Driving in Amsterdam
Explorer Publishing offers some basic facts about driving in Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands, from traffic rules and regulations, through Dutch car insurance to registration and traffic fines.
Owning a car in Amsterdam is not cheap. You will have to pay road tax, either quarterly or annually (it’s your choice), and petrol is expensive. Parking is costly too, though you can buy a parking permit (parkeervergunning) for your municipality. The costs vary from area to area. For up to date tariffs for Amsterdam (as of 1 January 2009), visit this link.
A great alternative to worrying about having to park your own car is Green Wheels, a car share initiative. For a monthly fee you have access to several cars throughout the city. For more information visit: new.greenwheels.nl (in Dutch) or read Expatica article Using Dutch community car service Green Wheels.
Generally Dutch drivers are quite safe and getting safer. Strict enforcement of laws against dangerous driving has seen the number of fatal accidents fall 25 percent since 2000.
However, the number of cyclists killed on the road rose by almost 20 percent. The variety of other forms of transport on the roads in Amsterdam can be quite daunting for a newcomer and most drivers will not wait patiently, so make sure you understand the road rules.
Amsterdam is a highly pedestrian-oriented city, especially in the centre. It’s also full of cyclists who always have the right of way. Generally pedestrians remain on the footpaths and cyclists on bike paths but sometimes it’s just not possible, so keep an eye out and remember: cyclists always have right of way.
Traffic rules and regulations
Some basic rules to bear in mind are: the Dutch drive on the right side of the road, the speed limit is 30 km/h in residential areas, 50 km/h in the city, 80 km/h on secondary roads and 100 to 120 km/h on the motorways. Speed cameras are mostly used on the motorways and larger roads but heavy fines, up to EUR 660, discourage speeding everywhere. You can download a pdf for a full list of road signs and information in the Netherlands, in English.
If you are involved in an accident, and it is serious, it is imperative you remain at the scene until the police arrive. If you’ve simply had a fender bender with another driver you can decide with the other driver how best to proceed in terms of insurance – you may still want to wait for the police to arrive and file a report.
There’s not a lot of parking in Amsterdam and none of it is free. It’s more expensive in the inner city than it is in surrounding areas. You can expect to pay up to EUR 5 an hour. You’ll see ticket dispensers (parkeerautomaat) all around town. They accept coins and ‘chipknip’ bank passes. They also dispense day and night tickets that provide a discount of up to 40 percent off the hourly rate. You can see a full list of parking garages, and information on parking in English.
There are petrol stations throughout the city. Texaco, Shell and BP have stations throughout and around Amsterdam, but not in the very heart of the city. Unmanned stations are becoming popular in the Netherlands; you simply pay with your debit or credit card. Full-service stations are not common in the city. Most will only offer basic services to keep you on the road. It is a whopping EUR1.47 per litre for unleaded and EUR 1.08 per litre for diesel. For a gallon it is EUR 5.73 and EUR 4.21 respectively.
Vehicle leasing or rental is not necessary for travelling around in Amsterdam, as the public transport system is reliable and most people choose to use it. If you would like to rent a car for a day trip, all of the major car rental agencies like Hertz, Europe Car, Budget, and National Car Rental have locations in and outside the city. Today’s competitive market means it’s quite cheap to rent a car for a couple of days or even a month. Prices depend on availability but for an idea you can visit www.expedia.nl which will check all the major dealers for you. Leasing a car is not really done on a personal basis in Holland; lease companies will usually only lease cars to companies. Car dealers do provide private leasing contracts but they are very rarely called upon to do so and don’t advise people to take out a lease personally as it isn’t cost effective.
In Amsterdam, businesses usually have company cars, and the car is registered to the company unless it is specifically registered to one person within the company. The employer and leasing agent will ensure all documentation is up to date and all insurance is paid. Generally companies will have several cars that can be used by employees, not just specific individuals. When using a company car you will be refunded for petrol costs as long as you provide a receipt.
