EUROPE

health

  • There are no compulsory inoculations for entry to the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland,  but it is recommended to travel with your routine vaccines up-to-date: measles-mumps-rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, polio and influenza. 
  • Tap water is safe to drink throughout the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland
  • Pack prescription medications in their original containers with pharmacy labels in your carry-on luggage. Also bring along copies of your prescriptions in case you lose your medications or run out. Do not forget an extra pair of contact lenses or prescription glasses if you use them
  • Use  sunscreen and stay hydrated throughout your trip
  • Take your travel first aid kit out with you during the day, just in case
     

safety

  • You must abide by local laws when travelling to a new destination
  • You must present your passport or a copy of your passport if asked to do so by local authorities
  • Do not leave valuables unattended in taxis, airports or on the street
  • Petty crime is prevalent in tourist areas and airports and snatch-and-grab incidents do occur. We recommend you use your room or hotel safe to lock your valuables away and limit the number of items and cash you carry out with you. As an extra precaution you may want to purchase a combination lock for your suitcases 
  • When possible ask hotels and restaurants to book taxis for you and ensure the driver uses the meter or a rate is agreed before you enter. When using a ride share app always confirm the car license plate and driver match that of your confirmed car and driver
  • Never agree to carry a package, parcel, envelope etc. for anyone you do not know, and never leave your luggage unattended in public places
  • Be wary of drivers or tourist guides offering to take you somewhere of interest or to their family home. They will tell you that the place you want to visit is closed that day and they can take you to alternative spot. This can often end in a con or a trip to a gem shop where you will not be sold a true gem of value but instead a fake. It is best to be firm about where you want to go or find an alternative driver
  • Do not accept drinks from strangers as drug-muggings where drinks are spiked have occurred
  • Avoid ATMs in isolated or poorly lit areas at night
     

MONEY

ATMs are readily available in major cities and towns. They usually offer the best exchange rate when compared to commercial exchange bureaus and hotels. Your bank may add a surcharge for every withdrawal you make.

Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted throughout Europe, but may come with exchange rate and bank charges from your home bank. We urge you to contact them prior to departure to let them know you will be using your card abroad, and to ask what fees may apply.


SERVICE CHARGEs & TIPPING

In restaurants a 10-15% tip is the norm for great service. You do not need to tip in cafes and local eateries, but you may choose to round-up or not take your change. The same is the case for taxi drivers, especially those who run on a meter.  
 

COMMUNICATIONS

Before departing home contact your service provider to enquire about using your phone abroad. They will let you know your call, text and data roaming options for the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland. If you purchase a roaming plan, once you arrive in country your phone will connect to a local service provider. We recommend turning data off for any apps you do not need to use regularly, as these will drain your data package with automatic updates. Packages vary by provider so be sure to check the rates for local charges and making and receiving calls and texts internationally. 

    THE NETHERLANDS

    fast facts

    Capital: Amsterdam
    Language: Dutch
    Currency: Euros, 1 EUR: 1.55 CAD (as of June 2018)
    International dialling code: +31
    Emergency services: 112 for police, ambulance and fire
    Time zones: GMT +1


    passport & visa

    A valid passport is required for entry to the Netherlands. Passports must be valid for at least six months beyond your date of departure. A visa is not required for tourist visits of 90 days and less.
     

    CLIMATE IN APRIL

     Daytime average: 23ºc with sunny warm days
    Overnight average: 13ºc
    Sunrise: 05:25         Sunset: 22:05       Sunshine hours: 16.5hrs
     

    GETTING AROUND

    Amsterdam's extensive transit system, the GVB, operates within the city in the form of trams, buses and metros. One-hour tickets can be purchased on board from the conductor or driver, 24 or 48hr tickets can be bought on the tram or purchased in advanced, but not from the driver on buses. All public transit in Amsterdam is cashless so purchases must be made by debit or credit card. Tickets are valid across the whole network from their first use, allowing you to take as many journeys as you choose within your purchased time-frame. Services run from 06:00 to 00:30, when night buses kick into operation until 07:00.  Day or multi-day tickets are valid on night buses. 

