Do I Need a Licence to Rent a Boat?

”Do I need a licence to rent a boat?” is one of the most frequently asked questions that we get here at Borrow A Boat. And we get it. Most people out there don’t have licences but are still interested in booking a boat trip. 

The short answer to this question is: No, you don’t need a licence to rent a boat. As long as you’re not the one doing the actual sailing, that is.

Now, here’s the long version: At Borrow A Boat, we offer holiday-goers two types of bookings: bareboat charters or captain-guided charters. This is what it means:

If you book the first option, you’re essentially renting a boat without any crew or provisions, and you or someone on your boat WILL need a licence. With this option, you can customise your itinerary, cook your own meals, and ultimately, be your own captain. If you’re a sailing fanatic, it’s the best way to practice your favorite hobby while on an uber-personalized trip with family or friends. 

If you book the second option, a boat with a captain, aka someone who can guide and sail your boat and is liable for the safety of everyone on board, will be provided to you at an extra charge. It’s a stress-free way to enjoy your vacation. Maybe you will even take the opportunity to learn a thing or two about sailing while you’re on board. 

Read on for more details on both options.

Renting a boat from Borrow A Boat with a valid boating licence.

Bareboat Option: Rent a Boat With a Boat Licence

To rent a boat in most countries, you’ll need a boat licence that is recognized by the country you’ll be sailing in. In Europe, for example, most licences from abroad are accepted as long as they are deemed equivalent to the local licence. To be on the safe side, you can always apply for the International Certificate of Competence (ICC) in your home country in addition to your local boat licence. Accepted in many countries around the world, an ICC proves the holder has undergone formal training and has all the necessary boating skills to manage a vessel in open waters.

Please note, however, that an open waters licence is not commonly valid for inland waters and most countries require a separate inland water licence. Whenever a boat has a radio installed, you will also need to have a radio licence in order to operate it. The most common radio licence is the VHF licence, also known as the Short Range Certificate (SRC). Other types of radio licences, such as an aircraft radio licence, might also be accepted, but this should be confirmed by the specific boat operator beforehand. In the end, it’s the decision of the boat operator or the operator’s insurance provider to accept or decline a license.

Captain (Skipper) Option: Rent a Boat Without a Licence

If you don’t have a licence and still want to enjoy an incredible boat holiday, you can choose the option to book a yacht charter with a captain (skipper) with your boat. Each of our 30,000 chartered yachts in our 500 destinations is available with a captain. The captain (skipper) is responsible for sailing and navigation, and additionally takes on the liability of the boat. They’re also knowledgeable on local hotspots and can offer advice on everything from sailing routes to the best local cuisine.

If you’re a curious traveler who wants to take away some sailing skills from their trip, the captains will give you the opportunity to get involved, including assisting them with raising the sails and dropping anchor. To be ahead of the curve, learn the basic nautical terms before you get on board. If you’re looking to relax, have no fear, they’ll also give you space and privacy to enjoy the tranquillity the sea. It is, after all, your vacation.

Renting a boat from Borrow A Boat with the ''book a  captain'' option.

Top Six Questions About Booking a Captain (Skipper) With Your Boat

1. Do I need a captain (skipper)?

If you have to ask, you probably do. Even if you have some sailing skills, it’s great to have a captain to take the lead. The captains don’t just navigate. They are also responsible for the safety of the boat and passengers during the whole trip. It’s a demanding job and they have to know the area well. So, if your goal is to take a relaxing vacation to totally escape, you’ll probably want a captain to take care of everything boat-related. The captain can also be your local guide for the area. He or she knows where to anchor and which islands are worth a visit.

2. Who chooses the captain?

When making your reservation, let us know if you need a captain or not. If you do, the charters – who have great relationships with local captains – will suggest a captain for your booking. If you have any special requests or concerns, feel free to ask the charter after you’ve booked.

3. Will my captain speak English?

Usually, your captain will speak at least some basic English, as well as the local language. It’s their job to be able to communicate with their guests and with the locals alike. If you’re concerned, simply communicate your needs with the charter when booking.

4. Are the captain fees included with the yacht charter?

No. Captains work independently from the charters, so their fee is usually paid prior to boarding. Captain fees can vary depending on a number of factors. However, you can expect to pay around €150 per day. Trust us, the cost is worth it.

5. Where does the captain sleep?

Most vessels have a small ”crew” cabin where the captain sleeps. Keep in mind, if you book a boat where one is not included, you must designate one cabin in your boat for your captain.

6. Am I responsible for feeding the captain?

Yes, hiring a captain means considering one extra mouth to feed for the entire on-board duration of your trip. This means when buying food and (non-alcoholic) beverages for consumption on the boat, you’ll have to consider the captain. You won’t need to pay for food or accommodations while on land.

captain on a yacht

The answer to your question: Do I need a licence to rent a boat?

As you can see, you don’t need a licence to rent a boat. It all depends on the kind of vacation you would like to enjoy and the kind of adventures you would want to embark on. Now that you possess all the knowledge about sailing with or without a licence, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of both and what special requirements you should consider when choosing to sail with a captain.

From sleek and spacious motorboats to luxurious catamarans and classic sailboats, there are plenty of options to choose from (over 21,000 boats more specifically).