How to get a Dutch driver’s licence: the ultimate guide

Time to hit the road 🚘

If you’re considering getting a driver’s licence in the Netherlands, your first question is probably: “But how?”

And let us tell you: it’s not always simple. The answer depends on your situation. You might: 

  • Be able to use your home country’s driver’s licence with no need to swap
  • Be able to swap your home country’s driver’s licence for a Dutch one
  • Need to take lessons, a theory exam, and a practical exam (yikes!) — even if you already have a licence.

So how can you skip the bike and hit the roads like a driving Dutchie? Here’s the ultimate guide to getting your Dutch driver’s licence. 

🙋‍♀️ Who can get a Dutch driver’s licence?

In the Netherlands, anyone aged 17 or older can get a Dutch driver’s licence. A basic car licence lets people hit the road in either a car, moped, or high-powered e-bike (speed pedelec).

Naturally, if you’ve moved to the Netherlands as an international, it’s likely that you’ve already gone through the rite of passage of getting your driver’s licence in your home country. 

Here’s the thing: even if you’ve been driving for 30 years, the Netherlands only allows some people to directly switch their licence. Whether you can depends on the licence your country is from and, sometimes, your visa.  

Not everyone can drive on their home country’s driving licence. Image: DutchReview

Members of EU/EEA countries

Are you the holder of a lucky EU or EEA state driver’s licence that was issued before you registered in the Netherlands? Then congratulations: you can use your current licence to drive in the Netherlands — at least for a while

Once your licence has expired or needs to be reissued, you must apply for the switch at your local Dutch gemeente (municipality), where you’ll be issued a shiny new licence complete with the Dutch language. 

Need a reminder of those EU/EEA countries? Here you go: 

EU: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

EEA: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

People who can swap their driver’s licence in the Netherlands

Not a holder of an EU/EEA country driver’s licence? No problem, it’s possible you’re still eligible to swap your licence to a Dutch one without having to take the theory and practical exam — but only if you fall into two main categories: 

Under the 30% ruling

Do you have the 30% ruling for highly-skilled migrants? Then congrats! Your visa and tax status grant you a huge benefit: the ability to switch your home country’s driver’s licence to a Dutch one. 

Try to do this within 185 days of registering in the Netherlands. Just apply at your local municipality, they’ll take your foreign licence, and you’ll be issued a nice Dutch card instead. Makkelijk! (Easy!)

A Dutch driver’s licence is super handy to have. Image: DutchReview

After 185 days, your foreign driving licence is no longer valid, and you won’t legally be allowed to drive on Dutch roads until you formally make the switch. 

Even better than this cosy 30% ruling benefit, if you have a partner who came to the Netherlands with you, they get the same advantage. Leuk!

Special inter-country driver’s licence agreements

In some ultra-special cases, the Netherlands has signed agreements with other countries or regions that agree that they think their citizens drive pretty well. 

These places are Andorra, the Canadian province of Albert, the Canadian province of Quebec, Gibraltar, the United Kingdom, Guernsey, Israel, Japan, Jersey, Man, Monaco, Northern Ireland, Singapore, Taiwan, the former Netherlands Antilles (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten), and South Korea. 

If you hold a driver’s licence from one of the above places, you’ve won the jackpot and can exchange your home licence for a Dutch driver’s licence. Woo-hoo! 

If eligible, you can submit your documents to the municipality to exchange your licence. Image: Freepik

How to exchange your licence

If you’re one of the lucky ones above who can exchange their driver’s licence, what you need to do is pretty easy. 

  1. Head to your local municipality (where you’re registered) with the following documents:
    • A colour passport photo
    • Your valid foreign driving licence
    • Your 30% ruling notification from the Belastingdienst (if applicable)
    • Your passport
    • Your Dutch residence permit and (if applicable) 30% ruling statement
    • A completed Health Declaration from the CBR (you’ll need to do this in advance) 
  2. Request to exchange your foreign driver’s licence and fill in the appropriate form
  3. Your municipality will send the documents to the Dutch licence authority, the RDW
  4. If approved, you’ll receive a letter within 10 days advising when to collect your licence from the municipality

Let op! Your home country’s driver’s licence will be returned to the country that issued it — so kiss it goodbye (unless you want to take the Dutch tests!) 😘

People who need to pass the Dutch driver’s licence tests

Uh-oh — if you’ve read this far, that means you’re not in one of the exemption categories above. 

