Camping in The Netherlands

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The Netherlands is a low country next to the North Sea in the West of Europe. It is located next to Germany and Belgium, and is sometimes called "Holland" by foreigners. This article gives some directions for scouts troops who want to spend their holiday in The Netherlands.

Scouting in The Netherlands

Main article: Scouting in The Netherlands

Of the 16 million Dutchmen, over 100.000 people are connected to Scouting Nederland, the Dutch association for Scouting ánd Guiding. There is no distinguishing between Scouting and Guiding. When talking about "Scouting", both Scouting ánd Guiding are meant. In society, scouting is not very visible. When you spot a uniformed scout on the streets, it's another foreign scout most of the times.

Regions

You have decided to come to The Netherlands. Now it is time to choose which place to go. Below you can find some short descriptions of the various regions in this country. The Netherlands is divided in twelve provinces. Roughly these provinces can be divided into four regions:

  • The West - The dominant, urban region containing the most touristic attractions
  • The North - The least populated region, mostly unknown by tourists
  • The East - Historical cities and forests to explore
  • The South - Distinguishes itself mostly by culture

West

The western part is the most urbanised part, containing the four largest cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht), Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and the Rotterdam harbour. If you especially like to explore the cities, the west is the place to be.

Noord-Holland
Noord-Holland is probably the most important province for people who want to visit "typically Dutch" cities. Amsterdam, the capital of The Netherlands, can be found in this province. Furthermore you can find typical old villages like Enkhuizen, Hoorn and Alkmaar. The entire west coast has a beach, which makes it suitable for long "romantic" walks... Furthermore you can make a boat trip to Texel, one of the islands on the upper end of The Netherlands. The north of Noord-Holland is characterized by grasslands and small villages, which makes it suitable for biking.
Zuid-Holland
Zuid-Holland has the densest population of The Netherlands. Rotterdam is the largest city, and contains one of the world's largest harbours. The city The Hague, where the government resides, has a couple of touristic attractions, like Madurodam (The Netherlands in miniature). Leiden en Delft are historical cities with a large student population, and Kinderdijk (a UNESCO world heritage site) offers a lot of traditional windmills. For hikes, the region is less suitable. For biking the region is more interesting, for instance the region of Gorinchem and Schoonhoven.
Utrecht
Utrecht contains the historical city of Utrecht. In the surroundings of Baarn (one of the most known scouting residences) are nice forests for long walks.
Flevoland
Flevoland is the yongest province, created from the beginning of the 20th century. The place used to be sea. For tourists, the attaction Walibi World is probably the only reason to come here. On the terrain next to it, the 1995 World Jamboree was held. The monument on the terrain still reminds of this.

North

The northern part is the least populated region. The people over there are usually not wealthy, but very friendly. The region is suitable for biking. You can enjoy nature and visit the Waddeneilanden.

Friesland
Friesland contains to a large extent of water, and has many possibilities for watersports (especially sailing). This makes it especially suitable for water scouts. Furthermore, many people speak Frisian next to, or even instead of Dutch. The province merely consists of grassland and small villages. When it's freezing cold, Friesland is famous for its "Elfstedentocht", a skating tour through the entire province.
Groningen
Groningen is, except its capital city, not very used to tourists. The city of Groningen (yes, the same name as the province) is very suitable to spend a day. The rest of the province is suitable for biking or hiking (i.e. the "Pieterpad"). Visit for instance the nature reservation "Lauwersmeer". The recent creation of the lake "Oldambtmeer", and its connection to the harbour of Delfzijl has made the province more suitable for water recreation.
Drenthe
Drenthe contains more forests than Friesland and Groningen, and you can find remains of "hunebedden"; large rocks, placed in a certain way by an ancient culture. Furthermore, Drenthe contains the largest zoo of the Netherlands, in Emmen.

East

The east of The Netherlands is recognised by its forests, and its historical cities.