    As Amsterdam is the city of bikes, rental bikes can be hired from a number of spots. Yellow Bike by Amsterdam Centraal Station offers hourly and daily rates. 

    Taxis should run on a meter only. It is best to establish if the meter is running before starting your journey and to check if there are any surcharges for where you are going or when you are travelling. You can always ask for a receipt at the end to apply some pressure. 

    Ride share apps including Lyft and Uber exist in Europe. As with all advancing technology new players are entering the market frequently so it is best to check with your hotel regarding the preferred one to use during your stay. 
     

      CULTURE & RELIGION

      The Netherlands is known for many famous historic and contemporary things including art, bikes, architecture, tulips, clogs, the red light district, windmills and the Hague. It is a varied and interesting country to explore.

      Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands, is a charming characterful city full of shops, restaurants, museums, bikes and more. It is home to the famous Canals of Amsterdam a 100km network of around 90 islands and 1,500 bridges.  
       

      food & drink

      • Bitterballen: Deep fried crispy meatballs traditionally served with mustard for dipping – can be found on the menu at most Amsterdam drinking establishments as a drinking snack
      • Cheese: 'Kaas Shops' sell Gouda, Geitenkaas, Maasdammer and more, and the Cheese Museum offers an introduction to the most popular Dutch cheeses
      • Thick Dutch Fries: Named Patat or Frites on menus these thick fries are served in a piping hot paper cone and are slathered with toppings. 'Patatje Oorlog comes with peanut satay sauce, mayo and onions, and 'Patat Speciaal' is a mix of curry ketchup, mayonnaise and onions
      • Raw Herring: Served at Haringhandels (herring carts) - ask for a ‘broodje haring’ to get the fish served in a small sandwich with pickles and onions
      • Kibbeling: Battered and deep fried morsels of white fish; usually cod served with a mayonnaise herb sauce and lemon. Try it from a street market or food truck for the best kibbeling experience
      • Stroopwafel: Two thin waffles stuck together with a layer of sweet syrup in between - best enjoyed hot from a street market or bakery
      • Oliebollen: The name literally means ‘oil balls’ - but don’t let that put you off.  Essentially they are deep fried sweet dumplings (sometimes containing fruit pieces) and dusted in powdered sugar, and they’re so delicious that they only come out around New Year’s Eve, just before the January diet kicks in. 
      • Poffertjes: Served in restaurants and pancake houses, these fluffy battered baked goods are served hot and sprinkled with powdered sugar
      • Ontbijtkoek: This stodgy ginger 'breakfast cake' is served all day and is best served with a layer of butter
      • Tompouce: Cream-filled rectangular pastry characterised by a layer of smooth pink icing on top. Tompouce is strictly regulated to ensure consistency in size, shape and colour – although for the past few years the icing has turned bright orange in Amsterdam around King’s Day
         

      electricity

      Two round pin plug (types C and F)
      Power in the Netherlands comes out between 220 - 240V, higher than in Canada. For this reason you will need to pack travel adaptors and/or transmission convertors for your trip. 

      BELGIUM

      fast facts

      Capital: Brussels
      Language: Dutch & French
      Currency: Euros, 1 EUR: 1.55 CAD (as of June 2018)
      International dialling code: +32
      Emergency services: 112 for police, ambulance and fire
      Time zones: GMT +1


      passport & visa

      A valid passport is required for entry to Belgium. Passports must be valid for at least six months beyond your date of departure. A visa is not required for tourist visits of 90 days and less.
       

      CLIMATE IN JULY

      Daytime average: 25ºc with sunny warm days
      Overnight average: 15ºc
      Sunrise: 05:38         Sunset: 21:55       Sunshine hours: 16.5hrs


      GETTING AROUND

      Belgium's train and tram system... 

