The Dutch driver's licence for expats and internationals | All you want to know

The Dutch driver's licence is one of the most universally accepted driving licences thanks to the Netherlands being part of the European Union.
However, it is also among the most difficult to obtain. 

An exact testing process combined with solid infrastructure also means that Dutch roads are some of the safest in the world.

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

And again, 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 all the information you need to know to get 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.  

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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!)

Foto 2 - Gemeente man/ oranje achtergrond + Schema.2

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! 

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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! 

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. 

Foto 4 - Dutch road with traffic

🪪 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 and an Interim test (link maken naar LD page) at CBR before getting their licence. 

Luckily, you’re not an average Dutchie. 🍀

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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. 

Foto 6 - Pieter legt uit aan Lieke op track in LD auto

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. 

Register at a reputable driving school

Register at a driving school which has a high success rate. A very important fact is that they have classified trainers who can teach you along the way to get your Dutch driver's licence.

For example driving school is well know for its highly educated and friendly trainers and corresponding success rates and has a unique English-taught course, the Arrive & Drive program for expats en internationals, that 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.

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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 best but also 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. 

Foto 8 - Achter pc theorie oefenen

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. 

Fastest theory preparation | a theory crash course

Theory College Netherlands provides good online theory crash courses to pass your theory exam fast and easy. But you are free to choose your theoretical training institute or maybe a 'do-it-yourself' programme. However make sure they have teachers who specialise in teaching expats and internationals. That makes a huge difference in training quality.

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. 

Foto 9 - Leerling die in spiegel kijkt auto

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)

    Foto 10 - Leerling en trainer in auto

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! 
  • Missed a Death End traffic sign, solve it with a three point turn!

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

Driving school LesDirect in the Eindhoven and Venlo region organise weekly so called Arrive & Drive sessions to get your Dutch drivers license accelerated in as little as one week. It doesn't matter where you're from.

PRACTICAL EXAM 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!

Arrive Drive Dutch Drivers License

Theory College Netherlands


CBR examen stof


Read here more about the Online TCN CBR theory training program!

Spectacular Fun Course

In order to memorise the theoretical material even better you’ll have a 3 weeks extra access to the material on their website after the crash course. Without any engagement you can even do a complete theory exam on that site.

auto te water

If you pass the theory exam you’ll get a substantial discount on a spectacular fun course like a skid course or Car in Water course. If you do the exam flawless you’ll receive the course of your choice for free!



The Online Theory Crash Course itself


What can you expect after arriving at the CBR exam centre?

The week after you had your online theoretical fast track course you head off to the CBR exam centre well rested.

Sign up here to the Theory College Netherlands online crash course!

Foto 11 - Theory Book LesDirect

CBR Theory book traffic regulations

Theory book; traffic regulations





Dutch driving organizations

There are two organisations in the Netherlands that are responsible for issuing driving licences and conducting driving tests:

RDW (Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer) - Road Transportation Authority

The RDW (in English) issues driving licences and supervises registration such as licence plates and also monitors the technical condition of motor vehicles.

CBR (Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheid) - Central Office of Driving Certification

The CBR is responsible for conducting driving exams for all motor vehicles including cars, scooters, motorbikes and trucks.


Certificate of fitness (VVG)

You may be asked for a “certificate of fitness” or VVG (verklaring van geschiktheid) to prove you are physically and psychologically able and fit to drive a vehicle.


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You can get the VVG form your municipality, at “Mijn CBR” (log in with your DigiD) or you can get it from certain expat centres.

A VVG is needed if:

  • You have a EU/EEA or Swiss driving licence with categories C, CE, C1, D etc.
  • You have a driving licence from the Dutch Antilles or Aruba.
  • You benefit from the 30% tax ruling.
  • Your driving licence is from one of the countries which has a special agreement.
  • Your EU/EEA licence is valid for a shorter period than usual in the country of issue or has restrictive annotations which are not designated within EU codes.
  • You are 75 years or older.



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Booking a date for your Dutch driving theory exam

Ask your driving school tot do this for you.

Ik you want to do this yourself, that's possible. To book a date for your theory exam, log in at Mijn CBR with your DigiD and:

  • Choose "Theorie-examen reserveren"
  • Choose the vehicle, time, place and language for your test
  • Pay via iDEAL

You will receive your confirmation by email. Make sure you have proper and valid identification (such as a passport) and are registered with your municipality before you book a date. If you need to change the date, you can also do this at “Mijn CBR”.

Before you take your practical examination, you will need to purchase and fill in an” eigen verklaring” (a self- declaration), which you can find at “Mijn CBR”. This is to determine if you are healthy enough to do a practical exam.

Here you find all CBR theoretical centres across the Netherlands.


Anxiety, fear or failure

If you are extremely anxious about taking exams, it is possible to request a “fear of failure exam” ( faalangstexamen). This is a longer exam with an examiner who is specially trained in helping and guiding people with anxiety.



There are also specialised driving schools like that have special instructors that can handle, anxiety, fear, failure, autism, ADHD or other concentration disorders perfectly during practical driving lessons.

If you succeed you will immediately receive a certificate of competence (Verklaring van rijvaardigheid) and a certificate of fitness (Verklaring van geschiktheid). Once you take them to your municipality, you will receive your new driving licence within five days.


Renewing a Dutch driving licence

Just like most EU driving licences, a Dutch driving licence is valid for 10 years from the date of issue and should be renewed before it expires. Before your Dutch licence expires the RDW will send a reminder to your home address. All you need to do then is go to your municipality.

Your driving licence has expired if one or more of the categories listed on the back of your licence is no longer valid. You can simply renew the licence at your municipality.


Renewing a foreign driving licence in the Netherlands

For expats living in the Netherlands it is not possible to renew a foreign or EU/EAA driver’s licence. You will need to apply to the RDW for a Dutch driving licence.


Lost or stolen driving licence

If your Dutch or EU/EEA driving licence is lost or stolen you must file a police declaration with the municipality where you are registered to receive a new one.

For a lost EU/EEA licence you will need to provide extra documentation.

If your non-EU/EEA driving licence is lost or stolen in the Netherlands then you will need to complete the Dutch driving exams successfully to receive a new Dutch driving licence.


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More information about driving in the Netherlands

RDW | The Government Road Transport Agency (Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer). RDW is always available to answer questions over the phone relating to the exchange of driving licences in English, Dutch and German: 0900-0739.

The RDW also hosts a comprehensive FAQ in English regarding the validity of your driving licence and the procedures for exchanging it for a Dutch licence.

CBR | Central Office for Motor Vehicle Driver Testing (Centraal Bureau van Rijvaardigheid)

ANWB | The Dutch Wheelers Bond

Rijbewijs | General information about driving (info in Dutch and English)

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Hope to see you soon!

For a Dutch driving license driving safely for years in The Netherlands!

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Kind regards,

Anke Vermulst

+31 6 250 06 551

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