Motorcycling in the Netherlands- Everything you need to know

Motorcycling in the Netherlands- Everything you need to know

Planning to go touring in Holland with a motorbike? There are some essential things you need to know before your trip, including important paperwork and what kit to bring with you. Here’s everything you need to know about motorcycling in the Netherlands.

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Motorcycling in Holland- or is it the Netherlands??

Ok, let’s start with the obvious- what’s the difference between calling it ‘Holland’ or calling it ‘the Netherlands’?

It’s a little bit like the difference between the UK and GB- ‘Holland’ only refers to part of the country (and a small part at that), whereas ‘the Netherlands’ refers to the entire Kingdom (yep, it still is Kingdom of the Netherlands)

So, if you’re planning a trip around the country, you’ll need to say ‘the Netherlands’. Having said that, many people (including us at times!) still incorrectly refer to it as Holland, so I’ll use the terms interchangeably throughout this post.


Motorcycling in the Netherlands- why you should go!

The Netherlands are known for several things- canals, clogs, tulips, windmills and being flat. Oh, and you’ve probably heard of Amsterdam, especially the red light district. If you follow the news, you’ll definitely have heard of the Hague.

But there’s a lot more to the country than that- it’s full of beautiful countryside, ridiculously pretty towns, delicious food and a lot of history. Not every road is by a dyke or windmill- there are also forests and, although the country is flat, there are a few sweeping roads with great corners which make them fun to ride.

This is also the place to bring your bicycles if you’re touring the Netherlands with a motorhome or campervan– most of the country is perfect for enjoying on 2 wheels.

I have Dutch god-parents, so I grew up visiting the country and exploring it on road trips with my family. I’ll be honest, many of my memories of the country involve Poffertjes (small Dutch pancakes served warm with butter and icing sugar) and Kibberling- we’ll get to those shortly!

It’s also not a big country and it’s easy to see a lot in a week, especially if you’re travelling by motorcycle.


When to go motorbike touring in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has a climate very similar to the UK- it’s on roughly the same latitude as Norwich or Wales. The best time to plan a motorcycle trip is from Spring (mid-April) to Autumn (probably around mid-October), but rain can happen at any time.

If you want to see the tulips, go between mid-March and mid-May (obviously, exact times vary), but this time is also very popular with tourists.

On the 27 April, there is a National holiday called King’s Day. Expect a LOT of orange clothing, orange hair and events happening all over the country. The Dutch Royal Family are known for making surprise visits to unexpected places, so keep your eyes peeled! (Although, be honest, would you recognise them??)

July and August are the busiest months for tourists and there can be big queues for the peak attractions, so avoid those if you can. Having said that, it’s the best time to enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches along the north coast. There’s a party on ‘Flag Day’ (when the first herring are brought in). There’s also the North Sea Regatta, Holland’s biggest sailboat race, and the Scheveningen International Fireworks Festival, held during August, which is well worth a visit.

During Autumn, the weather is perfect for road trips, without having to fight through the worst of the tourists. Make time to visit the Nijmegen Kunstnacht art festival- a huge gathering of artists of all varieties.

In the winter, there’s a lot more rainfall and it can be cold, damp and dreary. Again, much like southern England, there are no mountains (although there are hills), so don’t expect much snow (although it does happen occasionally.)

But there are several light festivals which happen around the country, including the Amsterdam Light Festival (one of the largest in the world) and also Glow Eindhoven and Candle Night, Gouda. Also, many of the canals freeze in winter and it’s possible to ice-skate on them (but please only do this with permission in case the ice isn’t as thick as you thought!)


Motorcycle Holidays in the Netherlands – Where to go

Before we dive into planning your motorbiking tour of Holland, let’s look at some of the best places to visit.

