Driving and parking rules in the Netherlands
All you need to know about driving in the Netherlands, from exchanging your driver's licence to car registration and parking.
Once you are a resident of the Netherlands (registered in the municipality database) you cannot drive a car registered in another country.
To drive a car in the Netherlands you must also have a valid license recognised by Dutch law, be at least 18, have third party insurance, and be driving a registered vehicle.
Exchanging a driving licence
To exchange (omwisselen) your existing national driving licence (rijbewijs) for a Dutch one, you must fit into one of the categories below. Otherwise you can use it for 185 days after becoming a resident, during which time you need to take the CBR theory and driving tests. You can take both the theory and practical exam in English. ‘Drivers in international traffic’ — essentially tourists or short-term visitors — are considered non-residents and do not need a Dutch driving licence, although non-EU nationals should check with their Dutch embassy if an international licence is required (essentially a translation of your national licence).
Dutch licences are generally issued for 10 years. Foreign licences from EU/EFTA countries can be used in the Netherlands for 10 years from the date of issue, or 15 years if issued after January 2013. You may like to exchange it anyway: it is a valid proof of identity in many cases.
Licenses that can be exchanged:
- Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dutch Caribbean, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, (States of) Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Isle of Man, Monaco, Netherlands Antilles, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and UK.
- Specific licenses from Taiwan, Israel, Japan, Singapore, Andorra, South Korea, Canadian Province of Quebec.
- Residents with the 30 percent ruling status (whatever nationality).
Expat employees may also be eligible to exchange their foreign licence if the Tax Office considers them to provide specific knowledge that is either unavailable or rare on the Dutch labour market.
Apply at a municipal office for an ‘Aanvraag omwisseling voor Nederlands rijbewijs’ form (or download it prior from www.rdw.nl) — you must be registered in the municipality database for at least 185 consecutive days, and non-EU/EFTA nationals must additionally present an ‘Eigen Verklaring’ (a CBR statement of health). If you are 75 years or over you’ll need a medical examination, which the CBR may request for non-EU/ETFA/Swiss nationals also. There are fees for this. If you are applying under the 30 percent ruling you will need a statement from the tax office’s international department in Heerlen.
Check with all departments if additional documentation is required for your certain situation, and if any document requires translation or authentication. You will generally forfeit your original licence (unless applying under the 30 percent ruling). You need a special licence for a bromfiets (moped), snorfiets (light moped), or brommobiel (mobility car) (unless you have a licence of the A or B category) and you must be 16 or over to get one.
Registering and owning a car
The hefty disincentive for bringing a car into the Netherlands is the private motor vehicle and motorcycle tax (BPM) levied as a percentage of the value of the car. Exemption certificates are dealt by customs (www.douane.nl). There are many implications affecting car tax calculations: consult the website www.belastingdienst.nl for full details (in English). Also note that you, as a Dutch resident, may not drive in a vehicle with foreign registration plates – you will be considered as evading the import duty on the vehicle and road tax, and risk heavy fines. All cars must be registered with the RDW (Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer). If you bring your vehicle from abroad, it must first be reviewed at an RDW inspection station, after which registration is handled through the same office. This means getting Dutch registration plates, registration documents and paying the BPM.
To register ownership of a Dutch-registered car, you can go to any post office or RDW–TV (Tenaamstellen Voertuigen) certified company with all the usual identification documents and a certificate of ownership, vehicle registration documents, statutory liability insurance (WA) and safety certificate (APK). For second hand vehicles, there is a transfer certificate (overschrijvingsbewijs). A seller should ensure their previous ownership certificate has been officially invalidated. After registering your car, you will receive a bill for road tax (motorrijtuigenbelasting) from the tax office.
The vehicle’s registration card (kentekencard, or bewijs) and the certificate of ownership (tenaamstellingsbewijs) must be in the car at all times when on the road. The APK test (at an RDW-approved garage) measures the road-worthiness of your vehicle. For insurance, check the yellow pages or other sources for suppliers of autoverzekering.
Traffic and parking
You drive on the right. Unless otherwise marked, the speed limits are 50 km/hr in the city, 80 km/hr on other roads and 100, 120, or 130 km/hr on motorways. Traffic is an issue (www.trafficnet.nl) and so is parking, for which you generally need a permit. There are various options for paying for parking: by cash, chip or via your mobile phone. See www.parkmobiel.nl, www.park-line.nl or www.yellowbrick.nl.
Many Dutch drivers are members of motoring organisation ANWB (www.anwb.nl), which can provide breakdown cover (wegenwacht) at home or abroad. There are park and ride (P+R) schemes in most cities and the car-sharing scheme Green Wheels is a popular option (www.greenwheels.nl).
- The Department of Road Transport: www.rdw.nl, 0900 0739, or +31 (0)59 839 3330 (abroad)
- Information on driving licences: www.rijbewijs.nl
- Theory and driving tests: www.cbr.nl, 0900 0210
- ‘Road Traffic Signs and Regulations’ brochure: do a search on www.government.nl to download
- Common traffic offences: www.verkeershandhaving.nl – the BVOM (Bureau for Traffic Enforcement of the Public Prosecution Service has details on its website about common offences.
Online moped theory training in English
The Dutch moped theory test is now available in the English language with the release of a new online training and testing course in English by The International School of Driving (DriveRight).
For driving schools in English, check out our A-Z listings under Travel and transportation > Driving Schools.
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. Current Q&As cover topics such as vehicle insurance and registration.
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