Saturday, 16 April 2011

The Netherlands

General Information

Thinking of Holland the first things that might come to mind are Tulips, Windmills & Football. However, The Netherlands (NL) is a country with many more “faces”. It has a rich history and you can find beautifully restored old trading houses alongside hyper modern architecture. The metropolitan areas are lively and are packed with things to do. The countryside offers excellent out-door possibilities and you will notice that just about everyone in The Netherlands owns at least 1 bike!
The most well known city is flamboyant Amsterdam. In this posting of Travelallergy I will concentrate on two less known places that are quite different but equally entertaining namely, The Hague (Den Haag) and Zeeland Flanders (Zeeuws-Vlaanderen). For more information on The Netherlands check out the website of the Tourism board. 

About 10% of the Dutch adult population suffers from some kind of allergy and nearly 25% of the families in The Netherlands need to take food-related allergies of at least one of the family members into account while cooking. In comparison to other countries the awareness of and knowledge about food allergies is high. This makes The Netherlands one of the easiest places in the world to go on holiday for someone with a food-allergy. 

Most of the Dutch know at least 1 foreign language and English is widely spoken. You probably won’t need it but here is the English-Dutch allergy dictionary. 

Tip:  If you’re planning a trip to The Netherlands and you have a pollen allergy or asthma you might want to consult the Dutch Pollen Calendar to determine the best time of year for you to go.

Most supermarkets have now discovered a new nice market with growth potential: Customers with a food allergy. Food labeling is compulsory and the largest supermarket chain in The Netherlands, Albert Heijn, has even started with a trial with Food Allergen scanners that make it even easier for allergic customers to find the ingredients they are allergic to.

We use the following supermarkets when we are in Holland:

Everywhere. The AH XL has the largest choice.
Various locations in NL. Their store in the Centre of The Hague is the largest Biological Supermarket in NL.
Tiny biological supermarket in the Scheveningen area of Den Haag. They offer specialty products such as Soy Cheese that larger supermarkets don’t offer.
In the town of Terneuzen, Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. This is a Large “fresh” market that also has a good selection of dietary products.
On line supermarket. This supermarket also delivers to your holiday address.

Tip: We just love Alpro Soya’s Belgian Chocolate dessert. You can find it in the larger Albert Heijn Supermarkets.  

Medical Care
The level of medical care in the Netherlands is high by international standards. Ambulances have a norm response time of maximum 15 minutes.  

We have used and can recommend the following medical facilities:

Wielingenlaan 2, Terneuzen

Tip: Most allergy medication including epipens is available in The Netherlands although you will need a doctors prescription for most of medication that is considered “over the counter” in many countries.

The emergency Telephone Number for The Netherlands is: 112
* this information can change so always check before you travel.

Hotels & Restaurants
There is a wide choice of places to stay in The Hague/ Scheveningen and the Zeeuws-Vlaanderen region. A good source of information is the VVV which, besides giving information on accommodation, also lists regional attractions & restaurants. When we are in The Netherlands we stay in the holiday home of my parents in Terneuzen, which is in the heart of Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. My mother has Celiac disease so she is on a strict gluten-free diet. If she's in Terneuzen when you are there (the travel bug seems to run in our family and she's frequently away discovering the world) she's an excellent source of information on gluten-free travel.

In the better restaurants most chefs will know how to cook you an allergen-free meal. There are a few things to bear in mind while eating out though:
  • Always speak to the chef in advance. Preferably when making your reservation.
  • Be sure to talk to the chef on arrival in the restaurant and explain your needs again in detail.
  • Avoid busy restaurants as less attention might be paid to cross-contamination
  • If at any time you are in doubt about the chef being able to cook you a safe meal, leave the restaurant.
  • Always bring your emergency medication.

We can recommend the Le Bon Mangeur Restaurant in Scheveningen/ The Hague. Call in advance and explain your dietary restrictions and they will cook you up a delicious meal.

Being so close to Belgium, there are many wonderful restaurants in Zeeuws Vlaanderen. Many of them specialize in Sea Food so if you’re allergic to (shell) fish eating out might not be for you. If you're looking for a good restaurant, we can definitely recommend Auberge des Moules. Because of its popularity it’s important to call ahead for reservations and to inform the chef of your allergy. is a good website to find restaurants in other cities in The Netherlands. There is also an option to search for restaurants that cook for people with a lactose or gluten-free diet under “Faciliteiten keuken” under the “Zoek Uitgebreid” (Advanced search) tab.

Tip: Although many Dutch chefs say they can cook for people with an allergy, always stress the severity of you allergy.

A special thanks to my father for providing the photos for this blog entry!

Do you know of a restaurant, supermarket or place to stay that caters to travelers with an allergy? Make sure to share the details with us in the comments section below. Be as specific as you can and if possible add a web link.

1 comment:

  1. Thorough and informative as always!
    A dairy allergy seems tragic in a place with such wonderful cheese! Thank you for the delicious alternatives.