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Driving in the Netherlands

Lakes, canals, windmills - the Netherlands has it all.

Windmills in Kinderdijk, Holland

With excellent roads, good signage and courteous drivers, the Netherlands is about as near as you can get to stress-free driving.

Most main roads are lit at night and there are no tolls. As long as you avoid rush hour in cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Den Haag you should find driving a breeze.

Hit the road

In keeping with some of their European neighbours, the Dutch give right of way to traffic entering from the right at intersections and roundabouts.

Combine this with the fact that bicycles in the Netherlands have right of way and you clearly need to take extra care at junctions.

Be patient, keep your wits about you and don’t use your horn - it’s illegal except in emergencies.

Star drive

Amsterdam canal

Head north of Amsterdam and you’ll find yourself in historic Holland as painted by the Old Masters: windmills, dykes, lifting bridges and dairy farms.

Drive through the atmospheric fishing villages of Volendam, Muiden and Medembli as far as Den Helder where you can catch a boat out to the sandy shores of Texel Island.

Best of the rest

The Lower Rhine offers gorgeous drives through forests, fens and meadows with great walks to lakes, river dunes and nature reserves.

Alternatively, follow the pretty Green Heart route into the eastern province of Overijssel.

Laws of the land

  • All car passengers must wear seatbelts if fitted.
  • A row of white triangular signs on the road means you have to give way.
  • Trams have right of way, as do buses when pulling out of stops in built-up areas.
  • It’s illegal to cross a solid white line even when turning.
  • Using a mobile phone while driving is illegal.

It’s illegal to use full-beam headlights if they’re likely to dazzle other drivers or pedestrians.

Children under 1.35m tall are not allowed to travel unless using an approved, properly fitting restraint.

Local knowledge

Riding a bike in Amsterdam

Parking in city centres can be difficult and expensive. To park in a ‘blue zone’ buy a disc at a police station or filling station.

Dutch police like to target speeders with radar traps and on-the-spot fines. In some residential areas the speed limit is just 30 km/h.

The blood-alcohol limit is 50 mg compared with 80 mg in Britain. For your first five years behind the wheel the limit is just 20 mg - effectively zero.

Dutch speed limits

Road type

Speed limit

Urban areas

50 km/h

Outside built-up areas

80 km/h or 100 km/h (check local signage)


120 km/h

Planning on driving to another country? Take a look at our section on driving in Europe.

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