Moving to a new city is always an exciting step, and if that city is in a new country it makes it even more fun and challenging. Moving to Amsterdam makes it easy for newcomers to settle in because there is already a large international community there. But as elsewhere you have to know and to consider some things before the big move. Find out here tips about housing, administrative matters, transportation, expats life, and also about good places to know.
Moving to Amsterdam: Where to live?
There are a multitude of areas to consider in Amsterdam, each with its own charm and atmosphere, local highlights and hotspots.
The center and the canals
The Canal ring (Grachtengordel) is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s as lovely as impressive because it’s a maze of streets and canals with houses of 4 floors or more and beautiful facades. Houses have high decorated ceilings and rooms. Prices on the canal ring are vertiginous but many expats enjoy it because it provides a typical Dutch experience.
The center is good for businesses in need of a representative location for their offices and for people who want to be in the middle of everything. Not so good for people who like tranquility and for people with a small budget.
Situated on the west side of the Grachtengordel. The Jordaan is a very popular and desirable neighborhood. Originally a working class district, it has become one of the most expensive, upscale locations in Amsterdam. It is home to many art galleries, particularly for modern art. Local markets are held regularly at Noordermarkt, Westerstraat and Lindengracht. It has a bohemian vibe and the best thing is: although many tourists visit this area (Anne Frank house) and a lot of foreigners live here, it still has a strong local feel to it. It’s a mixture of yuppies, expats, young families and local businesses. Also, it has the benefit of a huge park nearby (Westerpark).
This neighborhood is good for people who like the charm of small houses with narrow steep staircases. It is convenient for using public transport, bike or scooter. It is not good for people who don’t like crowdedness.
This area is very popular, it is called the ‘Latin’ quarter of Amsterdam because it’s a mixture of multicultural people. It has a lot of bars and restaurants including Surinamese, Caribbean, Moroccan and Turkish specialties. It hosts the famous Albert Cuyp market which is a long market, the most frequently visited in Amsterdam. You can find clothes there, food, fresh fish and the best is that you can eat on the run Dutch specialties like Bitterballen, Broodje haring and stroopwafels.
This neighborhood is good for people who like the lively multicultural atmosphere and to live in the midst of immigrants, students, and yuppies. It is not good for people with a car because parking space is very limited.
Situated on the east side of the Vondelpark. Although very close to the LeidsePlein and the city center, this area has the tranquillity of a small village. One of the most expensive areas in Amsterdam, it has a luxurious vibe with beautiful houses. The houses are wide and the staircases as well contrary to the majority of houses in the town.
This area is perfect for people who value tranquillity, comfort, and convenience. Ideal for families with small children. Easy to have a car there. Not good for people with a small budget as this neighborhood is more expensive.
Eastern Docklands, Zeeburg, KNSM
A former port area now home for the lovers of modern architecture with a cultural appeal.
What about living in a container? As a student, you can apply to live in a container in the NDSM Docklands (a former industrial zone transformed in an active cultural zone in the north of Amsterdam, behind the central station you have to take a ferry for around 10 minutes to go there). Explained like that it can seem strange and not very attractive, but It’s amazing to see how this district has been arranged: everything is about transforming things into something else far from its original value! It’s a special area, quite hard to describe. They’ve painted and equipped containers to make small studios for students. The studios are sized 25 square meters and are well arranged. One container has been turned into a common laundry room and another one into a common kitchen.
The rent is around 400€ per month. It can be a good plan if you think about the fact that it’s only at 10 minutes to the Central station, where you would pay the double for the same size. And the ferry is free. Next to these containers, a big old warehouse has been turned into an Art factory which welcomes artists, craftsmen carpenter, painters, photographers. Art exhibitions are opened all the year. You can also find there the ‘IJ-Hallen’, a unique flea market taken place every week. They turned a boat and a crane into hotels.
Moving to Amsterdam: How to find a place?
Finding an accommodation in Amsterdam can be tough because of the high demand. Here are your options.
