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Living in Amsterdam
A Comprehensive Guide About Living Well in Amsterdam
This guide to living in Amsterdam will introduce you to what you should expect when moving to this city with a cozy small-town atmosphere. Here, the lively city buzz and a myriad of things to do and see are balanced out by the calmness of green parks and picturesque streets that run alongside canals. Best of all is that everything is well-connected. All you need to do is hop on the metro, tram, or ferry, and you will be wherever you need to be in no time.
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Life in Amsterdam is generally calmer than visitors might expect. Away from the tourist-filled areas, the Dutch capital is a relaxed, family-friendly place. In general, the city is very safe, yet you will want to use caution in other areas where bike thefts are common.
Living in the capital of the Netherlands might not be as expensive as in other western capitals of Europe; however, be prepared to spend a big chunk of your monthly income on housing. This is especially true if you opt for fully furnished accommodation, which is uncommon.
One useful tip for anyone who is planning to live in Amsterdam is that bad weather is inevitable. Having an umbrella and raincoat here is necessary no matter what time of the year it is. If you choose to bike, you might even need to get specific gear to combat the dreadful weather. Find out more about the pros and cons of living in Amsterdam by reading our guide.
Life as a Foreigner
Beautiful canals, stunning architecture, and plenty of things to do and see are all waiting for anyone who visits Amsterdam. But what is it like to live there?
Overview of What Is It Like to Live in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has plenty to offer for many who wish to stay here to live. The city is buzzing with cultural events such as art expositions, concerts, and other shows that cater to many different tastes. The place is alive with bars and nightlife and has a diverse culinary scene with restaurants representing a variety of different cuisines.
Nonetheless, the commotion and liveliness of the city are not too disturbing. Apart from the city center that is overflowing with tourists, you will find that Amsterdam is very cozy and village-like. Everything is just a short tram or bike ride away. The city is green with parks and people tend to be friendly.
Overall, Amsterdam has high standards of living. Both education and healthcare are of high-quality. Housing, although scarce, is often renovated or new and well-maintained. People tend to earn enough to enjoy the commodities offered by this diverse and beautiful city.
Cycling is a big part of the Amsterdam lifestyle. The bicycle capital of the world accommodates the cyclist with well-structured bike lanes and priority over any other mode of transportation.
The Dutch love for bikes manifests itself in other everyday matters, such as shopping. People tend to buy only the amount of groceries that can fit in their bicycle baskets. Big weekly shops to stock up the fridge are not that common as bikes make stores easily accessible.
When living in Amsterdam, get used to being everywhere on time and keeping a schedule. Most locals plan their time days, if not weeks, in advance. So, if you want to meet up with a friend, you need to ask them if they can fit you into their agenda. The Dutch are not used to unplanned outings.
The only time when you can expect locals to be spontaneous is when the sun is out. The weather in Amsterdam is pretty gray, which means that when it gets warmer, the Dutch flood the parks and outside cafes to take in the sunshine.
Is Amsterdam Expensive?
While Amsterdam is not the most expensive capital in Europe, it can be quite expensive. Earning a decent salary is necessary to live well there.
Do not be surprised if your rent takes at least two-thirds of your salary: accommodation costs in Amsterdam start at 600 EUR (670 USD) for a room in a shared apartment. If you wish to live on your own, be prepared to spend at least 1,000 EUR (1,110 USD) per month on rent.
The remaining one-third of the paycheck goes to healthcare, groceries, and transportation. You should expect to pay at least 150 EUR (170 USD) per month for your health insurance and budget about 250 EUR (280 USD) for groceries. Monthly public transportation costs can amount to around 100 EUR (110 USD).
Approximate grocery costs:
|Price (EUR)||Price (USD)|
|Chicken breast (1kg)||9||10|
Going out can get very expensive in Amsterdam. Whether you choose to dine out or grab a drink at a bar, expect for the bill to be relatively high.
|Price (EUR)||Price (USD)|
|Coffee at a cafe||3||3.30|
|Beer at a bar||4||4.50|
|Cocktail at a bar||11||12|
|Dinner for two with drinks||50||56|
Is Amsterdam Safe?
