The Netherlands is a country with good transportation possibilities and is also easy to reach.
For example Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has copious air links worldwide, including many on low-cost European airlines and the links on high-speed trains are especially good from France, Belgium and Germany. Other land options are user-friendly and the border crossings are nearly invisible thanks to the EU. There are also several ferry links with the UK and Scandinavia.
There is an extensive and well maintained road network in the Netherlands, although when travelling during rush hours there can be traffic jams, especially around the larger cities.
Always have a European accident form in the car. If you are involved in a car accident with only material damage on the motorway, go to the hard shoulder or to a parking lot and fill in the European accident form there. If there is also physical damage, call the police and the ambulance on the emergency number (112).
Please make sure your car has third party liability insurance. This is a compulsory insurance in the Netherlands.
Please always have a security hammer in the car
The Netherlands is a cyclist friendly country. Please use the red bicycle lanes where possible. Alternatively, use the lanes marked with a big white bicycle printed on the road. If neither are available, please remain on the very right side of the road. It is not allowed to cycle on the highway or motorway.
Be aware of the many cyclists, especially in the cities. They will often not obey the rules and take priority (even if their traffic light is red). Cyclists who come from the right hand side on level road-junctions have right of way. Cyclist and pedestrians are considered to be the weaker traffic participants and often have more rights than car drivers (the stronger traffic participants).
Import your car
If you are considering bringing your car to the Netherlands it is important to know that you will have to, in principle pay import tax (BPM), VAT and customs duties (depending on the country of origin).
The import tax can be considerably high. There is a possibility to apply for tax exemption for the BPM if you meet several conditions.
- The car must have been in your possession for longer than six months in the country you are moving from.
- You must have lived for at least 12 months in the country from where you are moving.
- After moving to the Netherlands, the car should remain in your possession for at least 12 months.
As soon as you have registered at the town hall you will have to start up the procedure to import your car. You will need to apply for a Dutch licence plate. In order to obtain the licence plate you will have to contact the RDW (Rijksdienst Wegverkeer) to make an appointment for the verification of the vehicle date (EU car) or to make an appointment for the technical inspection of your car (non-EU car). In the meantime, you can arrange the tax exemption with customs and make sure you have gathered all the necessary documents for the appointment with the RDW and visit a garage to have your car adjusted to the Dutch roads before the RDW appointment.
Buying a car
If you do not fulfil the criteria for the tax exemption it can be more cost efficient to sell your car abroad and purchase a car in the Netherlands. There is a large second hand car market in the Netherlands and the best place to start your search is at a car dealership. The dealership should be a member of the official association of car dealers (BOVAG); this will guarantee the best service and the safest buy.
When you buy a car or motorcycle from a private person in the Netherlands, you must transfer the vehicle registration papers into your name. You can make this transfer yourself (in person) at any of the larger post offices in the Netherlands. To do this, you must be at least 18 years old and reside in the Netherlands. When you buy a car or motorcycle from stock at an RDW-accredited dealership, the registration papers can be registered to your name immediately at the point of sale.
Manual transmission / automatic transmission
When searching for a second hand car please note that in the Netherlands the majority of people prefer to drive a car with a manual transmission. This will reflect in the rather limited availability of second hand cars with an automatic transmission .
Whether you decide to import you own vehicle or purchase a car in the Netherlands;
when owning a private vehicle in the Netherlands, there are a number of vehicle-based obligations to bear in mind;
As soon as the car is registered in your name a notification will be sent to the tax authority for road taxes. An invoice together with an ‘acceptgiro’ form for paying road tax will be sent to you automatically, and at the appropriate regular intervals thereafter. The amount of Road tax depends on the weight, type of car and fuel it uses. And more recently; how relatively environmentally friendly the car is considered to be. For certain ‘eco-friendly’ cars the Dutch Government has implemented a road tax exemption when purchasing this type of car.
Third-party liability insurance (Wettelijke aansprakelijkheidsverzekering)
Before you start using your vehicle on the public roads, by law it must be covered by third-party liability insurance (wettelijke aansprakelijkheidsverzekering = WA). This is the basic car-insurance that insures you against the results of an accident that you may cause. Please note that this does not cover the damage of your own car. There is no coverage against fire and theft.
Please be aware that the liability insurance is compulsory. You will not be given notice to arrange this; you must take out the insurance yourself at an insurance company. You can already start to arrange this insurance as soon as you know the license plate number and some technical details of the car. Please note that if you are not insured this can result in a considerable fine (and of course can have even larger consequences if you have an accident).
Complementary to the liability insurance, you can also opt for the following:
- A limited casco insurance. Roughly this will cover any damage to your own car beyond your control. For example fire and theft.
