The Netherlands is known as a country with one of the highest-quality road infrastructure in the world. There are 139.000 kilometers of public roads and more than 3,500 kilometers of expressways and highways. With that many high-quality roads in the country, it’s easy to get around with any transportation method.
In addition, the Netherlands is also on top of the list regarding the most bike-friendly countries in the world. If you’d prefer to transport via train, you’ll be glad to hear that more than 400 train stations make every part of the country accessible. Buses, trams, and metros are widely spread and all great options.
But of course, many like to stick with their own vehicle, and doing so in the Netherlands is easily doable. Great roads, very polite drivers, and clear traffic rules are only a few things that contribute to a great traffic system. So if you need clarification on whether your old license is valid in the Netherlands or if you’d like to get your Dutch driving license, here’s exactly what you need to do.
Categories of Dutch driving license
As in most other countries, Dutch law states that there are driving licenses suited for the type of vehicle that you drive. You can operate a particular vehicle only if you have a valid driving license category. These are the driving license categories in the Netherlands:
- Category A – motorcycles;
- Category B – automobiles;
- Category C – trucks;
- Category D – buses;
- Category T – tractors.
In addition to these, there are other licenses for special conditions. For example, to drive a camper, you’d need a C1 driving license. If you’d like to drive a car with a medium trailer, you’d need a B+ driving license or the D1 for driving a small bus.
However, you’re probably most interested in driving a motorcycle or an automobile. To do so, you need to pass the category A and/or B driving license tests. But before you do, you should know a few more rules. For driving a motorcycle, there are three license types that you’ll need depending on its power:
- Category A1 – 125 cc and a maximum power of 11 kilowatts (kW);
- Category A2 – maximum power of 35 kW;
- Category A – unlimited.
In the case of cars, with the B category driver’s license, you can transport up to eight people in a vehicle that weighs up to 3,500 kg. You must obtain a truck driving license (C or C1 category) if the vehicle is heavier.
Dutch driving test
The CBR is an organization that conducts driving license tests and ensures that a candidate is suitable for getting one. Its responsibilities are everything that has to do with driving licenses, which include:
- driving theory: giving the Dutch driving license tests’ academic section;
- driving practical: conducting a practical skills test to determine a candidate’s driving safety;
- driver testing: Office in charge of issuing Dutch driving permits;
- CCV: conducting examinations for extremely specific license categories and offering ongoing training for driving experts.
You must pass the theory and practical exams to get your driver’s license. It’s all available in English, so if you don’t speak Dutch, that won’t be a problem. The entire process should look like this:
- consult with your municipality if you are eligible for a driving license before proceeding;
- pick a driving school for taking your test;
- request a theoretical test through CBR;
- take the theoretical test;
- fill out the health statement;
- with the CBR, request a practical test;
- take the practical test;
- to obtain your driver’s license, present your certificate to your municipality.
To proceed to the driving test, you must pass your theory exam first. It consists of 65 questions regarding traffic rules, traffic understanding, and hazard recognition. It takes around 45 minutes to complete it. Overall, it teaches you all traffic-related situations and how to react to them. You must be at least 16 years old to take the test.
You can study for the test with the help of the driving school you choose, or you can do it yourself. Multiple sources are available, such as the bookstore theory books and other publishers of traffic resources.
Once you have learned the theoretical part, you can proceed with the final step before taking the test. That is purchasing and filling in the personal declaration (eigen verklaring), which you can obtain from the Mijn CBR. This declaration confirms that you don’t have any health problems which could prevent you from driving a vehicle.
- book theory exam (Theorie-examen reserveren);
- Choose the driver’s license category, vehicle, language, time, and place for taking the test;
- Pay with iDEAL.
To complete the application, you’ll need to show a valid identification document (your ID or passport). In addition, you need to be registered with a municipality to get approval for taking the test.
After you complete your theory exam, you’re ready to proceed to the practical part. It consists of thorough preparations with your driving instructor. You need to take your practical exam within 18 months of passing your theory exam and be at least 17 years old.
Preparing for the practical exam usually takes 25 to 35 driving lessons. However, you can extend that period if you aren’t ready to take the test. On the other hand, there’s no minimum limit either, so if you’re prepared before 25 lessons, you can take the test. Your driving instructor will also evaluate your skill level and determine your readiness for the practical exam.
When you are fully prepared to take the test, you must reach out to your driving school. They’ll book you an appointment to take the exam. The test itself usually lasts between 30 and 45 minutes.