Overijssel
Overijssel contains two national parks: the Weerribben and the Sallandse Heuvelrug. Scouts can - among others - reside on scout center Ada's Hoeve in Ommen (a village near Zwolle).
Gelderland
The Veluwe is a ridge of low sandhills, where you can hike and spend some time. Furthermore, you can find the National Park "de Hoge Veluwe". Old cities you can find in this region too, like Zutphen (with a well preserved inner city) and Nijmegen (a former Roman city).

South

All provinces in the south are divided from the rest of the country, by three (relatively) large rivers. These rivers act as a natural barrier between historical kingdoms in the old days, resulting in a cultural barrier also.

Noord-Brabant
Noord-Brabant has historical cities like Breda, Tilburg and 's Hertogenbosch. The "Efteling" is the largest attraction park of the Netherlands. Hiking can be done for instance in the "Loonse en Drunense duinen", a national park consisting to a large extent of forest and sand. When hiking in the south of this province, it is worthwile to cross the border with Belgium.
Limburg
Limburg is the only province in The Netherlands with real mountains. At least... in the eyes of the Dutch. The entire province is suitable for hikes and biking. Furthermore, you can explore the province by mountainbike, or do some sightseeing in the Mines (Mergelgrotten). Sometimes these two can even be combined, called "grotbiken"! Visiting the inner city of Maastricht is also worthwhile.
Zeeland
Zeeland consists of a couple of (former) island and a coastal area next to Belgium.

Travel around

Using public transport

The Netherlands have quite a reliable system of public transport, and travelling with it is usually safe. It is more dense in the west than in the rest of the country. Especially from about 6 PM and in the weekends, some areas are very hard to reach. There is a railway service during the entire night which connects some of the largest cities.

For longer distances, train services are preferable compared to other types of public transport. One exception is the "interliner", a special bus which travels between railwaystations on trajectories where no train is going. Children up to 11 years can get a discount ticket. For groups of people there aren't special discount offers. During summer, there are a few alternatives possible, like the "NS Jongerentour" or the "NS Zomertour". It offers you three days of travelling throughout The Netherlands for a fixed price, within a period of 10 days. Travellers who want to see more countries in Europe can also buy interrail tickets for a fixed price, which give access to the railways of several European countries.

Besides train, tram, metro and bus there can also be travelled using a speedy water bus, like the one from Dordrecht to Rotterdam, or from Amsterdam to IJmuiden.

By car

Outside rush hours (weekdays 7-10 and 16-19) the entire country is very reachable by car. It may be an option to rent one, for example at Multirent (serving Noord- and Zuid-Holland), and Budget Rent-a-Car (serving some other parts of the country as well). Taking a cab is a bad idea, because of the prices and sometimes the bad temper of the driver. The "treintaxi" (train-cab) is a positive exception: it brings you to and from the railwaystation for a fixed price, with the disadvantage that the distance it drives is limited to a certain area around the railwaystation, and you have to order the cab at least 30 minutes before departure.

By bike

The Netherlands is especially suitable for bike trips. It has long lanes (usually next to the highways) for travelling long distances within a short time, and alternative routes for the recreative biker. Nice routes for bikers you can find throughout the country, depending on the type of countryside you want to cycle through, or the type of hike you want to use the bike route for. Forests you can find mostly in the middle and the east of the Netherlands. Dikes and wide grasslands you can find in the north and the south west, hills you can find in the southeast of the country.

By foot

There are over ten long distance walking routes in The Netherlands. The most famous trajectory is the Pieterpad which connects the village of Pieterburen in the north with the Sint Pietersberg, a hill near Maastricht. In fact, the route can be continued up to the Sint Pieter, a church in Rome. Another well known route is the Graaf Floris Pad in the west of the country, which leads along beautiful and quiet villages.

