RENTING A BOAT IN AMSTERDAM – THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Renting a boat in Amsterdam

It’s important to be well prepared before renting a boat in Amsterdam. Below are the 11 most important things you need to consider:

1. Would you like a boat with a skipper, or rather be at the helm yourself?

1. Would you like a boat with a skipper, or rather be at the helm yourself?

Finding the right boat starts with the question whether you want to be at the helm yourself, or leave that to the skipper. You may steer a small boat like ours on the Amsterdam’s canals without a licence or experience. Larger boats always come with a skipper.

How many people are in your party?

How many people are in your party?

To start off it’s useful to know how many people will join you on the boat. In general you could say smaller groups prefer a small boat and steer themselves. Larger groups who want a private canal trip, usually take a large boat including a skipper.

How much do you want to spend?

How much do you want to spend?

For most groups budget also plays a role: renting a small boat to steer yourselves is a lot cheaper than renting a larger boat with a skipper. At Boats4rent you can take a boat out for 3 hours starting at € 79 all-in (+ €1.50 tour tax per person). With a small group, you will always be better off at the helm of a small boat. 

With larger groups it can be profitable renting a large boat including a skipper. Admittedly, the cost for the boat appears a lot higher – about €400 for 2 hours of boating (+ €1.50 tour tax per person)- but you can divide this amount by a lot more people as well.

Is there someone in your party who wants to be the skipper?

Is there someone in your party who wants to be the skipper?

You shall have to decide in advance if there is someone in your party who can and would like to steer. It’s a piece of cake and can be a lot of fun!
Is no one up for it or is everyone drinking? Then it’s a better idea to get a boat with a skipper.

Where do you want to hop on and off?

Where do you want to hop on and off?

It’s important to know whether you are bound to a specific hop-on and/or hop-off location. When you use a small boat, you will pick up and drop off at the location of the boat rental. Boats4rent is located in ‘De Pijp’, a very lively and popular neighborhood in the southern city center. 

If you decide renting a boat including a skipper you can usually make arrangements concerning the hop on and hop off location. This can be nice when travelling with a large group starting from your place of work or if you’re planning to go to a certain restaurant after your canal trip.

2. Go for a professional company, not for a ‘pirate’

2. Go for a professional company, not for a ‘pirate’

Always make sure you’r renting a boat from a company that has a permit from the City of Amsterdam. Then you can be certain that you are dealing with a professional who meets all the conditions and requirements. Boats4rent is one of these, of course.

Renting a boat from a company or person without a permit (on platforms like Marktplaats) is illegal. It might seem cheap, but you have no way of knowing whether the boats are safe, tested and insured. Furthermore, you won’t have a leg to stand on if they don’t live up to your expectations. Last but not least, when a boat without permit gets checked by Waternet or the Water Police, your fun day out could be over on the spot! 

Professionals with a permit from the City of Amsterdam will state this clearly on their website. If you’re not certain about it: ask for it. It could save you a lot of hassle!

3. Avoid paying commissions to platforms or middlemen

3. Avoid paying commissions to platforms or middlemen

When searching online you will encounter a lot of platforms and web portals that do not rent boats themselves. Such websites can offer a nice overview or easy comparisons. But there is no such thing as a free lunch. Remember that you’ll be paying commission. Most likely, it’s worthwhile to continue your online search to find a company like ours where you can book your boat without any intermediary and without paying a commission.

4. Don’t compare apples to oranges: check additional costs, taxes and rental time

4. Don’t compare apples to oranges: check additional costs, tax and rental time

If you’re searching online you can’t simply compare the different offers one-to-one. There are too many differences in conditions, and what is and isn’t included in the standard rate.

How many hours do you get for the given price?

How many hours do you get for the given price?

Many boats including skipper are available for a minimum of two hours. Usually, for those first two hours there is a fixed price and a different hourly rate applies for any additional time. Most companies want to know in advance how long you want to be on the water. However in some cases they can offer a flexible end time. Make sure you have a clear understanding about this in advance. 

Also when skippering the boat yourself, it’s worth paying close attention to rental times. Is the given rate for one hour, two hours or even – like Boats4rent – for three or four hours?

Check the taxes: 9% or 21% VAT and tour tax included?

Check the taxes: are the VAT (9% or 21%) and the tour tax included?

It makes quite a difference whether given rates include taxes or not. So make sure to check on that.

For boats with a skipper the VAT on the rental itself is 9%. Most additional costs (like food) have a 21% VAT.
For self-drive boats 21% VAT applies. This is mostly included in the rate.

