This post has:
– Licence requirements to drive in the Netherlands
– How to get a license in Netherlands
– What are the major road rules in the Netherlands
– To Rent/Lease/Own a car in Netherlands

You can drive in The Netherlands if either of the below is true:

  • You have a foreign license in English or any European language (or IDP) and you have resided in The Netherlands less than 6 months yet.
  • You have a Dutch driving licence (obviously ūüôā )
For a rules book in English, see the “Useful Links” on the right sidebar.

To get a Dutch driving license:

  1. Certain country nationals can just exchange their foreign license for a nominal fee at the local town hall (Indian national is not one of these).
  2. If you have 30% ruling, irrespective of the nationality, you can exchange your foreign license (original license, not IDP) to a Dutch license. You will have to surrender your original Indian license in exchange for a Dutch license. In about a month, your original Indian license will be sent to the Indian embassy. You can collect it from there if you go in the afternoon. You can collect personally or authorize someone with a hand written letter.
  3. Exchanging your license is a multi step process:
    • Buy an application form at the townhall paying about ‚ā¨25.
    • Fill it (scroll to the bottom of this page for guidelines).
    • Send it to the address mentioned in the form (something like CBR…).
    • In about 2-3 weeks you will get an approval letter from CBR
    • Submit your application again in the townhall along with CBR approval letter, original license, 30% ruling approval letter and photo. Pay about ‚ā¨25.
    • In about 2-3 weeks you will get a letter saying your Dutch license is ready and can be collected at the townhall
    • Note:¬†Occasionally, you will get a letter from RDW (equivalent to¬†RTO in India) that you need to submit¬†“Original statement of authenticity of your Indian driving license”. In such cases, you can ask your issuing RTO officer in India to issue “extract of driving license”. Your relative/ DL school can go to RTO office with copy of DL and ask them for “Extract of Driving Licence”….bascially you need to fill a¬†form where you need to fill your details like your dl number dob etc. Then they will put a stamp on it and give you half of that form and half goes into their register. It is the same form that you need to use when you have lost your dl. Send this extract to RDW.
    • Go to the townhall and collect it.
    • If you can exchange your license, your spouse will also be able to exchange in the same way.
    • If you are not eligible for exchange, you will have to go thru a theory and driving test. For info, go to¬†http://www.expatica.com/nl/leisure/travel_tourism/how-to-get-a-dutch-drivers-licence-1672.html
Road Rules:
  1. Give way to ambulance/police/fireengine (when flashing lights are on). Drive to the side even over the curb if required. Stop if needed. Idea is to adjust yourself for the emergency vehicle to pass.
  2. Driving is on the right hand side of the road (opposite of India).
  3. Other than that, most of the rules are the same as in India….only that you need to follow them more strictly.
  4. People expect nobody to make mistakes and they do not take much caution. So if you make a mistake it could prove costly to you.
  5. Many people coming new to NL and who already know driving still take 1 or 2 classes from a driving school just to get accustomed to the rules. This costs about 30/hour and is worth it.
  6. Most important rules to remember are:
    • Most times you are on ‘priority road’ (a yellow rhombus sign post just before or at the intersection) and you have the right of way at an intersection. When you are not, at an intersection, vehicle approaching the same intersection from your right hand side has the right of way. You need to stop until your right hand side road is clear.
    • At an intersection, an inverted White triangle with Red border means ‘Yield’.¬† You have the lower priority.¬†¬†The other road is a priority road and so you need to give way to vehicles on¬†the other road.
    • In a round about (circle), the vehicle approaching from the left has the right of way.
    • When turning at an intersection/signal-light, cyclists and pedestrians could be crossing the road. Give way to them.
    • A full green light will mean opposite traffic also has green light. So if you want to turn left, proceed only if the opposing traffic is clear.
    • Do not honk unless you see a risk of accident. It is considered rude/insult and could get other drivers crazy at you.
    • For personal cars, a child must travel in a child-seat appropriate for the age/height/weight.
    • Golden rule:¬†Do not hit pedestrians and cyclists at any time irrespective of your right of way! It could prove very expensive.
    • Last but not the least…..driving is on the right side of the road (opposite to India). It is not very difficult to adjust if you remember one thing….’the driver is always in the middle of the road’!
    • If you know driving, I suggest you take 1 or 2 driving classes with clear intention of knowing the rules and getting used to civilized driving.