Estate agents or Specialised letting agencies (verhuurbureaus)
Be careful that the agency has a license from the municipal authorities. Many apartments rented to expats are found via agencies. As elsewhere pay attention to these agencies because they will try to make you pay as much as possible as you’re an expat and so you don’t know the ‘local’ market.
Online housing websites
There are many websites out there to help you find a flat, a house or even a boat! Here are the most popular:
- Funda (only certain parts of the website have been translated in English)
Facebook might turn out useful in your fat research, especially expat groups:
- Use IFTTT Recipes to get notified directly in your inbox when new property ads are posted
- If you are looking for a room in a shared rental, you should look at Craigslist or Kamernet, which is dedicated to rooms for rent.
- If you plan to move to Amsterdam in the next few weeks or months, there is no need to look for an accommodation too far in advance. The rental market is extremely dynamic: new properties show up daily. Because of the high demand, agents and landlords may ignore your request if you are not already in the city. So you better start your research the week before your move-in.
Another option is to look for social houses. There are two rental markets in Amsterdam: public housing and the private sector. The Netherlands has many public houses, it has the biggest social housing sector in Europe. These houses are the cheapest. You can be eligible for those under certain conditions; the first condition you have to meet is that your monthly income is below a certain level and the second condition is that you have to be in the city where you apply for housing (for work for example). It depends on how long you plan to stay but waiting lists for those accommodations can be of several years so obviously not the good plan for an expat or for someone who plans to stay only for a couple of months.
Moving to Amsterdam : Cost of housing
Regarding the private sector, dwellings are subject to the House Value Renting System (woningwaarderingsstelsel) whereby a house is valued by a system of points according to criteria like standards, size, facilities, and energy efficiency rating up. It is very useful for calculating the rental of your house. Every apartment has a maximum rent which is calculated using a points system. Every square meter and all the facilities in the apartment score points, and the total number of points equates to a certain maximum rent. If you think you pay too much for your rental you can call the Huurcommissie and they will come to evaluate your apartment for 25€.
However, as soon as the score of an apartment exceeds the number of points that correspond to about 650€ (141 points), there is nothing to do, the rent can’t be reduced because that apartment is considered to belong to ‘free market’ and so the score does not matter anymore. That explains why there is very few apartments with a price between 650€ and 900€ and why there are two rental markets: one for the locals who can afford to wait several months for a good accommodation and one for expats who are in most cases in a hurry to find a place to stay and who don’t know the rental system.
Be careful that the process of “evaluation” of your rent by the commission should start within the 6 first months of your contract. Otherwise, it is not possible to do anything (except for the all-inclusive rents).
About the deposit, it is generally equivalent to one or two months’ rent (in the private sector). Three months’ rent deposit is not normal.
Things you need to know about the housing in Amsterdam
Housing permit: in the private sector, for dwellings valued up to 141 points a housing permit is required. In the free housing sector (dwellings valued more than 141 points), no housing permit is required.
What tenants need to know about the rental contract:
- There is no such thing as a temporary contract (except in very rare and particular circumstances)
- Only the tenant (not the landlord) is allowed to terminate a rental contract (except in very rare and particular circumstances)
- When looking for an apartment there is no need to pay admin-screening fees if it was found via a site so that the agency didn’t make any research.
- Anyone can start a process at the Huurcommissie for only 25€ but ONLY within the first six months of your contract. See the assessment of your rental accommodation as a duty towards the city and the future tenants.
- Generally speaking the laws regarding renting in the Netherlands are very protective of tenants.
Moving to Amsterdam : Red tape
Once your apartment found that’s a big step done! If you plan to stay more than 4 months you have to register as a resident and get a BSN (Burgerservicenummer). It is kind of a social security number, you will need it for several things such as to get a health insurance, to open a bank account and to be paid by your employer.