On behalf of the Municipality of Amsterdam all companies have to collect a 1,50 tour tax per person.
In most cases this is not included in the rate.

Also note additional costs

Also note additional costs

When renting a boat in Amsterdam not all companies are completely clear about the exact additional costs. Apart from the VAT and the tourist tax that we mentioned before, beware of the following additional costs (in particular when renting a boat with a skipper):

* pick-up or drop-off costs, if you want to hop-on and/or hop-off on a location of your choice;

* catering options.

Catering is usually the largest additional cost when renting a boat. You can go as big as you like (see next tip). Do you want to keep it low budget? Check if the company allows you to bring your own picnic.

5.  Catering: what are the options?

5.  Catering: what are the options?

Never underestimate the importance of food and drinks on boats! Renting a boat in Amsterdam is not just about the scenic views. It’s mostly about spending quality time together. And what’s a quality time without yummy snacks and drinks?

There are different options to choose from:

1. BYO (bring your own). Make sure you also take cooling elements, a bottle opener, glasses or cups, plates and cutlery.

2. You can get food delivered or pick something up on the way (good idea to pre-order though): restaurant catering, pizza or a picnic basket.

3. You can outsource the catering to the boat company. Most boats with skippers provide standard chilled drinks, ranging from soda and beer to bottles of champagne. In addition, they often have standard ‘drinks & snacks’ packages. To offer customized care, they often have partnerships with restaurants and caterers.

Whichever option you choose, discuss it with the boat rental company in advance and come to a clear agreement!

6. Check which amenities are available on board

6. Check which amenities are available on board

It’s good to know in advance which amenities are available and which you need to bring yourself. Most large vessels with a skipper are well equipped with a fridge, a power source, cushions and life vests. But not all of them will have blankets, heating or a toilet on board.

Usually, on smaller boats where you are at the helm, the amenities are a lot more frugal. Mostly, cushions or foam seats and life vests are included, but things like a fridge or power source are not. So make sure your phone is fully charged and bring your own cooler. And there is no toilet on board, so make sure to visit one before you head off.

7. ‘Time flies when you’re having fun’

7. ‘Time flies when you’re having fun’

Most companies want to know in advance how many hours you want to be on their boat. Of course, you know best what fits your schedule. But it’s good to keep the following things in mind:

* most companies have a minimum of two hours. Less than two hours is hardly worth it anyway: you just hop on, have a snack and then it’s already time to hop off. Too bad!

* generally speaking: the longer you rent, the better the hourly rate. If the company you have in mind doesn’t offer this, it’s a good idea to ask about it.

* in three or four hours you can see a large part of the city. For most of us that’s enough. After three or four hours it’s time to stretch your legs and do something else, or to head home.

8. Book well in advance

8. Book well in advance

Renting a boat in Amsterdam is very popular. And for good reasons: it’s a nice and relaxing activity and it’s also very typical for the city.
Amsterdam is a city with nearly a million inhabitants and up to 20 million visitors every year. And there are only a few hundred rental boats with permits. The chances of getting hold of one at the last minute on a sunny day are next to none.

Therefore, we recommend booking your boat well in advance, especially during weekends or holidays. Then you’ll be sure not to miss the boat. It also gives you enough time to arrange everything to your wishes: rental time, hop-on and hop-off location, catering and anything else you want to add to your day out. 

Always ask the company for a confirmation of your agreement by email. Or, if you’re still preparing but not ready to commit, ask the company whether it’s possible to make a provisional booking.

9. The weather: know what’s possible and prepare for different scenarios

9. The weather: know what’s possible and prepare for different scenarios

It’s a given when renting a boat that you expect nice weather. That’s what we all want: to be at the helm, enjoying fresh air, ideally with sunshine and in summer garb. 

Thanks to global warming and a bit of luck, things usually work out. But it can be different: there are days when the forecast says it will rain cats and dogs. Or maybe your trip starts out bright and sunny, but on the way you get chilly or maybe even a shower of rain. Anyhow, it’s good to know what the options are and to prepare accordingly:

  1. ask the company about the conditions in case of bad weather. Can you cancel your booking and get a refund? Or can you reschedule for free? If so, what is the latest time you can do this?
  2. ask the company what you can do if you go out when it’s cold. Is it possible to get some cover on the boat? Is there a heating on board, or blankets?
  3. prepare yourself and your guests for ‘four seasons in one day’. Bring sunglasses, sun cream, a warm jacket and an umbrella: ‘better safe than sorry!’.