In general, Amsterdam is a safe place to live. Some neighborhoods are safer than others but violent assaults are very uncommon. However, if you decide to purchase a bike, be aware that you need to take extra measures to keep it safe as bike thefts are frequent.
Tips on how to keep your bike safe:
- Get a sturdy bicycle lock (preferably made of steel, not U-shaped).
- If possible, use two bicycle locks.
- Lock your bike’s frame to the rack, not the wheels.
- Avoid getting a fancy looking bike that would attract a thief’s attention.
Drugs in Amsterdam
While many tourists do not know, as a person who wants to live in Amsterdam, you should be aware that drugs in the Netherlands are not legal. Purchasing marijuana is only permitted in specialty coffee shops and should only be consumed there as well.
Note that, for the locals, using drugs is not common. Do not expect them to be into it solely because they reside in Amsterdam.
Pros of Living in Amsterdam
International Corporation Hub
Nike, Tesla Motors, and Panasonic Europe are only a few of the companies that have headquarters located around Amsterdam. The market is competitive, yet there are many job opportunities for various professionals.
Ideal Work-Life Balance
Even with such big corporations in the job market, the working culture is still very relaxed. Dutch people value their time off work, and working overtime is rarely encouraged. Some companies allow their employees to work four days a week instead of five, which is especially useful for parents with young children.
Diverse International Atmosphere
The overall appeal of Amsterdam has attracted many expats to the city, which makes it very international. There are plenty of expat groups, special events, and meetups for anyone who wishes to make friends here. Cashiers, waiters, and bartenders speak fluent English as well as many workers of government institutions.
Small Town Vibe
For a Western European capital, Amsterdam is relatively small, which gives the city its cozy vibe. Most places (even the airport) are easy to reach by public transportation or bike. Further away from the central area, the city is rather quiet. There you can enjoy the calm evenings biking or taking a stroll in the park after the hustle and bustle of your day.
Cons of Living in Amsterdam
The city center is often busy with tourists, which makes it very unappealing to the locals. The area is often crowded and loud, and the entertainment is overpriced. Tourists are often unaware of cycling rules of the city, which makes it difficult and dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians alike. Unfortunately, not all tourists are respectful either. Fights often break out due to intoxicated visitors of the city. The congestion of tourists makes pickpocketing a common problem as well.
Expensive and Scarce Housing
While Amsterdam does offer a variety in terms of types of accommodation, there is hardly any available for rent. People take months to find a place that is suitable for them in terms of price and location. Furnished rentals are rare and, if you do find one, be prepared to pay a lot for it.
No Time to Shop
The work-life balance is essential to everyone. That means that most shops close at around 18:00 on workdays and 17:00 on Saturdays and Sundays (if open at all). Thursday seems to be the only day apart from the weekend where you can do shopping outside the typical working hours as some shopping areas are open until 21:00. Supermarkets can stay open until 20:00 or 22:00. Post offices and banks only work on weekdays, from 09:00 to 17:00 and 09:00 to 16:00, respectively.
Hard to Practice the Language
Dutch is often necessary to advance your career, so working on your language skills is vital; however, practicing Dutch in Amsterdam can be an issue. That is because many locals tend to switch to English when you attempt speaking Dutch to them. They do that to accommodate you; however, this can make it difficult to get into the habit of speaking the local language.
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Tips and Practical Information
Where to Get Your Citizen Service Number (BSN)
Your Citizen Service Number which is necessary to open a bank account or take out health insurance is issued when registering at the local City Office. Each district in Amsterdam has its own office; however, you are not required to go to the one in your area.
|West||Bos en Lommerplein 250|
|Zuid||President Kennedylaan 923|
|Zuidoost||Anton de Komplein 150|
City Offices are open from 08:00 to 20:00 Monday to Friday. Some services are only available until 19:30 (applying for a parking permit) or 18:00 (registering birth or death or applying for a taxi permit).
Find more info on registering and getting your BSN on the official government page for Amsterdam.
