Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy The Hague does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED THE HAGUE AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Netherlands-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Tourists and visitors are most commonly victimized in petty, non-violent street crimes of opportunity (pickpocketing, theft, break-ins to unattended vehicles targeting electronic items). Travelers are often targets of pickpockets and thieves who typically operate individually. The theft of electronic devices and valuables occurs most commonly at Schiphol airport, on trams/trains, and in transit stations in/around Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague, particularly at night. In Amsterdam, thieves are very active in/around Centraal Station; Amsterdam Zuid station; tram stops near the red light district, restaurants, and hotels; and on trams between Centraal Station and the museum district. A common tactic involves pickpockets timing thefts to coincide with train/tram stops, so they can exit the scene quickly.
For residents, burglaries remained a concern, especially during the winter in affluent areas (Wassenaar, Amstelveen). Police report that many of these crimes involve surveillance of a targeted residence with entry made when the residence is unoccupied, sometimes through second floor windows/balconies. Small, easy-to-carry valuables are the primary target.
Parked vehicles have also been targeted, especially when valuables are left in plain view.
Although rare, violent crime does happen, mainly in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The U.S. Embassy is unaware of U.S. citizens or U.S. commercial entities being specifically targeted for violent criminal activity.
In 2016, the Dutch National Police reported 108 murders compared to 115 in 2015.
The Netherlands is home to the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), the second busiest Internet Exchange in the world, where the networks of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia meet to exchange Internet traffic. International customers/organizations utilize the reliable, high bandwidth services of web hosting providers. As a result, malicious cyberactors use the critical cyber infrastructure for criminal activities.
In an effort to combat the cyberthreat, the European Commission designated EUROPOL as the European Cyber Crime Center (EC3), which commenced activities in 2013. The EC3 serves as the European information hub on cybercrime, developing digital forensic capabilities to support investigations in the EU and building capacity to combat cybercrime through training, raising awareness, and delivering best practices for investigations. In addition, the EC3 has built a community of experts from all sectors of society to combat and prevent cybercrime and online child sexual abuse.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Travel in, around, and between cities is possible via a highly developed national public transportation system, an extensive system of bike paths, and by automobile/motorcycle on a modern highway system. Intercity travel by road is relatively safe in comparison to some other European countries, and travel between countries is comparable to the rest of Western Europe and the U.S.
A valid driver’s license issued by a U.S. DMV is valid for use in the Netherlands for up to 180 days while in tourist/visitor status. Everyone must use seat belts or child seats. Driving is on the right side of the road. Drivers must yield the right-of-way to drivers/bicyclists coming from the right at intersections/traffic circles, unless otherwise posted. Motorists should be especially mindful that bicyclists have the right-of-way. The maximum allowable blood-alcohol content is 0.05%. Use of cellular telephones without the use of a hands-free device while driving is prohibited and is punishable by steep fines.
Speed limits are strictly enforced via radar and through a countrywide network of traffic cameras/radar units. Speeding tickets for traveling even 2-5 km/hour over the limit are common.
- The maximum speed limit on highways is 130km/hour, with a highway speed limit of 100km/hour posted in most urban areas.
- Secondary roads and some urban-area highways have a speed limit of 80km/hour.
- The speed limit in towns and cities is either 70km/hour or 50km/hour, with 30km/hour zones in smaller residential areas.
- The Government has reduced speed limits on certain roads near cities to reduce air pollution.
Speed limit signs are electronic; therefore, speed limits may be changed remotely by authorities depending on traffic conditions.
Bicyclists are strongly encouraged to wear helmets. Helmets are mandatory for motorcyclists and individuals operating scooters larger than 50cc.
Public Transportation Conditions
Public transportation is modern, safe, and convenient. Lanes in the center of many urban two-way streets are reserved for buses, trams, and taxis. Pedestrians should be mindful of trams. Serious – and sometimes fatal – accidents involving pedestrians or bicyclists colliding with trams occur each year.
Rail is often a convenient alternative to driving, particularly in the areas around Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotterdam. Rail network information is available online.