- An all risk-insurance. This insures your car for all the above mentioned damages plus for the results of an accident, regardless whether you caused the accident or not.
The premium depends on the weight and the catalogue-price of the car and on the region where you live. In case of more expensive cars, the insurance-company demands a certificated alarm.
Finally you can opt to take out extra passengers insurance ( injury and damage) and legal expenses insurance.
General Periodical Inspection (Algemene periodieke keuring= APK)
In addition, the vehicle must be APK approved. This is important to know when you buy a used vehicle. As the registered owner, you are responsible for these obligations as from the date of the transfer. Therefore, it is advisable to arrange an APK inspection before you buy a car from any private person. The APK is obligated for all cars over 3 years old, and after that once per year.
The cost of the APK is about approximately €45,00. If your car is not APK approved this can result in a considerable fine. The APK is not obligated for cars over 3500 kg and motorcycles.
Lease a car
Through an employer there can also be the option to lease a car. Depending on the lease conditions; the costs for maintenance, Road Tax, fuel and other costs such as insurance are covered in an agreed monthly lease amount. Leasing a car as a private individual is less common in the Netherlands since this is considered to be a costly option and buying a car is relatively more cost efficient.
Rent a car
There are many car rental companies in the Netherlands. Usually it is required to have a driving license in your possession for at least 1 year.
For occasional use of a car there are options in the Netherlands such as Greenwheels.
Greenwheels vehicles are parked at railway stations and in residential areas, and currently the red Peugeots are available in 70 cities and towns. You will need to subscribe online to be able to use one.
Use your foreign driving licence in the Netherlands
EU/EER driving license
When you are in the possession of a driving license issued in an EU/EER country (regardless of your nationality), you can use your EU/EER driving licence in the Netherlands for a period of 10 years after the issue date of your licence, providing your license has not expired.
Should your licence be more than nine years old, when registering in the Netherlands, you can continue to use it for one year providing the licence is still valid. After this period, you will have to exchange your foreign driving licence to a Dutch one.
Non-EU/EER driving license
You are allowed to drive in the Netherlands with a valid non-EU/EER driving license for 185 days (six months) after the first registration at the town hall (regardless of your nationality). Before the six months have passed, you need to have exchanged your driving license to a Dutch one.
Please note that once your licence has expired, you cannot exchange it to a Dutch licence. You will first have to extend it in the country of issue. Otherwise you will be driving illegally, which may result in a considerable fine. In case of an accident, your insurance company will not cover any damages. Finally, the RDW will not return your foreign driving licence. It will be returned to the country of issue or to the embassy in the Netherlands.
Traffic speed limits and rules
Although all drivers should be familiar with international road signs and codes, it is worthwhile to bear in mind the following when driving in the Netherlands:
Within the built-up zone:
- The speed limit is 50 km per hour;
- In certain zones 30 km per hour (indicated by road signs);
- On certain (parts of) routes the speed limit is 60 km or 70 km (indicated by road signs);
- In residential areas [indicated by a sign with a white-coloured house against a blue background, a man, a child and a car] vehicles should be driven at walking pace;
Outside built-up zones vehicles should not be driven faster than 80 km per hour;
on main/major roads mostly 100 km and on motorways/highways 80, 100 km or 120/130 km (depending on part of the country) per hour are permitted. Traffic signs indicating other maximum speeds are self-explanatory.
Highways and motorways
It is forbidden to reverse or turn or stop whilst on a motorway. Use the hard shoulder in emergencies.
Many railway crossings in the Netherlands are controlled by automatic barriers. You should wait until the red flashing light and the bell have stopped before crossing the railway line, otherwise another train may follow.
In the Netherlands regular headlights should be shown. Full beam lights should only be used outside the city if there is no oncoming traffic.
Alcohol, drugs and medication
Do not drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication. Having a blood / alcohol level above 0.05 percent is a felony, as is having more than 0.000225 grams of alcohol in your breath.
Conflicting rules, traffic signs or traffic directions
- Diversions should always be observed as they prevail over regular traffic signs and traffic rules;
- Traffic signs are more important than traffic rules;
- Traffic lights are more important than rules on giving right of way;
- Specific lights on traffic lanes prevail over general traffic signs and traffic rules.
Crossings and rules for giving right of way
- When approaching a crossing with a main road you must give way to other drivers;
- On crossings of unequal roads, right-of-way rules apply (in other words: give way to traffic on the main/major road;
- On crossings of equal roads, drivers coming from the right have right of way;
- Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians have right of way, when leaving an exit;
- All traffic coming from the right (including bicycles) has right of way;
- Cars turning left must give priority to traffic (please note: drivers as well as pedestrians and cyclists) continuing on the same road;
- Turning right has right of way over turning left (at crossings, etc.);
- All traffic should be given right of way while you are making special manoeuvres such as parking, reversing etc.
