The Netherlands offers a range of options, from the major international hotel chains and small, modern local hotels to family-run restored inns and historic houses. Accommodations in Amsterdam are at a particular premium at any time of year, so you should book well in advance. Should you arrive without a hotel room, head for one of the city's four VVV (Netherlands Board of Tourism) offices, which have a same-day hotel booking service and can help you find a room. A small fee is charged for this service.
The hotel situation elsewhere in the Netherlands is less tight outside of the summer months, but hotels in larger cities often fill with business customers during the week. Most hotels that do cater to business travelers sometimes grant substantial weekend rebates. These discounted rates are often available during the week, as well as in July and August, when business travelers are thin on the ground. Wherever you go, you will have a wider choice if you plan ahead.
If you travel with a group of friends, or with children, or if you plan to stay for more than 2 nights, you may want to consider renting an apartment. Not only will you probably spend less money per person per night, you can also save by cooking your own meals. On top of that, staying in an apartment will offer you the opportunity to experience the city as a local. The Amsterdam tourist information website (www.iamsterdam.com) offers a list of trustworthy companies as well as private home-owners that offer accommodation for rent.
A reliable organization with a varied choice of rentals is Amsterdam City Mundo (www.amsterdam.citymundo.com). Their carefully selected accommodations include apartments, studios, houseboats, and even a few multi-storied houses. Most apartments sleep up to four people. All accommodations are privately owned and fully furnished, which makes for a homey feel. The minimum stay is 3 nights, the maximum stay 21 nights (the more nights you stay, the better the rates). Linen and towels are included in the price. The rate for one person per night lies between €25 and €54, depending on the state of the apartment, the location, the amount of people, and the amount of nights.
For a special and stylish stay you can book Maison Rika (www.rikaint.com), a charming two-story guesthouse on the Oude Spiegelstraat with canal views. The beautiful 17th-century house is modernized and decorated by Ulrika Lundgren, the Swedish-born designer behind Amsterdam-based fashion label Rika. The apartment sleeps up to four people and costs €195 per night.
De Blauwe Polder (www.blauwepolder.nl) offers 4 modern cottages in the countryside, just outside Amsterdam. The comfortable accommodations guarantee a peaceful stay amidst green fields. The rent includes bikes to explore the beautiful surroundings, or to cycle to the city center of Amsterdam, which is only 15 minutes away. Each apartments sleeps 2 people. A minimum stay of 2 nights is required and with a week's stay you get 20% discount. Rates are per apartment per night and depend on the season. In high season (July 15 to September 15) rates are between €90 and €75, in mid-season (April 15 to July 14 and September 16 to November 1) between €75 and €65, and in low season (November 1 to April 14) between €65 and €55.
Remember that the VVVs (tourist offices) in each region you plan to visit all have extensive accommodations listings. They can book reservations for you according to your specific requirements.
Center Parcs (010/498–9754; 0900/660–6600 [€0.50 per min]. www.centerparcs.com.)
City Mundo (Schinkelkade 30, Amsterdam, 1075VJ. 020/470–5705. amsterdam.citymundo.com.)
Landal Green Parks (070/300–3506. www.landalgreenparks.com.)
VVV Tourist Offices for the Netherlands (www.vvv.nl.)
A pleasant alternative to getting accommodations in a hotel is to stay at a B&B. You'll find a large assortment scattered throughout the Netherlands. The best way to track down B&Bs in Amsterdam is either through creative city accommodations specialist City Mundo or Holiday Link, both of which deal with private houses and longer stays. Prices vary widely from €25 to €40 per person.
Bed & Breakfast Holland (020/615–7527. www.bbholland.com.)
Bed and Breakfast Service Nederland (Zandkasteel 43, Eindhoven, 5658 BE. 040/762–0600. www.bedandbreakfast.nl.)
City Mundo (Schinkelkade 30, Amsterdam, 1075 VJ. 020/470–5705. amsterdam.citymundo.com.)
With a direct home exchange you stay in someone else's home while they stay in yours. Some outfits also deal with vacation homes, so you're not actually staying in someone's full-time residence, just their vacant weekend place.
Home Exchange.com. From $7.95 per month for a 1-year online membership listing. 800/877–8723. www.homeexchange.com.
HomeLink International. Yearly fee is $119. 800/638–3841. www.homelink.org.
Intervac U.S. Monthly fee is $8.33. 800/756–4663. www.intervac-homeexchange.com.
