Renting a boat in the Netherlands: all you need to know

One thing’s certain about the Netherlands: besides being very flat and filled with tulips, there is loads and loads of water. And where there’s water, there are boats. And where there are boats, there’s someone wondering how you can rent them — that must be you!

You certainly must have seen the people on boats cruising the canals, enjoying their time in the sun, while cracking open a beer. If you were a bit jealous, worry not — because it’s really easy to rent a boat in the Netherlands. Then you can also wave at the mere mortals walking on the sidewalks!

Who can rent a boat in the Netherlands?

Anyone over the age of 18 can rent a boat in the Netherlands. Of course, minors can tag along, provided there is an adult with them. No special permit or licence is required in order to rent a boat in the Netherlands, as long as it fits in a designated category.

If you have a child who is over 12, they can also steer the boat and gain some sailing experience, as long as the boat does not go faster than 13 kilometres an hour and is a maximum seven metres long. But if your goal is a calm trip down the canals, you shouldn’t need a boat that requires a boating license.

When do I need a boating licence in the Netherlands?

You only need a boating license if you plan on renting a boat that is longer than 15 metres and that exceeds a speed of 20 kilometres an hour.

Where to hire a boat in the Netherlands

There are many companies that you can rent a boat from in the Netherlands. Choosing the company that best serves your needs also depends on where you live, so it’s best to start looking locally first.

Amsterdam, for example, has many different companies and individuals renting out their boats to tourists. Many of the options available really depend on your location, and what kind of boat you’re looking for.

There are several websites you can look into to find boats for rent in the Netherlands. Check out Nautal for all sorts of options, which you can then filter out until you find the optimal boating experience for you. Another great alternative is Botente Huur. Also check out Greenjoy, which provides electric boats at great prices in some of the big cities in the Netherlands, that you can pilot yourself.

Another great website to consider is Vakantie Varen, where you can find anything from smaller motorboats to sailboats, with many of them not requiring a license. If none of these options worked for you, another website you can find plenty of diverse boats on is Click and Boat.

If you prefer a more hands-on approach to finding and renting boats, go to your local tourist info point and they can certainly guide you further in finding the best boat rentals in your area.

A romantic boat tour in Amsterdam

There are plenty of differently themed boat tours to book in Amsterdam, but if you want something special, romantic and personal then you can’t go wrong with Rocco and his romantic boat tour through Amsterdam.

rent a boat Amsterdam
Rocco often sails at the golden hour or sunset. Image: DutchReview

It’s snug, takes you to all the gezellig spots and comes with all those lovely details such as a glass of bubbles, romantic anecdotes about the city and some music to fall in love to. Rocco is a people person and makes sure it never gets cheesy (although, fun fact, some cheese is served onboard).

Luxury aboard Rocco’s romantic cruise. Image: DutchReview

It’s with a couple of couples normally, but while corona is around us Rocco just caters to one couple at a time — extra romantic! Check out his website right here and send him our regards!

P.S. You’re totally welcome to invite the DutchReview crew on any boat tour at all times 😉.

What kind of boats can you rent?

The list of boats you could potentially rent is diverse and it really depends on what kind of experience you want. If you’re after a more traditional sailing experience? Perhaps go for a bigger sailboat. Want a luxurious boat so you can travel off the coast and explore the North Sea with your friends? A larger canal boat should fit your needs.

Of course, if you wanna be really close to the water and perhaps even risk getting a bit wet, then a cheap canoe is definitely a fun option to consider! Another very popular option is the small motorboats. Similarly cheap and loads of fun, you can rent them and go exploring the canals of your city at your leisure.

Canoes, motorboats, whatever your heart desires! Image: 12019/Pixabay

How much does renting a boat in the Netherlands cost?

The costs of renting a boat vary depending on what kind of boat you are renting as well as the period of time, and if it is manned by a captain or not.

On boat hire websites, most of the prices are listed per day, and they can range anywhere from €88 – €300 or even €800 a day. Boats can also be offered for half-a-day or even for a week, if you feel like you want to spend more time on the water. Most boats require a deposit to be paid beforehand.

For things like canoes or rowboats, you can find them much cheaper, but usually the fee is per hour instead of per day. You can rent a canoe for as low as €9 per hour.

What do I need to know before renting a boat in the Netherlands?

An important thing to consider before renting a boat is to get insurance. This also really depends on what canal you are sailing on. If you are on a busy Amsterdam canal and it’s you behind the wheel (and you have no prior experience), you should really get insurance.

If you are somewhere in a more isolated area, it’s perhaps easier, but insurance is an option you should still consider. If you have hired a boat including an experienced captain, there’s no need to consider insurance — all legal responsibilities fall on the captain.

If you do want to get insurance, ask for it when renting the boat. Check for rentals which have ships registered to the HISWA (National Water Sports Association in the Netherlands) rental agreement conditions. Generally, insurance deductibles are equal to the deposit that you pay on the ship. So, if you pay a €200 euro deposit and have an accident while you’re steering, expect to pay a €200 deductible.

What should I bring when renting a boat?

Obviously, when cruising down the quaint canals, there are some essentials you should pack. Firstly, if you are going on a sunny day, sunscreen is a must, especially if your boat does not have an inside area you can shelter in.

Depending on how long you are going for, consider bringing some food. If you are going on a boat tour, some snacks might be provided (especially on guided boat tours).

Can I drink alcohol on a boat in the Netherlands?

Of course, you can crack open some cold Dutch beers while you’re at it, but just as with cars, if you happen to be behind the wheel, don’t drink and drive sail. Captains of boats can have a couple of drinks as long as they don’t exceed a limit of 0.8 per thousand litres blood to alcohol level.

Finally, a question some of you might be curious about. Can you 4/20 blaze it on a boat? There’s no law against it when you’re renting your own boat (although the person who owns the boat may have their own rules). Especially for guided tours, the answer is almost certainly no.

Alternatives to boating in the Netherlands

Let’s say you’re interested in being on a boat, but for different reasons (such as motion sickness), you’d rather it does not move. Thankfully, there are options for that as well! Depending on the city, there’ll be boats that are used solely as terraces — they won’t take you anywhere, but you can get the boat experience. Another alternative is staying on a houseboat for an authentic Dutch experience.

Dutch boats alongside a canal. Image: kirschkuh/Pixabay

Finally, for even more fun, certain coffee shops in the Netherlands are located on boats which are moored on canals. For example, check out the Culture Boat in Utrecht.

Have you ever been boating in the Netherlands? What was it like? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: 12019/Pixabay

Editors note: this post was originally written in May 2020 and was fully updated in July 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad was born and raised in Brasov, Romania and came to the Hague to study. When he isn't spending time missing mountains or complaining about the lack of urban exploration locations in the Netherlands, you can find him writing at Dutch Review.

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