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North Holland is one of the 12 provinces in the Netherlands and has about 2.5 million inhabitants, of which about one third lives in the capital of the country, Amsterdam. The capital of North Holland on the other hand is Haarlem. The province was founded in 1840 after the bigger province of Holland was split into a southern and northern part, the other part being of course South Holland. Like its souther counterpart, it has a well developed economy, especially in the southern areas of the provinces where the main cities are located and one of the two Dutch mainports, Schiphol international airport, provides numerous jobs throughout the country.
North Holland is in the northwestern part of the Netherlands and apart from the central southern areas is totally surrounded by water, either by the North Sea or by the IJssel Lake which used to be the Zuidersea, but now is a lake after the Afsluitdijk was created to prevent areas from flooding. Along the total coastline of the Northsea are good beaches and one of the highest dune areas of the country. One of the Wadden Islands, Texel is part of the province and can be reached by boat from Den Helder. North Holland is one of the lower parts of the country and has numerous (small) rivers, polders, lakes and wide panoramic views over the flat countryside, especially in the northern half.
In 2013, the Dutch throne was passed on to King Willem-Alexander and what used to be Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) will from 2014 become Koningsdag (King's Day). The date will be changed to the 27th of April, which is the king's birthday. In 2014 however it will be on the 26th of April because the 27th falls on a Sunday. On this day the streets of almost every sizable town in the country come alive with activity. The centre of the action is in Amsterdam, but, if you prefer things a little less crowded, Utrecht is also a popular destination. Both cities have canals and it's just perfect to watch a boat parade with music while you are drinking a beer along the canal side terrace. There are also large outdoor concerts throughout the country, though the one in Amsterdam is the most popular. Several cities have night-markets which actually start the night prior to Koningsdag and last for about 24 hours.
Apart from the area around Amsterdam, the weather is a bit cooler in summer and slightly milder in winter compared to inland parts of the Netherlands. Along the coast in the northern parts and on the island of Texel temperatures rarely exceed 30 degrees Celcius. In winter on the other hand, freezing temperatures, especially during the day, are also not very common.
Most visitors of the Netherlands will arrive on the Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport, (external link: Schiphol), which has direct flights to almost every continent in the world. KLM is the national carrier, but numerous airlines use Schiphol as a hub and also some budget airlines like Easyjet provide cheap flights to neighbouring countries and beyond in Europe.
You can reach North Holland from neighbouring provinces on the highways A4 (from South Holland), A2 and A1 (from Utrecht), A7 (from Friesland) and from Flevoland along the Houtribdijk from Lelystad to Enkhuizen on the peninsula of North Holland.
Getting to North Holland by boat is relatively simple from the North East of England. With regular ferries to Rotterdam (South Holland) from Hull and a daily ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam, getting to this part of the Netherlands is inexpensive and easy.
Internet cafés are not as widespread as you would expect, but you can easily find one in the popular cities. Most hostels, hotels and camp sites have several computers, so you can keep connected with folk at home. Here is a list of internet cafés that could come in handy for travellers. Otherwise, most libraries have lots of computers and prices are around the €2-3 per hour range, although sometimes it can be even more expensive.
Wireless internet access using wifi is becoming more popular and is usually available at most hotels and increasingly at train stations. Also in trains (at least in most first class wagons, but also more and more in second class) and some buses you can use wifi. Finally, places like McDonald's and Starbucks have free wifi, and smaller individual business like cafés and restaurants are on the rise too offering these services. More often than not, these service tend to be free of charge, though there might be a limited time you can use the internet.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The country code for the Netherlands is 31. The outbound international prefix is 00. The general emergency number is 112, like many other countries.
0800 numbers are toll-free and for 09xx numbers are charged at premium rates. Mobile phones have numbers in the 06 range, and calls to cell phones are also priced at higher rates.
From internet cafés, it is also usually possible to make long distance international calls. Like in other countries, telephone booths have almost disappeared, though some are still found around public transport stations, where you can use a few coins to make calls. It is only recommended for local calls.
The cellular phone network in the Netherlands is GSM 900/1800. The main providers of cell phone networks are KPN (Dutch only), T-mobile and Vodafone, who cover the whole country. Other operators, like Hollandsnieuwe, Simyo or Tele2, use one of these 3 networks basically.
It is best to buy a SIM card when in the Netherlands for use in your cellphone, as this usually works out cheaper than using the one from home. If you are planning to study or work in the country and stay for several months, buying a cellphone is the best option. A simple one, sometimes with €10 worth on it, can be bought from around €25. The simplest smartphones are around €75.
The rate for sending a postcard or letter up to 20 grams within the Netherlands is €0.64 (2014). Since 2010 there are stamps available for domestic post which no longer include the value in €. Instead, there are stamps available with either a '1' or a '2' as a substitute for value. The '1' can be used for letters and postcards up to 20 grams, while 20-50 grams require you to use the '2'-valued stamps (or two '1'-valued stamps of course).
Sending items to other EU countries and the rest of the world (there is one price since 2014) will cost €1.05. Stamps are sold at post offices, supermarkets and smaller shops/kiosks; often the place where you buy your postcards can also supply you with stamps.
Sending parcels abroad is more costly. A standard-sized parcel between up to 2 kilograms will cost you €9 for destinations within the EU and €18 (both without Track & Trace) to the rest of the world. Prices with Track & Trace start at €13 and €24.30 respectively. Parcel service is available from major post offices only; standard-size boxes are on sale there as well. For sending parcels, it might be just as competitive and fast to use a company like TNT, UPS or DHL.
If you need to receive mail while moving around, you can have it sent poste restante (to be called for) to a post office of your choice, where it will be kept for a month. If you come to claim it, bring a valid ID, and make sure to have told the sender that the name on the envelope must be an exact match with that in your passport. For addresses of post offices, as well as more information, consult the TNT website.
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