Inevitably accommodation is one of the major expenses of a trip to the Netherlands – indeed, if you’re after a degree of comfort and style, it’s going to be the costliest item by far. There are, however, budget alternatives, principally private rooms (broadly bed and breakfast arranged via the local tourist office), campsites and a scattering of HI-registered hostels. During the summer and over holiday periods vacant rooms can be scarce, so it’s wise to book ahead. In Amsterdam, room shortages are commonplace throughout the year, so advance booking is always required; hotel prices are about thirty percent higher here than in the rest of the country.
All hotels in the Netherlands are graded on a star system. One-star and no-star hotels are rare, and prices for two-star establishments start at around €70 for a double room without private bath or shower, €80 with en-suite facilities. Three-star hotels cost upwards of about €85; for four- and five-star places you’ll pay €125-plus. Generally, the stated price includes breakfast, except in the most expensive and the very cheapest of hotels.
You can book ahead easily by calling the hotel direct – English is almost always spoken. Within the Netherlands, you can also make same-night bookings in person through any tourist office for a nominal fee. Alternatively, three useful booking websites are w weekendcompany.nl (in Dutch & German only); w weekendjeweg.nl (Dutch only); and the Netherlands’ Board of Tourism’s w holland.com.
One way of cutting costs is to use private accommodation – rooms in private homes that are let out to visitors on a bed-and-breakfast basis, sometimes known as pensions. Prices are quoted per person and are normally around €20–30 with breakfast usually included. You mostly have to go through the local tourist office to find a private room: they will either give you a list to follow up independently or will book the accommodation themselves and levy a minimal booking fee. Note, however, that not all tourist offices are able to offer private rooms; generally you’ll find them only in the larger towns and tourist centres and characteristically a good way from the centre. In some of the more popular tourist destinations the details of these “B&Bs” are listed in tourist brochures.
If you’re cycling or walking round the Netherlands, you will find the organization Vrienden op de Fiets (Friends of the Bicycle; t 079 323 8556, w vriendenopdefiets.nl) an absolute bargain. For an annual joining fee (“donation”) of €8, you’ll be sent a book with several hundred Dutch addresses where you can stay the night in somebody’s home for a fixed tariff of €19 per person; all you have to do is phone/email 24 hours in advance. Accommodation can range from stylish townhouses to suburban semis to centuries-old farmhouses – and staying in somebody’s home can give a great insight into Dutch life. Hosts are usually very friendly, offer local information and will provide a breakfast of often mammoth proportions to send you on your way.
If you’re travelling on a tight budget, an HI hostel may well be your accommodation of choice. Stayokay (w stayokay.com) is the HI-affiliated Dutch hostelling association and they operate twenty-seven hostels across the Netherlands. Dorm beds are the norm, in four- to ten-bunk rooms, though the smaller dorms can also be rented as family rooms and some hostels have double and single rooms. For the most part, they represent extremely good value, offering clean and comfortable accommodation at rock-bottom prices.
Dorm beds cost €25–40 per person per night including breakfast, €50 for a bed in a double room, depending on the season and the hostel’s facilities; there are no age restrictions. Both city and country locations can get very full between June and September, when you should book in advance. Most Stayokay hostels accept online bookings. Meals are often available – about €13 for a filling dinner – but there are no self-catering facilities. If you’re planning on spending several nights in hostels, it makes sense to join your home HI organization before you leave in order to avoid paying surcharges, though you can join at the first Dutch hostel you stay at instead.
In addition to Stayokay hostels, the larger cities – particularly Amsterdam – have a number of private hostels offering dormitory accommodation and almost invariably double- and triple-bedded rooms too. Prices are broadly similar, but standards vary enormously; we’ve given detailed reviews, where appropriate, in the Guide.
There are plenty of campsites in the Netherlands and most of them are very well equipped. Prices vary greatly, depending on the facilities available, but in the more deluxe you can expect to pay around €25 for a pitch including electrical hook-up and car parking, plus €3–5 per person. All tourist offices have details of their nearest sites, and we’ve mentioned a few campsites in the Guide. A list of selected sites is available on the Eurocampings website (w eurocampings.co.uk).
If you don’t mind having basic facilities, look out also for minicampings, which are generally signed off the main roads. These are often family-run – you may end up pitched next to a family’s house – and are informal, inexpensive and friendly. Details of registered minicampings can be found in the accommodation section of the provincial guides sold at every tourist office. Some campsites also offer trekkers’ huts (trekkershutten) – frugally furnished wooden affairs that can house a maximum of four people for about €30 a night. You can get details of the national network, with good information in English and a list of sites in each-province, from the Stichting Trekkershutten Nederland (w trekkershutten.nl).
A former Rough Guides Managing Editor, Keith Drew has written or updated over a dozen Rough Guides, including Costa Rica, Japan and Morocco. As well as writing for The Telegraph, The Guardian and BRITAIN Magazine, among others, he also runs family-travel website