      Belgium has an excellent public transport network, which is accessible and efficient. One of its strengths is an integrated train, tram, metro and bus system, which makes connections easier between different transport types.

      Three regional operators manage the network: De Lijn (Flanders), TEC (Wallonia) and STIB (Brussels). For beach vacations, along the Belgian coast runs the world’s longest tram route, De Kusttram providing easy access to the entire coastline from the French and Dutch borders.

      The Brussels city public transport is run by STIB/MIVB

      The public transport system in Antwerp is managed by De Lijn and is based on trams and buses, with an underground tramline running through the city. Multiple-ride or season tickets can be bought at De Lijn booths (Lijnwinkels) in various locations, as well as in some newsstands, supermarkets and stations. Buying tickets in advance saves you about 20 percent and can even be bought via SMS, although single tickets can be bought from the driver if needed. Friday and Saturday trams run an hour later to coincide with the night bus timetable.

      Gent is served by De Lijn

      The dense train network in Belgium is state-owned and operated by SNCB/NMBS. tickets are not transferable and must be supported by showing the guard your ID. 

      waiting ranks, where you should go to take a cab. All taxis are metered and have different tariffs according to whether you are in the city centre or the outskirts. You can arrange a taxi or transfer by phone, or pay set fees for certain longer trips (such as to the airport). All information, including the driver number, should be clearly displayed inside the taxi. Tips are included in the meter price.

      Taxis should run on a meter only. It is best to establish if the meter is running before starting your journey and to check if there are any surcharges for where you are going or when you are travelling. You can always ask for a receipt at the end to apply some pressure. 

      Ride share apps including Lyft and Uber exist in Europe. As with all advancing technology new players are entering the market frequently so it is best to check with your hotel regarding the preferred one to use during your stay. 
       

      CULTURE & RELIGION

      the Flemish draw intensively from both the English-speaking culture (which dominates sciences, professional life and most news media) and the Netherlands, whereas French-speakers focus on cultural life in France and elsewhere in the French-speaking world, and less outside.

      neighboring states are France, Luxembourg, Germany, and the Netherlands. The two main rivers are the Schelde and the Meuse, both of which begin in France and flow toward the Netherlands. The German-speakingpopulation lives at the borders with Germany and Luxembourg. Belgium is one of the most urbanized and densely inhabited countries in the world with about 97 percent of the 10 million inhabitants living in cities in 2000. Brussels, the capital, has approximately 1 million residents, and the second city, Antwerp, has half a million. 

      33 percent of the inhabitants speak the old tongue of Walloon and a variant of Dutch, Flemish, is spoken by at least 60 percent. Within the three regions of Wallonia, Flanders, and Brussels-Capital, individual cultures flourish, each with their own traditions, folklore, gastronomy. cultural distinctions among and between FlandersWallonia, and the small German-speaking minority—institutionalized as formally empowered “communities.” Through educational initiatives, language promotion, and patronage of the arts, these communities see to it that regional cultures do not lose their distinctiveness. 

      In music, avant-garde tendencies have become influential in BrusselsLiègeGhent, and Antwerp

      many medieval old towns are a great source of pride. Even the famous Belgian craft beers have a cultural identity, especially those from the six Belgian Trappist monasteries which are permitted to brew strong ale.
       

      food & drink

      Good cooking and fine beers are seen by many as part of Belgian culture. One of the many beers with the high prestige is that of the Trappist monks. Technically, it is an ale and traditionally each abbey's beer is served in its own glass (the forms, heights and widths are different). There are only seven breweries (six of them are Belgian) that are allowed to brew Trappist beer.

