Driving Our Car in the Netherlands | Our Experience & Tips

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I never thought we'd be the kind of family who drives abroad. We never did this kind of holiday as kids and the whole concept just seemed a little scary and alien to us. Then a few years ago, we were offered a job in Florida and one of the stipulations from the brand was that we had to be able to drive whilst over there. It was too good of an opportunity to miss so Steve stepped up. We hired a car and it was all good. 

Driving Our Car in the Netherlands | Our Experience & Tips

Driving Abroad | Our History 

The flexibility of having a car abroad was suddenly very appealing to me, and the following year we decided to hire a car in France where we travelled around Vendee - having a car let us drive to Puy du Fou which is an experience I will never forget and would never have been able to visit without a car. Again, Steve did all of the driving on this trip whilst I navigated.

Driving Our Car in the Netherlands | Our Experience & Tips
Steve's first time driving abroad in Florida, 2017

Fast forward to May 2019 and after buying our new Dacia Logan last autumn, it was the first time I felt comfortable enough to take our own car abroad. Our cars in the past had been older and liable to breaking down and one of the reasons we saved hard to buy a new car was so that we'd have the reliability and assurances that come with a new car and we'd feel confident enough to take it abroad. I spent a long time researching new cars. We wanted a car which had plenty of boot space and the option to add a roof box for long adventures and a car which was economical to both buy and run. If you're looking for a family car that is perfect for long family road trips, resources such as the Family Hub by Bristol Street Motors provide lots of advice and answer the many burning questions you may have. It's a great place to start a new car search or just browse for ideas.

Driving Our Car in the Netherlands | Our Experience & Tips
Steve's second time driving abroad in France, 2018

Driving In The Netherlands | DFDS Seaways Crossing 

We booked our DFDS Seaways crossing using their early booking deal in November. The cost for a family of 5 (in a sea view 5-berth cabin) and our car was £470 return. This was around 1/3 of the costs of flights for us so a no-brainer really. Port of Tyne is only around 10 miles from our home so super convenient. We'd travelled as a foot passenger to Amsterdam with DFDS Seaways in the past so were fairly familiar with the routine but it was slightly different when we were taking our car.

Driving Our Car in the Netherlands | Our Experience & Tips
Our Dacia Logan all packed and ready for her first trip abroad

Check-in and passport control is drive-through when you're taking your car. You simply follow the signs for car passengers and hand over your passports and booking reference number at the first booth. Your passports are checked and then your boarding passes are printed out - these work as your room key and any dining reservation you may have too so keep them in a safe place. Then you follow the signs for boarding. There are members of staff at every step of the way guiding you and directing you where to go and it would be very difficult to get or take a wrong turn. You are directed into a parking bay on the ship, asked to remember your deck number and then shown up to your room. It's such a simple process and the children are even given lollipops from staff as a little sweetener. You can watch the entire check-in process over on my Instagram Stories here. 

Driving Our Car in the Netherlands | Our Experience & Tips
All checked-in and safely on-board Princess Seaways 

After a smooth overnight crossing, we enjoyed breakfast in the on-board restaurant. This was fairly pricey at around £40 for the 5 of us (pre-booked) but lots of people advised us that this was the best way to start the day and I think I have to agree as the last thing we wanted was hangry kids or to be driving on an empty stomach. Once you're seated, your table is yours until you reach port and it was nice stretching out, letting the kids help themselves and being able to enjoy several cups of coffee as we sailed into Amsterdam rather than being cooped up in our cabin. There are announcements on board which let you know when to return to your car.

Driving In The Netherlands 

Steve was a little nervous about driving a right-hand drive car on the wrong side of the road at first but honestly, it was so straight forward. We were guided off the ship, breezed through passport control (again it was drive through - pretty much everyone in the Netherlands speaks English and communication wasn't a problem at all) and then we were on our way. If you're driving with friends/families, there are a few restaurants with parking on the road as you leave port (it's hard to miss them) and most people arrange to meet there. As lots of people are leaving the ship at once, it's reassuring to know there are other cars around you so you aren't the only one on the road. We always use google maps on our phones as a Sat Nav - it never lets us down and monitors traffic along the way too. 

Driving Our Car in the Netherlands | Our Experience & Tips
Parked at our first destination in the Netherlands

There are a couple of things you need to be aware of when driving in the Netherlands which you can read here. We visited pre-Brexit so were able to drive with our UK license without the need for an International Driving Permit like we needed in America (always check up to date information as the Brexit situation can change rules). We printed off our insurance documents and packed them with our V5 registered keeper document, made sure we had a GB sticker and fitted headlamp convertor stickers as we were driving a right-hand drive car. Then we were good to go!

Steve actually preferred driving our car abroad than a hire car. I think it's because you already know how the car works and it's second nature so one less thing to think about. There are no toll roads in the Netherlands and although there are a lot of cyclists, they mostly have their own lanes so aren't too much of a problem - just watch out for the cycle lanes crossing roundabouts. We spotted plenty of service stations along our travels and although all of the road signs were in Dutch, they were very easy to follow and making sure we were in the right lane wasn't a problem thanks to google maps. 

