Science - July 5, 2007

Holiday on a shoestring

The summer holidays are almost here, so it’s time to start thinking about relaxing. Most students do not have large amounts of money to spend, but fortunately this is the Netherlands, where there is a cheap way of doing nearly everything. Resource has come up with some budget ideas for spending time outside Wageningen.

If you’re short of cash, hitchhiking is a good way of travelling. / photo Martijn Weterings
Travel
Hitchhiking involves getting into a stranger’s vehicle and getting a lift to somewhere, hopefully your chosen destination. It can be dangerous, so be prepared before you start. Work out a general route, so you know where you want to end up, then go and stand at a strategic point close to a motorway or at a petrol station and stick your thumb out. Two helpful elements for successful hitchhiking are an attractive young woman and a strong young man. A woman is likely to be offered a lift, and a man can scare away unsavoury characters. Hitchhiking is good if you want to cover long distances, and it’s a great way to get to know new people. Make sure you have enough time and don’t get into a vehicle if you have any doubts about the reliability of the driver.

The train is a good way of travelling around the Netherlands. A reduction card (voordeelurenabonnement) gets you a forty percent fare reduction after nine o’clock in the morning, and three people can travel with you for the same reduced price. Another option is the Zomertoer: two people can travel for a total of two days within a period of seven days anywhere in the Netherlands for 59 euros. See www.ns.nl if you can read some Dutch or go to a train station.

If you want a cheap holiday somewhere in Europe, taking a bus is an option. On www.eurolines.nl you can book a journey to thirty countries in Europe. It’s not the most comfortable form of transport, especially if you want to sleep, but it’s safer than hitchhiking and gets you to your destination reasonably quickly.

The best way to get to know the Netherlands is to go cycling. You’ve probably already discovered that there are good cycle paths everywhere. Many organisations provide information on cycle routes. If you want to go somewhere for the day, you can take your bike on the train. A day-ticket costs about six euros, but for about the same amount you can also rent a bike at your destination. A good place for information is www.vvv.startpagina.nl. If you already know which area you want to go to, check out the tourist information site before you go: google ‘vvv’ and the name of the town or province. This will give you information on walking and cycling routes.

Accommodation
Camping is the cheapest legal way to spend a night away from home in the Netherlands. You must camp on a campsite, as it is forbidden to pitch a tent in the open countryside. It’s easy enough to borrow a tent, as nearly every Dutch person owns one; otherwise buy a second-hand one from the Emmaus in the Heerenstraat.

A slightly more expensive option is to go for a youth hostel (jeugdherberg). It’s a good idea to take a sleeping bag with you. Youth hostels are a good place to meet other young people who enjoy travelling, and they have lots of information about what’s on in the area. See www.stayokay.com.


Events
During the summer there are many festivals, a number of which are free. For information go to www.festivalinfo.nl/festivals.php and click through to what interests you. Not all festivals are free, so check first to avoid disappointment. The biggest free festivals are listed below.

The Vierdaagse is a huge annual four-day walking event in and around Nijmegen. This year it takes place between 17 and 20 July and involves thousands of people walking up to 50 kilometres each day. It’s fun to go and watch and cheer the walkers on and there’s a big music festival, featuring more than 100 acts in the centre of Nijmegen. Information: www.vierdaagsefeesten.eu.

The Zomerparkfeest takes place in the Julianapark in Venlo, from 2 to 5 August, featuring 21 different bands, many of them Dutch. Go to www.zomerparkfeest.nl and click on ‘programma’.

A very Dutch event is the Amsterdam Gay Pride festival. Now named We are Amsterdam Pride, it takes place from 2 to 5 August this year, and includes street parties, gay dance parties and the Canal Parade on the Saturday. See www.gaypride.nl.

The town of Groningen is host to the Noorderzon theatre, music and crossover festival from 16 to 26 August. Many events are free, but not all. Clear information is available on www.noorderzon.nl.

Re:act