Perhaps you’re from Australia, South Africa, India, New Zealand, or one of the other many countries that didn’t make the list? 

Here’s where we’re the bearer of bad news. If you: 

  • do not have a licence from an EU/EEA country, 
  • don’t have the 30% ruling, 
  • And don’t have a licence from a specially-exempted country above,

you cannot exchange your driver’s licence in the Netherlands. Instead, you’ll need to pass your theory and practical driver exams and will likely need to take lessons to do so. 

The good news? Getting your Dutch driver’s licence is very achievable! In fact, this Australian writer did just that. 

Been driving for years? I can personally recommend the Arrive and Drive program from LesDirect. This unique English-taught course is designed for expats to quickly and easily get their Dutch driver’s licence from theory to the practical exam — in as little as one week. Find out more.  

The other good news? (Yes, there’s more!). You can likely drive on your home licence for 185 days after registering in the Netherlands. 

Take our advice: these 185 days are a great time to practise on Dutch roads and start the process of getting your Dutch driver’s licence. 

Driving in the Netherlands as a tourist

Not registered in the Netherlands because you’re only in the country to gaze at canal houses, wander through tulip fields, or chow down on cheese? 

If you’re not living in the Netherlands, you can drive on your foreign licence. If your licence isn’t issued by an EU/EFTA country, then your licence needs to have categories on it: A, B, C, D, E. 

If it doesn’t have these categories, it’s highly recommended to get an international driving permit from your home country to use with your licence before you visit the Dutch.

🪪 How to get your Dutch driver’s licence

Alright — you’ve drawn the short straw and can’t switch your home country’s driver’s licence. Or, perhaps you’ve never had a driver’s licence. 

Either way, to drive on Dutch roads, you need to get a Dutch driver’s licence. While the process is a little time-consuming and can be expensive, there are some tips and tricks to make it faster and easier. 

Here’s how to get your Dutch driver’s licence in six easy steps. 

1. Find a driving school

Hear us out: even if you’ve been driving for years, you almost definitely need Dutch driving lessons

It’s one of the cold, hard truths of the Netherlands. The country is known as being one of the hardest countries in the world to get a driver’s licence. 

In fact, the average Dutchie has to take 43 hours of professional driving lessons before getting their licence. 

Luckily, you’re not an average Dutchie. 🍀

This is a simple roundabout in the Netherlands. The road markings, signs, and bike paths just make things different! Image: Depositphotos

If you’ve been driving for years, you shouldn’t need 43 hours, but you will need more time than you might expect. Driving in the Netherlands is just different: there are priority and non-priority roads, turbo-roundabouts, and millions of bikes.

The extensive Dutch road infrastructure takes a lot of getting used to, and it takes some time to develop awareness of the other road users. You’ll need to flex those neck muscles!

Plus, in the Netherlands, only licenced driving instructors can give unlicensed drivers lessons — there’s no Learner’s Permit. That means you need to sign up with a driving school. 

But not all driver’s schools are created equal. Many internationals have reported being squeezed for far too many unneeded lessons, unscrupulous instructors, or instructors who have difficulties with English. 

A good Dutch driving school will estimate how many lessons you need and take you to practice in a variety of settings. Image: Freepik

Take your time to select a good driving school with great reviews and a high exam pass rate. Even if the price is a little bit higher, it’s often worth it. As the Dutch say “Cheap is expensive” (Goedkoop is duurkoop).  

Once you’ve chosen your school, they’ll take on the task of booking your exams and will do everything they can to prepare you for Dutch roads. 

Want to get your Dutch driver’s licence fast? With Arrive and Drive, you can get your licence ultra-fast, even with the long waiting lists for practical exams! LesDirect’s English-speaking instructors watch constantly for new appointment openings so they can help expats get on the road fast. See the course. 

2. Prepare for and pass the Dutch driver’s licence theory exam

Here’s a fun fact: over 50% of test-takers fail their theory exam on the first attempt. 

Alright, maybe it’s not so fun. The Dutch driver’s licence theory exam is heralded as one of the hardest in the world and is made up of three parts: 

Part one: Hazard perception

In the first part, you’ll be shown an image from the perspective of a driver in a car. You’ll have to look through the “windshield” at the situation, your speedometer, and your rearview mirror before making a decision to brake, reduce your speed, or do nothing. 

