Get the lowdown on driving in the Dutch capital, from speed limits to parking regulations.
While Amsterdam is a beautiful city to live and work, driving here can be a stressful business. Drivers will need to navigate narrow streets, trams and cyclists – and get to grips with a parking system that can be confusing and expensive.
In this guide, Expatica offers some basic facts about driving in Amsterdam, from traffic rules and regulations to Dutch car insurance, registration and traffic fines.
Road safety in the Netherlands
Dutch drivers are quite safe, and are getting safer. Strict enforcement of laws against dangerous driving has seen the number of road deaths dropping each year, down from 750 in 2008 to 613 in 2017.
Unfortunately, however, while the number of driving deaths is going down, cycling fatalities are rising. In 2017, 206 people in the Netherlands died on bicycles, compared to 201 in cars – the highest level of cycling deaths in 11 years.
Cyclists, pedestrians and public transport
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 that’s not possible, so always keep an eye out and remember: cyclists always have right of way.
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 you’ll need to ensure you understand the road rules before embarking on driving in the Netherlands.
What to do if you’re involved in an accident
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 – though you may still want to wait for the police to arrive and file a report.
Parking in Amsterdam
Parking in Amsterdam can be a challenge, with low availability and high costs in the city centre. With this in mind, you can expect to pay as much as €5 an hour. Ticket dispensers (parkeerautomaat) take coins and, in some cases, bank cards. If you’re parking overnight, you could benefit from significantly cheaper rates.
Parking illegally results in heavy fines:
- Basic parking errors: €95
- Blue line errors: €95
- Parking in a disabled space: €380
- Standing still causing danger to others: €140
- Parking without having a valid ticket: €95
Park and Ride in Amsterdam
To avoid the hassle of parking in the city, it can be a good idea to use a Park and Ride (Parkeren + Reizen) service located on the outskirts of the city. These services involve dropping off your car and getting public transport into the city centre itself. Prices are reasonable and groups of five or more people can benefit from discounts.
At a discounted rate, Park and Ride car parks cost €1 per hour, or €8 for 24 hours. If you’re arriving before 10am, you’ll need to pay the 24 hour rate as a minimum, whereas after 10am you can simply pay by the hour. These rates are available to drivers using OV-chipkaart or P+R GBV cards to travel into the city centre – otherwise, you will need to pay rates of up to €3.50 an hour.
You can find out more about the locations of Park and Ride car parks here (in Dutch).
Car sharing in Amsterdam
Rather than worrying about parking their own cars in Amsterdam, some residents use car share companies (otherwise known as car clubs), which give you access to cars dotted around the city for a monthly fee.
Companies such as Car2Go and Green Wheels offer these services, and you can find out more about the latter company in our article on using the Dutch community car service Green Wheels.
Petrol stations in Amsterdam
There are petrol stations throughout the city, though you might struggle to find one in the city centre.
Major providers such as Texaco, BP and Shell all have a presence in Amsterdam, and unmanned stations are becoming more popular. These stations, known as ‘pay at the pump’ in the UK, allow motorists to simply use their debit or credit card after filling up.
Fuel prices in the Netherlands are expensive generally, and you might find that Amsterdam is slightly more expensive than other Dutch cities. As of August 2018, the average price per litre for unleaded fuel in Amsterdam was €1.78 a litre – the most expensive rate in Europe – while Diesel costs somewhat less, at €1.47.
Electric cars in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is leading the way in electric car technology. There are already hundreds of charging points for electric cars around the city, and this number is growing. There are also discount schemes available for people looking to purchase an electric car, and Car2Go provides an on-street rental service. You can learn more here (in Dutch).
Leasing a vehicle in Amsterdam
Vehicle leasing or rental is not necessary for most people travelling around in Amsterdam, as the public transport system is reliable and the majority of 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 can be quite cheap to rent a car. Prices can vary significantly but for an idea you can visit www.expedia.nl, where you can compare dealer costs.
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.
Businesses often have company cars, which are registered to the company or one specific person within it. If you’re going to be benefiting from a company car, your employer and its leasing agent should ensure all documentation is up to date and all insurance is paid.
Some companies will have a bank of several cars that can be used by employees. When using a company car, you should be refunded for petrol costs as long as you provide a receipt.
Buying a vehicle in Amsterdam
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.
When buying a car in the Netherlands, you’ll need to have a valid residence permit and a driving licence. On the Amsterdam ring road to the south-east of the city, you’ll find dealerships from the usual suspects, such as BMW, Peugeot and Volkswagen, where you’ll be able to buy new and second-hand cars.
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.
If you want to buy a used car make sure the dealer is a member of BOVAG (Bond Van Automobiel Handelaren en Garagehouders), the Dutch trade association for car dealers. 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. For example, 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 will vary depending upon a number of factors and your credit history will play a part in the decision about what rate you’ll get on a car loan.
Vehicle insurance in the Netherlands
By law, you must obtain third-party insurance for your car. Of course, more comprehensive packages are available. 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 on your premium.
Registering a vehicle in Amsterdam
If you buy a car from any dealer, new or used, the dealer will ensure that the car is registered in your name. If you buy privately, you and the seller will need to change the registration at a post office or RDW-TW certified company.
To do this, you’ll need ID, a transfer certificate (overschrijvingsbewijs), registration documents, liability insurance (WA) and a safety certificate (APK). The previous owner should have ensured their certificate has been invalidated.
Before you buy a car privately make sure you have the car checked out fully by an inspector.
All cars more than three years old must have an APK certificate as advised by the Department of Road Transport (www.rdw.nl), which must be renewed every year. You can find out more about registering a car in the Netherlands in our full guide on driving and parking in the Netherlands.
Bringing your own car to the Netherlands
If you wish to bring your own car into Holland you may have to pay BPM (vehicle tax), via customs, the cost of which can be significant. The Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst) provides a brochure where you can find the specific rates for your type of vehicle.
You’ll also need to pay road tax when driving a vehicle in the Netherlands. How much you’ll pay depends on the type of car and its emissions. You can find out more by using the calculator on the Dutch Tax and Customs website.
Traffic rules and regulations in the Netherlands
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 or 130 km/h on the motorways.
- Speed cameras are mostly used on the motorways and larger roads but heavy fines, up to €660, discourage speeding everywhere.
You can learn more about rules of the road in our guide on driving and parking in the Netherlands.
Traffic fines and offences in the Netherlands
Traffic regulations are strictly enforced in the Netherlands and violations can result in fines, suspension of licence and even jail. Here are some of the regulations and their fines:
- Not wearing a seat belt: €140 per person
- Child not in child seat: €140
- Refusal to take breathalyser test: €230
- Expired licence or illegible licence: €95 (expired less than one year), €340 (expired more than one year).
- Driving without insurance or proof of insurance: €600
- Driving under the influence: from €300-€650 and possible suspension of licence
- Driving with unsafe tyres: from €140-470 depending on how many are unsafe
- Running a red light: €230
- Using a mobile while driving: €230
- Not stopping at a stop sign: €230
- Speeding/driving too slowly: varies depending on how much over/under the limit you drove. You can calculate your fine here.
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).
You can find out more about the fines for breaking road rules on the Openbaar Ministerie website.
Dutch driving schools
For driving schools in English, check out our A-Z listings under Travel and Transportation >Driving Schools.