Driving Our Car in the Netherlands | Our Experience & Tips
My first time behind the wheel abroad

So.......after watching Steve drive us to Duinrell, Leiden and then to Efteling. I decided it was my turn. As we were still in the EU at the time of our visit, I didn't need any additional license or permit to drive and the fact that we had our own car and I'd watch Steve manage driving for the full week without any incidence gave me the confidence I needed. I absolutely loved having our own car abroad and during our trip decided I'd like to drive to France next year rather than flying and hiring a car. If we were to do this, I'd have to share the driving to keep it fair so it was now or never. I chose a longer stint of 90 minutes from Efteling to port as wanted to give it a proper go.

I was feeling a little nervous as I buckled up but it wasn't paralysing and it was actually very straightforward and had me wondering why I'd spent all of this time worrying. During my 90 minute drive, here were a few things I picked up: 

  • Driving my own car gave me the confidence I needed. No need to worry where the indicators or windscreen wipers are or when to change gear as it was already second nature.
  • Following the line of the curb worked well, sometimes it can feel as if the cars heading in the opposite direction are very close to you but this was rarely the case and I had no close shaves by simply following the curb.
  • Joining a motorway via a slip road was the manoeuvre I found most difficult. Joining a fast-moving line of traffic in a way you're not used to is nerve-wracking but the more I did it, the more confidence I had and I found that having confidence in your manoeuvre and committing to it rather than dithering about really does work best. 
  • Similarly, overtaking was fine when the roads weren't too busy but I did end up stuck behind a couple of slower moving trucks at the start of the drive as I struggled to pick a space in my mirrors to overtake as all of the cars seemed too close together and like there was no room for me. Being stuck behind a slower truck (I'm talking 50mph) isn't the worst thing though and once there was a gap, it was easy to overtake.
  • I wish I'd taken a minute to learn what MPH equates to in KMPH. If your car doesn't show this on your dashboard, I'd recommend doing the same - I was constantly asking Steve to convert the speed limit for me.
  • Roundabouts and junctions were an absolute breeze and weren't too busy/used traffic lights.
  • There are road signs and arrows directing you which way to drive and on which part of the road so just use these as your guide and don't over-think driving on the wrong side of the road too much. If you don't think about it, it's easy. 
  • If you can, it's good to have a co-pilot to help look out for road signs/lane numbers etc.... with the SatNav. I think after a few times, I'd be fine driving solo but it's good to have the reassurance of another driver with you during your first few times I think.
  • Sometimes, the roads join together and you merge into the fast lane of one road straight from the slow lane of another road (I know that's not their proper names but you know what I mean). Be prepared to switch lanes regularly. It was honestly straight forward doing this but just seemed to be the opposite of what happens in the UK. 
  • Car parking is easy in the Netherlands - they have underground or multistory car parks very similar to the UK where you just collect a ticket on arrival and pay on departure. You can usually pay with card or coins. It's not recommended that you take your car into Amsterdam though as it's notoriously not very car-friendly, instead, try one of the many park and rides.
My best advice about driving abroad would be to just face the challenge head on. I decided on a date and stuck to it with no backing out. Once I'd been in the driver's seat for 5 minutes, I started to relax and it was nowhere near as scary as anticipated. I'd definitely recommend trying in your own car first if you're a little nervous and having a good friend or relative with you.

I am honestly so chuffed I took a leap of faith and did it. I'm proud of myself and feel like there's no stopping me now. I am even beginning to think about a road trip across Europe when the kids are all teenagers but maybe I'm getting slightly ahead of myself here.... 

Benefits Of Taking Our Own Car

There were so many benefits of taking our own car abroad which is why I'm keen to do it again next year. These include:
  • It is so much cheaper. Ferry+fuel was at least 1/3 of the cost of flying plus car hire or flying and transfers. 
  • Public transport was fairly expensive in Holland, especially when there are 5 of us. It was going to cost around 50 euros for us to visit Leiden by bus (which is only a 15-minute drive) but it was only 4 euro to drive and park our car in the centre. 
  • I love the flexibility of taking your own car and being able to drive to lots of different places - it really does encourage you to see more of your destination in an independent fashion rather than relying on organised (and slightly generic) tours. 
  • We packed our boot full of clothes for all weathers and were able to take lots of extras such as a bag full of stock cupboard essentials, the kids' scooters, 2 coats each, extra pillows for our beds AND we still had room for more. I loved that shopping abroad wasn't restricted for us either. I could have bought a big painting without having to worry about getting it home for instance. I bought a houseplant from Efteling to bring home and I'm not sure if this would have been allowed through if we'd been flying. It was brilliant not having to worry about luggage allowance or what we could take through as hand luggage and this was definitely the biggest selling point for me. 

Let me know if you've ever driven abroad or if you'd consider it and if you have any top tips too. 

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Driving Our Car in the Netherlands | Our Experience & Tips



  1. Oh wow I think you're so brave, Simon and I were chatting about this after watching your Instagram stories and we both think we'd be too nervous! Do you have to drive the wrong way round the roundabouts?

  2. Well done you! Alan has driven in Florida & spain but with hire cars so he says he's worried about driving own car! Sounds like a great way to get around abroad to be honest. I don't think I would attempt it!

    1. See I'm the opposite, I was more worried about driving a hire car abroad x

  3. I do hear a lot of people worried about driving on the other side of the road. But seriously, you just get into the car and drive on the right instead of the left, it might sound facecious but that's literally all there is to it.

  4. Well done Samantha! So important to push yourself out of your comfort zone sometimes. In my experience, good things always follow when you do!


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