Drive the Dutch way

Drive the Dutch way

Verkeersschool Kennedy is a driving school based in Amsterdam-Zuid. They offer extensive driver’s license training packages for manual and automatic cars (cat. B), motorcycles (cat. A), and mopeds (cat. AM).

They also offer refresher courses for those who have recently moved to the Netherlands and need to become familiar with Dutch traffic conditions.

Expats and Dutch traffic

It can be quite a challenge to drive a car in Amsterdam. With its narrow historic streets, cramped parking spaces, and trams, it’s definitely worth familiarising yourself with the Dutch rules to guarantee safety for yourself and others.

The Netherlands is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. That means a lot of traffic is pushed along the many roads and junctions.

Muriel Thomas (33) describes her experience as an expat moving to the capital, "When living in the United States, I always thought of myself as an experienced driver. Things changed after I had moved to the Netherlands to work with an international law firm."

"Suddenly, I had to take into account the many cyclists riding really close to my car - and to park my car along a dimly lit canal. It proved to be quite nerve-wracking."

Refresher courses

Her account may sound all too familiar to many expats as well as Dutch residents, Christian van Langen states. As an experienced instructor and owner of the Kennedy driving school, he knows all about the challenges of driving in Amsterdam.

"You are mangled between fast taxis on your left, and cyclists on your right, moving in unpredictable ways. You also have to consider trams that have the right of way at most intersections."

In recent years, more and more expats have been applying for refresher courses to help them adjust to Dutch traffic rules and improve their driving skills.

"Quite often, expats experience traffic situations that differ a lot from their home country, so taking a few extra lessons to acquaint oneself with the Dutch way of driving is a good idea," van Langen says.

Van Langen gives an example, "Upon entering the motorway, you have to accelerate rather quickly to keep pace with the other traffic."

"On the other hand, when leaving the motorway it is not uncommon to encounter a roundabout - so you’re forced to slow down considerably."

"To drive safely, you have to display self-confidence, self-assertiveness and decisiveness," Christian van Langen believes.

Tips for driving in the Netherlands

When taking residence in the Netherlands, expats from certain countries are able to exchange their regular driver’s license for a Dutch license.

Holders of certain foreign driver’s licenses may continue to use their license for a maximum of 185 days after gaining residence in the Netherlands.

When that period expires, however, they must pass the regular theory and driving tests at the CBR (Central Office for Motor Vehicles) to obtain a Dutch driver’s license.

Many people who move to the Netherlands may be unaware of some of the driving differences that are important to keep in mind, such as the following:

Trams have priority and so do buses that are pulling out of bus stops. 

 Seatbelts are compulsory in both the front and back of all vehicles.

 Children under 3 must sit in the back on an appropriate, approved seat. Children ages 3 to 18 must sit on a car seat or raised booster in the front or the back if they are shorter than 1.35m. 

 The drink-driving limit is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (less than the UK, more than the USA). If you have been driving less than 5 years, the limit is 20mg of alcohol per 100ml. This is the same for moped drivers under 24 years old. 

 If you are caught committing a motor offence, you will have to pay an on-the-spot fine. *It is illegal to use radar detection equipment.

 It is illegal to cross a solid white line even if you are turning off the road.

 At junctions, a yellow and white diamond shaped sign gives drivers the right of way, yet you have to give way if there is a row of white triangular road markings.

 Be careful when using roundabouts because the rules vary. Some will give you the right of way when coming onto it, whereas others will give you way when leaving the roundabout.

What to keep in your car

It is compulsory to carry the following in the car at all times:

Your driving licence and your passport if the driving licence does not include a photograph

Car registration papers

Motor insurance certificate (not compulsory but highly recommended)

Hands-free equipment if speaking on a mobile while driving

A red warning triangle (not compulsory but recommended)

A reflective vest (not compulsory but recommended)

Verkeersschool Kennedy has been a family-run business for over 35 years. As a BOVAG accredited driving school, they guarantee a reliable and solid service.

Kennedy's instructors are fluent in English. They have already assisted many expatriates from various countries, and are glad to teach you or your child(ren) to drive the Dutch way as well!

Verkeersschool Kennedy
Address: Rijnstraat 90, Amsterdam
› Telephone: +31 (0)20 644 43 02

Verkeersschool Kennedy logo

Raymond Frenken


Raymond Frenken

Raymond Frenken is consulting editor, author, and adviser

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