To Rent/Lease/Own a car in Netherlands:

  1. Renting: By default you will get a stick shift (manual gear). If you need automatic, you need to specify at the time of reservation. You can rent a car if your license is in English / also-in-English. Else you need an IDP. You will also need a credit card. Cheapcars is an online reservation facility. Watchout if there is a mileage restriction when you are making the reservation…..generally booking via cheapcars comes with unlimited mileage. Rental price may vary by location even within a city. So check out prices in all nearby places.
  2. Company car: Depending on your yearly driving mileage, it might be cheaper to go for a company car from your employer¬†(if they provide). If you intend to use company car for personal use, 1/4 the price of the car is costed to you annually. In net result it amounts to over ‚ā¨400 in taxes per month. But on the other hand you do not have any expenses including fuel, maintenance and depreciation.
  3. If you are using your own car for business purpose, depending on your contract with your employer, you might get reimbursed @ 19cents/km for business kilometers.
  4. Compare the costs from the above 2 points before you decide to buy or go for company car.
  5. If you decide to go for a company car, your employer can provide you the details. To buy a car, read on….
  6. I think Dutch license is mandatory to own a car….not sure.
  7. You can buy a used car from a dealer (called Occasion in Dutch) or from private owner. Buying from a dealer is popular since you can ask for guarantee.
  8. Price varies largely based on the Age, Mileage and the condition of the car (other than model of course). Range can be ‚ā¨500 (five hundred) to thousands.
  9. autotrader.nl is a good website to search for cars. You will get an idea of the price.
  10. If you do not have a trade-in car, you can bargain for a good discount (start with ‚ā¨ 1500/- less than sticker price)
  11. Two things to look for when buying from a dealer:
    • ‘BOVAG gaurantee’ – 3 months for low priced cars (depends on the dealer, but generally below ‚ā¨4500 ); 6 months for higher priced cars. Covers almost everything in the car.
    • NAP – a monitoring system that¬†guarantees¬†the odometer mileage is not tampered.Open the bonet and look for new engine parts. If parts are new, it probably means that part was replaced recently. May not be good sign especially if the mileage is low.
    • Some type of cars will need their belt to be replaced once they have run certain distance (~ 100,000 Kms) or certain years (~10 years). This will cost about ‚ā¨400/- depending on the car. Ask the dealer about it to know what you are buying.
    • You will need to pay a monthly road tax for the car depending on its weight. Larger and heavier the car, the more expensive (diesel cars are heavier than petrol versions). In Netherlands like in India, on one hand the petrol cars are cheaper than diesel version while on the other hand diesel is cheaper than petrol. Even then, the difference in road tax is significant enough to influence your decision to go for petrol or diesel car.
    • Every year you need to get your car APK certified….a check that your car is in safe condition. Your dealer most likely will have this facility to check. Costs around ‚ā¨25.
    • Most cars will need a yearly¬†servicing or service after certain mileage. This could cost from about 100 to 400.
  12. 24×7 Roadside assistance is very important. In case of a breakdown, you just need to call them and they will come to the location of the car and either fix the problem (ex: puncture, battery down, no fuel, locked out etc) or tow your vehicle to the nearest garage. You can opt coverage for even entire Western Europe. If it is rental or lease car, most likely the car agency will provide you 24×7 roadside assistance. If you buy a car, ANWB is the most popular roadside assistance. Another one is Route Mobiel. They cost about ‚ā¨100 per year and is worth it.
  13. GPS is essential. If you are lost, it is very difficult to locate you destination even if you are within very close range. The reason is, every road has its own name and the name of road will likely change at an intersection! Also even very small streets are named and so you do not have a clue what to look for.
Filling the first form after you buy from the Gemeente: 
There are a list of questions all in Dutch. To save you some time typing it into ‘google translate’, below are the questions and the google translation as of May 2012:
omwisseling buitenlands rijbewijs = foreign exchange license
  1. Hebt u last van of last gehad van epileptische aanvallen, flauwvallen, aanvallen van abnormale slaperigheid overdag of andere bewustzijnsstoornissen? = Do you suffer or suffered from epileptic seizures, fainting, seizures of abnormal daytime sleepiness or other disturbances of consciousness?
  2. Hebt u last van of last gehad van evenwichtsstoornissen of ernstige duizelingen?  = Do you suffer or suffered from severe vertigo or balance disorders?
  3. Bent u onder behandeling of onder behandeling geweest voor een psychiatrische stoornis, een hersenziekte Рzoals een beroerte Рof een ziekte van het zenuwstelsel? = Are you being treated or been treated for a psychiatric disorder, a brain disease Рsuch as a stroke Рor a disease of the nervous system?
  4. Maakt u misbruik van of hebt u misbruik gemaakt van alcohol, geneesmiddelen,¬†drugs of andere geestverruimende of bedwelmende middelen of bent u daarvoor¬†ooit medisch onderzocht of onder behandeling geweest? =¬†¬†Do you abuse or abuse made ‚Äč‚Äčof alcohol, drugs, or hallucinogenic drugs or other intoxicants before or are you ever been medically examined or treated?
  5. Wordt of werd u behandeld voor inwendige ziekten als suikerziekte, hart- en vaatziekten, verhoogde bloeddruk, nierziekte of longziekte? Of hebt u een hart- of vaatoperatie ondergaan?  = Is or was receiving treatment for internal diseases as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, kidney or lung disease? Whether you need a heart or vascular surgery?
  6. Kunt u een arm, een hand of uw vingers niet of slechts beperkt gebruiken?  = Can you give an arm, a hand or fingers have limited or no use?
  7. Kunt u een been of voet niet of slechts beperkt gebruiken? = Can a leg or foot have limited or no use?
  8. Ziet u minder goed met één of beide ogen, zelfs als u gebruik maakt van een bril of contactlenzen? = You see less with one or both eyes even when using glasses or contact lenses?
  9. Wordt of werd u behandeld door een oogarts? Of hebt u een oogoperatie of een laserbehandeling van de ogen ondergaan? =Are or were you treated by an ophthalmologist? Whether you need an eye operation or of laser eye surgery?
  10. Gebruikt u medicijnen die volgens de bijsluiter de rijvaardigheid kunnen¬†be√Įnvloeden, zoals slaapmiddelen, kalmeringsmiddelen, antidepressieve middelen,¬†antipsychotische middelen of opwekmiddelen? =Are you taking medication according to the leaflet the ability to drive influence, such as sedatives, tranquilizers, antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs or generating means?
  11. Hebt u nog andere aandoeningen, ziekten of functiebeperkingen die het besturen van motorrijtuigen moeilijker maken? = Do you have other diseases, illnesses or disabilities who are driving of motor vehicles more difficult?