Highlights of a Netherlands road trip include:

  • Giethoorn – the village with no roads. Yes, I know that’s weird for a road trip destination, but it’s magical
  • Keukenhof Gardens to see the tulips and hyacinths
  • Volendam– one of our favourite villages in Holland
  • The Hague
  • Nijmegen- the oldest city in the Netherlands
  • Amsterdam- but do NOT drive into the city!
  • Madurodam– a model village of the Netherlands and well worth a stop
  • Windmills in Kinderdjik

Of course, there are plenty of other places to explore too.


Planning a riding route from UK to Netherlands

So, how do you get to the Netherlands from the UK with a motorcycle?

Using the Eurotunnel

By far the easiest way is the Eurotunnel. Normally, I’m all about the pros and cons of ferry vs tunnel, but in this instance, the tunnel is the best choice UNLESS you’re coming from up north. There is also a ferry from Dover to Calais if you’re unable to use the tunnel, but it takes longer to cross.

Once you’re across to France, you can drive from Calais, through Belgium and to the Netherlands is just 3 hours (it’s about 280km).

Harwich to Holland Ferry

There is also a ferry which goes directly to the Hook of Holland (which I think is where a lot of the name confusion comes from!) from Harwich, with Stena Line. You can take your motorycle (or vehicle with trailer if you’re towing your motorbike) on board and it takes about 7 hours.

If you’re travelling with a dog or cat, there are kennels on board you can book them into, but they can’t come into your cabin.

Hull to Rotterdam Ferry

For anyone in Scotland of the North of England, there is also a ferry from Hull to Rotterdam with P & O Ferries. This takes about 12 hours and again has cabins and pet kennels onboard.

There are no border controls if arriving into the Netherlands by road- you just ride straight in!


Motorcycle Hire in Holland

If you don’t have your own bike, or don’t want to take it, you can easily fly into the Netherlands and hire one. Just make sure to ask how to get from the airport to the rental agency- not all of them are at the airport itself and you might need to book a taxi.

To rent a motorcycle in the Netherlands most places will expect you to be:

  • 25 years or over, depending on the company’s rental policy; (18 years old for scooters and some very small bikes)
  • Have a valid driving licence with at least 2 years experience
  • show identification (identity card for EU citizens or a valid passport for other nationalities) 

Make sure you have proof that you can take the vehicle across a border if that’s what you’re planning to do.

Don’t forget, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure the vehicle has the required safety equipment. The on-the-spot fines apply to you as the rider, not the company. Check in advance with the company what kit they will provide with the vehicle and what you will need to bring. If you are solo motorcycle touring, remember you’ll need to carry everything yourself, including any motorcycle camping kit.

Take a list of what is legally required with you and check it off one by one as you are given the handover. Do not drive until you are happy you comply with the local laws.

You can expect to pay anywhere from 80€-180€/ day- based on model. Make sure you ask the right questions to know what’s included in your rental, such as:

  • Mileage limits/ surcharge
  • Kit included
  • Luggage included
  • Helmet rental available
  • Pillion allowed
  • Breakdown/ insurance cover
  • Times & location of pick up/ drop off
  • Documents needed

Motorcycling in the Netherlands- what gear do you need to carry?

Just like most of Europe , there are certain things you MUST carry with you whilst motorbike touring in the Netherlands.

Don’t forget, if you are driving through France to get to Holland, you’ll need all the kit France requires, plus anything extra required by the destination country.


Things you need to ride in the Netherlands- safety gear

These are the things you MUST have with you when you’re motorcycle touring in Holland.

  • Wearing a helmet is mandatory for riders and pillions.
  • You must not use cycle lanes on anything bigger than a scooter.
  • Hi-vis reflective jackets – NOT mandatory but highly recommend if you break down at night
  • You do not need headlight beam converters on a motorcycle in Europe unless your headlight points dramatically to the left.
  • Country (UK) sticker attached to the back of bike on reg plates. (NOT the EU or GB sticker anymore!)
  • If you wear glasses you MUST carry a spare pair

Lighting on motorcycle helmets and clothing in the Netherlands- what’s the law?

