The Netherlands is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. The country receives about 20 million visitors each year.
The most common tourist destination in the Netherlands is Amsterdam, with its twisting canals, Golden Age architecture, world-famous museums such as the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum — and a world-famous party scene.
However, there is a lot to see outside of Amsterdam, such as the open-air museum of Zaanse Schans, the museums of The Hague, and the windmills and tulips of the countryside.
The Netherlands has a reputation as an orderly, safe country, but how true is this reputation, and how much of it is based on stereotypes? You always want to know the reality of visiting a country before you actually set out to go there.
This travel guide can help you decide if visiting will result in a safe trip. Keep reading to learn more about what to expect, including crime; let us be your guide!
Is the Netherlands Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes, the Netherlands is fairly safe to visit, and you will just need to take some precautions to make sure your trip goes off without a hitch.
These precautions are usually the same common-sense precautions that you would take anywhere in the world, including your hometown, such as not leaving your phone on the street and expecting nobody to steal it.
However, some travel advisories advise a bit more caution for their citizens planning a trip to the Netherlands. For example, the United States places the Netherlands under a Level Two travel advisory, advising its citizens to exercise increased caution when they visit.
Other countries such as Canada just advise their citizens to take regular precautions when visiting the Netherlands and gives them the green light to travel.
Their advisories acknowledge common problems in the Netherlands, such as:
- Bag snatching
- Drink spiking
Criminals do target tourists, but if you take the right precautions, you can go home with no negative memories. Besides crime, another potential danger in the Netherlands is terrorism.
Terrorism is the main reason countries such as the United States and New Zealand cite when advising their citizens to exercise increased caution in the Netherlands. Like in many other European countries, the Netherlands is a probable target for terrorism.
The Dutch government says that the terrorist alert level for the country is at Level 3 out of 5, which means that there is significant risk of a terrorist attack.
There have been recent terrorist attacks in the area. In 2019, there was a shooting on a tram in Utrecht that killed several people. There is a possibility that such an attack may happen again, but the government is doing its best to prevent that from happening.
Over the past few years, the Netherlands has increased its counterterrorism abilities, and often foils plots before they can happen. While the possibility that a terrorist attack may affect you during your trip to the Netherlands exists, the realistic risk is low.
You can take small precautions such as staying near exits in crowded places or trusting your gut if someone is acting suspicious, but you shouldn’t let the fear of terrorism ruin your vacation.
Crime in the Netherlands
Crime happens in the Netherlands, but the country has a relatively low rate of crime. What’s especially heartening is that it has a low rate of violent crime.
Although violations such as drug violations and property crime occur, more severe forms of crime are relatively rare. The total number of crimes recorded in the Netherlands in 2022 was 797,735 criminal incidents.
That calculates to a rate of about 4550 criminal incidents per 100,000 people. Although crime went up in 2022 compared to the previous year, crime overall has been trending downwards over the past decade.
According to statistics from the Dutch government, the most common crimes in the Netherlands are property crimes. Property crimes make up about 37% of total crimes committed in the Netherlands.
Violent crimes make up about 19% of total crimes committed in the Netherlands. However, the most common violent crimes are robbery, assault, and rape. Random violent crimes are fairly rare — in most situations, the victim and perpetrator had some relationship.
The homicide rate is one of the lowest in Europe, at less than 1 incident per 100,000 people. Many violent crimes in the Netherlands are tied to organized crime such as gangs.
According to the Organized Crime Index, the Netherlands has serious problems with organized crime. The human trafficking rate is one of the worst in Europe, with most victims being forced into the sex trade.
It is also a center for the drug trade — only cannabis is tolerated, not other drugs, and even for cannabis, the supply chain is dominated by illegal organized crime.
The presence of organized crime in the Netherlands affects locals and visitors because it raises the overall crime rate. However, these loose networks of criminals are rarely interested in violence against random people.
As long as you don’t do anything shady that might land you on the radar of criminals, you are safe from the organized crime presence. The Dutch government also provides a statistical breakdown of where crimes occur in the country.
As expected, Amsterdam has the highest crime rate, at 96 incidents per 1,000 people. It is the biggest city in the Netherlands, so it makes sense that it would act as a bit of a hotspot for crime.
Other municipalities with higher rates of crime are Rotterdam, Utrecht, and Eindhoven. In rural areas, the crime rate is very low. What these crime statistics tell us is that although crime is present in the Netherlands, the risk towards you as an ordinary visitor is fairly low.
You will have to be on your guard against theft and other property crimes, but the risk of other dangers towards you is fairly low.
Pickpocketing is a common concern for visitors to the Netherlands, and with good reason. Many countries, such as Australia, mention the risk of pickpocketing in their travel advisories for the Netherlands as the most common risk for tourists.