Where to Go Shopping in Amsterdam
- De Negenstraatjes—as the name suggests (it translates into “nine little streets”) this shopping area consists of nine streets with rows of quaint boutiques, art galleries, and cafes.
- Magna Plaza—an indoor shopping center with many boutiques situated in the former Amsterdam’s post office.
- De Bijenkorf—a luxury department store where you can find many designer brands.
- Leidsestraat—a major shopping street that is home to the city’s high-end shops.
- Kalverstraat—another big shopping street with shops of many popular brands.
- Spiegelkwarter—the antiques shopping street of Amsterdam.
- Haarlemmerdijk and Haarlemmerstraat—two trendy shopping streets with a variety of independent boutiques and specialty shops.
- PC Hoofstraat—a shopping street with major designed brand shops.
- Batavia Staad Amsterdam—an outdoor shopping mall located in the outskirts of the city with more than 250 shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Where to Go Shopping: Groceries
- Albert Heijn—mid- to high-range grocery store; the most common shop around; available as an express shop as well.
- Dirk van der Broek—budget grocery store that strikes the right balance between price and quality.
- Jumbo—usually big, mid-range grocery store with a wide selection of products.
- Ekoplaza—high-range organic grocery store chain with a selection for food, home, and body products.
- Vomar Voordeelmarkt—budget grocery store with a basic selection and good deals.
- Aldi—budget grocery store; basic, yet international selection.
- Lidl—budget grocery store; just like Aldi, has a basic selection and offers some international products as well.
- Marqt—high-range ethical grocery store with a selection of many organic and hard-to-find products.
Where to Go Shopping: Markets
- Albert Cuyp Markt—open Monday to Saturday from 09:00 to 17:00; biggest market in Amsterdam with over 300 stalls of fresh produce, street food, clothes, homeware, and more.
- Dappermarkt—here you will find over 200 stalls that offer fresh produce, clothes, plants, and specialty foods; open from Monday to Saturday.
- Pure Markt—every Sunday from March till October, over 90 vendors of sustainable and organic products gather in one of Amsterdam’s parks and sell food, cosmetics, furniture, and more.
- Sunday Westergas Market—an excellent place to look around if you are searching for art, ceramics, houseware, clothes, jewelry, and accessories. The market has indoor and outdoor cafes, live music, and a park nearby.
- Waterlooplein—the biggest flea market in Amsterdam is located near Amsterdam City Hall and takes place every day except for Sundays.
- Singel Flower Market—apart from a colorful variety of plants, you will be able to find souvenirs and snack stalls.
Top Phone Providers in Amsterdam
Many providers might require a Dutch bank account for you to set up a contract.
- Lyca Mobile
Top Internet Providers in Amsterdam
Many internet providers also offer phone and TV packages as bundle deals.
As mentioned before, finding a place in Amsterdam’s housing market can be a rather complicated task, no matter where you want to live in the city. If you do not know how to find an apartment in Amsterdam or you are struggling to find something you like, consider enlisting a real estate agent when choosing your destination services to make your move easier.
Overview of Amsterdam’s Housing Market
When it comes to rentals, Amsterdam’s housing market is split into two:
- social sector (70% of the market)
- private sector (30% of the market)
The social sector is owned by private non-profit associations that help people of lower-income get accommodation. The rent for social housing is capped at around 710–720 EUR (785–795 USD); however, getting it might take a long while as the waiting list is 8–14 years long. Additionally, expats often earn above the maximum threshold to be eligible for social housing, so, usually, the private sector is the only option for most foreigners that move to Amsterdam.
Most rentals offered in various online sites and by many of the real estate agents are housing units from the private market. Houses in the private market need to be priced above 710–720 EUR (785–795 USD) in order to qualify for this sector; however, this is only where prices begin. Depending on the location and the size of the place, the monthly cost of a rental can reach up to 10,000 EUR (11,085 USD) or more. Those who cannot afford an apartment on their own often opt for house sharing. A room in Amsterdam can cost around 400–900 EUR (440–990 USD).