      Although Belgian gastronomy is connected to French cuisine, some recipes were reputedly invented there as e.g. French-fried potatoes (despite the name), stoofkarbonnaden (or carbonade flamande in French, a beef stew with beer, mustard and bay laurel), speculaas (a sort of cinnamon and ginger-flavoured cookie), Brussels waffles (and their variant, Liege waffles), waterzooi (a broth made with chicken or fish, cream and vegetables), endive with bechamel sauce, Brussels sprouts, Belgian pralines (Belgium has some of the most renowned chocolate houses), charcuterie(deli meats) and Paling in 't groen (river eels in a sauce of green herbs).

      The country is known for moules frites (mussels served with french fries) as well as waffles, a popular snack item. Belgian chocolate is renowned around the world and may be considered a cultural institution. Chocolatiers such as Neuhaus, Godiva, and Leonidas, among others, are internationally acclaimed for their truffles and candies sold in small, distinctive cardboard boxes. 

      Beer is Belgium’s national beverage; the country has several hundred breweries and countless cafés where Belgians enjoy a great array of local brews, including the famed Trappist and lambic varieties. While the reputation of Belgian beer is often overshadowed by that of its larger neighbour, Germany, the brewing and consuming of beer within the country is a cultural institution in and of itself. Most beers have particular styles of glasses in which they are served, and a variety of seasonal brews are synonymous with various holidays and celebrations. It is also common for special brews to be created for occasions such as weddings, a tradition that is reported to have begun in the early 1900s, when nearly every village had a brewery.

       

      Fries:

      MusselsMoules-frites, in French, Mosselen-Friet, in Flemish, or mussels with fries, is a classic Belgian dish you can find at just about any café or brasserie in Brussels. It’s one of thefoods to eat in Belgium. The most common way mussels are served in Belgium is steamed in white wine, in big black mussel pots. In addition to wine, moules marinières also contain shallots, parsley, and butter. Other cooking methods include cream, beer, or even mustard sauce.

      Meatballs: are a Belgian favorite, on both sides of the language divide, and are usually a mixture of beef and pork. In Flanders, balletjes or “balls” are often served smothered in tomato sauce, or, sometimes, Frikadellen-style; fried in butter with Belgian cherry sauce. South of Brussels, boulets Liégeois are the rage. These meatballs are served with a rich sauce of beef stock, spices, and sirop de Liege, a fruit syrup a bit like molasses, made from apples and pears.

      Flemish Stew

      Grey Shrimp Croquettes

      Speculoos: While sometimes translated as “Gingerbread”, speculoos is a unique kind of biscuit. It goes back to the Belgian and Dutch tradition of celebrating Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) on December 5/6 (Netherlands/Belgium) but has become commercialized and can now be found in stores throughout the year. Often, when you order a coffee in a Belgian cafe, it’ll come with a little speculoos on the side. Try dipping it in

      Belgian Waffles

      Chocolate:

      Belgian Beer:  

       

      electricity

      Two round pin plug (type E)
      Power in Belgium comes out between 220 - 240V, higher than in Canada. For this reason you will need to pack travel adaptors and/or transmission convertors for your trip. 

      IRELAND & NORTHERN IRELAND

      fast facts

      Capitals: Dublin & Belfast
      Language: English & Irish
      Currency: Euro & Pound Sterling, 1 EUR: 1.55 CAD & 1 GBP: 1.76 CAD (as of June 2018)
      International dialling code: +353 & +44
      Emergency services: Dial 999 or 112 for police, ambulance and fire
      Time zones: GMT +1


      passport & visa

      A valid passport is required for entry to Ireland & Northern Ireland. Passports must be valid for at least six months beyond your date of departure. A visa is not required for tourist visits of 90 days and less.
       

      CLIMATE IN JULY

      Daytime average: 20ºc with warmer days inland and cooler days on the coast
      Overnight average: 14ºc
      Sunrise: 05:25         Sunset: 21:35       Sunshine hours: 16hrs
       

      GETTING AROUND

      Ireland's tram system, the Luas, operates in Dublin to help locals and tourists get around the city. There are two lines - red going east to west, and green going north to south. Single and return tickets can be purchased at all stops. Trams typically operate from  6am to midnight Monday to Friday,  7am to midnight on Saturdays and 7:30 to 23:30 on Sundays. It is best to check the timetable running at the time you are looking to travel. 