Disclaimer: The is my best effort and no responsibility will be taken for any inaccuracy

23 thoughts on “car and driving

  1. Anonymous

    Dont opt for school/instructors that are not recognized by bovag or similar agencies. Although usually cheaper they lack professionalism and thus end up costing you time and just the same money as the recognized school.

  2. Sreenath Patchigollaaco

    Lovely sight and effort Madhu. Lots have lots of thoughts, few like you convert them into action and do it with lots of commitment and passion. Kudos to you. May your enthu and passion stay strong all the time.

    Need some guidance. I am in Amsterdam. Looking for hiring a car for a month or two when parents are here. i tried shortlease.com, they said they do leases for businesses, not individuals. only option is to cut a deal with Hertz/Avis kind of rental agencies.

    Is this the way or do you have any better suggestions?

    Many Thanks,

    1. admin

      Hi Sreenath, in reality, I do not know. But you can probably check in marktplaats.nl if you have someone leasing and also cheaper.

  3. Ashwin


    Koedam Auto Netherlands. Google and find them. Their rates are very reasonable. I have done business with them earlier.

  4. Rajith

    Dear Admin,

    This is great work from you to collect all the information and put it on a blog. First of all Thanks for that.

    I Have a question, I do not have a driving licence in India and I have applied for it but I have been granted 30% ruling already. So Is it possible to transfer the Indian DL which is dated after the date of 30% ruling approval?
    Or is it mandatory that Driving licence in India should be dated before the 30% ruling approval?

    Thanks for your answer,


    1. admin

      The DL must be dated before your NL entry date. If you get a India DL when residing in NL that will not sound right!

  5. Srikanth

    I checked in Townhall – Eindhoven on 15th Jan 2015 for indian DL validity in NL
    They updated me that i can drive for first one year from the day i landed in NL and eligible to exchange for DUTCH DL once we stayed for more than 185 days in NL.

    Revert for more clarifications.

    1. Madhu

      I would suggest to call again or try another source for double confirmation. Often you get wrong information when you try with only 1 person. This has happened to me couple of times. It is not easy to change the rule of 6 months since it applies to multiple countries (say you are driving in Germany with Indian license but after 180 days!). I applied for change of license before completion of 180 days stay.

