The Netherlands is open to tourists – but UK visitors face quarantine on their return

As it lifts lockdown, Amsterdam says it only wants ‘responsible’ visitors and could curb brothels and coffeeshops

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver
UK Editor
Amsterdam canal houses
Photograph: Shutterstock

If you’re pining for stroopwafel, apple pie or, y’know, just a cheeky dose of Dutch Golden Age painting, we bring good news: the Netherlands has officially reopened its borders to all European travellers, as well as a handful of countries outside the continent. Once you’re there, bars, restaurants, museums, cinemas and even music venues will be open.

The Netherlands is now welcoming visitors from EU and Schengen-travel-zone member countries, as well as ten other countries around the world: Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. 

British travellers are also being allowed in, but from tomorrow (August 15), they face a 14-day self-isolation period on their return to the UK. The Netherlands was one of six countries, including France and Malta, which were removed from the official ‘travel corridor’ list late last night due to rising numbers of cases.

All visitors to the Netherlands must show a valid reservation when they arrive, and the authorities say you could be turned away if you have no pre-booked accommodation. Visitors must keep 1.5 metres away from anyone they’re not staying with, and wear masks on public transport.

Many hotels, campsites and holiday parks are already welcoming visitors, while bars, restaurants, galleries and cinemas can also reopen as long as social-distancing requirements are met. Music venues can now open with distancing measures in place too. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, the country’s reopening has reignited debate over whether Amsterdam should do something to deter the millions of party tourists who flock to the city’s old town every year. More than 19 million people visited the Dutch capital alone last year.

The brothels of De Wallen, the city’s red light district, and cannabis-peddling coffeeshops throughout Amsterdam have lain pretty much empty for four months now, and in the wake of the ongoing world crisis, the local authorities are looking for ways to strike a better balance between residents and tourists in the city centre.

‘It painfully showed how few people actually live in the centre and how little it has to offer locals,’ Mascha ten Bruggencate, who chairs the council of Amsterdam’s central district, told Bloomberg. ‘We need to change that.’

Amsterdam&Partners, a non-profit working to improve life in the city, recently said they are looking at ‘how we can restart [tourism] in a more sustainable and responsible way’.

The city council has already banned tourist rentals – including via Airbnb – in the old city and part of the canal area from July 1. The capital will also introduce strict permits for the rest of the city. These will only be awarded if the property is not rented out for more than 30 days, is lived in most of the time, and is rented out to a maximum of four people. Fines could reach €21,000 (£19,000, $24,000 or A$34,000).

It comes after Femke Halsema, the city’s mayor, set out a plan in May to reduce its stag-party appeal and reclaim the centre for locals. Other measures suggested in a letter to the central-district council include buying property and limiting permits to ensure the old city offers more than just coffeeshops, souvenir emporiums and overpriced waffle stands.

The government is also planning to force brothels out of the historic old town and limit coffeeshops aimed squarely at tourists. There will no doubt be pushback from those who run these establishments, but given the country has been suffering from over-tourism for years now, the number of locals who stand to benefit from such curbs is far greater.

We can’t wait to roam the winding streets surrounding the Oude Kerk on a post-lockdown city break sometime (hopefully) soon. Fingers crossed they’re significantly less rowdy than before.

Remember, many countries are still warning against all non-essential travel and some are quarantining all overseas arrivals, including their own returning citizens. Check all the relevant restrictions before you think about travelling.

Where can you travel right now? Here’s what you need to know.

How safe is flying right now? We asked an expert.

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