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Worldworx Travel> Safety> Europe> Netherlands

Safety Travel Safety: Europe: Netherlands

Netherlands: Kingdom of the Netherlands
Capital: Amsterdam; The Hague is the seat of government
Population: 16,067,754
Currency: euro (EUR)
Languages: Dutch
Religions: Roman Catholic 31%, Protestant 21%, Muslim 4.4%, other 3.6%, unaffiliated 40% (1998)
Borders: Belgium 450 km, Germany 577 km

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
The Netherlands is a highly developed, stable democracy.

SECURITY AND SAFETY ^
On July 9, 2004, the Dutch government implemented heightened security measures in response to concerns of international Islamic extremist terrorist activity on Dutch soil. U.S. citizens in the Netherlands are encouraged to monitor media reports, and are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. Like other countries in the Schengen area, the Netherland's open borders with its European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity.

Demonstrations are commonplace in the Netherlands and may range in number from a few people to several thousand. Prior police approval is required for public demonstrations, and police oversight is routinely provided. Nonetheless, situations may develop which could pose a threat to public safety. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid areas in which public demonstrations are taking place.

CRIME ^
While the rate of violent crime in the Netherlands is low, tourists are targeted, usually in conjunction with robbery attempts. Local press recently reported that almost one out of every 10 tourists visiting Amsterdam is the victim of a crime. Visitors to larger cities frequently fall prey to pickpockets, bag snatchers and other petty thieves. Never leave baggage or other valuables unattended.

While thieves may operate anywhere, the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam receives frequent reports of thefts from specific areas. Within Amsterdam, thieves are very active in and around train and tram stations, the city center and public transport. More specifically, the train from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Central Station is considered to be high risk. Thieves often work here in pairs; one distracts the victim, often by asking for directions, while the accomplice moves in on the victim's momentarily unguarded handbag, backpack, laptop or briefcase. The timing of these thefts usually coincides with train stops, enabling the thieves to escape.

Confidence artists have victimized a number of Americans. Typically, a U.S. citizen is contacted in the United States by email and advised of an inheritance, being a lottery winner, or other offer, often originating in Africa, requiring his/her assistance and cooperation to conclude. The American is asked to forward advance payments for alleged "official expenses' and to come to Amsterdam to conclude the operation. Several Americans have lost tens of thousands of dollars in such scams. For additional information, please contact the nearest office of the U.S. Secret Service or visit that agency's web site at http://www.secretservice.gov/alert419.shtml. Travelers may also contact the Fraud Unit, Amsterdam Police, Police Headquarters, PB 2287, 1000 CG Amsterdam, Netherlands, tel. (31) (20) 559-2380, fax (31) (20) 559-5755.

VICTIMS OF CRIME ^
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund (CICF) of the Netherlands provides financial compensation, under specific circumstances, for victims of crime and for those who have suffered injuries and consequent loss caused by such incidents. The fund also provides for dependents or immediate family members of homicide victims. Violent crimes include assault, robbery with violence or murder, intended murder, rape, sexual abuse and unlawful deprivation of liberty. For more information, contact the Dutch Ministry of Justice at (31) (70) 414-2000.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES ^
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Dutch laws, even unknowingly, can be arrested and imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Netherlands are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Good medical facilities are widely available.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS ^
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Netherlands is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

Safety of Public Transportation: Excellent
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Excellent

Travel in, around and between cities is possible via a highly advanced national train, light rail and tram network, by use of an extensive system of bike paths, and by automobile and motorcycle using the highway system. Rail is often a convenient alternative to driving, particularly in the areas around Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam, where road congestion is frequent. Rail network information is available at http://www.ns.nl.

Intercity travel by road is relatively safe in comparison with some other European countries. Nonetheless, more than 1,000 people die and another 10,000 are injured in traffic accidents in the Netherlands each year. More than two thirds of the fatal accidents occur outside urban areas.

Seat belt and child seat use is compulsory. Driving is on the right side of the road. The maximum speed limit on highways is 120 km/h, with a highway speed limit of 100 km/h posted in most urban areas. Secondary roads have a speed limit of 80 km/h. The speed limit in towns and cities is 50 km/h, with 30 km/h posted in residential areas. Drivers must yield the right-of-way to drivers from the right at intersections or traffic circles, unless otherwise posted. The maximum allowable blood alcohol level in the Netherlands is 0.5 percent. The use of cellular telephones while driving is illegal without the use of a �hands-free� device.

Lanes at the center of many urban two-way streets are reserved for buses, trams and taxis. In cities, pedestrians should be mindful of trams, which often cross or share bicycle and pedestrian paths. Motorists must be especially mindful of the priority rights of bicyclists. Pedestrians should not walk along bicycle paths, which are often on the sidewalk and usually designated by red pavement.

Taxi service in the Netherlands is safe but expensive. Trams and buses are both convenient and economical, but often frequented by pickpockets.

For specific information concerning the Netherlands, see the Netherlands Bureau for Tourism's Internet web site at http://www.goholland.com. Information also is available from the Netherlands Ministry of Transportation, Public Works and Water Management (Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstraat) at http://www.minvenw.nl.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the Netherlands' civil aviation authority as Category One -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of the Netherlands' air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation by telephone at 1 (800) 322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD by telephone at (618) 229-4801.

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Please also refer to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

October 4, 2004

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