After having moved to a new country and/or town, most people have lots of questions. One of the most important ones is how to get around and be as time-efficient as possible when traveling from/to work and around the area where one lives.
Settle Service knows the way and will answer your questions. We advise on and provide information about the desired method of transportation in the Netherlands. Furthermore, we assist with required purchases that come along with it. E.g. purchase of a vehicle, OV chip card assistance, etc.
The Netherlands has an excellent public transportation system. If you are living in one of the major cities you won’t even need a car, as the train and bus system is so well developed. Another great option is cycling, as roads are designed with cyclists in mind, but be sure to read up on cycling in the Netherlands before you set off!
To make use of the public transportation in the Netherlands, you need to be in posession of a so-called “OV-chip kaart”. The ‘OV-chipkaart’ is a multi-purpose card used for public transportation throughout the Netherlands. The name comes from OV, which is short for ‘Openbaar Vervoer’ and means Public Transportation in Dutch. It is one convenient card for all public transportation across the country; it can be used for the tram, train, metro and bus. We are more than happy to inform you about the PT system and how/where to purchase the OV chip card.
Trains in the Netherlands are a clean and efficient alternative to travelling by car, especially during rush hour. The Netherlands enjoys an extensive railway network, managed by the companies NS (short for Nederlandse Spoorwegen) and Connexxion. Trains in the national express system linking major cities are referred to as Intercity trains, and stop only at major stations. “Stop trains” stop more frequently, including in smaller towns. There are trains at least every half hour on most lines, with up to eight per hour on busy routes.
Where the trains stop, other forms of public transportation take over. A bus can take you practically anywhere in the country. Bus stops are recognised by the yellow ’Bushalte’ sign showing the bus line numbers that stop there, as well as the start and end of the line.
You can also travel by tram and metro in major cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the Hague. Just like for the bus, you need an ‘OV-chipkaart’.
It is important to know that one should halt a bus or tram by lifting your right arm, indicating you want to get on. In larger cities with many bus and tram connections the driver may simply continue his journey, leaving you behind wondering why the driver did not stop.
Usually it’s easiest to order a taxi or Uber by phone. They can also be hailed at taxi stands situated near major hotels and stations but you won’t find them just driving around. The taxi meter price includes a service charge. Although tips are included, drivers often still expect something extra but it is up to your discretion.
Car transportation in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is not just a small country, which makes for relatively short distances, but the road network is extensive and well-maintained as well. The road signs are very clear, which makes driving in the Netherlands very safe. If you are going to live in the Netherlands and wish to drive there, you may want to consider whether to take your own car with you, buy a new car in the Netherlands or rent/lease a car.
If you plan to rent a car in the Netherlands be sure to carry a valid driving licence. The driver of a car is personally responsible for fines if found driving without a valid driver’s licence. Doing so may also affect your insurance coverage.
Car sharing can be a great solution for people who only make use of a car once in a while. Through a subscription service with Greenwheels or ConnectCar you can make use of shared vehicles parked at railway stations and in major residential areas. You will need to subscribe online in advance.
Although the list prices of new cars in the Netherlands are relatively low compared to other European countries, the taxes imposed on new cars are extremely high at up to 45% of the list price. The best and complete information on prices you will get from the local dealerships. Prices are normally the same for every local dealership, however specific promotions could differ per dealership. Depending on the brand, car, extras etc. the time between ordering and actually driving away in your brand new car can vary from 3 to 6 months.
The best place to start your search for a second hand car is at a so called “BOVAG” car dealer. This is the official association of car dealers and therefore will guarantee the best service and the safest buy. Go to BOVAG (in Dutch) to search for official dealerships or directly for a car. Here you can search by car, town or postal code.
Owning a car in the Netherlands
Any vehicle, car, motorbike or trailer over 750 kilos, must be registered with the RDW (Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer). Registering a vehicle with the RDW means that the owner is agreeing to have the minimum liability insurance, paid vehicle road tax and valid APK (roadworthiness). It is the buyer’s responsibility to make sure the vehicle is registered with the RDW.
When you buy a new car the registration takes place at the dealership. In order to register a car or motorbike the new owner must be over 18 years old and be a resident in the Netherlands (so you need a BSN). If you have bought a second hand car the registration and transfer of the papers is your responsibility. However, if you buy your second hand car from a BOVAG car dealer, this dealer will arrange the registration for you or at least help you with this. Since it will stay you own responsibility, please make sure that you receive all the car papers (incl. licence plate registration card).
In case you buy a car from a private individual, please check if the car still has got a valid APK (see below information about the APK) and when buying a car from a private individual we recommend to request a copy of the passport of the selling party (this to prevent any fraud – when they have nothing to hide there should not be a problem with this).
- Road tax (motorrijtuigenbelasting) Paying road tax is compulsory, regardless of whether you are temporarily unable or unwilling to use your vehicle.
- Insurance (‘verzekering’) Before you start using your vehicle on the public roads, it must be covered by at least a third-party insurance (‘wettelijke aansprakelijkheidsverzekering’ = WA). You will not receive any notice of this and you must apply for the insurance yourself at an insurance company.
- APK (‘Algemene Periodieke Keuring’ = General Periodical Inspection) The APK is obligated for all cars over 3 years old and after that once a year or once every two years (this depends on how old your car is and which fuel it uses). The APK is carried out at specialized centers (keuringsstations), or by a local garage that has been recognized by the RDW
If your car breaks down on the road, first take yourself, your passengers and if possible your car to a safe location. You can then contact the Wegenwacht (road service) via roadside emergency telephones or call +31(0)88 2692 888. In emergencies, call the 112 emergency number immediately. Always wait for assistance behind the crash barrier and never leave anyone in the car on the road or shoulder! And finally, never cross the motorway as this is extremely dangerous!
Dutch road rules are consistent with those in most European countries. Here are the most important rules for driving in the Netherlands:
- Drive on the right, overtake on the left;
- 18 is the legal minimum age to drive a car (or motorbike over 125cc);
- 16 is the legal minimum age to drive a moped;
- Motorcycle and trike drivers and passengers must wear crash helmets;
- It is compulsory to carry a driving licence, car registration papers and insurance documents in the car (Dutch, EU and international driving licences are accepted);
- Mobile cellular telephones may only be used with a hands-free system while driving. Even holding a mobile in a moving vehicle is considered an offence;
- Wearing seatbelts are compulsory in the front and rear of the vehicle;
- Drivers should pay particular attention to cyclists, who may ride two abreast;
- Unless otherwise signposted, vehicles coming from the right have priority;
- Busses have priority when pulling out;
- Trams have priority except where signposted at major junctions;
- Children must be travelling in an age-appropriate seat until the age of 5;
- Children shorter than 1.35 m need to sit in a child seat;
- You must stop for pedestrians on pedestrian crossings.
More information please have a look at “Road-traffic-signs-and-regulations-in-the-Netherlands“, published by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Evironment.