Travel info

Passport: You must have a current passport; give the passport process plenty of time. The Netherlands requires your passport have two blank pages for stamps. Currently, for US citizens, The Netherlands does not require a visa for short visits, but you should check requirements for updates.

What to pack:

  • Passport and photocopies. Keep your passport safe while traveling.
  • Printed copies of flight info, hotel info, credit card phone numbers, and emergency phone numbers (below).
  • Light rain jacket. All activities are rain or shine, including scheduled walks, bike tours, canal boat rides, etc. We will be Dutch about the rain.
  • Walking shoes that are comfortable, supportive, and broken in, not brand new. You may also want flipflops for the hotel.
  • Comfortable clothes for walking and biking (including in the rain). Weather can be fairly cool, 50s-70s F, so pack something more than just shorts/tshirts. Check forecasts.
  • Something decent to wear for dinner: We’re dining at De Kring Artists’ Club; something nice looking but informal is fine–and something you’d wear elsewhere as well (i.e., don’t pack single-use items).
  • Combo lock: The hotel provides individual lockers to store your valuables, but you need your own lock (or you can buy one at reception).
  • No “colonials” gear, please. “Colonials” has negative connotations in most of the world. Let’s avoid having to explain this.
  • Sunscreen. See the Environmental Working Groups’ list of sunscreens not containing cancer-causing chemicals.
  • Medicines and prescriptions in original bottles.
  • A device for posting to the course blog during the trip. A phone or small tablet is fine. I’ll have a laptop you can borrow if needed. The hotel has free wifi.
  • Charging cables and USB charger with Type C power adapter. E.g., here’s a universal one that seems to be well reviewed.

Air travel: You’ll need to fly by at least Saturday 27 July (there are many overnight flights from the US  east coast) to arrive before 10 am Sunday 28 July at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. To start your Dutch experience early, you might try KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (though it’s now owned by Air France).

Meet up: You must be at our hotel by 1pm (unless you’ve cleared it with me in advance); meet in the lobby. If you’re arriving at the airport about the same time I am, we can go into town together; we’ll arrange that by email before the trip. Otherwise we’ll meet at the hotel. The best meet-up spot at Schiphol Airport is literally called The Meeting Point (aka, The Cube). Buy one-use OV-chip cards (kiosks in station, about €5) and ask for the train to Amsterdam Centraal Station. Then follow easy directions to our hotel (on Blackboard and email). A taxi will cost you €40-€50; use only licensed taxis—see taxi details here. GW prohibits students from using ride-sharing while abroad for this course so no Lyft, no Uber, etc.

Money: You can buy Euros at the Schiphol Airport once in Amsterdam, but you may want some on hand when you arrive. In the US, you can buy Euros at AAA offices and  many banks (call first and ask about fees). Read advice here on where to exchange money in Amsterdam: http://www.dutchamsterdam.nl/160-amsterdam-currency-exchange. All costs of group activities, including travel, (except most meals) are covered in your GW fees. Many places take credit cards, but many don’t! Credit cards can charge conversion fees for cash advances; some banks offer international cards with no conversion fees. Call to find out.

Safety: While Amsterdam is a friendly and generally manageable city, you should watch out for pickpockets and exercise normal awareness. At night, it’s best to travel with at least one peer. In case of emergency, get to a safe place and message the WhatApp group–including our UWM peers. Regroup back at our hotel lobby if possible, or watch WhatsApp for another location.

Communication: We will use WhatsApp to communicate in country; see my email to get connected to the group. For phone calls, you might be able to rely on Wifi calling. If you want to use cell data, you’re probably best buying a pre-paid Dutch SIM card–you can do this in Schiphol Airport and probably in Central Station (near our hotel), but make sure your phone is unlocked before you go (call your provider). You might also check your provider’s temporary international plans. More phone info here. You have my cell now, but I may have a new number if I get a SIM card there; I’ll let you know via WhatsApp or email once that happens.

Emergency numbers: Put these numbers in your phone and have them written down: Call 112 for emergency service from Dutch Police, Rescue, and Fire Departments. Police non-emergency: 0900 8844. Emergency doctor on-call: 088 003 0600.

Health/injury: See the info GW sent you on coverage while on this trip; there are local health care providers working with this program. Emergency doctor on-call: 088 003 0600.

United States Embassy & Consulate: The Consulate General of the United States (“Consulate General Verenigde Staten”) is located in Amsterdam, at Museumplein 19, 1071 DJ Amsterdam, across the green from Van Gogh Museum, at the corner of Gabriël Metsustraat. See U.S. Citizen services for contact info. U.S. citizens in need of emergency assistance from the U.S. Government (e.g., lost/stolen passports, arrests, crisis situations) may call the US Consulate in Amsterdam: (8:15 am – 5:00 pm): +31 (0) 20 575-5309, or after hours & holidays: +31 (0) 70 310-2209. The U.S. Embassy is located in The Hague.

Public transit & museum fees: All are covered in the program fees you paid to GW, except to and from the airport. For other stuff, check local maps & apps here.

Bicycling: For most Dutch people, this is the normal way of getting around. We’ll do one group ride, at an easy pace (and it’s flat!), of about 40 km. If you have not ridden much lately, now is the time to do it. Practice riding in light traffic (bike lanes and neighborhood roads), and try building up your distance over time. I am designing an equivalent field trip for anyone unable to do the group bike ride for any reason; please contact me with any questions.

Language: You won’t need to know any Dutch, as most Dutch people in the cities speak fluent English. But pronouncing some words, e.g. street names, will be useful. It’s easier than you think: once you know what certain letters sound like and then pronounce them out loud, you’ll find lots of English analogues in meaning as well. Some tips to get you in the general vicinity of Dutch:

  • ij usually sounds halfway between “aye” and “eye.” So dijk = dike” and “Dijkstraat” = Dike Street. De Stijl is pronounced like “de Style” and simply means, “the Style.” Best of all, the IJ, “Het IJ” is pronounced “Het Eye,” hence the pun in the name of Eye Film Museum, located on the banks of the IJ River.
  • ei and ee also sound close to “aye.” So beet is pronounced like “bait” (but means bite).
  • ie sounds like “ee.” Bicycle is fiets, pronounced “feets.”
  • ui sounds a little like the “ou” in house. So, yes, huis = house, in pronunciation and in meaning. Hence, Rembrandthuis and Rietveld Schröderhuis. Zuid sounds like “zoud” and means south. Tollhuistuin sounds like “Toll-house-town” (and means tollhouse garden).
  • ou and au also sound similar to “ou” in house. So vrouw (woman) and blauw (blue) rhyme.
  • oo sounds like “oh.” So boot = “boat” (and means boat).
  • j sounds like “y.” So, jongen (boy) starts with a “y’ sound.
  • -en at the end of words, or even in the middle, often has a silent n. So fietsenrek (bike rack) is “feets-e-rek.” But sometimes it is pronounced, but de-emphasized and nasally, as in jongen (boy), pronounced something like “yong’n” (which, to my East Tennessee ear, sounds like young-un, the very informal but commonly used abbreviation for “young one” or kid.)
  • Finally, nieuw sounds like “new” and means new!

Fluent Forever gives you “a passing familiarity with the sounds of Dutch” in this 3-part series consonants, vowels, and spelling.

Fitness: Unfortunately, there is no fitness center in the hotel. We’ll be walking a lot, of course, and biking a little bit. But otherwise, there are good running routes nearby–ask at the hotel desk. You can swim laps at a nearby pool, a 7 minute bike ride from our hotel. There’s also a climbing gym not too far from our hotel; ask me for info.