What expats need to know before driving in the Netherlands

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Are you within your legal rights when driving in the Netherlands? We clarify the most common expat misconceptions.

Getting behind the steering wheel in the Netherlands could be leading you on a fast track into a legal minefield.  If you don’t know the circumstances under which you can drive a car with a foreign registration plate in the Netherlands or if an international driving license is valid, then read on, you may find that you are currently not within your legal rights.  Our driving expert Michael Davidson, who runs The International School of Driving (DriveRight) in the Netherlands has the answers.

Legal age for driving a motor vehicle is 18 years

When driving in the Netherlands, expats often overlook that the minimum legal age for driving a moped is 16 years and for driving a motor vehicle, like a car, 18 years. Even if you have somebody staying with you under those ages, and who drives ‘back home’ they are not allowed to drive in the Netherlands.

Foreigners can drive a Dutch-registered car

Also, remember that a friend of yours coming over to this country can drive in your car—you being a Dutch registered person and your car being a Dutch registered car—for up to 90 days. If they would like to drive that car for over 90 days, they will have to register at the Driving Standards Agency— Rijksdienst voor Wegverkeer (RDW)  in Veendam (relevant part of the RNW website is in English language). This can be done through your local consul.

Residents of the Netherlands cannot drive a foreign registered car

It’s also important to remember, that you, as a Dutch resident, may not drive in a vehicle with foreign registration plates.  For example, if your brother comes over from England in his UK-registered vehicle, he can drive in that vehicle in the Netherlands up to 90 days and he can also drive in your vehicle with Dutch registration plates, but you are not allowed to drive in his vehicle with UK or other foreign registration plates. This is purely for tax reasons.  If you are driving in a vehicle with foreign license plates while a resident of the Netherlands, you are evading the import duty on the vehicle and road tax, and in international agreements this is not permitted.

When international driving licenses are valid

Also remember that an international driving license is only valid with a valid national license and only for persons who are not registered in Holland as a resident. Therefore only tourists can use this combination.  As soon as you become a resident within a municipality in the Netherlands, you can only use your license for a certain period of time.  If the license was issued in one of the EU or EEA countries this will generally be ten years after the issue date. For other licenses it is 185 days.  To continue driving legally after these periods you will either have to exchange your license for a Dutch one or you will have to take the Dutch theory and road test.



1 Comment To This Article

  • Mick Symonds posted:

    on 7th September 2010, 11:31:28 - Reply

    One small additional point: when I became resident and swapped my licence for an NL one, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I did not need any sort of test because I had use of "the 30% tax rule". That is one of its lesser-known side-benefits.