Buying accommodation in Amsterdam, just like elsewhere in the Netherlands, is possible for any expat that has registered in the country and has all their related documentation sorted. However, keep in mind that the prices here are high and you might need to take out a mortgage to make a purchase. In that case, banks might require you to prove that you have been a resident in the Netherlands for five years. Still, note that being an EU citizen makes the procedure easier.
What to Expect When Looking for an Accommodation in Amsterdam
Expect for Amsterdam’s housing market to be competitive. Once you visit a property that interests you, voice your interest and put a deposit down. Rentals in the Dutch capital’s housing market go quickly; some of them stay on it for only two days, so you have to act quick. That is why it is advisable to always have all the necessary documents and enough money on you when visiting potential accommodation.
Where to Live in Amsterdam?
Amsterdam consists of eight neighborhoods:
- Centrum (Center)—Here you will find all the tourist attractions and the famous canals. The area is well-connected and offers plenty of entertainment, yet it is loud, busy, and full of tourists. Perfect for people who love the buzz of downtown.
- Nieuw-West (New West)—Over the years the higher-than-average crime rate gave the greenest district of Amsterdam a somewhat bad reputation. However, many things have improved over time. The calm suburban, affordable and spacious homes, and good connection to the city center make this neighborhood very appealing.
- Noord (North)—While this neighborhood might seem a little cut off from the buzz of Amsterdam, ferries and metro make the area easily accessible. Urban architecture, private houses, and plenty of nature make it the perfect place for anyone who is looking for tranquility in the big city.
- Oost (East)—This diverse neighborhood is famous for its architecture and Middle-Eastern culture. Green areas, shopping districts, and hip bars attract students, young professionals, and families alike.
- West—This neighborhood is a mixture of residential streets and lively shopping areas. Notable for its beautiful architecture, big city park, excellent eateries, and many things to discover, the West attracts both locals and expats alike.
- Westpoort (Western Port)—This is the main industrial district of the city where the port of Amsterdam is located. The place is saturated with offices and business buildings, so very few people live there (under 200 registered inhabitants in 2018).
- Zuid (South)—A mixture of hip places, cultural gems, and business areas, this rather fancy residential neighborhood attracts many professionals. Very cozy and local, Zuid is excellent for families with children.
- Zuidoost (Southeast)—Famous for being ethnically diverse, for years Zuidoost was also known as the dangerous part of the city. Recently, however, it has been undergoing a makeover that is gradually turning the district into a nice suburban neighborhood. The area is separated from the rest of Amsterdam but has a good connection to the center, nonetheless. It attracts people that wish to save money as housing units here are very cheap.
These neighborhoods (apart from Westpoort and Zuidoost) are further broken down into specific districts:
- De Walled (Red Light district)
- Grachtengordel (Canal Belt)
- De Aker
- Nieuw Sloten
- Banne Buiksloot
- IJpleinand Vogelwijk
- Landelijk Noord
- Oostzanerwerft and Tuindorp Oostzaan
- Schellingwoude and Nieuwendam
- Tuindorp Buiksloot and Buikslotermeer
- Van der Pekbuurt and Volewijck
- Indische Buurt
- Oostelijk Havangebeid
- Bons en Lommer
- De Baarsjes
- De Pijp
The most expensive areas belong to Centrum and Zuid, while the cheapest real estate is around Zuidoost, Nieuw-West, and Noord.
How to Find an Apartment in Amsterdam
Start your search by browsing the online listings. That way, you can get a taste of what to expect from the rental properties and their prices. Some of the popular websites are:
- MVA Housing
Still, the best way to get a good deal when looking for accommodation in Amsterdam is by hiring a local real estate agent. They know the market well and will be able to confidently guide you through the process of finding a suitable home for your price range.
Types of Rentals
Amsterdam’s housing market has both houses and apartments available for rent, with apartments being the more popular type. Rental apartments often come in three types:
Furnished apartments are the priciest choice, while the unfurnished seems to be the most common. Shell-type apartments are as basic as one can imagine, with no white goods, light fixtures, or even flooring. If you are renting an apartment that used to be a shell-type but now has most of the commodities installed by the previous tenant, be prepared to pay them extra when taking over the place.
