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Heading to the Netherlands? Renting a car is a great way to explore this nation of tulip fields, windmills and canals. But here are a few things you need to know before heading off on the open road.

 

Essential Tips for Renting a Car in the Netherlands

 

Book a car before you go. Waiting to book your reservation until you're in Europe will almost guarantee that you will pay more than you need to. Most major car rental companies allow free cancellations, so go ahead and book your trip from the U.S. ahead of time. The further ahead you reserve your car, the better the chance of landing a deal because you can watch out for price drops.

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You do not need an International Driving Permit. Obtaining an International Driving Permit is not necessary in this country where nearly everyone speaks some English. Still, the U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands advises that it's preferable to combine your state driver's license with the IDP, which translates your license into multiple languages and must be obtained before you leave the United States.

Think through your car insurance needs. Liability insurance and fire protection is mandatory and automatically included in the price of all car rentals in The Netherlands. This covers any injuries to passengers in other cars if there is an accident but does not extend to the rental car itself. It's very possible that your credit card offers collision insurance on rental cars as a benefit. But before you decline the CDW at the counter, be sure to read the fine print to be sure you are adequately covered for international rentals.

You'll drive on the right. Like in all of continental Europe, people drive on the right side of the road in the Netherlands.

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Pay for the rental in euros. You may have the option to pay for the rental in U.S. dollars, but this option will cost you more in the long run. Pay in the local currency to avoid Dynamic Currency Conversion fees. If you opt to pay in U.S. dollars, the rental car company converts the purchase amount from the local currency on your behalf. But this process is entirely unnecessary, since your credit card company will process the transaction in either currency, and you will pay through the nose for the non-convenience.

Assume your speed is being monitored. Some highways in The Netherlands monitor each vehicle's average speed over the course of a few kilometers. You may not be aware if you're caught speeding, but your rental car company will be notified and you'll pay a surcharge—perhaps weeks or months after you've returned home. Also be aware that traffic cameras are very common throughout The Netherlands.

Don't drive in Amsterdam.. Driving is a great way to explore the Dutch countryside, but cruising around the sprawling capital city, with its labyrinthine canals, complicated parking rules and ubiquitous bike lanes, is not recommended for those unfamiliar with the city. Plan to pick up the rental car when you're ready to leave the city.

Know city parking rules. Parking is not available by black and white or yellow curbs. You need a time-stamped parking disc to park in 'blue zone' areas. These discs are placed on the dashboard, and can be obtained at motor club offices, tobacco shops and police stations.

Don't leave Western Europe. Planning to explore multiple countries? Cars rented in the Netherlands can travel anywhere in Western Europe without restriction. But Eastern Europe is a different story. Check your rental agreement for a list of prohibited countries; if you have an accident while in once of these countries, your insurance will be void.

Inspect the car carefully before you drive away. While it's tempting to pick up your vehicle and get on your way, make sure to inspect the car extra carefully for any dings, dents or scratches on the surface. Take photos of every inch of the car. Otherwise, you could end up paying for those imperfections if you don't document them before you leave.

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