      Check this…the official Transport Dept of Netherlands: https://www.rdw.nl/englishinformation/Paginas/Using-a-foreign-driving-licence-after-becoming-a-resident-of-the-Netherlands.aspx?path=Portal/Information%20in%20English/Driving%20licence

  6. Alok

    Hey Madhu,

    Great source of information here. Thanks for the effort.

    I had a question regarding the exchange of Indian license with the Dutch one under 30% ruling. Once the drivers license is exchanged, is there any possibility of getting the original Indian license back? For ex. is it possible to get the Indian license back if I visit India for a short duration during my NL stay?

    Thanks in advance.

    Best Regards,

    1. Madhu

      Yes. You can collect from the Indian embassy in Den Haag. Please refer point 2 under the sub title “To get a Dutch driving license:”.

  7. Jitha

    Hi Madhu,

    I had applied for exchange of driving license to Dutch driving license.However when i submitted my original Indian license, i got a response from the RDW that wanted to confirm if the license i submitted was original indeed.This question primarily came because my license was in the form of a laminated card(License issued during 2002 timeframe used to be like that).Hence i was asked to produce a proof of certificate from my issuing authorities in India.I did this too and submitted the doc.After this was done, i did not get any response from the RDW yet.When i followed up, i was told that they are doing another round of verification again with the Indian team.Also i got to know from them that they have sent an email to the Indian transport authorities and awaiting for a response.Now when i enquired in India, i understand that checking the generic email is not a regular practice for them.Now my application is stuck in this situation.Do you have any experience hearing of a similar situation.Any help or suggestion would be of a great help for me.Thanks in advance!

    1. Madhu

      See if Indian embassy can help. I know a case where they issued a letter in a somewhat similar situation. May be the rdw can send email to embassy instead of transport dept in India. You can call Indian embassy. Last couple of years then have been very good in responding on phone.

  8. Shinto

    I went to Town Hall near Waterlooplein and the process was very simple :-
    * Take a token and wait for your turn
    * Bring Passport,1 Photo,30% Ruling Letter,Original Indian Driving License along with you.
    * They will ask for all the details and you just have to tell them.
    * At the end pay 48 Euro’s as fee
    * After 4 weeks they will send a letter to our address and then we should bring that letter to collect the new Dutch Driving License.

    I never had to fill any fitness form or anything.

    This might be only for Amsterdam maybe.

    1. satendra

      Are you sure about fitness CBR form not required in amsterdam

  9. Ketan Parihar

    Hi Madhu,

    I was in Netherlands previously back in May 2012. That time I had registered in The Hague Municipality. I went back in 5 months time. N now I came back in January 2016 and have registered with the Groningen Municipality. So I am bit confused about validity of my India DL. Is the first 6 months valid after every time I come to Netherlands or only after the first time i come. Could you please clear it for me. I have a road trip coming and would love to drive here in NL with my existing Indian DL.

    1. Madhu

      While I am not sure of the exact rule, 2012 is a long time back. I expect your India licence is valid for driving for 6 months from the time you landed in 2016. You can double check with RDW.

  10. Jeetu


    A stupid question probably. But is one allowed to drive with the copy of the Indian Drivers license (which has been sent for exchange) and a receipt from town hall(where the documents have been submitted for exchange) ?


    1. Madhu

      I don’t think you can rent a car, but I expect it is okay to drive. To this questionsyou get different answers from the gemeente as well.

  11. Pranay


    I am Indian residing in France since number of years, I have Indian license (in English). I am coming to Amsterdam for a business trip. Am I allowed to drive in the Netherlands ?

    1. Madhu

      You are resident of France and so should be having license from France. Indian license is not okay. But I would suggest to check with RDW of Netherlands anyway.

  12. PN Malav

    It seems rules have changed. I called the Indian embassy in The Hague to enquire about collection of my exchanged driving license and was asked to contact VFS. The VFS guy said it was not allowed to hold two driving licenses and that I had to submit my dutch driving license at RDW to get back Indian one.

  13. Gayathri

    Hi, are you sure that a dependent spouse can apply for exchange of driving license under the 30% rule ? Because there is no mention of it in the rdw website …

    1. Madhu

      My spouse got it exchanged few years back. Several others have done it as well. Haven’t heard of any change in the rules.


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