The test starts in the parking lot, where the test administrator will check your vision and ask questions about the vehicle (indicator lights, checking for malfunctions, and similar). After that, you’ll get into traffic and showcase your driving skills. Naturally, you’ll need to confirm that you have full control over the vehicle and can handle any common situations.
To take the test, you’ll need the following documents:
- valid proof of identification (ID or passport);
- theory examination certificate;
- VvG (if necessary);
- notification appointment letter.
The test is valid only if the CBR test administrator is in the vehicle with you.
If successful, you’ll get both a certificate of fitness (Verklaring van rijvaardigheid) and a certificate of competence (Verklaring van geschiktheid) right away. Then, within five days of submitting them to your municipality, you’ll receive your new driver’s license.
If not successful, your driving instructor will evaluate how much additional training you must have and which things you need to improve.
When you pass, the Netherlands Vehicle Authority (RDW) will issue your driver’s license. Overall, getting your driver’s license will cost around 2,400 euros.
Foreign driving license
If you got your driver’s license in a different country, you can still legally drive and use it in the Netherlands. However, there are some rules that you need to comply with. This mainly applies to people who obtained their driving licenses in the EU/EAA countries or outside those countries.
If you obtained your driver’s license in the EU or EEA countries, you could use that license for up to 15 years (from the date of getting your driver’s license). This applies to the following categories:
If you hold a driver’s license for other categories, you can use it for up to 5 years. This applies to these categories:
Your driver’s license may have been granted more than 15 years ago, but it hasn’t yet expired. Following your arrival in the Netherlands, you’re then permitted to drive with it for a period of two years.
Once it expires, you’ll have to apply for a Dutch driving license.
Countries outside the EU/EEA
If you have a driving license issued in a country outside of the EU/EEA, you can use it for up to 185 days upon arriving in the Netherlands. After that period, you must get a Dutch driving license.
Getting a driver’s license outside of the Netherlands while living in the Netherlands
If you got your driver’s license in an EU or EEA country while you were already living in the Netherlands, you’re not allowed to drive. In this situation, you must exchange your driver’s license by applying to your municipality.
Exchanging foreign driving license for a Dutch driving license
The exchange option is available in the following cases:
- you’re registered in the personal records database (BRP);
- you have a valid ID and/or residence permit;
- you got your driving license in an eligible country (the EU, EEA, or in a country that has an agreement with the Netherlands);
- if you’re living and working as a highly skilled migrant in the Netherlands;
- if you got your driving license in a country outside of the EU/EEA and lived there for at least 185 days in the year when you got the driving license.
If you comply with these rules and you’re eligible to exchange your driving license, these are the documents you’ll need:
- a passport photo;
- your foreign driving license. In case it’s written in special characters that are not used in the Netherlands, you must translate it;
- old Dutch driving license (if applicable);
- bring the 30% ruling Evidence decision of the Tax and Customs Administration (if applicable);
- health certificate from CBR (if applicable).
In addition, if you’re exchanging your driver’s license from a country outside of the EU/EEA, you need to show proof that you lived in that country for at least 185 days in the year when it was issued.
Upon preparing the needed documents, you’re ready to start the process. This is how the procedure will look like:
- take all of the needed documents and go to the municipality where you’re registered;
- talk to the administration and inform them that you want to exchange your driver’s license;
- fill out the application form;
- the municipality will forward the application to the Netherlands Vehicle Authority (RDW);
- within ten days, you’ll receive a letter of confirmation that your request is valid. You’ll be informed of when you can collect your Dutch driving license at the town hall;
- your foreign driving license will be forwarded back to the country where it was issued.
Another way of exchanging your driving license is if you’re a highly skilled migrant. If so, you are able to exchange your international driver’s license from any country for a Dutch license. However, you can do it only if the license is still valid.
Remember that you must wait for the exchange to be completed. If you drive before completion, you’ll be fined, as that’s illegal. You can waive their entitlement if you don’t need one or more of the categories in your license. You simply need to fill out the waiver form. If you aren’t allowed to exchange your license, you can take the theory and practical tests and get a Dutch driving license.
Get on the road
Getting a driver’s license in the Netherlands is as simple as in other developed countries. The tests are standard, so you don’t need to fear any unusual questions or procedures.
There is quite some paperwork included, but that is required by the law and needed to ensure that everything complies with the legal procedures.
You may need clarification with some documents or figure out how to get them. If so, don’t hesitate to contact us to get help with any paperwork you might need. Language barriers or headquarters locations may be troublesome for you, which is where we step in and ensure everything is done precisely and on time.
Learning how to drive and passing your exams can be stressful at times. But with a bit of practice and confidence, we’re sure you’ll get on the road in no time.