Buying a vehicle
To buy a car in the Netherlands you must have a valid residence permit and driving licence. Cars are affordable: you will be able to find good deals for second-hand cars for under EUR 3,000, and there is a good range of dealers to be found on the outskirts of the city as well. Popular brands include Volkswagens, BMWs and Peugeots. According to recent statistics, cars are not overly expensive to buy in the Netherlands, being far cheaper than in Germany and slightly more expensive than in the UK. Most major brand showrooms are concentrated south-east of the ring road and are located near each other. If you’d like to test drive a car you should call in advance to talk to the dealer personally before you visit. It’s best to call at least a week in advance. Check dealer websites for deals on used cars. If you want to buy a used car make sure the dealer is a member of BOVAG (Bond Van Automobielhandelaren en Garagehouders), the car dealers’ union. All cars from a BOVAG-affiliated dealer will come with a dealer’s guarantee. Check here for a full list of certified dealers: www.bovag.nl.
There are a couple of options available to help you secure the funds to purchase your car. You can approach a bank for a loan or talk to the car dealer about what sort of deals are available. The interest on repayments can vary depending upon a number of factors. Your own credit history may also determine what kind of deal you can get.
You must register for third party insurance for your car as the registration is not complete without it. The cost of your insurance will depend on the type of car you drive and your driving history. If you are an experienced driver and have made no insurance claims in the past you will be able to receive a discount. If you choose to be insured by ANWB for example, your discount will begin at 35 percent and can increase to 80 percent over the years. The obligatory third party insurance (wettelijk aansprakelijkheid) generally covers damages up to EUR 2,500.
Registering a vehicle
If you buy a car from any dealer, new or used, the dealer will see that the car is registered in your name. If you buy privately, either purchase on the internet via a site called marktplaats.nl or through classifieds. You and the seller will have to go to the post office together to change the registration. You will need a valid passport, your residence permit, a bank statement less than three months old, and the record of registration from the seller. Before you buy a car privately make sure you have the car checked out fully by an inspector as advised by the ANWB, the Dutch motorists’ association. All cars more than three years old must have an APK certificate as advised by the Department of Road Transport (www.rdw.nl). The APK certificate must be renewed every year -- you should renew your APK at least two months before it expires. You should still have a car inspected even if it has an APK certificate, as the certificate only determines road safety, not potential mechanical faults.
Once a car is registered in your name it will stay so until you sell it or you file with the RDW to have it de-registered as the car is being destroyed. Only an RDW-registered autodemontagebedriven (wrecking yard) can destroy a car; if parts can be salvaged you will be paid for the car.
Bringing your car to the Netherlands
If you wish to bring your own car into Holland you may have to pay BPM (vehicle tax), via customs. If you’ve lived in another country for a year and have had the car for longer than six months you will not have to pay the import tax but you will still need to contact customs – the number is 0800 0143. Once you’ve paid the taxes you will be able to register the car with the RDW after paying EUR 78 for an inspection and a EUR 45 environment tax. You can then have Dutch number plates made. Once you’ve completed this process you must take out third party insurance which is mandatory in the Netherlands.
Traffic fines and offences
Traffic regulations are strictly enforced in the Netherlands. Violating regulations can result in fines, suspension of licence and even jail. Here are some of the regulations and their fines: not wearing a seat belt: EUR 75 per person, child not in child seat: EUR 75, refusal to take breathalyser test: EUR130, expired licence or illegible licence: EUR50, driving without insurance or proof of insurance: EUR130, driving under the influence: from EUR 220 up to EUR1,000 and 10 months’ suspension of licence, driving with unsafe tyres: from EUR 17 to EUR 250, running a red light: EUR130, using a mobile while driving: EUR130, not stopping at a stop sign: EUR 50, driving slower than 60km/hr on the motorway: EUR 200, speeding: from EUR 16 up to EUR 660 (and you may have your licence suspended) depending on the speed.
There isn’t a points system in the Netherlands. When you are caught breaking the rules you will be given a receipt that states the particulars of the violation – this is not your ticket, you will receive this at a later date in the mail. You will be able to pay by bank transfer or cash at Postbank (now ING).
Read Driving and parking in the Holland for up to date information on doing your driving theory and practical tests.
For driving schools in English, check out our A-Z listings under Travel and transportation > Driving Schools.
Explorer Publishing / Expatica
Do you have driving-related questions? Ask our expert Michael Davidson. Simply go the the Travel and Transport category of our Ask the experts section and click on his name.
Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.