Driving & Cars
Car ownership in the Netherlands is very common, the roads are well maintained and the road network is solid, with motorways connecting all major towns and cities. Dutch road rules conform to most European regulations, those new to the Netherlands should have a sound understanding the basic rules of the road before getting behind the wheel especially since a great deal of the road is shared with cyclists of all ages.
Holders of an EU/EFTA driving licence can drive in the Netherlands for a period of 15 years or until the expiration date, whichever is sooner. (Heavy goods vehicle licences are valid for five years). When due to expire, the EU/EFTA licence can be exchanged for a Dutch licence at the municipality.
Driving licences issued by non-EU/EFTA need to be exchanged within six months of registering in the Netherlands, if they are valid for the categories listed.
If the applicant is benefiting from the 30% Tax Facility, then the applicant and family members can exchange their driving licence(s) for a Dutch driving licence regardless of the licence’s country of issue.
All other licence holders will need to apply for a Dutch licence. This involves taking a theory test and a practical driving exam. In the Netherlands this process is facilitated by accredited driving instructors who apply for the practical exam on your behalf. It is necessary to take one or several lessons before the application can be made.
Mopeds and scooters
A driving licence for a car (B) or a motor bike (A) is required to ride mopeds (engine under 50cc, helmet not mandatory and a blue licence plate) and scooters (engine over 50cc, mandatory helmet and yellow licence plate). If you don’t have either of these licences, you need to get a special moped licence, “the AM category” on your driving licence. Driving a moped is allowed from 16 years and up.
There are a number of car sharing schemes in the Netherlands however Greenwheels is the only one operational in the Maastricht Region. Greenwheels has a fleet of shared cars parked in accessible locations throughout the Netherlands. Members can pick up and return a car whenever it suits, paying per hour and kilometre. The cars are maintained and re-fueled by the organisation and there is an option to be an individual member or link it to your NS Zakelijk (business) account.
Exchanging a driving licence
- Fill in a gezondheidsverklaring (Certificate of Fitness Statement) form at the Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen – CBR website. A DigiD is required to do so. The form is only in Dutch. There is a fee for the form (digitally).
- Take this form to the municipality, along with the following documents:
When the licence is ready for collection the applicant will be notified. A passport or identity card is required for proof of identity when collecting the new licence.
The Dutch driving test is in two parts – first a multiple choice theory test and then a practical test. It is possible to take the standard test in English. It is also possible to take the test in other languages, however an accredited interpreter must be engaged to do so.
Theory tests can be arranged by the applicant themselves, but the practical test has to be applied for by a driving school instructor.
Foreign licences holders who need to pass the Dutch test, can arrange a test drive with an accredited driving instructor and ask for an assessment of how many lessons are required. Some driving schools offer advanced or refresher driving courses for driving licence holders who want to improve their driving skills, and/or would like to get experience driving in the Netherlands.
Contact Veilig Verkeer Nederland – VVN (Netherlands Traffic Safety Association) for advice about driving safely in the Netherlands.
Importing a car
When importing a car to the Netherlands there are three main organisations involved:
- the Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer – RDW (Netherlands Vehicle Authority) is responsible for the registration of cars in the Dutch system, issuing vehicle registration numbers, and issuing certificates of vehicle roadworthiness;
- the Belastingdienst (Tax and Customs Administration) and
- Douane (Customs) who are both responsible for the paperwork to do with importation, including exemption from import duties, and collecting road tax.
Foreign-registered vehicles may be driven in the Netherlands for up to three months from the date of arrival. After this time, the car needs to be registered with the Dutch authorities, and usually requires a Dutch number plate.
When registering a car or motorcycle from abroad in the Dutch vehicle registration system a Belasting van Personenauto’s en Motorrijtuigen – BPM (Car and Vehicle Tax) declaration must be filed. Before a BPM declaration can be filed, the passenger car, van or motorcycle must be identified or inspected at an RDW inspection station.
In a number of situations applicants can be granted an exemption. In that case BPM does not have to be paid. The summary set out on the Belastingdienst website details the main exemptions, with information about how to apply for them.
For detailed information about importing a vehicle and to start the process go to Importing a Vehicle on the RDW website.