Rental contracts in the Netherlands are either temporary or indefinite. Temporary ones usually have the date of termination indicated, while the indefinite ones come without a set move-out date. Note that you are typically required to give one month’s notice before terminating the contract.
When renting property, expect to pay a one month’s deposit for an unfurnished place or two-months deposit for a furnished apartment. However, deposits are negotiable.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the rental contract is not always in English, so make sure you know what you are signing.
Living on Water
Do you find Amsterdam canals too charming to resist? Renting or buying a houseboat can be the accommodation option for you. They all belong to the private sector and are in high demand, so moving to one will not be cheap. However, the authentic experience might be worth it.
Things to Consider when Moving to Amsterdam
How Long will It Take to Find a Good Apartment?
That depends on which area you are looking into and what your criteria are. Typically give yourself at least 2–3 weeks to find a suitable place.
When to Start the Accommodation Search
Most apartments are on Amsterdam’s rental market about 4-6 weeks before they become available. Keep that in mind and do not start your search too early before the moving date. However, give yourself some time to explore the possibilities and consider short-term rental options while looking for your new home.
Short-Term Rentals in Amsterdam
Serviced apartments are a good option for expats looking for temporary housing. A quick search online (Short Stay Group, Htel, Yays, etc.) will present you with a variety of studios and one or two-bedroom apartments you can choose from and book through websites.
You can expect these apartments to be fully serviced (dishwasher, laundry facilities, parking, etc.) and include weekly housekeeping. Some buildings also offer other commodities such as a gym and sauna.
You have to stay at the apartment for at least seven nights. The length of the stay can extend to six months or a year. The price per night at a serviced apartment is about 100–350 EUR (110–390 USD).
Where to Get Furniture in Amsterdam
Woonexpress is a Dutch chain furniture shop that offers furnishings for bedrooms and living rooms. Cheaper DYI furniture is available at Praxis, both in stores and online. For electrical appliances, go to MediaMarkt. Action is a great place to pick up pots and pans, bed linen, décor pieces, and gardening tools. Hema is a well-known brand for décor, office supplies, and other knickknacks. The popular online furniture shops are Bol.com, Wehkamp, and Home24.
For a more one-of-a-kind look, visit some of the famous shopping streets of Amsterdam where you can find local designer boutiques. If you are looking for a bargain, the aforementioned local markets can be great places to start. There you will be able to find both new and used furniture as well as vintage statement pieces for your interior.
If you do not wish to buy your furnishings, consider renting them out. Websites like Furniture4Rent Nederland or KeyPro Furnishing offer packages for rooms as well as separate furnishings. Renting one room’s furniture for a month will cost you around 400 EUR (440 USD).
Average Rent in Amsterdam
The rent in Amsterdam depends on where in the city you decide to reside. It also depends on whether you pick a furnished or unfurnished place and whether the price includes bills. The following tables are rough estimates of overall average costs.
|Neighborhood||1-Bedroom price/month (EUR)||1-Bedroom price/month (USD)|
|Neighborhood||3-Bedroom price/month (EUR)||3-Bedroom price/month (USD)|
Note that a potential landlord might require you to provide evidence that your household earns twice or even four times more than the monthly rent. Consider that when choosing your home.
Taking out private health insurance in the Netherlands is mandatory for everyone, even if you have coverage in your home country. That is the only way to get access to healthcare in the country, including Amsterdam. The only care that is provided by the state is the aid for chronic disease treatments.
Taking out at least a standard insurance package is obligatory. The components of the standard package are regulated by the government so all the providers will offer you the same coverage. Standard insurance package includes
- general practitioner care;
- hospital treatment;
- most medications;
- obstetricians and midwives;
- antenatal and postnatal care;
- aid when quitting smoking;
- limited physiotherapy, exercise occupational, and speech therapies, and dietary advice;
- dental care up to 18 years old.
The price of a standard health insurance plan is about 100–150 EUR (110–165 USD) per month. Remember that you will also need to cover the initial costs up to a certain sum before your health insurance starts paying for your healthcare.
