdom, the US and Puerto Rico. A full list of very high risk countries, regularly updated, can be found here.
What are the restrictions?
Vaccinated travelers from “safe” countries within the EU do not need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter the Netherlands.
Those coming from “very high risk” countries must show the results of a negative PCR or antigen test (taken within 48 and 24 hours respectively if arriving by plane).
From December 22, travelers arriving from safe areas outside of the EU that aren’t designated “very high risk” must provide proof of vaccination, or a negative PCR test result or antigen test taken within 48 hours (or collected within 24 hours for antigen tests).
Travelers from “very high risk” areas outside of the EU are required to quarantine for 10 days. Returning a further negative test on day five of quarantine means visitors from these countries can move around the country freely. You can make an appointment to get tested once you are in the Netherlands by calling 0800 1202.
All travelers must complete a health screening form, which can be downloaded here.
What’s the Covid situation?
Covid cases spiked in mid-July in the Netherlands, albeit from a low base, driven in part by the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant. Cases had been trending downwards, but have begun to rise again in recent months. As of February 10, there have been over 5.5 million cases in the country, with more than 832,541 in the past week. There have been 21,901 deaths from Covid. So far, more than 71.1% of the population is fully vaccinated.
What can visitors expect?
The Dutch government relaxed restrictions in June, before bringing some of them back on July 9, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologizing for having eased them too soon.
On December 19, the Netherlands went into lockdown yet again. However, nonessential shops, gyms and hairdressers were allowed to reopen on January 16.
Bars, cafes and restaurants are permitted to reopen with reduced capacity as of January 26, while households can now have up to four guests aged over 13 in their homes at a time.
However, nightclubs are to remain closed for the time being.
Mandatory mask wearing in indoor public spaces was reintroduced on November 6.
The country has also introduced a coronavirus entry pass system, which is available to those who are fully vaccinated, or have valid proof of recovery or a negative result from a Covid-19 test taken less than 24 hours previously in order to gain entry into specific venues.
The list of places a coronavirus entry pass is required has since been expanded to include restaurants, museums, cinemas and gyms.
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There’s a proud Dutch tradition of allowing visitors to peep into their homes, with locals leaving their blinds and curtains wide open after dark. (Great after a year spent staring at the same four walls). One other tradition has become less easy — marijuana access for tourists has been curbed.
Amsterdam streets that were once heaving with tourists are now far quieter, making it possible to see the city as it used to be. And there’s always the chance you can gawp at the super rich as they try to squeeze their massive yachts down those picturesque canals.
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Joe Minihane and Julia Buckley contributed to this report