Where to stay and sleep

Scouting terrains

Scouting Nederland, the national scouting and guiding association, has several terrains, the so called "labelterreinen". On these terrains, more than one and often also large groups can set up their camp. Non-scouts are usually also welcomed, but pay more for their stay. There are over 20 of these "labelterreinen" in The Netherlands. Some of these are on hiking distance of each other, which makes it possible to arrange a hike between locations.

Between the different terrains, there can be differences on rules and possibilities. Some allow open fire, others don't. There can also be rules on noise limits, the use of water, etcetera. At some terrains, you can rent poles for woodcraft, or a small scout shop is present. Be sure to place your reservations early in the year: Labelterreinen are usually very popular and therefore quickly full.

Apart from these official terrains, there are also many scout troups who rent out their troop house, terrain or ship (in case of water scouts). Some of these groups only do this during summer, others rent their troop house out during the entire year. In the latter case, the troop which rents the place, has usually to make sure they are not present during the hours that the troop which owns the place is present in the troop house. There are no national lists of groups who rent out their troup house. It is probably the best to contact troops yourself, who reside in the area you want to visit.

Furthermore, Scouting Nederland has a list with possible locations, the so-called "accomodatiegids" ("guide of accomodations", called guide because it used to be a guide on paper, in the old days). In this guide, you can find many locations which are often not scouting related, but open for scouts. Keep in mind that the list may not always be "up-to-date".

International camps

Do you want to camp in The Netherlands, but you don't have too much time to arrange all kind of activities? Join a national camp! National camps where foreign scouts are welcome too, are the Nationale Jamboree (mainly landscouts) and the Nawaka (mainly sea scouts). Both events are held in summer, usually around the end of july and the beginning of august.

Backcountry camping

Backcountry camping, placing your tent anywhere on a nice spot in a forest, is strictly forbidden.

Campgrounds

The Netherlands have many campgrounds. In case you want to stay on these places, always inform whether there are special requirements. For instance, some campgrounds do not accept youth travelling alone. Open fire is almost never accepted.

Climate

During winter, it is usually between 0 and 10 degrees Celcius, although sometimes it may suddenly become lower (-5). In summer, it is usually between 15 and 25 degrees Celcius. Some days it suddenly may increase up to 35. Make sure to take a nice warm sleeping bag during winter time, and bring a hat and sunscreen during summer.

Buy

There are several national supermarkt chains. Cooking staff buying ingredients for a camp, you will mostly find in the cheaper stores like Lidl, Aldi, Bas van der Heijden and Dirk van den Broek. The more expensive chains are among others Super de Boer and Albert Heijn. Ecological food or other specific health food you can usually find in specialised stores in the city center, but especially the larger Albert Heijn supermarkets usually have a lot of this stuff also. When camping in the countryside, you may try local farmers for your meat, dairy and some vegetables. They often have a sign near the street to indicate they sell something.

Scout stuff you can buy in the "ScoutShop".

Health

After a longer period of warm weather, the risk on cyanobacteria in the water is increased. They grow particularly in still waters, with as a result that many recreational lakes are no longer suitable for swimming. Other unpleasant animals can be met in the North Sea: it is stuffed with jellyfish. Whoever camps in forest areas, should take care of ticks.

Special days

Apart from regular christian holidays, there are three special days in The Netherlands to keep in mind.

  • 30 april (Queen's day): Holiday for the Dutch royal family. Throughout the country there are various festivities, and shops may sometimes have altered closing times. If you want to blend in, wear something orange.
  • 4 mei (Remembrance of the Dead): On this day, all civilians and members of the armed forces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands are commemorated who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the outbreak of World War II. During the evening, processions are held, and people lay down flowers at monuments. At 8 PM, the entire country is supposed to be quiet for two minutes.
  • 5 mei (Liberation day): This day the end of WW2 is celebrated. It is supposed to be a holiday every five years, but in practice the other four years there are parties too, for example (free) pop festivals in some larger cities.

Sources and references

Sources and references: