General Sailing

The boating license’s ultimate guide for sailing abroad

8 August 2019

The boating license’s ultimate guide for sailing abroad

The international boating license question

The legislation stipulates that it is the nationality of the ship that designates the legal status. To put it simply, a boat flying the French flag that sails in foreign waters will be subject to French regulations.

To begin with, there is no international boat license or European boat license. However, the ICC is a certificate you can obtain which is intended to provide proof of competence when requested in foreign countries.

In other words, to rent a boat abroad you will have to comply with the regulations of the country attached to the flag of the boat.

Do you need a boating license to rent a boat?  

Areal picture of a sailboat near Marseille

If you wish to rent and sail abroad, here is a list to help you find your way around the different regulations in the most popular countries for yachting.


To drive a sailboat, no license is required in France even if significant experience is required.

On the other hand, a coastal license is required to use a motorboat with a power greater than 6 horsepower.  License extensions are required to navigate offshore (hauturier) or on lakes and rivers (fluvial).


Boating licenses issued by the EU Member States are automatically valid and accepted in Greece. Those outside the European Union are accepted if they meet EU standards. Finally, licenses in languages other than English or Greek must be translated.

To rent a boat in Greece, a license is required for sailing boats and motorboats with more than 30 horsepower.

Below 30 horsepower, a boat license is not required for motorboats. 


A license is required to drive a sailboat beyond 6 miles from a shelter.

Regarding motorboats, there is no need for a boating license if the power is less than 40 horsepower. 


Croatia has the highest concentration of sailboats for rent in Europe, safety is paramount. This is why it is mandatory to have a VHF radio license (CRR) in addition to a boat license in order to be able to sail, regardless of the flag of the boat.


A license will be required in two cases:

  • If you rent a motorboat with more than 15 horsepower and more than 4 meters in length.
  • If you rent a sailboat over 5 meters in size


Regardless of the category of sailboat or motorboat, a license will be required. Similar to the way boats are rented in Greece, licenses issued by the EU Member States are automatically valid and accepted in Portugal.


A certificate of competence (Amatör Denizcilik Belgesi) is required to navigate for sports or leisure purposes. It cannot be used for commercial activities and is valid for the following boats:

  • All motorboats 
  • Vessels between 2.5 m and 24 m in length and up to 50 tonnes gross weight.


Similar to that in France, a nautical license is not required to use a sailboat.

However, it will be necessary to have one if you want to rent a motorboat with a power greater than 5 horsepower.


To sail in the Netherlands, a permit will be required when:

  • the boat is more than 15 meters long
  • the boat can go at a speed higher than 20 km/hour.


Local authorities do not require a permit to operate on coastal and inland waters. However, it is strongly recommended to have the necessary skills and experience to navigate safely. 


If you want to sail in Norway, you will need a boat license for boats longer than 8 meters and/or with more than 25 horsepower. 

United Kingdom

Like Ireland, in the United Kingdom, recreational boating on the coast or further out to sea is open to all and does not require a license.

However, this changes for inland waterways. A permit or declaration to the competent authorities will be required. 


No special training is required to operate a pleasure craft less than 12 meters long by 4 meters wide. 


If you wish to sail in Switzerland, a boat license will be required if: 

  • Engine power exceeds 8 horsepower
  • The surface area of the sails is more than 15m2 

To drive a boat with a motor exceeding 8 horsepower, a Class A motor license will be required. For sailboats above the 15m2 boat’s sail limits, it is the category D sailing license that is required.

Swiss nationals wishing to sail at sea will be able to pass the sea license. 


For the rental of a boat in Monténegro, a license will be required, regardless of the type of boat.

Can you rent a boat without a license?

Picture of a boat without license

You want to enjoy the rental of a boat but you do not necessarily have a boat license. Don’t panic, several solutions exist: 

  • You can decide to rent a boat without a license. Some boats are so small that they do not require a license. Again, this differs from country to country.
  • Renting a boat with a skipper is an excellent solution if you want a complete and stress-free sailing experience.