The catch? You only get eight seconds per question and have to do 25 scenarios in a row. It’s intense, and it will often feel like multiple answers are correct. 

Luckily, you are allowed to get 12 of the 25 questions wrong. However, this is a tricky part of the exam and requires a lot of online practice. 

Part two: Traffic knowledge

Whew, made it through the stress of hazard perception? Now, you’re onto the next set of questions: traffic knowledge. 

In this section, you’ll be asked 12 questions about speed limits, traffic signs, types of roads, the positioning of your car, and more. But beware! You can only get two questions wrong, and they can be tricky. 

You’ll need to practice hard for the theory exam. Online platforms simulate the test environment. Image: DutchReview

Part three: Traffic insight

Finally, the third part of the Dutch driver’s licence theory exam consists of applying the rules and understanding how to act. There are a massive 28 questions here, and you’ll need to answer 25 correctly. 

TIP: Worried? The good news is that you can take the Dutch driver’s licence theory exam in English or with a translator if needed. 

3. Submit your Health Declaration

This is an easy step on the path to getting your Dutch driver’s licence: you’ll fill in a simple questionnaire online about your health history. Expect questions about your eyesight, general health, and even psychology. 

Once complete, the CBR will let you know if they need further information. Sometimes, you might be sent for a check-up with your huisarts or a specialist. 

4. Take driving lessons

Alright, this is where it gets fun! Jump behind the wheel of a car with your instructor, and they’ll coach you on driving the Dutch way. 

A lot of this involves “Het Nieuwe Rijden,” introduced in 2013, which is a more economical and environmental way of driving modern cars. It involves rolling up to stoplights, turning off your engine in certain traffic situations, and changing how you use your gears. 

Your driving instructor will teach you the Dutch style of driving that you need to pass the exam. Image: Freepik

Most of all, your instructor will prepare you for both the Dutch driving exam and generally driving on Dutch roads safely. There’s more than you expect to get used to, so enjoy!

While the average Dutchie takes 43 hours of lessons, as an “experienced driver”, you’ll likely need a lot less. Expect to take at least 10 hours of driving instruction (normally completed in three to four lessons), while some internationals might need 20 hours or more.

5. Pass your practical exam 

Feeling confident? Strut your stuff for a CBR driving examiner. In your 30- to 40-minute practical driving exam, you’ll need to: 

  • Prove you can drive confidently on Dutch roads 
  • Demonstrate awareness around traffic situations, particularly bikes and pedestrians
  • Merge onto and exit off a highway
  • Perform at least two special manoeuvres (like a three-point turn or reversing around a corner)
  • Use a navigation program (for example, Google Maps) to direct you somewhere (this can be used in your preferred language)
The Dutch driving exam doesn’t require a perfect score. Image: Freepik

It’s important to know that you don’t have to drive perfectly, and small mistakes are okay. Did you:

  • Touch the curb with your wheel while parking? All good! 
  • Drive five kilometres an hour over the speed limit? It happens! 
  • Tear through a red light because you stopped by an Amsterdam coffeeshop before your test? Um, we’ll draw a line there; that’s a fail. 

The most important thing is to make your driving examiner feel comfortable letting you drive on Dutch roads. So, keep a balance between traffic flow and safety.

Tips to pass your Dutch driving exam

  • Try to drive the maximum speed as much as possible (where it’s safe)
  • Use the right speed when approaching all different priority junctions and traffic situations
  • Change gear at the correct time and fully release the clutch before entering a bend
  • Avoid using the clutch and brake pedals unnecessarily
  • Maintain a balance of traffic flow and safety

TIP: Need some moral support? Your driving instructor is allowed to ride along for your test — if you wish. 😉

6. Apply for your driver’s licence

Gefeliciteerd, you passed! Your examiner gave you the go-ahead, your driving instructor gave you a huge high-five, and now you’re ready to hit the road — almost. 

Before you can legally drive, you have to apply for your new Dutch driver’s licence, a process that takes about a week. Luckily, it’s pretty painless. You’ll need to: 

  1. Get some fresh-lookin’ passport photos taken
  2. Take them to your local municipality (at least two hours after your exam) to request your licence who will send the information to the RDW, the Dutch licence authority
  3. Wait about a week for your fresh Dutch driver’s licence to arrive (or pay a priority processing fee to pick up your licence within one to two days).

That’s it! You can hit the road with your wallet one card heavier and weighed down with your huge ego after passing the Dutch driver’s licence exams. You go, schat!

