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Rent a boat without a license – where do which rules apply?


Spending a great day with a boat on the water without having to take a driver’s license – is that possible? The answer is yes! In many countries a boating license is not required up to a certain engine power, i.e. You can easily rent a boat without a license. The rules for this vary, however, depending on the body of water and from country to country. I’ll clear up and give you a brief overview of the regulations in the most popular travel destinations.

General rules in Germany

A driving license is required for all motor boats with more than 15 hp. Lighter boats such as inflatable boats up to four meters in length, boats with GRP hulls and small cabin boats can, however, also be rented without a license (except on certain waters such as the Rhine).

Nonetheless, the driver must be over 16 years of age and be mentally capable of steering the boat. In addition, the driver undertakes to familiarize himself with the legal principles in advance (signs, avoidance rules and lights, buoys, sound signals). So if you really have no experience, you should rent with a skipper at the beginning and get a detailed briefing. In any case, certain behaviors must be observed on the water.

Specific regulations in Germany

A basic distinction is made between lake and inland waters. Inland waters are those where large ocean-going vessels cannot proceed due to fixed bridges or other obstacles. Depending on the body of water, a special driver’s license is required; in Germany, a distinction is made between the sport boat driving license See (SBF See) or the sport boat driving license inland (SBF Binnen), which is required for boats from 15 HP.

Exception: Lake Constance, the Rhine, the Danube and the Moselle. These are international waters because they flow across borders. Different rules apply to boating without a license:

  • Lake Constance: only up to 6 hp
  • Rhine: up to 5 HP and 15 m length
  • Parts of the Spree-Oder waterway
  • State waters (the respective federal state is responsible here, in Berlin, for example, the 6 HP limit also applies)

License-free boats in France

Boating without a license is generally allowed up to a motor power of 6 HP. In addition, sailing boats can be operated without a boating license – when renting a sailing boat privately, a well-filled nautical CV is usually required instead of a driving license. However, steering a sailboat needs to be learned, so you should have some experience in order to rent a sailboat.

A specialty of France: The beautiful canals, such as the Canal du Midi, where houseboats and small motorboats cavort – most of the boats available here have less than 6 HP and can be driven without a license without any problems.

Boats without a license in Spain and Italy

As in Germany, boats up to 15 hp can be driven and rented here without a license. Attention, German rules apply to German vacationers! Italians, for example, are allowed to drive up to 40 HP without a license on Lake Garda, but this does not officially apply to international boaters.

Different regulations in waters in Great Britain

In the UK, it is possible to rent boats up to 15 hp on sea waters. Driving licenses are required in inland waters, and some of the canals are also subject to charges.

More freedom in Greece

As in most other countries, the 15 HP limit applies to inflatable boats with outboards. All other motor boats may even be steered without a license up to 30 HP.

Driving license required for boats in Portugal

Stricter rules apply in Portugal, a driver’s license is always required if a motorboat is to be rented.

Boat license in Croatia and Macedonia

No boat may be driven here without a valid driver’s license. The sports driving license for the lake is compulsory for both motorboats and sailboats over 3 m in length. In Croatia, a radio certificate is also often required if the boat is equipped with a radio system.

So nothing stands in the way of a little boat adventure even for newcomers to many European holiday destinations. If you like it, you might want to consider the license to control larger engines!

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