It was illegal to have additional lighting on both your clothing and motorcycle helmet when riding in the Netherlands. Turns out, this law was apparently reversed in 2021 and if you want to have a little lighting on your clothing/ helmet to make you more visible you can.

HOWEVER, your bike lights must still be clearly visible and understood, so don’t turn yourself into a Christmas tree!


Recommended bike accessories you MIGHT need when motorcycling in Holland

The following kit are things you might need to carry in your kit.


What documents do you need to road trip in the Netherlands?

If you’re riding in the Netherlands, you need to carry the following documents:

  • Passport (or identity card)
  • Driving licence (check it is in date!)
  • Motorcycle Insurance documents- check you are covered for riding in Europe
  • Breakdown cover
  • Vehicle V5 logbook (which must show your correct address)
  • Vehicle must be legally taxed and MOT’d
  • International Driving Permit if required
  • Personal travel insurance

Do I need an international driving permit to drive in Holland?

Most UK citizens do not need an IDP to ride or drive in the Netherlands, as long as you have a card driving licence issued in the UK (in date, of course!)

You might need one if you have:

  • a paper driving licence only
  • a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man

Motorcycling in Holland- where to stay overnight

In the Netherlands, there are several types of stopovers you can use.

  • Campsites
  • B & Bs
  • Hotels
  • Hostels

Campsites

Every campsite we’ve been to so far has been extremely clean and well-equipped. As we always

Like in the UK, campsites in the Netherlands vary in quality and price. Some campsites have great facilities, like swimming pools or a beach on a lake, watersports, play area, restaurants, fresh bread delivery, shop etc.

Others are more rustic and aren’t much more than an aire with an attendant. Expect the facilities at cheaper campsites to be much lower in hygiene standards than you might be used to!

They work much like in the UK- you arrive, check in (and will usually need to show a passport), are given or can select a pitch with or without electric (depending on what you booked) and that’s it.

Expect some campsites to keep your passport for the duration of your stay with them. This is often at the places where you haven’t paid in advance- I always try to pay in advance and keep my passport where I know it’s safe!

Dogs are normally always welcome on campsites, but there isn’t always a dog walk/ run where they are allowed off lead.

Because we rarely plan a route while touring, and therefore we never know where we’re going to be, we book campsites at the last minute- or just turn up. This doesn’t always work, (especially in  August or between October-March when many campsites shut) but there always seems to be something around which works out.


Dutch motorcycle trips in the school holidays- or not?

If you’re travelling in the school holidays, you’ll want to book up the campsite (if you’re using one) asap- the best ones get booked up months in advance.

If you’re NOT travelling during the school holidays, you might want to consider getting an ACSI camping card– you’ll save a lot of money on campsite charges if you’re using a motorhome or campervan to tow your bikes.


Driving tips for Dutch motorcycle travels

Holland is generally not too bad for drivers (at least, not compared to motorcycling in Italy or Portugal!)

Some quick tips for driving or riding in the Netherlands:

  • Holland drives on the right, like much of Europe
  • You must give way to traffic coming from the right, unless signposted otherwise
  • You might see a red and white inverted triangle sign which means you must give way on the crossing to other traffic.
  • A square orange / white sign means you have right of way.
  • Bicycles have right of way. Always. Even when they shouldn’t.
  • A red round sign with a car means cars are prohibited, but motorcycle may enter. If it shows a bike and a car, you may not enter.
  • When overtaking, move to the slow lane again.
  • Helmets are compulsory
  • Wearing earphones or buds is frowned upon (unclear if it’s illegal or not), but motorcycle intercoms/ bluetooth systems are not.
  • Buses and trams have right of way.
  • In-car speed camera detectors and motorcycle sat-nav systems warning of the presence of radars are illegal (whether they’re in use or not!)
  • Using a mobile phone while driving is illegal, but you can use a hands-free unit
  • Minor traffic offences can result in on-the-spot fines.
  • UK driving licences are perfectly acceptable to use and you probably won’t need an IDP

Speed limits in the Netherlands

Road safety is very important in the Netherlands and they take a dim view of speed- especially anyway near residential or school areas. The pace of life is slower and it’s common for many people to drive well below the speed limit.

