If you cross the Dutch border from another European country, you’ll probably hardly notice. You’ll continue to drive on the right-hand side and passport controls haven’t existed for decades. Entering the Netherlands via a land border crossing is free and there is no toll for cars, trailers or caravans.
The Netherlands has many traffic rules and a long list of (usually expensive) fines. In order to avoid any unpleasant surprises, we have listed 10 things you should be aware of when driving in the Netherlands.
#1 Dutch Road Network
The Dutch road network is well developed and maintained. Freeways are plentiful throughout the country. When going from one city to another, you’ll almost always end up on the highway. Highways typically start with the letter A, followed by a one to two digit number, e.g. A2, A28. Between smaller cities as well as in rural areas, you’ll find country roads, starting with the letter N. It’s good to know the difference, as both road types have different speed limits. N-roads typically have frequent roundabouts, which you won’t find on the A-highways.
#2 Border Control and Police Checks
At some border crossings you’ll still find border checkpoints. Since the freedom of movement within the EU was introduced, these checkpoints are no longer in use. Nevertheless, you’ll occasionally spot police vehicles at the land border crossing, ready to perform random drug and entry checks.
The probability of being stopped by police is higher at the border than anywhere else in the country. To ensure a stress-free inspection, be sure to carry your driver’s license and vehicle registration papers. A printed copy of your green insurance card is no longer required when driving in the EU. Some police officers may want to check your safety kit (usually consisting of a first-aid kit and a warning triangle) which is mandatory when driving in the Netherlands.
#3 Speed Limits
In urban areas the speed limit is 50 km/h. Outside these areas it varies between 60 or 80 (depending on the type of road). On N-roads, the speed limit varies between 80 and 100. In 2020, a new speed limit was applied to freeways: the maximum speed is 100 km/h between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. and 120 km/h at night (unless signs state otherwise). On particularity of freeways is the so called Trajectcontrole. This system measures your speed between certain sections, taking into consideration your average speed. Watch out for mobile speed checks which can be anywhere in urban areas, N-roads and freeways.
You should stick to these speed limits as speeding in Holland is quite expensive! In addition to fines, the Netherlands also has a penalty points system. However, this only applies for Dutch licences and you won’t be charged with penalty points if you hold a foreign driver’s license.
#4 Traffic Lights
Traffic lights change from red directly to green. There is no intermediate yellow light when switching to green. The opposite applies when switching from green to red, where you’ll see a short intermediate yellow light. Many traffic lights, especially at major intersections, have cameras. Note that these cameras have two functions: they measure whether you run a red light as well as the maximum speed. Thus, you better not hit the gas too hard when seeing a yellow traffic light in the Netherlands!
#5 Speed Bumps
To calm traffic in villages and on side roads (usually where the speed limit is up to 60 km/h), the smart Dutch have built countless speed bumps, called drempels. Some are rather flat, others are pretty high. Make sure to reduce your speed as they can attack the shock absorbers and axles if you are not careful. This may all sound tedious, but speeding in the Netherlands is effectively reduced.
In Holland, the cyclist is king of the road. Although not all cyclists have a kinglike behaviour, in most cases, the cyclist isn’t blamed for accidents and the motorist gets the short end of the stick. Even if there is a group of cyclists in front of you, comfortably riding three abreast and spreading far beyond the limits of the bike lane, be patient, don’t honk or yell, as it won’t likely change anything.
In many cities it is advisable to park the car outside the center and explore the place in true Dutch fashion, by bike! Many towns consist of narrow, historic streets. Cycling in Holland is very fun and easy as hills are almost non-existent in most parts of the country. Bike paths are well developed and plentiful.
#7 Road Accidents
If you are involved in a traffic accident when driving in the Netherlands, the police must be notified if people are injured or if there is considerable damage to property. In case of a minor material damage, be sure to take pictures as evidence and fill out the European Damage Form (accident report) together with the other party to make sure you’re on the safe side.
#8 Drink-Drive Limit
In Holland there is a drink-drive limit of 0.05%. For novice drivers in the first five years after obtaining a driving license and for scooter drivers up to 24 years of age, the drink-drive limit is 0.02%.
The Dutch penalty points system doesn’t apply if you hold a foreign license. However, the general list of fines applies to everyone driving in the Netherlands. The penalties for traffic violations are quite high and are enforceable internationally starting from €70. The following is an excerpt from the Dutch catalogue of fines:
Source: Openbaar Ministerie, as of January 2021
#10 Vehicle Breakdown
In Holland, you will see the popular yellow road assistance vehicles, the ANWB. If you travel to Holland by car from another European country (e.g. from France or Germany), it makes sense to take out European roadside assistance from your local provider. If you live in the Netherlands, you might want to consider signing up for Dutch roadside assistance.