If I had to be honest, moving to Amsterdam for a full time job was probably one of the most sensible decisions I’ve made since graduating University. A proper job, a proper flat, a non-graduate/student bank account.
Of course, my itchy feet got the better of me and in just two weeks I will be heading back to Morocco! But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a lot of wisdom to impart on those of you wishing and hoping to make the exciting move to Amsterdam in the future.
I hope I’ve covered most of the big topics and questions you might have about moving to Amsterdam, but if you need any more information feel free to ask away in the comments!
Like any capital city, Amsterdam is neither the cheapest place to live nor the easiest in which to find accommodation. This is particularly true if you want to live within the canal belt in the centre of town. Whilst living in the centre is a very attractive option, there are some great districts just outside that are popular relocation districts for expats, particularly De Pijp and Plantage.
The majority of my friends and I live in shared flats outside the centre with one other person and our rents range from €750 – €900. You’ll be hard pushed to find good accommodation with fewer than one other housemate for under €750, so make sure to budget for at least that.
I found my flat on Kamernet which I couldn’t have been more pleased with as a rental platform, especially as it is in English. Those looking for tenants list their own apartment for free and you can message those you are interested in once you’ve set up your own account. I would also suggest paying for the €19 basic subscription for 15 days as it allows you to see if you have any shared Facebook friends with other members on the site.
Another option is to join a Facebook group as they are very active, but there are two warnings here. One is that there is no control over scammers, so if anyone asks for money upfront without your viewing the flat be very suspicious. A lot of the group members have experienced this already and are quick to point out the obvious scammers. The second warning is that these groups move fast, with thousands of members, so you have to be quick to get a viewing.
A point to note is that some rentals don’t allow tenants the opportunity to register (due to overcrowding), which is no good if you’re hoping to work in Amsterdam.
You are essentially not allowed to work or live in Amsterdam without a BSN (burgerservicenummer). This is their equivalent of the UK’s National Insurance Number and really isn’t all that much to be worried about except that your employer will need to know it before you get paid.
My recommendation is to arrange an appointment with the Amsterdam city hall as soon as you have an address to live at in which you can be registered. I had to wait three weeks after moving in for an available appointment, and as I needed my BSN to get a bank account I also ended up waiting an extra month to get paid.
At your BSN appointment, make sure to take an original copy of your birth certificate, your passport, your rental contract, and just in case I also took my work contract although they didn’t need it. Those of you moving to Amsterdam from outside the EU may also need to apply for a work permit.
Even if you’re only looking to live in Amsterdam for the short-term you really will need a Dutch bank account as most online transfers (such as wages) are done via IBAN and this costs a lot to a UK account and possibly even more to an international one.
I chose to go with ABN Amro, as I heard they offer the most services in English and are very English friendly. So far I’ve had no problems, and the charges aren’t high either. Other popular banks in Amsterdam are ING and Rabobank.
Whilst I have heard that you can just walk in and open an account, I booked an appointment over the phone and the process couldn’t have been simpler. To open a bank account in Amsterdam make sure to take your BSN, passport, your rental contract, your work contract, and if you come from outside the EU you may also need a residency and work permit.
The answer is yes. Even if you have health insurance in your home country, if you move to Amsterdam and are working here you are required to pay for your own health insurance. All companies offer a basic package (basisverzekering) but choose carefully as you are not allowed to change your provider more than once a year.
The basic cost of health insurance in the Netherlands is around €80 per month, something that you should budget for when negotiating wages. This site offers a great comparison of the insurance providers on offer.
I was genuinely trying to avoid getting a bike as long as possible, as like many people new to Amsterdam the combination of trams, cars, bikes, people and huge tourist groups seemed like madness.
But trust me on this, getting straight on a bike is one of the first things you should do here. On my first night my flatmate took me out on a bar crawl and every one of his friends had a bike. You soon come to realise that without one, you’re going to get left behind.
Now I ride one to work and back every day and before I decided to leave Amsterdam I was even considering buying a second to make life easier when I had friends visiting. The independence a bike offers you in Amsterdam is well worth getting over the fear of riding one!
I stumbled on this incredible tips post from asthebridflies.com just before I moved and it gave me so much confidence to cycle so I suggest you check it out too! – Amsterdam travel advice: tips for cycling in Amsterdam.
Cheapflight.co.uk have also put together a really informative infographic that I suggest you check out! You can find the full image in their Cycling Guide to Amsterdam.
Top tip: bikes get stolen all the time here, so I’d definitely consider getting a registration or engraving yours so that it is easily identifiable just in case!
Public transportation in Amsterdam really is one of the best systems I’ve found in Europe. I’m an underground girl and I’ve always hated the fact that few metro systems are as good as London’s. However the tram and bus system in Amsterdam is so well connected that I haven’t grumbled about their poor metro system once!
When moving here, I would suggest getting an OV Chipkaart, which you just top up and swipe when you get on or off a tram or bus. The fares for OVs are much cheaper than buying a ticket on the tram.
There are also plenty of Taxis in Amsterdam, but because of many tiny one-way streets and a complicated bridge system its often far quicker to cycle or get public transport.
Top tip: The 9292 app is one of the best apps I have seen for planning travel on public transport, and it works across the Netherlands so definitely download it to prevent getting lost in the city!
If you’re a fan of museums and art galleries then the museumkaart is a must! It’s a pass for one year’s entry to almost every museum or art gallery in the Netherlands that costs just €54.95.
Basically, it’s a bargain. The cost of one entry to each of the museums in Museumplein (the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh museum, and the Stedelijk) adds up to around €55 – but with the museumkaart you can go as many times as you like and visit the rest of the museums in the Netherlands all for free!
I am a big believer that an expat should learn the language of their new home country as best as they can. I’m also terrible at languages and without any formal classes my Dutch is still as horrific as when I moved here because you really don’t need to learn it to get along.
The majority of Dutch citizens in Amsterdam speak English, and their English is so good that they just see it as a waste of time to entertain your child-like Dutch. That being said, if you make an effort they will appreciate it. Even if they still won’t practice with you…
The government offer a great course on Dutch for expats, so ask about it at your registration appointment and they may be able to refer you to a programme straight away. Otherwise start getting in some Duolingo practice!
I really hope this helps a few of you and if there’s anything I’ve missed or any questions you have just let me know in the comments…
Lots of love,