Hospitals in Amsterdam
Hospitals in the Netherlands are classified into:
- Academic hospitals—hospitals that work in association with a Dutch university. Provides specialists’ care and does medical research.
- Teaching hospitals—hospitals that also work with universities by employing medical interns and providing training for nurses.
- General hospitals—standard healthcare providers, that mostly provide general care.
Keep in mind that your choice of a hospital depends on your health insurance. Restituie policy allows you to attend any hospital of your choice. Natura policy allows free care only in hospitals that your insurer has a contract with.
- Academic Medical Center (AMC)
- VU University Medical Center
- Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis (or OLVG East)
- Sint Lucas Andreas Ziekenhuis (or OLVG West)
- Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (or Netherlands Cancer Institute)
- BovenIJ ziekenhuis
- OVLG IJburg
- OVLG Spuistraat
Doctors and Dentists in Amsterdam
Registering with a local general practitioner immediately after you move to Amsterdam is undoubtedly the best practice. That ensures that if and when you require medical help, you are only one call away from getting it.
This online tool will help you find a general practitioner in your area. Just enter your post code in the search bar and see what is available. You can also get information on the doctors available in your municipality by picking up a brochure at the local city office.
To find a local dentist consult this website for Amsterdam’s dental clinics. There you will find ratings and reviews of each place, names of doctors on the team, and their available working hours.
Amsterdam is a well-connected city, and you have plenty of public transportation options to get you around. Buses, trams, metros, taxis, ferries, and, of course, bikes are all at your service when you are trying to get from point A to B.
GVB, Conexxion, and EBS are the primary bus service providers in Amsterdam. You can buy single journey or one-day tickets on the bus or use a transportation chip card. Keep in mind that since 2018 you can no longer use cash when purchasing your ticket from the driver.
Cycling is the mode of transportation that makes Amsterdam famous. Most people tend to purchase their bikes, but before you do, you can consider using one of the many bike rental places around the city. Renting one for a day will cost you about 10 EUR (11 USD).
People living or working in Noord really benefit from the free ferries across river IJ. The ferries are frequent and quick and take pedestrians and people riding bicycles and driving mopeds. In total, there are 14 different ferry routes with four of them leaving from central station.
If you decide to live further away from the city center, metros will help you stay connected. Fast and reliable, Amsterdam’s city metro can get you from Noord to the outskirts of Zuid. To use the metro you need to tap your chip card at the entrance to the metro station or buy a single one-hour ticket.
Taxis in Amsterdam have blue number plates and are marked by an official logo (“taxxi”). They cannot be stopped anywhere on the street that is why the best way to hail it is by approaching a designated taxi stand.
The average rates are
- flag down rate 3.20 EUR (3.55 USD);
- rate per kilometer 2.35 EUR (2.61 USD);
- rate per minute 0.39 EUR (0.43 USD).
Amsterdam’s trams offer one of the fastest ways to get around the city. Most of the lines are connected through the central station, which means they can quickly take you from any suburban neighborhoods to the city center. You can buy a one- or two-day ticket on the tram or use a transportation chip card to pay for your ride.
Payment Options and Prices
Public transportation chip card (OV-chipkaart) is the most convenient way to pay for your travels when taking a bus, tram, metro, or a train. You can get a personalized (with your passport-style photo) or non-personalized chip card. Whichever one you get, you have to tap it every time you are entering or leaving public transportation. The card readers are situated near every entrance of appropriate vehicles.
GVB app informs you about routes, timetables, and possible delays of GVB buses, metros, and trams. It also allows you to plan your journey from your current location. You can also do so on the GVB website.
Other transportation apps are
- Citymapper (route trip planner that includes all public transportation, cycling, Uber, and Hailo);
- Tranzer (an app that allows you to purchase tickets for public transportation and book a taxi).
If you want to travel outside of Amsterdam apps like 9292ov (provides information about transportation in the whole country), NS Reisplanner (the official app for Dutch national rail), and Schiphol Airport app (the official airport app) might come in handy.
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