Most pickpocketing incidents in the Netherlands happen in Amsterdam (although you shouldn’t let your guard down when visiting other cities such as Rotterdam).
Amsterdam routinely makes it on travel blogs that round up the worst cities in the world for pickpocketing. The large crowds (who are often inebriated) and narrow streets create the perfect opportunities for pickpockets.
Common pickpocketing hotspots in Amsterdam include:
- Schiphol Airport (and public transportation to and from it)
- On public transportation popular with tourists (tram routes 1, 2, and 5)
- In and around Central Station
- The Red Light District
- Popular restaurants and cafes
The most important precaution you can take to protect yourself is to always keep a firm grasp on your valuables and to look alert in public places.
Don’t fall asleep on public transportation or while waiting for your train in Central Station as thieves often take advantage of people sleeping to rifle through their things. Thieves often work in groups and use distraction tactics.
The UK government in its travel advisory warns about a common scam where one person enters a restaurant or café and sells something to customers, while an accomplice takes people’s things.
Politely say no and ignore people that seem too interested in capturing your attention. Make sure that you have a firm, physical grasp on your valuables wherever you are.
Put your money, ID, and phone in a zipped inner compartment of your bag, front pocket, or fanny pack where nobody can take it without you noticing. When you sit down in restaurants, on public transportation, or at cafes, keep purses or bags in your lap.
Never hang them off the back of your chair or leave phones and wallets on the table in cafes or restaurants. If you put your bag on the floor, put your foot through the strap to prevent theft.
Violent crimes against tourists are rare, but they sometimes happen. The most common violent crime is robbery. Again, robbery is more common in Amsterdam, although it can happen anywhere in the Netherlands.
The Canadian government mentions the risk of robbery in its travel advisory for the Netherlands. If you do get robbed, comply and don’t resist. Robbers are often armed, and there have been situations where they assaulted victims who tried to resist.
Focus on getting to safety and filing a police report, you can always replace your things. However, you can avoid being robbed with some basic precautions. The UK government advises citizens to avoid dark alleyways and deserted streets late at night.
Most cities in the Netherlands are safe at night as long as you stick to well-lit streets with plenty of other people around. Although the Netherlands has a reputation as a hedonistic travel destination, you don’t want to overindulge while you are in town.
Criminals tend to target people who are intoxicated or high as they know their reactions are impaired. Try to keep at least a little of your wits about you after a night out and take a taxi back to your accommodation instead of walking or going on public transportation.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Like most big cities around the world, cities in the Netherlands have some neighborhoods that have more crime than others.
In Amsterdam, avoid:
- Bos en Loomer
In Rotterdam, be careful around:
- Between Delfshaven and Schiedam
- Most places south of the river
However, dangerous parts of Dutch cities tend to be far away from places where tourists hang out.
Things to Consider
Here are a few additional safety tips for the Netherlands:
- Be careful around drugs. Most people think that drugs are fully legal, but they are not. Only cannabis is tolerated. Avoid buying from street dealers as they are either selling unsafe products or scamming tourists.
- Beware the fake policeman scam. A common scam in the Netherlands is people posing as police officers demanding tourists hand over their cash and credit cards to check if they are counterfeit, then running away. A real policeman will never ask to see your money. Always ask to see ID and beware of police badges that look too shiny.
- Stay out of the cycling lanes. The Netherlands is a country where cycling reigns supreme, and cyclists get annoyed at tourists that get in their way (and they often ride too fast to avoid accidents). Stick to pedestrian areas of the sidewalk.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some other common questions that people ask before heading to the Netherlands:
Is it safe for foreigners to go to the Netherlands?
Yes, it is safe for foreigners to go to the Netherlands. Millions of people wouldn’t visit each year if it wasn’t safe for tourists.
Is the Netherlands safe to walk at night?
Most cities in the Netherlands are safe by global standards, even at night. However, stay away from sketchy areas and dark, empty alleyways at night.
Is the Netherlands considered safe?
Yes, the Netherlands is considered safe. It tops the list of the safest countries in the world thanks to its low crime rate, well-organized society, and other important factors.
Is the Netherlands tourist friendly?
Yes, the Netherlands is tourist-friendly. However, some areas such as Amsterdam are getting frustrated by the number of tourists visiting, so try to be respectful of locals when you are in town.
Is Amsterdam safe for female tourists?
Yes, many women visit Amsterdam each year. However, as a female traveler, you should take extra precautions such as not wandering in unfamiliar areas late at night and protecting your drink in bars and clubs.
Over to You — Book Your Trip Today!
The Netherlands is one of the safest countries in the world to visit, which is part of the reason why it is so popular among tourists. There are some problems, such as petty theft, but you can avoid them with basic precautions. Happy travels!