Driving to your job: What you should know about driving in The Netherlands

If you are in the process of looking for work in the Netherlands as a foreigner, or you have already moved to your new Dutch home and are getting used to a new way of life, it can be daunting to get out there on the roads in a car for the first time. Driving to your new job should be simple, but there are different laws, customs, and road etiquette to be aware of in the Netherlands, in the same way as in any other country. Understanding the roads will help you with your safety and your convenience. Dutch police can also give on-the-spot fines and confiscate your car in the worst-case scenario, should you fall foul of the driving laws and regulations, such as driving on the wrong side of the road, so it is best to be fully aware of the laws.

The basics of driving in the Netherlands

Here are the basic traffic rules that you need to understand when driving in the Netherlands:

  • Always drive on the right and overtake on the left.
  • Driving lessons are legal from the age of 16.5 in the Netherlands, a practical exam can be taken at 17, and once you have obtained a driving licence and reach the age of 18, you can drive independently without being accompanied by an older licence holder.
  • Trams operate widely in the Netherlands. Unlike normal passing rules, when you would like to pass a tram, always pass on the right where possible, and only on the left if it does not impact people boarding and leaving the tram. Trams have priority at road intersections, and buses have priority when leaving a stop and pulling away.
  • You must be able to prove that you have car insurance to cover your vehicle in the Netherlands and have documents that show the identity of the car (for example in the car logbook).
  • Always carry your personal ID or passport with you.
  • If you are bringing your car from another country, the ‘home country’ must be visible on the car. For instance, if you have brought your car from the UK, a ‘UK’ sticker must be visible, or a small UK badge on both of the vehicle registration plates.

What is the speed limit in the Netherlands?

There is no minimum speed that you need to drive at in the Netherlands, but by driving at a low speed where it obstructs other drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians it could lead to you being issued with a fine. The speed limit, as of 2019, on motorways is 100km/h during the day between the hours of 6am and 7pm. During the night between 7pm and 6am, you can drive up to 120 or 130 km/h on the motorway depending on the specific road. In built-up residential and commercial areas, the highest speed is 50 km/h, and this will be signposted well in every location. In more open areas, this can rise to 80 km/h, so always keep an eye on the road signs. The Dutch police are strict with fines relating to speeding, with a driver going 20km/h over the speed limit in a residential area receiving fines of up to 194 Euro. This increases to 262 Euro if you are driving 25 km/h over the limit.

Using electronic devices

You are not allowed to hold a mobile electronic device when driving a vehicle in the Netherlands, and you are also prohibited from holding a phone between your ear and shoulder to talk and drive at the same time. You are only permitted to hold a mobile phone and use it in a car when the vehicle is fully stopped.

What is the law for driving under the influence?

All drivers and cyclists are prohibited from driving or cycling under the influence of a substance that they know (or should know) will have an impact on their driving skills. This includes alcohol, drugs, and certain types of medication. The maximum permitted blood alcohol level is 0.5 g/l, but for novice drivers the rules are stricter at 0.2 g/l.

Do you need to carry anything in your car?

In the Netherlands there is no legal expectation for you to carry certain items with you when driving. It is sensible though to carry a warning triangle in case of breakdown, a reflective jacket or bib, and have spare bulbs ready in case one of your lights has blown and the police pull you over. You’ll find yellow emergency telephones on Dutch motorways every 2km, and you can dial 112 for fire, police, or ambulance if required. Always carry your license, personal ID or passport with you, along with your car’s registration and insurance.

What is the Dutch Reach?

One notable difference in driving custom in the Netherlands is the Dutch Reach. This is the action when rather than using the hand closest to the door to open it, Dutch people use their far hand. This allows for a look into the rear-view mirror, to the side, and then over your shoulder onto oncoming traffic to check all potential traffic hazards when entering or leaving the car. With so many cyclists, pedestrians, and other vehicles zooming around on all sides, the Dutch reach is especially important.

Driving a moped or motorcycle?

If you are driving a motorcycle or a moped in the Netherlands, you must always wear a safety helmet whilst in transit. If you are found on the road without a helmet you could be issued with a 100 Euro fine. ​​It is also forbidden to ride a moped on the bicycle path except in specifically defined areas, otherwise mopeds join normal traffic on the road.

Cycling in the Netherlands

Cycling is extremely popular in the Netherlands, with around 23 million bikes in the country (this equates to around 1.3 bikes per person, which is an incredible statistic). What this means is, that if you are from a country where cycling isn’t as popular, you won’t be as accustomed to seeing so many cyclists on the road. Cycling is well-regulated in the Netherlands and there is an incredible vast network of cycle paths throughout the entire country. All towns and cities have been designed and built with cyclists in mind, so you always need to be aware of cyclists around you when driving a car or other motor vehicle.

Knowing your route

When you first head off to drive to work in the Netherlands, be sure to plan ahead. The last thing you want is to end up going in the wrong direction, take the slightly longer route, or end up being late for work. If you have time before you begin your new job, why not take to the road and practise the route or try out a couple of different potential routes to work from your home.

Whether you need to get car insurance in the Netherlands for the first time or you are about to embark on your first commute to work in your car since moving to the country, it is understandable that you might find things a bit daunting at first. We hope that you have found this guide useful, helping you to understand the cultural difference when driving to your job in the Netherlands, and making sense of a country that has many cyclists on the road in a way that is uncommon in other countries.

About the Author:

Ronald de Waard is the founder of WA.nland the brains behind the library of information on the site that is designed to help make sense of Dutch law, insurance, and liability. He is a specialist in liability within Dutch law and he wanted to help the consumer. It can be daunting for a person seeking information about insurance policies, and Ronald wanted to make things clear. WA.nl offers that much-needed clarity, providing unbiased, accurate, and up-to-date information that is simple to access and easy to read. It is the best way to remove the risk of over-insurance and to choose the best policy for each individual circumstance.


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