10. Make sure nobody misses the boat!

10. Make sure nobody misses the boat!

It might seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often people are confused about meeting points. Bear in mind that not everyone knows Amsterdam inside out. Some hop-on locations are small and hard to find. Others might be very large and busy with a lot of similar looking boats. That’s why it’s important to agree a good spot to meet the skipper and your guests and share the exact location on Google Maps or Whatsapp. Make sure everyone is on time because any delay shortens your valuable boating time.

When renting a boat without a skipper, the hop on and hop off location are always the same: at the dock of the company. When renting a boat with a skipper, you can usually choose a pick-up and drop-off point at an additional fee. For instance a nice street cafe by a canal or a convenient public-transport or parking location.

11. Be aware of the rules and regulations, and stick to them

11. Know the rules and regulations, and stick to them

There are quite a few rules and regulations on the canals of Amsterdam. Most of them are intended to keep the canals safe for everyone and to reduce nuisance for the neighbours to a minimum. Both the Municipality and the Water Police make sure everyone sticks to the rules. They sail around the canals or lie in quiet places where you don’t necessarily see them straight away. Law Enforcers also watch from the shores. The fines for infringement on the water are no joke, they can amount to hundreds of euros. So in everyone’s interest, please respect the rules and regulations. The most important ones are listed below.

Amplified music is prohibited

Amplified music is prohibited

When it comes to music on board the rules are very clear: amplified music is prohibited on open boats. The purpose of this rule is mainly to prevent noise from party boats in the evening and night. But this rule applies to everyone. The chance that you will be fined for music at a low volume from your mobile phone is slim. But formally you are also in violation and you may get a sizable fine. Especially, if there are also other comments on your (boating) behaviour.

Sailing in the dark is only permitted with the right lighting

Sailing in the dark only permitted with the right lighting

After sunset all vessels are required to have their boat light(s) on. Unfortunately, romantic candle light or the flashlight on your mobile phone are not enough. Boats longer than 7 meters need to have a green light on the starboard side, a red light on the port side and an all-round top light. If you rent a boat with a skipper, the skipper will take care of that.

This is different for smaller self-driven boats. They only have to carry a white all-round top light. For the sake of safety a number of rental companies, including Boats4rent, have deliberately chosen to rent only in daylight. Those boats without lighting always have to be back at the dock before sunset.

Maximum speed on the canals: 6 km/hour

Max speed on the canals: 6 km/hour

A maximum speed of 6 km/h applies almost everywhere in the centre of Amsterdam. For boats with a skipper, the skipper will adhere to the maximum speed. And most self-drive Amsterdam rental boats are limited well below the maximum speed. 

Stay sober if you’re at the helm

Designated driver

It’s against the law to steer a boat while under the influence. Just like on the road, there are controls on alcohol and drugs on the water. The police may use a breathalyzer or blood test and you may get a serious fine. Apart from that, accidents on the water can be very nasty. So agree in advance who will be staying sober and resist the temptation, even if the rest of your crew is drinking.

Keep right and give way

Keep right and give way

Rule number one is the same as on the streets: keep right (starboard). However, the priority rules are a lot more complicated on the water than they are on the road. It is not always traffic from the right that has the right of way. This is because certain categories of boats (including tour boats) have priority over other boats. If you’re on a boat with a professional skipper, he or she should be aware of the priority rules.

If case you’re steering yourself and you do not have a boating licence, it is advisable in principle to give priority to everyone and to take precedence only if others explicitly give you right of way.

Watch out for one-way traffic, prohibited canals and docking bans

Watch out for one-way traffic, prohibited canals and docking bans

There are two one-way canals in Amsterdam: the entire Prinsengracht from Westerdok to the River Amstel and the Singelgracht from the River Amstel to the Heineken Experience. In addition, there are a number of canals and areas that are forbidden to enter. And you may not just “park” your boat anywhere; mooring is prohibited on some areas of the quayside. All these details are signposted. In boats with a professional skipper, he or she should be aware of this and you don’t have to worry. When steering yourself, you should pay attention to this and the boat rental company should explain these rules to you before your departure.

‘Good seamanship’

‘Good seamanship’

On a boat there is one basic principle that overrules all other (traffic) rules: “good seamanship”. That means that the safety of yourself, your crew and everyone else on the water is of the utmost importance. Steer defensively, give the right example, help others if necessary and don’t always “take the right of way” where you may have it formally.

We’re looking forward to welcoming you at Boats4rent!
Please contact us if you have any queries: info@boats4rent.nl.

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