Other Travel Conditions
Pedestrians should not walk along bicycle paths, which are often adjacent to the sidewalk and usually designated by red pavement. Bicyclists and pedestrians should be particularly cautious during the winter, when paths, roads, and especially bridges can be icy and extremely slippery. Accidents involving bicyclists and vehicles, or bicycles alone, are common and can result in serious injury.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED THE HAGUE AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
The Netherlands continued to respond effectively in 2016 to the evolving threat of global terrorism from ISIS, al-Qa’ida, and returning foreign terrorist fighters, focusing on transportation security, terrorist financing, countering violent extremism, prosecution of terrorist-related offenses, and bilateral counterterrorism cooperation. Cooperation with U.S. law enforcement remained excellent. Resilience by the citizen population continues to be high.
Credible information indicates terrorist groups and affiliates continue to plot attacks in Western Europe, as foreign fighters return home from Syria/Iraq, while other individuals may be radicalized or inspired by ISIS propaganda. In 2016, extremists carried out attacks in France, Belgium, Germany, and Turkey in which ISIS focused on soft targets where large crowds gather.
In February 2013, the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV) increased the national threat level from “limited” (meaning a chance of an attack in the Netherlands or against Dutch interests was relatively small but could not be ruled out entirely) to “substantial” (indicating a realistic possibility that an attack could occur). In 2016, there were no recorded terrorist attacks; however, Dutch National Police arrested at least five individuals with suspected ties to terrorist organizations. Since 2012, the NCTV has reported more than 270 individuals have traveled to conflict zones in the Middle East and North Africa, most notably Syria, to join terrorist organizations. The NCTV believes there is a possibility/risk that some will return highly radicalized, traumatized, or eager to commit violent acts. Police and security services have taken a number of proactive measures in response.
Domestic lone wolves (homegrown violent extremists) continue to be a concern, as they often do not travel to conflict zones and are the radar of Dutch security services.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED THE HAGUE AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Civil demonstrations, which range from small groups to thousands of participants, are common and are often directed at the government, focusing on matters involving foreign relations, domestic policy, or economic developments. This is particularly true with protests held in The Hague, the political center of the Netherlands. By law, prior notification is required for public demonstrations. A police presence is provided to communicate with the participants, ensuring adequate security for them and the general public. In 2016, protests were generally peaceful and concluded without incident. Reports of violence are rare.
Situations may develop that could pose a threat to public safety. U.S. citizens should be mindful that protests intended to be peaceful can become confrontational and violent without notice. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid areas of demonstrations and to exercise caution.
Although demonstrations may occur anywhere, in The Hague most protests are held at the Malieveld, a field adjacent to Central Station, and less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy. Typical demonstration points include embassies (including the U.S. Embassy), Parliament, Foreign Ministry, and the Peace Palace. Protests in Amsterdam are common at the Museumplein – where the U.S. Consulate General is located – and Dam Square.
In 2016, the Netherlands received 31,600 refugees, predominantly from the Middle East. The country received 59,100 refugees in 2015. Although there are no reported widespread or systemic abuses, the most significant human rights problems were societal animosity and discrimination against certain ethnic/religious minority groups, particularly Muslim immigrants from North Africa, Turkey, and the Middle East.
- In October 2016, five men were convicted of attempted arson (a terrorist act); they threw Molotov cocktails at a mosque in Enschede.
- In some towns, local populations have protested outside of refugee centers, which in one instance led to a mob storming the center while throwing fireworks.
- In 2016, the Netherlands saw at least 16 cases of crimes directed toward mosques.
U.S. citizens have died or been injured while using marijuana, hashish, and other soft drugs. Marijuana is a controlled substance, and possession is a misdemeanor that can result in a fine. The use of illegal soft drugs has been tolerated when bought in small quantities for personal consumption at licensed coffee shops.
Coffee shops are a haven for petty criminals who prey on individuals under the influence of drugs. Persons who visit coffee shops have become victims of pickpocketing, identity theft, sexual assault, and other crimes. Visitors are warned that marijuana may contain higher levels of THC than what is common in the U.S., often exacerbating the drug’s effects and a user’s impairment. Additionally, coffee shops and other locations are known to sell other illegal, hard drugs (psychotropic mushrooms). Visitors are cautioned against using drugs and should pay particular attention to the use of GHB and Rohypnol (date rape drugs) that can be added to or mixed with beverages and renders the victim vulnerable.
