A complete guide to moving to Amsterdam by The Hostel Girl 01
Amsterdam, Popular, Travel Tips 12

Moving to Amsterdam: What you need to know

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!

A complete guide to moving to Amsterdam by The Hostel Girl


How can I find a room to rent in Amsterdam?

What is registration in Amsterdam and do I need to register?

How can I get a Dutch bank account?

Do I need to get health insurance in the Netherlands?

Do I need to get a bicycle to get around Amsterdam?

What are the public transportation options in Amsterdam?

What is a museuumkart and should I get one?

Moet ik nederlands te spreken? (Do I need to speak Dutch?)

How can I find a room to rent in Amsterdam?

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.

The most active Facebook groups are Amsterdam Apartment Rentals, Apartments for Rent Amsterdam and Amsterdam Apartments for Rent.

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.

What is registration in Amsterdam and why do I need it?

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.

A complete guide to moving to Amsterdam by The Hostel Girl 02

How can I get a Dutch bank account?

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.

Do I need to get health insurance in the Netherlands?

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.

A complete guide to moving to Amsterdam by The Hostel Girl 03

Do I need to get a bike to get around Amsterdam?

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!

What are the public transportation options in Amsterdam?

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!

A complete guide to moving to Amsterdam by The Hostel Girl 04

What is a museuumkart and should I get one?

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!

Moet ik nederlands te spreken? (Do I need to speak Dutch?)

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,

Katie Dawes The Hostel Girl Signature

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  • Donnie says: June 24, 2015 at 2:23 am

    Well. Too bad I didn’t read this before I get here. Nice wrap up!

    • Katie Dawes says: June 28, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      Ah sorry Donnie! Let me know if I missed anything 😉

      • Donnie says: June 30, 2015 at 12:10 am

        No worries Katie.

        I think you’ve already covered it all. Probably you could add another section like useful web or apps, such as Reisplanner, 9292 (you’ve mentioned it), Openingstijden, Holland Pass and others.

        • Katie Dawes says: June 30, 2015 at 2:37 pm

          Useful apps for Amsterdam is such a great topic! I will keep this in mind and hopefully have time to write about them soon – I was always impressed with the number of useful specific apps for the city!

  • Wanderlust Marriage says: July 16, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    Excellent resource for people thinking or planning to relocate to the Netherlands! Great job, Katie!

    I know what you mean about being intimidated about riding a bike in the city center. I had a problem with it, my wife didn’t though 🙂 Even as a visitor to Amsterdam, before we lived there for 3 and 1/2 years I always felt that traffic in Amsterdam was like being in the video game Frogger! 🙂

    • Katie Dawes says: July 16, 2015 at 7:03 pm

      I’m glad you agree with it – as expats yourselves! Haha I have never played frogger… but the traffic is definitely intimidating so props to your wife!

  • CΔMILLΔ says: July 28, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Wow! This is so informative and I’ve been hunting the internet like crazy for an overall summary for months. It’s great to hear from someone who has actually moved over there. I’m planning to move over to Amsterdam really soon but I’m a bit confused about the BSN number thing – it sounds like you need to have someone where to live first? As of yet, I don’t have a job or a place to live there but I was hoping to sort the job out first, then somewhere to live but I’m not sure if you can do it this way. Help! Camilla x

    • Katie Dawes says: July 30, 2015 at 8:07 am

      Hi Camilla – don’t panic! They have a great process in the Netherlands so as long as you’re prepared (and you do sound prepared) everything should go smoothly!

      Yes, to receive a BSN you need to have an address in the Netherlands. There’s nothing to stop you getting a job first, but bare in mind that if your company pays from a dutch bank you won’t receive your wages until you have a BSN. Here’s the general process:

      1. To be paid by a Dutch company you need a dutch bank account (usually).

      2. To open a Dutch bank account you need a BSN number.

      3. To receive a BSN number you need an address in the Netherlands.

      I hope that helps and do let me know if you have any more questions!

  • Karen Wanderlustingk says: March 2, 2016 at 7:30 am

    I loved this article. You really should post this in the Expat Groups here as people often ask these questions over and over. I wish I had read this when I first moved to Amsterdam. Two notes: you need to have a valid work contract to open an ABN account, which made it so I had to wait a bit before I could. Similarly, you can get a used museumkaart in the expat groups for a fraction of the price as long as the gender is right.

    • Katie Dawes says: March 6, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      I’m so glad you agree that I’ve covered some good points here Karen – I’m not a member of the expat groups (as I’ve now moved again!) but if you think it would be useful please feel free to share it for me 🙂 And I’ll edit the post soon to include your tips – I LOVE the one about the museumkaart! <3

  • Tiarna says: August 28, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Hi thanks so much for your trips!
    Do you have any recommendations for recruitment agencies for expats ?? Thanks heaps 😉

    • Katie Dawes says: August 28, 2016 at 6:00 pm

      Hi Tiarna – you’re welcome! I’m afraid I don’t but I think LinkedIn is a great place to start!