  • 130 km/h (80 mph) on motorways (Autosnelweg) (minimum speed 60km/h)
  • 100km/h (62mph) on major roads and Expressways (Autoweg)
  • 60-80km/h on regional roads (out of town)
  • 50 km/h (31 mph) in built-up areas

As you enter a town (passing the yellow sign) the speed limit of 50kph applies (unless otherwise stated) until you are leaving the town and pass a yellow sign with a red line through it.


Filtering in Holland- is lane splitting legal?

Lane splitting is allowed in the Netherlands, but please stick to these rules:

  • Use the left-most lane (the ‘slow’ lane
  • Do not go any faster than cars/ other vehicles than 10 km/h (6 mph).

Riding in the Netherlands- what to do in the event of a road traffic accident

You should have a European Claim Form provided by your insurer before you leave. In the event of an accident, all parties complete and sign the form at the scene and then send a copy to your insurer for assessment. Don’t sign anything unless you are happy with what it says.

What to do at the scene:

  • Stop your vehicle immediately but safely- out of the flow of traffic if possible.
  • If a vehicle is blocking the road, use hazard lights and put the red warning triangle 30 metres from the scene to warn approaching traffic
  • Exchange your details with the other involved parties. Be sure to get:
    • Name and address of all the people involved in the accident
    • Vehicle registration numbers of all parties
    • Insurance company details of all parties
    • Take photos of damage using a camera, GoPro or phone

Motorcycling in the Netherlands- security

We highly recommend paying extra attention to your motorbike security when travelling in Holland, as motorcycle thefts do happen, as does petty theft and pickpocketing, especially in the larger towns and cities. I know it’s not always possible, but try not to leave your bike unattended in an unsecured area and use a strong lock. If possible, park your bike in a garage overnight.


More useful things to know when motorcycling in Holland


Emergency Numbers:
 112 will get you everything you need.

Language– Dutch, but English is widely spoken to an excellent standard (as are Flemish and German). The Dutch will love you trying to speak their language, but they are also aware that us mere English mortals can’t make those sounds!

Currency– Euro

Cards– most major credit and debit cards are accepted. American Express is only taken in large stores (not at tolls and often not at fuel stations)

Timezone– GMT+1 (or one hour ahead in BST)

Tipping– Service is usually included in a restaurant, but do check. It’s common to tip other services, like taxi drivers

Shops– Unlike much of Europe, shops in the Netherlands don’t often close for lunch. Most are open every day from around 9 a.m. until 5.30 p.m. On Monday mornings, shops may not open until noon.

Many towns and cities have a shopping night where shops stay open until late, around 9 p.m. This is often on a Thursday. Many big supermarkets are open until 10pm.

Every Dutch city has its own rules for Sunday shopping hours. In most big cities, supermarkets are open until around 5.30 p.m on a Sunday.

Visa requirements: The Netherlands is in the Schengen zone, so you probably have a maximum of 90 days if you are not an EU resident.

Borders: There are no formal border crossings if you are driving into the Netherlands

Telephone country code: +31


Touring the Netherlands with a dog

The Netherlands is very pet-friendly. They are allowed almost everywhere, including public transport and in many bars, cafes and restaurants. They are not often allowed in museums.

Now that BREXIT has happened and the UK pet passport scheme is no longer valid, you will need to get an Animal Health Certificate before you leave the UK.

You will need to get a worming treatment done by a registered vet before you leave the Netherlands, or between 24 hours and 5 days before re-entering the UK.


DISCLAIMER: This post was last updated in April 2022. We try to keep it as up to date as possible, but cannot be held responsible for any changes made to the law since the last update. If you do find any discrepancies, please do let us know. Thanks.

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