TIP: You can only collect your official Dutch driver’s license after you’ve been registered in the Netherlands for at least 185 days. Before that time, most internationals can drive using their foreign driver’s license for their first six months!

💰 Costs to get a Dutch driver’s licence

We’re not going to sugar-coat it — getting a Dutch driver’s licence can be expensive. 

If you’re lucky enough to be able to swap your home country’s driver’s licence for a Dutch one, your costs will be pretty minimal — approximately €170. 

If you are unable to swap your old licence for a Dutch licence, the costs begin to stack up. Expect to pay between €500 and €1500 for the exams, lessons, health declaration, and licence fees. Here’s the breakdown: 

ItemApproximate cost
English theory exam€54
Theory exam preparation materials€40 to €125
Health declaration€43.50
Driving lessons with an instructor€550+ (Based on 10 hours of lessons at an average price of €58 to €68)
Practical exam€137.50 to €167.50
Driver’s licence fees€51.10 + cost of passport photos

⏰ How long does it take to get a Dutch driver’s licence?  

If you’re lucky enough to be able to switch your home country’s driver’s licence for a Dutch licence, you’ll receive the licence within a week or two.

If you can’t switch your home licence, it is possible to qualify for a Dutch driver’s licence in as little as one week after passing your theory exam. However, only if you’re very committed, have a good driving school, and have luck scheduling exams. 

In general, most internationals who have previously held driver’s licences in other countries can get their licence within two months, including studying for the theory exam. 

Want your Dutch driver’s licence fast? LesDirect’s unique Arrive and Drive program is specially designed for internationals who already have a driver’s licence in their home country. With this, you can get yourself a Dutch driver’s licence in as little as one week after passing the theory exam! See the course.

If you need to go through the whole process but have previously held a licence, most people typically allow: 

  • Between two and four weeks to study for the theory exam
  • Between three and 15 hours of lessons held over one to six weeks 

Of course, you can stretch that over as long a period as you like. After passing your theory exam, the result is valid for 18 months

Ready to hit the road? Getting your driver’s licence in the Netherlands can be a pain, but it’s not impossible — and it’s well worth it when you’re cruising down the A2 with Snelle beats blasting. 

Have you gotten your Dutch driver’s licence? Tell us your experiences in the comments below!

⁉️ Getting a Dutch driver’s licence: Frequently asked questions

How long are Dutch driver’s licences valid? 

Can I drive in the Netherlands on an international licence? 

Can foreigners get a driving licence in the Netherlands?

How much does it cost to get a Dutch driver’s licence?

How long does it take to get a driving licence in the Netherlands?

How hard is the Dutch driving test?

Feature Image:Freepik
Samantha Dixon 🇦🇺
Samantha Dixon 🇦🇺
Sam has over six years experience writing about life in the Netherlands and leads the content team at DutchReview. She originally came to the Netherlands to study in 2016 and now holds a BA (Hons.) in Arts, a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and (almost) a Masters in Teaching. She loves to write about settling into life in the Netherlands, her city of Utrecht, learning Dutch, and jobs in the Netherlands — and she still can’t jump on the back of a moving bike (she's learning!).

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  1. […] Before you even begin with the whole task of buying a car in the Netherlands, it’s important that you hold a valid driving license. Here in Holland, this means that you need to have an EU/EFTA license. If you already hold one, then this means that you are able to drive on this license for 10 years, or until it runs out (then you must switch to a Dutch driver’s license). […]

  2. Why do they discriminate against English Canadians (not allowed to trasnsfer DL here), but if your French Canadian from Quebec it is not a possible. When I write the authorities they says yes, “that is so”…?
    Can not seem to get an explain why only part of a country is allowed and not the other part of Canada?

  3. I’m from Poland, however i never did driving license in my own country, many of my friends complain about my country that is so hard to pass exams there, so many fails there. I decided to pass here in English, theory works really well in English, so you don’t have to worry about Dutch. Pratical exam from some reasons is only in Dutch, when you get nice examinator he will give you a bit english. It was so easy for me i passed everything at one time! There is only one problem, price! Cost for someone who never drive a car just almost 2000 euros, only good thing is you will drive a fancy good brand new car someties even luxury cars. In Poland you pay around 550 euros for your driving coruse, cars that they use are the cheapest KIA or some sort of Hyundai now, but is so difficult to pass.


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