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Safety and Emergencies for Expats in the Netherlands

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: December 2015

Safety – Natural Hazards

The Netherlands is barely affected by natural disasters. The main danger is from storms and flooding; this has been the case for centuries as the country is low-lying and has poor drainage. Over the years, floods have caused some fatalities and serious damage to property. Be sure to pay attention to weather warnings when they are issued.

Safety – Human Hazards

Overall, rates of crime in the Netherlands are low, and the rate for violent crime is lower than in many other European countries. You are unlikely to experience any trouble; walking the streets and travelling on public transport is usually safe, day and night. Nevertheless, it is always wise to take standard precautions and use your common sense.

The tourist areas of central Amsterdam and trains from Schiphol Airport to Centraal Station are crime hotspots. In areas such as these, petty crimes such as pick-pocketing and bag-snatching do occur and you may be unlucky enough to become a victim. Some bag-snatchers ride mopeds; they can therefore make a quick getaway and are very hard to catch. Other thieving techniques involve pairs working in distraction techniques and impersonating police officers. These and other forms of theft may occur in crowded tourist areas, on public transport and in bars and nightclubs. To prevent such crimes, it is important to stay aware of what is going on around you and keeping valuables such as money, jewellery, mobile phones and laptops out of sight as much as possible.

The Netherlands is generally considered safe for women, with a very low threat of sexual assault. Nevertheless, you do need to be careful to avoid situations where you might be vulnerable. Note that the threat may come from other expats. Do not leave any of your drinks unattended, and be cautious when you are offered drinks from strangers.

There have not been any terrorist attacks in the Netherlands for a number of years. Nevertheless,. due to attacks on neighbouring countries, the government currently rates the terrorist threat as ‘substantial’. It is therefore prudent to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity. Political demonstrations are quite frequent and, as they have the potential to turn violent, it is best to avoid them whenever possible.

There are more than 13 million bicycles in Holland – nearly one per person. It is therefore very important to ensure that you get into the habit of looking both ways before crossing roads and the numerous cycle paths. As might be expected, bicycle theft is rife. If you have a bicycle, keep it locked up at all times!


For all emergencies – police, ambulance and fire brigade – dial 112. All calls are free of charge and can be made from any phone, even a mobile phone without a SIM card. The emergency operator will answer in Dutch, though an English-speaking emergency operator will always be available. Be aware that emergency calls are only for serious or life-threatening situations that need immediate attention.




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