I went to Holland twice and there is a small list of typical (tourist) things I didn’t do.
I haven’t visited the red light district because it doesn’t cause me any curiosity, even for mere general knowledge.
I have not smoked marijuana or any other thing because I have never been able to smoke at all, not even sigarettes (but I’m trying to get started because it looks very cool, if you have suggestions on how start smoking you are welcome).
Some might think I’m a looser or I’m not curious enought but actually I can tell you that I was very busy in trying my favorite Dutch experience: cycling.
Seriously, some of the things done in the Netherlands are among the best I’ve done while traveling. First of all, renting a bike and travelling over long distances.
Let me speak in detail of this experience and this choice.
How to rent a bike in the Netherlands?
In a country where everyone, even pets, go on bicycle and those who travel by car tend to be very respectful to those who choose this means of locomotion, in a country with a billiothousands kilometers of bike paths, you don’t need my wise insight to understand that it’s a good idea to rent a bicycle in the Netherlands.
There are several options to choose and ways to do that.
- Looking on line by googling “bike rental in the Netherlands”. Yes, needless to say there is an exorbitant amount of sites dedicated to the rental of bicycles and cycling routes throughout the country.
For example, through Bimbibikes you can also choose the model and reserve it for a given day at a given time, paying in advance online.
- Or wait to be there, on site, which I really suggest you to do. In fact, the bike rental centers are everywhere, from big cities to small villages.
For example, in Amsterdam you can opt for Bike City, in the Jordan neighborhood, that I recommend to people used to get around by bicycle no matter where and to those who are used to traveling in general.
Why? Because the models they rent are the most used in Holland, i.e very light bikes, holding back from the pedals.
Practically you’ll blend in with the natives, which has no contraindications if you learn quickly and don’t put passersby and motorists in the state of mild anxiety and alert you only feel when you see a stranger, “trying to do it like a local”.
I rented a local model and the at beginning (for 15 minutes) using pedals to stop was for me a little problem.
In the countryside I was calm because, unless a duck crossed the road, what actually happened quite often, I had time to reflect and pedal backwards (something that might slow down or stop the bike, depending the intensity of the reverse pedaling).
But in the city … I rammed another cyclist. Who was fortunately one of my fellow travelers, all well aware of how clumsy I am.
Then there is MacBike Amsterdam, near the central station, with distinctive red bikes that will make it clear to everyone that you are a tourist, so it is like having the sign of the newly licensed on the back of the car.
Similar to this line, Orangebike also provides you with a special App that I’ll speak to step #3.
- Choose and book an accommodation that also rents bicycles. Nothing is more common: there are hostels, campgrounds, even city center hotels that offer this service. When you’re there you can decide whether or not to use it.
Now that you have your bike, how to enjoy this experience at best?
#1 – Make guided tours in the city and in the countryside
When you rent the vehicle, ask if the bike provider also organizes any kind of guided tours.
This is a way to find new routes, take advantage of the experience of the bike.
Mike’s Bike Tours for example, provides daily rentals and guided tours in the city and in the countryside. The experience of going from the city, whatever it may be, to the villages and small rural districts, as far as the areas of crops and livestock, is unmatched.
I must say that, at least based on my personal stamina (and I remind you that I’m all but a sport addicted), Dutch bikes are really light and is like they were designed not to strain. After 10 hours around and about 40 km of riding I was so fine that I would have started all over again.
2# Find a map of the bicycle paths
Not only Amsterdam but any Dutch city has a network of bike paths linking the main points of interest. It will not be difficult to find one of them, wherever you go, from hotels to pubs and the tourist information offices (for free) or in libraries (to buy).
#3 Download Apps
What stated in paragraph # 2 can also be done with the appropriate App. The two cheapest I’ve found are Orangebike (available in English, Dutch and German), free, with maps of cycling routes in the Netherlands and places to rent Orangebikes.
The other is Amsterdam Cycling map, 1.99 euros. Very complete, not only to find and reach the points of attraction but also to the most useful services, from supermarkets to the emergency room.
The only flaw, not least, I believe that these maps can’t be used offline.
#4 – Find a countryside accomodation
If you decide that, in your trip to the Netherlands, the beauty and freedom of two wheels will be the most important part, I advise you not to stay in the city or at least not in the city center.
In my opinion the ideal condition is to rent a B & B in the countryside 4-5 kms from the city, to be reached by bike every morning. The travel experience is unique if done in this way. I remember that I loved watching the animals, greeting people (sometimes I greeted animals and stared at the people), look inside the homes still without tents by windows, enjoying the landscape.
#5 Cycling for cycling sake
If you really love to ride, if you’re an hard cyclist, if you love the movement, you should consider the hypothesis of basing your whole trip on the idea to make it by bike.
Let me explain: instead of starting with the idea of seeing Amsterdam and, since it is cute, renting a bike, plan your trip with the idea of traveling to the Netherlands on two wheels. All the imaginary and route comes out happily overturned. And the experience will be different.
For example you can think of a route along the coast, with several stages over several days. Of course, everything must be reconsidered, primarily baggage, but it’s certainly an alternative way to live a travel experience. You can make it anywhere, of course, but cycling in the Netherlands is something else, something more.
The Dutch coastal route links the national cycle routes designated as LF1, from Sluis (Zeeland) to Den Helder (North Holland) and LF 10, starting in Callantsoog (North Holland) coming up to Nieuweschans (Groningen).
#7 – Go to Scheveningen
Ok, I know, no need to rent a bike to go to Scheveningen (is pronounced even worse than how it’s written), but there are several coastal routes that pass through here. They say this is the most appreciated Dutch sea village.
I remember the huge beach and pickup trucks selling bread filled with raw herring, local specialties. The first time I regret to be vegetarian, sincerely.
Holland by bike, its local countrysides in the early morning or at dusk, have not been for me a matter of mere transportation. It was a sense of freedom.
I’m not saying it in order to close this post in an unnecessarily epic mood , but I’m sincere as usual when I say that, as I pedaled, the sun going down, there was only one thing I could think of. And it was “thank you”.