Licences, certificates and insurance
- A valid driving licence is mandatory;
- A valid registration certificate for the vehicle you are driving is mandatory;
- An insurance policy for the vehicle you are driving is mandatory;
- Valid M.O.T. (APK) for the vehicle you are driving is mandatory.
- Liability insurance is mandatory
Pedestrians, visually impaired or disabled people
- Pedestrians have right of way, when they are on a pedestrian crossing or just about to step on to a pedestrian crossing. In case there is no pavement/sidewalk or otherwise, pedestrians getting off a public transport vehicle have right of way;
- Blind people with a guide stick or guide dog always have right of way;
- Disabled people always have right of way;
- Wheelchair users and people in vehicles adapted to the needs of disabled people who are intending to cross the road or are on the road already, always have right of way.
Public transportation and special transportation
- Buses leaving a bus stop within the city always have right of way;
- Vehicles with flashing lights or sirens always have right of way;
- Trams usually have right of way, unless you are driving on a main/major road.
Roundabouts and crossings
- Roundabouts are approached from the right;
- The same rule applies to crossings without traffic lights.
- Wearing seat belts is mandatory;
- Children under the age of three may only be transported in a child safety seat;
- Children smaller than 1.35 meters must be transported in an appropriate child safety seat;
- A child’s seat must comply with the ECE-regulation 44/03 or 44/04. Please check the inspection label and/or sticker on the child safety seat.
- Adults and children taller than 1.35 meters must use seat belts or be properly restrained in a booster seat if applicable.
Basically, traffic signs with red circles are prohibitive signs and warn you of a restriction. Red triangles inform you of danger concerning the road condition. A yellow or orange diamond indicates that you are driving on a priority road and blue signs tell you what is allowed.
Use of cell phones in cars
Use of cell phones without an aid, such as a headset or car kit is prohibited by law in the Netherlands for drivers/riders of motorized vehicles. You may not even hold your cell phone in your hand.
This ban does also apply while being in a traffic jam. Use of a cell phone while in a parked or stopped vehicle is permitted. Violation of this prohibition risks a fine of €220,- (minimum). In addition, your cell phone may be confiscated.
The Netherlands is more than easy to get around by public transport. If you are sticking to the major cities and sights, you will not need a car as the train and bus system blankets the country. Or you can do as the Dutch do and provide your power on a bicycle.
The Dutch trains are clean and a good alternative to your own car, especially during rush hours. The Netherlands has an extensive railway network (by NS – Nederlandse Spoorwegen and Connexxion). Regular connections are maintained to all parts of the country. There is a fast train connection between Schiphol Airport and Amsterdam, and other major cities. There is even an hourly night service between Utrecht, Amsterdam, Schiphol, Den Haag, Rotterdam and vice versa. An Intercity network, a national system of express trains linking major cities. These IC trains stop at the main stations. “Stop-trains” provide connections to smaller towns. There are at least half-hourly services on most lines with anything from four to eight per hour on busier routes. It is not possible to reserve seats on national train services.
The longest train journey in the Netherlands (Maastricht–Groningen) takes about 4½ hours, but the majority of trips are far shorter. Trains have 1st and 2nd class sections. Smoking is not allowed.
Bus, tram and metro
Where the train stops, other public transport takes over. The bus can take you practically anywhere in the Netherlands. Bus stops are recognized by the yellow sign marked ’Bushalte’ showing the bus line numbers that stop there, as well as the start and finish of the line. You need to buy in advance an ‘OV chipkaart ‘. Children up to three years old travel for free. Dogs cost the equivalent of a child’s fare unless they can be carried.
You can travel by bus, tram or metro in some of the major cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Just as for the bus, you need an ‘OV chipkaart’. You need to validate your card when you enter and invalidate it when you leave the public transport.
Both buses and trams have buttons marked “Stop” located near the windows. You should press these just before the stop at which you want to disembark. You should always exit from the rear. If the door of a tram does not open you should push the ’deur open’ button.
The Subway or Metro is unique to the Amsterdam and Rotterdam area.
Taxis do not cruise the streets in the Netherlands. They are recognizable by the “taxi” sign on top of the car. It is customary in the Netherlands to book a taxi by phone although they can always be hailed at any of the taxi stands situated near hotels and stations. The taxi meter price includes service charges. A 5km journey in town would cost approximately. € 17,50. The journey from Schiphol to the center of Amsterdam would cost approximately € 45,00. Although tips are included, drivers still expect something extra. It is up to you.