Private Transport Guide for Expats in Amsterdam
In Amsterdam, the most challenging obstacle for drivers is the number of cyclists on the roads, who implicitly believe that they have the right of way, no matter what traffic signs, lights or flows might indicate. Amsterdam has a very high rate of bicycle ownership, approximately one per resident. There are dedicated, marked cycling lanes on many streets, which at certain times of the day will be very busy.
Especially during rush hour traffic times, bicycle traffic is likely to overflow into the main roads of the city, and it is important to remain aware of the fact that a cyclist might be approaching you from any direction, at any time. Of course, they are supposed to ring their bell to alert you of their position, but many will not, for you must remember, they always have the right of way, even when they do not. Cyclists tend to move quickly, and they assume that there will be no obstacles in front of them. Some cyclists also ignore traffic signals and signs, which means that you should always check for cyclists and motor scooters when driving in Amsterdam.
Drivers tend to be assertive and will expect you to take the right of way quickly. If you do not, they become frustrated. An example of their impatience is the tendency to honk horns if the first car in line does not move within 2 seconds of a light turning green. As a result of the assertiveness of Dutch drivers, you will notice that some drivers will drive through red lights shortly after the light has changed to red, if they assume that it is safe to do so.
While driving in Amsterdam is not necessarily more expensive than it would be in any other European city, parking comes at astronomical rates, especially as you move to the heart of the city centre. You will require a permit to park if you live in Amsterdam itself, unless you have off-street parking (which is rare).
Parking is relatively scarce in Amsterdam, and permits are not automatically issued. It is also possible to purchase short-term parking tickets from machines that are located on the street. This is essential on streets that have parking restrictions. Violating parking restrictions will result in heavy fines and probable wheel clamping, or in some cases, towing (which results in a higher fine).
In the Netherlands, as in most parts of Europe, cars (including rental cars) are almost always fitted with manual/standard transmissions, not automatic transmissions, though you can typically request automatic transmission, if that is your preference. When renting a car, foreign drivers licenses from European countries are generally acceptable, as long as they are current; otherwise, you will need to obtain an International Driver’s Permit in your home county prior to arriving in the Netherlands.
In Amsterdam, it is not generally recommended to hire drivers, since these are typically more expensive than rental services or the taxis that are available around the city or easily accessed via telephone, whenever they are needed.