Registering as a resident in Amsterdam must be done in the five days following your arrival. To do so, a passport and a rental contract are needed (you can register at your employer’s address if you don’t have a permanent accommodation yet).
Get a health insurance
Then get a health insurance (‘zorgyerzekering’): If you are here just for a few months you can keep the travel insurance you currently have. Otherwise, a health insurance in the Netherlands is mandatory. The basic insurance package is around 100€ per month and then you can add additional coverage. Two recommended are Achmea or Inshared.
Open a bank account
Here is a full article on how to open a bank account in the Netherlands.
The 30% tax ruling
In the Netherlands, they have an attractive fiscal benefit called ‘30% tax ruling’. It is a Dutch tax exemption for employees who were hired abroad to work in the Netherlands. It means that the employer is allowed to pay you 30 percent of the employee salary as a tax-free allowance. To be eligible, several conditions have to be met:
- The employee is not self-employed.
- The employee has to be recruited or transferred from abroad to a Dutch employer.
- The employee’s salary is above a certain level.
- The employee has qualifications that are barely available in the Netherlands.
Note that you will have 4 months to apply starting from when you start working. The maximum duration of the ruling is eight years.
Moving to Amsterdam: Everyday life
What is pretty good in this town is that you can get everywhere in 20-30 minutes. Picture Amsterdam as one big village; everything is possible by bike. So you need to get a bike as soon as you arrive! And also because you’ll not feel like a Dutch without one.
On the bicycle, you’ll be surprised to see every walks of life: businessmen in suits, mothers with several children on multiseat or cargo bikes, pregnant women, young people going out riding while texting on their phone, old couples riding while holding hands. All this regardless of the weather.
You’ll find one between 50€ and 150€ in every corner of the city. Get also a good lock because many bikes are stolen. You would be lucky not to get stolen during your time in Amsterdam. You can also find one for 30€-50€ at the bike market. And you can even buy a stolen bike for 5€-20€ between midnight and 2am in some districts, but this is absolutely not recommended because this is precisely what encourage the theft.
Otherwise, if you don’t like cycling or are afraid to ride in the rain, get an OV-chipkaart for public transport. It is cheaper and more convenient than a regular ticket.
Food in Amsterdam
Although the Netherlands are not known for their food, they have some specialties that you have to taste, obviously. Here are the most famous ones.
This is THE typical Dutch snack. You can find it almost everywhere, especially in bars because that’s what you order after some beers if you have not eaten before 🙂 it is meatballs served with fries and mustard.
Gouda, Geitenkaas (goat cheese), and Maasdammer. The Netherlands are the second country producer of cheese. You will eat gouda at all flavors (garlic, pepper, pesto, lavender, asparagus, and much else besides!
Dutch traditional dish. It is a puree made with mashed potatoes and vegetables served with a sausage.
Another Dutch snack. It’s a bowl of raw herring served with pickles and onions.
The famous waffles! They are composed of two pieces of waffles in which there is honey syrup. Dutch habit is to put it on top on the tea or coffee in order to melt the caramel inside before eating it.
Dutch pastry. Resembling small pancakes made with yeast and buckwheat flour. They are served with powdered sugar and syrup.
As you can see among Dutch specialties there are a lot of snacks. Dutch people are used to eating on the run.
Moving to Amsterdam: Cost of living
Another important thing you need to know before moving to Amsterdam is the cost of living.
The housing is quite expensive. An apartment (1 bedroom) in City center is around 1’300€ per month. The same outside the center is 950€. An apartment 3 bedrooms in the City center is around 2’300€; the same outside the center is 1’500€.
Electricity & Internet
Around 100€ per month.
Around 100€ per month for public transport (lower if you live in the center). A tram ticket is 2.90€ without the OV-chipkaart. The regular price of a monthly pass is 80€. If you have a bike you don’t have to spend anything on public transportation because you can go almost everywhere by bicycle. Taxi start (normal tariff) begins at 2.95€ and it costs around 2€ per kilometer.
