In Holland, be wary of pickpockets on trams, buses, and Metro trains; in rail and Metro stations; on busy shopping streets and in busy stores; and even in your hotel lobby. The rest of the Netherlands is not as bad in this respect as Amsterdam, though Rotterdam and the Hague are not so far behind.

In Amsterdam, of all places, there is a rising incidence of gays being verbally abused and even assaulted, and the perpetrators often appear to be young Muslim men and teens. In 2006, the editor of the Washington Blade gay paper was beaten up in such an incident. It's hard to say for sure how widespread this kind of thing is, though recent surveys seem to show that more gays feel less safe in the city than formerly. The city mayor has commissioned the University of Amsterdam to research the whole question of homophobic attacks.

Dealing with Discrimination

The election in 2008 of Barack Obama to replace George W. Bush as U.S. president seems likely to change the status of American visitors to "Old Europe" from one of guests who are not entirely respectable in such delicate company, to that of repentant sinners who finally heeded the advice of their moral guardians and improved themselves. How individual Americans feel about this transformation in their standing will be a matter of personal taste.

Meanwhile, both Holland and Belgium are showing an increase in votes for right-wing political parties opposed, to one degree or another, to immigration, or even to the continued presence of immigrant communities. This applies in particular to those migrants "who do not share European values." Rising levels of muggings, break-ins, pickpocketing, bag snatching, auto theft, and other crimes, attributed, rightly or wrongly, to legal and illegal immigrants and to some ethnic minorities, appear to be fueling the trend. This attitude could translate into discrimination against nonwhite visitors, though the majority of Dutch and Belgians would have nothing to do with this.

Antwerp has both an Orthodox Jewish community and a significant minority of people of North African (Arab) origin. Tensions caused by the Israeli/Palestinian conflict have led to some anti-Jewish attacks. Jewish visitors who dress in a way that clearly identifies them as Jewish should be aware of this, even though the chances of being a victim of such an attack are very small.

Note: Listing some of the possible dangers together like this can give a false impression of the threat from crime or discrimination in the Benelux lands. None of these dangers is statistically significant, and by no stretch of the imagination can any Benelux city be described as dangerous. The overwhelming probability is that you will not notice any of these problems, far less encounter one of them. But it can't hurt to be aware of them.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.