Street drug sales of cocaine and MDMA (ecstasy) are common in Amsterdam, and dealers will approach tourists. Heroin is also available but less common. Many street dealers also sell counterfeit drugs that can be harmful. Amsterdam police have reported an increase in white heroin being sold as cocaine. This has resulted in deaths and medical emergencies.
In 2016, the Dutch National Police reported at least three murders related to drug activities.
Police response and capabilities are comparable to other Western European countries. Professionalism and competence are high, and corruption and tolerance of corruption are low.
Smaller police stations are closed during evening hours. The police strive to arrive on the scene of an emergency within 15 minutes for at least 90% of calls. In the first half of 2015, they succeeded in 86% of cases, the same response rate as in the first half of 2014. Generally, Dutch police will not respond to traffic accidents unless injuries or a crime has been reported.
Crime Victim Assistance
The emergency telephone number is 112 and can be used for all emergencies. Operators speak English. The telephone number for non-emergencies or police assistance is 0900-8844.
Police forces offer special assistance and support to victims of crime. A police report can be filed at any police station and will be written in Dutch. In most cases, police request that reports be filed on-line.
American citizens who are arrested/detained by the police or who are victims of crime, may seek assistance from the American Citizens Services (ACS) unit of the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam, which provides all consular services throughout the Netherlands. If you need to contact the Consulate about any emergency involving a U.S. citizen, please call: +31(0)20 575 5309 between 0800-1630 hours. Outside of business hours, please call the Embassy duty officer at: +31 (0)70-310 2209. These numbers are NOT for regular services or visa inquiries.
Modern medical services and facilities are widely available. The national emergency number is 112. If the situation warrants, seek assistance from a hospital. Hospitals are staffed and equipped to deal with emergency situations.
The national poison hotline is +31 (0)30-274-8888.
For non-emergency medical assistance, visitors are obliged to consult a general practitioner (huisarts) before attempting to obtain non-emergency medical treatment from a specialist. Medical specialists will generally only see patients who have been referred to them by a huisarts. If staying in a hotel, contact the reception desk, and they will direct you to the doctor assigned to that hotel. If staying with a friends/family, contact their huisarts. The huisarts phone numbers for Amsterdam is +31 (0)88-003-0600, and for Rotterdam is +31 (0)90-513-8039.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
The Netherlands Association of Hospitals has compiled a list of all Dutch hospitals on their website.
The U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam maintains a list of medical professionals who can assist U.S. citizens in finding a doctor or hospital.
The Hague area has its own after-hours medical service (SMASH) that is available for non-emergency medical situations. A SMASH medical appointment can be made at: +31 (0)70-346-9669.
The Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has its own 24-hour medical services office at: +31 (0)20-649-2566. This service center is located on the upper floor near check-in counter 16 of Terminal 2.
U.S. citizens are strongly urged to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses. U.S. citizens who have purchased overseas medical insurance have found it to be essential when a medical emergency occurs. Emergency services (including transportation by ambulance) are not free, and patients will be billed for any services rendered.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for the Netherlands.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Netherlands Country Council currently meets several times a year and has approximately 100 members. Please contact OSAC’s Europe team with any questions or to join.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
Lange Voorhout 102, The Hague
Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri 0830-1700 pm, excluding U.S. and Dutch national holidays.
The Embassy is scheduled to relocate in mid-2017 to:
John Adams Park 1
2244 BZ Wassenaar, NL
Embassy Contact Numbers
If calling from outside of the Netherlands, please omit the “0” after the +31 country code.
The Hague and Amsterdam are +6 hours EST.
Switchboard: +31 (0)70-310-2209
Consulate General Amsterdam: https://nl.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/amsterdam/
All citizenship, American Citizen Services, and visa services are handled by Consulate General Amsterdam.
The Department of State encourages U.S. citizens living overseas or planning to travel abroad to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which can help provide you with important safety and security information. Enrolling will also make it easier for the Embassy to contact you in the event of an emergency.
The Netherlands Country Information Sheet