So, You Want to Own a Boat in Amsterdam?

You would think that for a city built on water, the first choice of transportation would be a boat.  After all, there are 165 canals in Amsterdam covering a total distance of more than 50km! We cycle, drive cars, ride scooters, hail trams, and... oh yes, we also boat. Let's find out how Amsterdammers (or Mokummers) go about owning boats and making the most of the city's vibrant waterways.

With summer fast approaching, it’s time to investigate the guidelines to owning a boat in Amsterdam and further understanding this fun transport option.

What You Need (besides the boat!!)

A special license is only necessary for boats longer than 15 metres or capable of speeds faster than 20 kph. If you are planning to pilot something smaller and slower than that, you are already good to go.

Harbour Fee

Amsterdam’s waterways are managed by Waternet.

If you plan to moor your boat within city waters you are required to pay an annual harbour fee (binnenhavengeld).  This is calculated with two aspects in mind:

  • Square meters: the total square meters of your boat (width x length)
  • Motor type: The annual fee has two rates, an environmental and a regular one.

After paying the harbour fee you will receive a sticker which you are required to place on the port (left) side of your vessel. This allows Waternet to check if you have paid your fee or not.

If your boat does not have a harbour fee sticker, or it is moored in a prohibited location, you can be fined between €10 and €17.60 per metre, based on the length of your craft. Your boat may also be towed away, in which case you will be required to pay a towing fee of €182 and a storage fee of €0.90 per metre.


You may moor your boat anywhere in the city except for certain clearly-marked locations such as under bridges, in narrow waterways, in junctions, or by rescue steps. Starting in 2019 it is no longer permissable to moor boats in the Red Light District.


It is important to know that docking sites may not be claimed except in the case of houseboats, which have permanent mooring permits. Having said that, there is still a “gentleman’s agreement” in regard to this. If you choose a location to moor, be sure to give clear indications that there is actually a boat to be moored there. If someone takes your spot you should be able to reach an agreement of understanding by letting the person know that you usually have your boat moored there. Remember that for boats above 12 meters length you should be thinking of mooring in a marina.

Marinas / Harbour Clubs

A selection of Marinas in Amsterdam are:

The City Marina 

Port Entrepot  

Peek Watersport 

E Harbour (for Electric Boats only).

But there are also great marinas and harbour clubs right outside of Amsterdam like the Vinkeveense Plassen, also known as the Amsterdam Lake district.

Jachthaven Vinkeveen 

Life Vests vs Swimming Vests

A swimming vest (zwemvest) is an aid for swimming, and they are available for children weighing 30kg and up. A life vest (reddingsvest) is a personal flotation device designed to save lives and are available from the newborn size of 5kg. These life vests are designed to turn the child onto his/her back and to hold the head and face above water to enable breathing.

Life vests are not mandatory but highly recommended! When purchasing a live vest make sure you are well informed about the type of vests that fit your situation best (sea, lake, canal).

Lana Huf-Germain is a born and bred Amsterdammer. She understands the difficulties faced by international families with no grasp of the language or history, and the extra problems this brings raising a family in Amsterdam. She started Amsterdam Family Assistance to help families new to the Netherlands overcome these barriers and make them feel at home.

Photo credit: Jachthaven Vinkeveen


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