Pharmacies in the Netherlands: 8 questions answered

Visiting a Dutch pharmacy? We've got you. 💊

There’s a whole list of things to figure out when you first move to the Netherlands — and one of them is where you can get your medications. Geen stress, here’s all you need to know about pharmacies in the Netherlands. 

Wherever you live in the Netherlands, you’re likely to come across a pharmacy with that telling green sign — but do Dutch pharmacies work the same way as in your home country? 

Let’s answer some of your burning questions about pharmacies in the Netherlands. 

1. How can I find a pharmacy in the Netherlands?

You know what to do — give it a search on Google. Image: Depositphotos

When you first move to the Netherlands, you probably have no idea where the closest pharmacy would be or how to find one. 

The best way to find yourself a pharmacy in the Netherlands is by searching in Dutch. Try searching “apotheek dicht bij mij” (pharmacy close to me) or “apotheek bij mij in de buurt” (pharmacy near me). 

2. How can I register at a Dutch pharmacy?

When you go to a pharmacy in the Netherlands for the first time, you will likely be asked to register or sign up at that pharmacy. 

The staff will ask you for your personal information, contact details, your health insurance information, and who your doctor is. Once you give this information, you should be all set up! 

Doctors send the prescription to your pharmacist to fill. Image: Freepik

So, why do you have to register at a pharmacy in the Netherlands? Your registered pharmacy will have a record of your health insurance information, as well as the history of your prescribed medications. 

READ MORE | 9 things you need to know about Dutch health insurance as an international

This ensures that you don’t take conflicting medications that could cause health risks, and it also streamlines the process of receiving any prescribed meds — simply head to your registered pharmacy, and they should have been sent the prescription from your doctor.

Does this mean you’re tied down to one specific pharmacy? Not necessarily. 

If you have received a new non-repeat prescription (or recept, as they’re known in Dutch), it is sometimes possible to go to a different pharmacy and request your medication there. 

However, if you have a repeat prescription, then it is usually only possible to collect this at your registered pharmacy. 

READ MORE | Top 5 ways Dutch and US healthcare are different

In general, it is best to use the same pharmacy every time for each of your medications. This way, they have an up-to-date record of your different medications.  

3. What can I get at a Dutch pharmacy? 

You can get medication prescribed by your doctor from a pharmacy in the Netherlands. Image: Freepik

Pharmacies, or apotheken in Dutch, are where you go for your prescription medication, such as: 

  • Heart pressure meds
  • The contraceptive pill
  • Condoms 
  • Prescribed creams
  • Psychiatric medications 
  • Certain over-the-counter drugs that need instructions

Note: Dutch pharmacies should not be confused with drogisterijen (drugstores)! Dutch drugstores will only sell some over-the-counter drugs that are safe for general use, such as antihistamines and painkillers. You can’t pick up prescribed medications here. 

4. What can’t I get at a Dutch pharmacy?

If you’re planning on grabbing a few extra toiletries at the pharmacy while you pick up your prescription, you might be surprised to see they don’t have much.

In the Netherlands, pharmacies tend to be very no-nonsense. If it’s not some kind of medicine, soothing balm or form of protection, then you likely won’t find it at your apotheek

READ MORE | Pollen, allergies, and hay fever in the Netherlands: how to survive it

Things you won’t find in a Dutch pharmacy include general self-care items such as:

  • Your favourite shampoo 
  • Makeup 
  • Skincare
  • Hair brushes
  • Body washes and soaps 

So where can you find these items? 

In drogisterijen, natuurlijk! Examples of popular drugstores in the Netherlands are Etos or Kruidvat. 

5. What time are pharmacies open in the Netherlands?

Drugstores should have the general self-care items that you’re looking for. Image: Depositphotos

Want to grab your prescription on the way home from the office but not sure if the pharmacy is still open? Well, you just might make it in time.

Most pharmacies are usually open from 8 AM to 6 PM, Monday to Friday.

Opening times can differ on the weekends, but you may be lucky enough to have a pharmacy that is also open on Saturdays. Your neighbourhood pharmacy should display their opening times on their website and at their entrance. 

Pharmacies in the Netherlands are generally closed on Sundays as well as during big national holidays such as Tweede Paasdag, Hemelvaartsdag, and Koningsdag. This may vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, however. 

6. When can I pick up my medications at a Dutch pharmacy?

Once you have received a prescription from your doctor, your pharmacy will contact you (usually via email) when your prescription is ready to be collected. 

If you have a bad habit of forgetting to fetch your medications from the pharmacy during normal opening hours, geen probleem.

@the_dunglishcouple 24/7 pharmacy takeaway machine 🤣 #fy #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #dunglish #american #dutch #coupleshumor #americanhusband #husbandwife #marriagehumor #thebennetts #pharmacy ♬ original sound – The Bennett’s

At many Dutch pharmacies, it is possible to ask your pharmacist to place your items in the 24-hour prescription vending machine or after-hour locker. By placing them in this locker, you can collect them at a time that suits you best. 

READ MORE | 15 dang smart things Dutch people do

If this is something you think you’ll need, you can ask your pharmacist if they have an after-hour locker. If they do, voila, you can request that they register you for this method of collection.

Some pharmacists also offer the option to have your prescription medication delivered to your house, so you never have to worry about not having your medication.

This can also be very helpful when you’re sick and can’t make it to the pharmacist yourself.

7. How are pharmacists trained in the Netherlands?

Pharmacists learn important information about the medicines we all use. Image: Depositphotos

Before becoming a Dutch pharmacist, you have to complete a three-year bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy followed by a three-year master’s degree in Pharmacy. Yep, Dutch pharmacists train for as long as Dutch doctors. 👀

READ MORE | What the Dutch are getting right: antibiotics in the Netherlands

During their university education, pharmacists learn important information about medicines and how to calculate dosage. 

Pharmacists also have to register in the BIG register, which allows them to officially use the legal title of ‘Pharmacist’.

What this means is simple: you can trust that your Dutch pharmacist is a professional who knows what they’re doing.

8. Does my Dutch health insurance cover pharmacy costs?

Health insurance is mandatory in the Netherlands, but it’s not a given that they’ll cover all of your pharmacy costs

Your health insurance should cover the cost of most prescription medication. Image: Depositphotos

How much of your pharmacy costs will be covered depends on a few things:

  • The type of medication
  • The cost of the meds
  • Your insurance provider
  • The type of health insurance policy 

READ MORE | 9 things you need to know about Dutch health insurance as an international 

For example, depending on the health insurance policy you opt for, it may be possible to claim back the cost of your contraceptive pill. This is something you should consider when choosing your health insurance. 

Knowing how you’ll get medicine when you need it will allow you to rest easy and avoid panic when the time comes. Armed with your newfound knowledge, you can go forth and enjoy your new life in the Netherlands. 💪

How do Dutch pharmacies differ from pharmacies in your home country? Tell us in the comments!

Feature Image:Freepik
Simone Jacobs
Simone Jacobs
Originally from South Africa, Simone is having fun navigating the Dutch language, steep stairs, and bicycles (which she still manages to fall off of with her short, non-Dutch legs). An animal lover at heart, Simone can typically be found under her (growing?) mound of cats, where she uses the opportunity to read, write, and watch video compilations of creatures.

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  1. First time I hear that condoms are prescription medication 😅 Also, every pharmacy I’ve been to in den Haag had a looot of skincare (but it’s mostly dermocosmetics, like Vichy, LRP and so on, that’s still skincare tho)


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