Driving in the Netherlands
Exploring the Netherlands by road makes for a very flat trip- but not a boring one! This country of minimal hills and maximum cultural heritage is great for a self-drive holiday.
To enjoy the Netherlands to the fullest, you will need the right vehicle, and the best possible price helps too. We aim to help you find both of those, and also to give some Dutch driving tips to make everything go smoothly.
The minimum age for driving a vehicle in the country is 18, but the minimum age for driving a rental vehicle is 21. Driving licenses issued in European Union states are valid in the Netherlands, and drivers from other countries will require an international driving permit in conjunction with their valid driving license.
Common sense and traffic laws apply on the roads of the Netherlands. Speed limits vary so keep an eye out for the signs- but a general rule is 130km/h on the motorways, 100km/h on national roads and 80km/h on urban roads. These are the limits- but drive to the conditions! Slow down for rain, fog and any type of limited visibility or road slipperiness. Mountains are one thing you will not have to contend with much in the Netherlands.
The blood-alcohol limit for driving is 50mg, and it is strictly enforced, so be wary of drinking before hitting the road. Passengers in the front seat must be at least 12 years of age and 135 centimetres tall, and younger or shorter children should travel in the back seat with an appropriate child seat or booster seat.
So, you know the rules- but where to go? The Netherlands is full of bustling cities and tidy towns amongst the flat fields and windmills.
Amsterdam is definitely one of the country’s hotspots. It is a hugely multicultural and international city- you never know which language you will hear spoken in the street. Culture, creativity, art, music, business and tourism all combine in the city to make a fascinating melting pot which still has typically Dutch charm.
Amsterdam, the capital and great starting point for a road trip, offers plenty to keep a visitor busy. The Old Centre boasts medieval architecture, Dam Square, and the Red Light District. It also has plenty of coffeeshops- not to be confused with cafes which indeed sell coffee. Coffeeshops are the place to go for something a little stronger.
Taste all the cuisines you can imagine in one of Amsterdam’s many and varied restaurants, stroll beside the grachts (canals) and visit Anne Frank’s hideout where she wrote her diary. Smell the roses at the Bloemenmarkt (flower market) and take in some learning in one of the city’s many museums in the Museum Quarter. Just wandering the streets of Amsterdam can be an afternoon’s entertainment.
The rest of the country, whilst perhaps a bit lacking in coffeeshops, has plenty to offer the intrepid road tripper. Rotterdam and Antwerp are not far from Amsterdam in the western Netherlands, two more big cities. The North Sea Coastline is also a highlight of the west, along with some typical dykes-and-windmills Dutch countryside.
In the north you will find a region with fewer inhabitants than the rest of the Netherlands, and much fewer tourists. Get to know the real Dutch way of life there, and visit the beautiful West Frisian Islands and the Frisian Lakes. In the east, near the Netherlands’ border with Germany, is the enormous Hoge Veluwe National Park of sand dunes and woodlands. Also in this area are seven lovely medieval Hanseatic cities strung along the IJssel River which have some gorgeous architecture and a lot of history.
The southern Netherlands is a place of catholic history, beer culture and rolling landscape which sets it apart from the rest of the country. A great if somewhat gimmicky place to visit whilst touring the south is the Drielandenpunt, where the borders of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany meet. If you have ever wanted to stand in 3 countries at once, this is the place to do it.