ABOUT Holland is situated in the west of the Netherlands. A maritime water-oriented region, Holland lies on the North Sea at the mouths of the Rhine and the Meuse (Maas). It has numerous rivers and lakes and an extensive inland canal and waterway system. To the south is Zealand. The region is bordered on the east by the IJsselmeer and four different provinces of the Netherlands. Holland is protected from the sea by a long line of coastal dunes. Most of the land area behind the dunes consists of polder landscape lying well below sea level. At present the lowest point in Holland is a polder near Rotterdam, which is about seven meters below sea level. Continuous drainage is necessary to keep Holland from flooding. In earlier centuries windmills were used for this task. The landscape was and in places still is dotted with windmills, which have become a symbol of Holland. The main cities in Holland are Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Amsterdam is formally the capital of the Netherlands and its most important city. The Port of Rotterdam is Europe's largest and most important harbour and port. The Hague is the seat of government of the Netherlands. These cities, combined with Utrecht and other smaller municipalities, effectively form a single city - a conurbation called Randstad. The Randstad area is one of the most densely populated regions of Europe, but still relatively free of urban sprawl. There are strict zoning laws. Population pressures are enormous, property values are high, and new housing is constantly under development on the edges of the built-up areas.

CLIMATE The climate of The Netherlands can be classified as a warm temperated humid climate with the warmest month lower than 22°C over average and four or more months above 10°C over average. Daytime temperatures varies from 2°C-6°C in the winter and 17°C-20°C in the summer. Rainfall is distributed throughout the year with a dryer period from April to September. The Netherlands is a flat country and has often breezy conditions, although more in the winter than in the summer, and more among the coastal areas than inland.

BEWARE Take care particularly in central Amsterdam and especially in and around Central Station. Pick-pocketing and bag snatching are common. Thieves often operate in gangs on the trains to and from Schiphol airport and Central Station as well as on the trams. One thief will attempt to distract you (often by asking for directions or by banging on your window) while another picks your pocket or steals your bag. Be alert at all times.