      Taxis should run on a meter only. It is best to establish if the meter is running before starting your journey and to check if there are any surcharges for where you are going or when you are travelling. You can always ask for a receipt at the end to apply some pressure. 

      Ride share apps including Lyft and Uber exist in Europe. As with all advancing technology new players are entering the market frequently so it is best to check with your hotel regarding the preferred one to use during your stay. 
       

      DRIVING

      • Driving in Ireland is on the left side of the road with overtaking on the right
      • Seat belts are mandatory when driving
      • You must carry photo identification, your drivers license and your International Driving Permit when driving in Ireland
      • Inner-city driving can be somewhat stressful and chaotic when you are unsure where you are going. Highway and country road driving is quite smooth
      • Your phone GPS will come in handy for direction if you choose to not add-on GPS with your rental car
      • Be careful not to speed while in Ireland as speed cameras and police will catch you without you even realising
      • It is custom to flash lights at slow drivers ahead of you in the passing lane, so feel free to do as the Irish do
      • The Irish rarely come to a complete stop at stop signs, rather a rolling stop to full speed ahead.
      • There is no official border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland so you will not know the exact moment you cross the border. You will however notice a large number of Union Jack flags, which will be the indicator 
      • Most toll roads in Ireland require you to stop and pay at a toll booth. Some will automatically capture your car's license plate and payment will be taken from your credit card after the fact
         

      CULTURE & RELIGION

      Ireland and Northern Ireland have a complicated past that can still be felt bubbling away under the surface today. The conflict between the two countries began in the late 1960's and ended the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. It was primarily a political low-level war with Unionists/Loyalists who were mostly Protestants fighting for Northern Ireland to remain in the UK. Nationalists/Republicans who were mainly Catholic wanted Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom to join the Republic of Ireland. Even though "The Troubles" were not religiously based they are often thought of that way due to the clear religious divides. Today the Peace Bridge in Derry and the Peace Wall in Belfast serve as legacies of The Troubles. 

      Folklore is strong in Ireland with stories told of giants, fairies and leprechauns. Gaelic and Celtic traditions can be found in Irish music and dancing. 

      Ireland's pub culture is strong with even the smallest village having a local pub for people to congregate over a pint. Pubs are typically open until 11:30pm Monday to Thursday, 12:30am on Fridays and Saturdays and 11pm on Sundays. As well as beers and spirits, most establishments serve pub fare and bistro food until around 9pm.
       

      food & drink

      • Full Irish Breakfast: Bacon, sausages, eggs, potatoes or potato bread, mushrooms, tomatoes, black and white pudding (pork meat, spices and pork blood in the black pudding
      • Irish Stew: Mutton chops, potatoes, onions, and water plus carrots, turnips and pearl barley in some varieties
      • Potatoes/Spuds: Fried, boiled, baked and more, the Irish potato comes with virtually every meal. Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake, Champ is  mashed potatoes with chopped spring onion, butter, milk and cheese, Colcannon is potatoes mashed with finely chopped cabbage and lots of cream
      • Smoked Salmon:  Salmon smoked in smokehouses with oak, beech or turf - typically served as an appetiser with bread
      • Soda Bread: A traditional, quick and easy bread made with sodium bicarbonate instead of yeast 
      • Afternoon Tea: A cup of tea, sandwiches with the crusts cut-off and scones with jam and cream
      • Guinness:  A dry, dark stout originating in the Arthur Guinness brewery at St James Gate in Dublin
      • Whiskey: Over 200 varieties including the famous Jameson and Bushmills
         

      electricity

      Three pin rectangular blade plug (type G)
      Power in Ireland and Northern Ireland comes out between 220 - 240V, higher than in Canada. For this reason you will need to pack travel adaptors and/or transmission convertors for your trip.