We just returned from a 10 day trip to The Netherlands. Being on vacation as a family was itself a wonderful experience but we thought others headed there soon might benefit from these observations: Weather: the past winter was the longest in 50 years according to many locals. Tulip fields around Keukenhof had yet to spring to life. The same was true of the many flower beds around the park. There were tulips-a-plenty in the pavilion. Expect tulip fields to bloom late this spring if this is on your itinerary. Rijksmuseum: After 10 year of restoration/renovation it is finally fully open! Expect long lines and heavy foot traffic later this year during the heavy tourist season but definitely include this magnificent restoration on your itinerary. http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/15/now-reopening-amsterdams-rijksmuseum/ Chip & Pin cards: While your credit card will work fine in the heavy tourist areas, particularly in Amsterdam, if you venture outside of this city the rest of the country has moved on from magnetic strips (and even cash, in some cases). Outside shops catering to tourists, often only cash and Chip/PIN cards are accepted. In parking garages, machines that allow payment in cash are increasingly rare, especially outside Amsterdam. Most grocery stores accept only Chip/PIN cards and cash and in Amsterdam most street parking meters no longer accept cash, coin or magnetic strip cards - only Chip/PIN cards. Just FYI, this was the major change from our previous trip here in 2010. Otherwise, all the attractions are open for their Spring/Summer schedules starting the first week of April. I was told the circle tram in Amsterdam is back as a tourist-season only line that runs in July/August. Lots of construction around the country on major roads and in the cities on tram lines and streets. Just be aware...
SIM cards: I use an unlocked GSM smartphone from Google in the states so getting a local phone number was as easy as a 7 Euro pre-paid SIM at The Phone Store and we had a local number for the duration of our stay. Comes preloaded with 5 Euro of airtime, which was plenty enough for our purposes (coordinating with relatives, calling ahead for venue hours, etc.) The EURO was about $1.28 for the duration of our stay, probably due to the crisis in Cyprus. It does seems to be recovering to pre-crisis levels.
"...Rijksmuseum: After 10 year of restoration/renovation is finally open! Expect long lines and heavy foot traffic but (finally) definitely include this on your itinerary...." There is a thread on the Trip Advisor about the current state of the crowds at the Rijksmuseum, granted it's only been open for a couple of days, but so far the locals are reporting very short lines to get in, and no overcrowding inside the museum. The Amsterdam Circle tram wast permanently put out of service over ten years ago.
"The Amsterdam Circle tram wast permanently put out of service over ten years ago." Michael: According to a very friendly GVB customer service representative, this is now a seasonal line run only during the high-tourist summer months of July and August.
hi, i was there last march in addition to other nearby places and i have to admit i was really lucky in the weather department. Sunshine and some overcast days but that was about it. The Rijksmuseum wasnt crowded and i dont remember any remodeling with the exception of the entrance. i didnt have much issue with my non chip-n-pin card other than some ATMS wouldnt take it and that was to be expected. happy trails.
Ray - a portion of the museum was kept open during the renovation but the completed project is amazing:
"Weather: the past winter was the coldest in 50 years according to many locals." Actually, it was the early spring that was much colder than normal, not winter itself, which was about average. But the point about the delay in the vegetation coming to life is very much true.
Thanks, Tom. I should have said the longest winter in 50 years, which is more precisely what I was told.