Many hostels are affiliated with Hostelling International (HI), an umbrella group of hostel associations with some 4,500 member properties in more than 70 countries. Other hostels are completely independent and may be nothing more than a really cheap hotel.
Membership in any HI association, open to travelers of all ages, allows you to stay in HI-affiliated hostels at member rates. One-year membership is about $28 for adults; hostels charge about $10-$30 per night. Members have priority if the hostel is full; they're also eligible for discounts around the world, even on rail and bus travel in some countries.
The Dutch national hostel association, Nederlandse Jeugdherberg Centrale (NJHC), better known as Stayokay, and the Belgian Auberges de Jeunesse and Vlaamse Jeugdherbergen associations are all affiliated with HI. NJHC has an excellent website with visuals and information about the many hostels in Holland.
Amsterdam is world famous for two beloved hostels: the Flying Pig Palace and the Stayokay Hostel in Vondelpark, open to travelers of all ages. Hostels elsewhere in the Netherlands and in Belgium are also well organized and clean. Rooms with one to 10 beds are available, and hostels are suitable for family stays. Many are near train stations.
Stayokay (Nederlandse Jeugdherberg Centrale) (020/551–3155. www.stayokay.com.)
Hostelling International—USA (301/495–1240. www.hiusa.org.)
In line with the international system, Dutch hotels are awarded stars (one to five) by the Benelux Hotel Classification System, an independent agency that inspects properties based on their facilities and services. Those with three or more stars feature en suite bathrooms where a shower is standard, whereas a tub is a four-star standard. Guest rooms in lodgings listed here have a shower unless otherwise indicated.
One Dutch peculiarity to watch out for is having twin beds pushed together instead of having one double. If you want a double bed (or tweepersoonsbed), you may have to pay more. Keep in mind that the star ratings are general indications and that a charming three-star might make for a better stay than a more expensive four-star. During low season, usually November to March (excluding Christmas and the New Year) when a hotel is not full, it is sometimes possible to negotiate a discounted rate, if one is not already offered. Prices in Amsterdam are higher over the peak summer period, while those in less touristed cities may actually fall at this time when the core business trade tails off. Room rates for deluxe and four-star rooms are on a par with those in other European cities, so in these categories, ask for one of the better rooms, since less desirable rooms—and there occasionally are some—don't measure up to what you are paying for. Most cheaper hotels quote room rates including breakfast, while for those at the top end it usually costs extra. When you book a room and are in any doubt, specifically ask whether the rate includes breakfast.
Check out your hotel's location, and ask your hotelier about availability of a room with a view, if you're not worried about the extra expense: hotels in the historic center with a pretty canal view are highly sought after. Always ask if there is an elevator (called a "lift") or whether guests need to climb any stairs. Even if you are fairly fit, you may find traditional Dutch staircases in older buildings intimidating and difficult to negotiate. Keep that in mind if you're planning on making reservations in a listed monument, such as a historic canalside town house. The alternative is to request a ground-floor room. In older hotels, the quality of the rooms may vary; if you don't like the room you're given, request another. This applies to noise, too. Front rooms may be larger or have a view, but they may also have a lot of street noise—so if you're a light sleeper, request a quiet room when making reservations. Remember to specify whether you care to have a bath or shower, since many bathrooms do not have tubs. It is always a good idea to have your reservation, dates, and rate confirmed by fax.
Taking meals at a hotel's restaurant sometimes provides you with a discount. Some restaurants, especially country inns, require that guests take half board, at least lunch or dinner, at the hotel. Full pension entitles guests to both lunch and dinner. Guests taking either half or full board also receive breakfast. If you take a pension, you pay per person, regardless of the number of rooms.
Many hotels in Amsterdam appear to be permanently full, so book as far in advance as you can to be sure of getting what you want.
Aside from going directly to the hotels or booking a travel-and-hotel package with your travel agent, there are several ways of making reservations. The VVV offers a room reservation service; branches of the VVV can be found in Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam Centraal Station, and at Leidseplein. Contact the VVV's office, or go to their website. Hotel reservations made via the I amsterdam website are free; those made in person or by phone/fax incur a €15 booking fee. Hotels will sometimes ask you to confirm your reservation by fax or e-mail. If you are having an extended stay, the property may request a deposit either in the local currency or billed to your credit card.
VVV Amsterdam Hotel Reservations (020/201–8800. www.iamsterdam.com.)
VVV Netherlands Board of Tourism Switchboard. First stop for many travelers' queries and questions. 070/370–5705.