Certain expats can receive a Dutch driver’s licence without lessons or exams: here’s why

I'll stick to biking 😬

To make the Netherlands a more attractive destination for knowledge workers, the Dutch government has set up a programme allowing them to exchange their foreign driving licences for Dutch ones.

Imagine: You’re driving along, cautiously following a car that has almost toppled three cyclists, and is now indicating right at a roundabout. You think, “Where did you learn to drive?!”. 👀

Well, they may have learnt in a different country! Many highly skilled expats use driving licences issued by their home countries and take no further tests before hitting Dutch roads.

Thanks to the government’s scheme, those who are considered knowledge workers can just exchange their existing licence for a Dutch one, BD.nl explains.

Who counts as a knowledge worker? This is someone whose knowledge of a certain specific subject is their capital. They usually work in academia, science or law.

Different countries, different roads

The main issue? Differences in road rules can lead to dangerous mistakes by drivers who are used to foreign conventions.

READ MORE | Why driving in the Netherlands is stressful: My experience of living in the Netherlands

John Dekker of Dekker Driving School explains to BD.nl, “People from outside Europe, in particular, have a lot of difficulty getting used to Dutch traffic. The traffic culture and infrastructure are very different in the countries where they come from.”

And it’s not just how these expats were taught that Dutch driving instructors are wary of, but whether they were taught at all.

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

“Eighty percent of the people I teach who have exchanged their driver’s license in this way have never even driven a car. In India you can buy a driver’s license for a few cents,” warns Sartip Chay from Simplicity Driving School.

Help is at hand

In a bid to develop expat workers’ knowledge of the Dutch traffic environment, the ministry is working on an English-language brochure about Dutch traffic rules and signs.

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #102: Refuse to drive drunk, but biking drunk is fine (of course)

However, driving instructors believe that mandatory driving lessons for new expat workers is a better solution.

In particular, this would improve their road awareness and safety.

Do you think the driving license exchange is an unsafe scheme? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Lottie Gale 🇬🇧
Lottie Gale 🇬🇧
Lottie joins DutchReview as an editorial intern after gaining a Bachelor’s in English from her native England. She continues to pursue all things literature in her MA Literature Today at Utrecht University. She is loving life here, and the ever-looming rainclouds often make it feel like a home from home. Lottie arrived to complete her studies and hone her writing skills — she’ll stay for the Dutch tranquility, tulips and tompouce.


  1. The way that the Netherlands does this is unfair. How can they accommodate a license from a country for a person with the 30% ruling, but a person that doesn’t have the 30% ruling yet from the same country doesn’t get to exchange their license??

  2. It would be grand if the Dutch could get licenses from abroad, they might learn some consideration for others on the road..

  3. This article is very disturbing. Judging nationalities without proof or facts. This is at the limit of racism…

  4. I had been driving for more than 30 years when I came to the Netherlands. I have also lives and driven in many other countries . I was not on a expat visa and had to redo my licence . Although i hated it and think it is a money making racket , i definitely got a lot of value and insight from the practical driving lessons and have even advised Expat friends to take a few lessons , just for orientation to understand the different style of driving. So yes i would think a compulsory 2-3 hours orientation lesson would be a good idea .

  5. I had my first driving license in the Netherlands. Moving to Canada I did the exams and driving license in Ontario. Now back in the Netherlands I cannot exchange my Ontario license, but those from Quebec can!! It’s all about politics, not about driving knowledge!

  6. I know the wives of HSM that move here with less than a year of having their drivers licence in their country and able to also exchange their licence to a dutch one. They have no experience and the traffic rules are very different.

  7. I grew up in South Africa, a car centric country. It’s absolutely wild to me that they just gave me a Dutch license with zero training or prep.
    I’ve Googled roadsigns and I keep an eye out for cyclists but I’m sure I still do some things wrong.

    I don’t drive here often, I’d like to go for some theory lessons on the laws and the road signs and the general etiquette. But I don’t need driving lessons. If you can drive in Johannesburg you can drive anywhere.

  8. The people from my country can exchange their license because of %30 of ruling but i cannot do that because i have EU citizenship! This is super unfair! I have the same driver license with them from the same country but i have to do everything from the begining!

  9. Mandatory orientation should be a prerequisite. Foreigners that have picked up certain bad habits should have these corrected as soon as possible, ideally with positive reinforcement of core values:
    1. It all starts with the self, it’s not selfish to be individualistic. If you see a gap, take it. Don’t worry about breaking the speed of others, if they have to brake most cars these days have ABS so locking on rainy days are very rare.
    2. Maintain a following distance of no more less than 12.2 millimetres. While a fine is not possible (yet, as the tweede kamer is deliberating), it just considered impolite and a little antisocial not to tailgate.
    3. Lane joiners should ideally be blocked from entering the highway at all costs. Speed up or slow down as appropriate
    4. Courtesy – this should be avoided at all costs. It’s creates confusion for the Dutch and confusion equals disorder, be safe out there.

    As we say in Holland, do normal.


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