The fixed minimum coverage fee is around 90€ per month for the basic insurance package and more for additional coverage.
Around 300€ per month for home-cooked and healthy food. You’ll probably do your groceries at Albert Heijn supermarkets which are at every corner of the streets. You can slightly reduce this expenditure by mixing with other supermarkets like Lidl or Aldi. For good veggies there are many bio-supermarkets with good and fresh products.
Between 20€ and 40€ per month.
Having dinner at a restaurant
Between 15€ and 40€. One meal in an inexpensive restaurant is 15€. Allow 60€ for a meal of 2 people in a mid-range restaurant with three courses. A meal at McDonald’s is 7€.
Between 15€ and 50€. It depends on how much you drink, a Heineken is 2,50€, La Chouffe is 4,50€ and a cocktail is 10€. The cinema costs 11€.
Now that you’re all settled, let’s go for the fun party! Living in Amsterdam is a really good experience as there is a lot to discover in this city. Although you can find hard to make friendship with Dutch people they are really open-minded and you will discover amazing places.
Life in Amsterdam: Best places to go
In your first days in Amsterdam you’ll probably go to Leidseplein and RembrandtPlein to go out on evenings. These two touristic places are famous and very crowded on evenings and nights. However, only go there if you want to go to clubs. Otherwise, you’d better to try and find your favorite bars in other areas, which shall be much more local and typical.
Omelegg (De Pijp)
It is the perfect place for having a brunch or a breakfast in a pleasant district. You’ll have the choice between a variety of omelettes and breakfasts. They make fresh squeezed orange juice and croissants. For a great start of the day with a good brunch in a good atmosphere without spending too much that’s the place.
It’s a brewery in a windmill. They do their own beer so it is worth going there and tasting a sample of locally produced beers with a platter of smoked charcuterie in an atypical decoration.
A beautiful place in a former monastery in the Westergasfabriek. They brew their beers themselves so you can combine a home-made beer with a tasty selection of food, especially their burgers which are excellent! The place is really nice and as it is located in the park (the Westerpark) it adds something special to this brewery.
Take a bier here with a roasted chicken by throwing peanuts on your neighbour!
Without a doubt it is the most phenomenal view on the city. Built with old sea containers, Pllek’s main mission is to keep on surprising their customers. Not only with their food (as most of the ingredients are locally grown) but also with the atmosphere they’ve created. During the day it’s a great place to have lunch, dinner, or a relaxed lounge afternoon. But it also owns Amsterdam’s biggest disco ball.
Noorderlicht (NDSM district)
Not far from the Pllek. Another place to relax and have a great time with friends on Sundays. Looks like a greenhouse.
Another special place where you can take off your shoes and relax in cinema seats. The interior changes constantly because Roest is open to everyone’s creative input.
An old church turned into music temple.
Special place at 5 minutes from Central station. The food is not to be recommended here but okay. However you’ll go there for the variety of events (vinyl evenings, Jazz & Blues, DJ’s,..) and to meet local people.
Pros & Cons of moving to Amsterdam
- A very beautiful and touristic city. As soon as we enter in this city we can feel the character of it with its small streets and canals everywhere.
- A city highly accessible. Even if it’s a European capital, it’s like one big village in which everything is possible by bike.
- A pleasant atmosphere with smart and open-minded people. There is no mark of social distinction and no apparent class differences. We feel at home and not like a stranger.
- A pleasant and city to live in with a lot of water and many parks.
- A huge expat community, more than 50% of the people are expatriate.
- For foot lovers, there is a concept called the “footy” which allows to play 3 months!
- The weather: summer is here one week per year and the rest is rain.
- If you’re not able to have a bike, public transport can become expensive.
- More seriously for me there is no cons at all in this city except that the sun didn’t show up a lot during my time there. Otherwise I am in love with this city.
This is it! I hope this guide has been useful. Do not hesitate in leaving us a comment if you find something is missing or to tell you about your experience there!