The Newcomer’s Guide to Amsterdam (2024)

Half of our Amsterdam team comes from places far away from the Netherlands. We made a guide based on their experiences to make your move to the city as smooth as possible.



9 min read


Jan 23, 2019


Before settling in, you need to register with the Dutch municipality.

If you don’t have an apartment yet, you can temporarily use our office address to register. Make sure to visit IN Amsterdam (formerly known as the Expatcenter) to do so.

If you already have an apartment and address you can register to, you can do it yourself at the municipality.

Remember to book an appointment and bring your:

  • Valid identification (passport or identity card);
  • Employment contract;
  • Work permit (only if you’re not from the European Union)

If you already live in an apartment of your own, also bring one of the following documents:

  • a rental or tenancy agreement (huurovereenkomst);
  • a recent house deed or home purchase agreement;
  • written permission from the main tenant of the house, along with a copy of the main tenant’s valid passport or identity card

After registering you’ll get a BSN (burgerservicenummer) sent to the address you’re registered at. The BSN is your personal identification number for paying and deducting taxes, opening a bank account, getting a work permit, using the health care system, buying insurance and changing your address. You get the idea: it’s your identification number for all the important stuff.

Apply for a DigiD when you have all the required documents. This will be your official digital ID and it will be required for a lot of things involving the government and bureaucracy.

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You’ve got your BSN, so the next step is to open a bank account so we can pay you.

Go to the bank branch in your area, or visit one of their websites. The four major banks are ABN AMRO, ING, Rabobank and SNS bank. There are also smaller banks that are worth trying, like Triodos, Knab or ASN.

To open a bank account in person, take the following documents with you:

  • Valid ID (passport or identity card);
  • Official proof of address, such as a tenancy agreement;
  • Your BSN;
  • If you’re not from the EU, your residence permit or registration with the Foreign Police (Vreemdelingenpolitie)

Most people in the Netherlands pay by card. After you have opened a private bank account you’ll get a temporary card you can use while you’re waiting for the proper one to arrive by snail mail. There’s a growing number of stores that don’t accept cash at all, so make sure you have it with you at all times. Cash only comes in handy in markets or public toilets.

Get a Dutch phone number
It’s cheaper than roaming with your native number. If you’re only staying for a short while, you should consider getting a prepaid card. If you plan to hang around by the canals for a while, get a contract. At B&B we provide full-time employees with a company SIM card and cover your contract.

Home is where the WiFi is

We cover your accommodation for the first two weeks, but after that, you’ll have to find your feet yourself!

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Where to look
The most popular websites are Funda and Pararius, where you can find both houses and apartments for rent and sale. Kamernet is especially good if you’re looking for rooms in shared apartments. Check out Aham if you want to rent for a good cause.

You can also find several groups on Facebook to find apartments or a room, for example, Amsterdam Housing and Apartments, Rooms and Houses in Amsterdam.

If you’re serious about settling down and have some serious money to spend on property, check out this map for average prices per square meter in the city before you decide.

In general, it’s smart to respond to as many ads as you can. You’ll often find some to be rented out already, so make sure to bet on multiple horses.

Areas in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has many great neighbourhoods to live in. De Jordaan is a classic neighbourhood with many picturesque apartment buildings and lovely bars. De Pijp is a neighbourhood where yuppies commonly settle down these days. De Baarsjes, a bit deeper in the west, isn’t that gentrified yet and home to many nice shops and bars. Oost (the east) is both similar and completely different to the west; a bit rougher around the edges.

The Spaarndammerbuurt is close to our office and considered a really nice place to live — many people seem to be eyeing it for their next move. Amsterdam Noord, only a ferry ride away, has become very popular in recent times as well, even more so now the new subway line from North to South is in transit.

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Places to live outside of Amsterdam
If you want to explore more of the Netherlands, there’s always the option of living in a different city close to Amsterdam. At B&B we have people living in Rotterdam and Nijmegen, travelling from home to the office in Amsterdam a couple of times a week.

The train service is good (most of the time), which makes it (fairly) easy to commute between different cities. On the occasion where all the trains are on fire, you can always work from home and join the rant about Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways). A great way to bond with the Dutch.

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Cost of living
Shared living arrangements can be found from €500 a month. A studio apartment costs €750 a month and upwards, while a 1-bedroom apartment can be found from €1200 a month. You might get lucky and find a 1-bedroom apartment for around €1000 a month, but don’t get your hopes up! Deposits are usually 1 or 2 months of rent.

Wi-Fi is approximately €60 a month, depending on your subscription (Ziggo has blazing fast internet). Electricity has a monthly average of somewhere around €120 a month (unless, of course, your apartment is boxed in by elderly neighbours).

Legal advice
Woon is a service that provides free legal advice concerning rental contracts. Before you rent a place, you can show them the contract and they’ll run all kinds of checks to see if you’re not being scammed. Excellent service!

Public transport
Get an OV-chipkaart for public transport. You can use this for metro, tram, bus and trains. The most important part of using public transport in the Netherlands is that you have to remember to check out when you hop off the bus, train, metro or tram. If you don’t, the credit you have on your card will keep being used as if you were still going places!

You can even have the chipcard top up automatically as soon as you run out, so you never have to visit a machine again. Find out how that works here.

Buy a bike
Everybody will tell you not to buy an expensive brand new bike to get around with. Instead, get a tweedehands fiets (second-hand bike) from Marktplaats or Cheapassbikes for up to €100. If you’re buying one, look for a Gazelle. It’s a decent bike brand.

Another alternative is Swapfiets. For a monthly fee, they provide you with a bike, and will even fix it up in no time or provide you with a new one if it breaks down.

Don’t forget to take good care of your bike, and get a sturdy lock so it doesn’t get stolen right away.

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To get ready for your housewarming party, you might want to buy some stuff to make your apartment a cosy place. What better place to start than IKEA?

There’s one IKEA in Haarlem and one in Amsterdam Zuid-Oost. You can also order a lot of things online and get them delivered to your home for a fee.

If you’re looking for second-hand goods, Marktplaats is the place to go. It’s the Dutch equivalent to Craigslist, so you’ll find everything from used cars to candy. Also, check out the app Letgo and Buy & Sell Amsterdam on Facebook.

At you can find pretty much anything, from cookware to dishwashing detergent, and from books to your favourite gadgets. Act like the Dutch and order everything online. Similarly, Coolblue has a wide range of products on offer and excellent delivery.

If you’re more keen on saving money for fancy stuff or art in your apartment, get on your feet and go to Lidl, Aldi or Dirk to buy cheaper groceries. Supermarkets like Albert Heijn or Jumbo are slightly more expensive but have a bigger selection. Sign up for Picnic if you prefer home-delivered groceries.

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Maybe you’re a social animal and want to get to know new people. Where to find them? Look no further.

Stalk your colleagues
In our newcomers guide to Oslo we recommended stalking your colleagues. The same applies to Amsterdam. Make sure to befriend everyone from work on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and go to events together.

Find events
On MeetUp you can find both meetings for expats and language groups, as well as groups for everything ranging between design and cooking, tech and board games. Local startup hub TQ also regularly hosts events that might interest you.

Learn the language
Dutch is a funny language, and quite hard to get a grip on. It’s roughly in between English and German. 1% of words in English are of Dutch origin, so you might even know some Dutch already!

Go to De Volkuniversiteit, and apply for a course! You’ll be saying de knecht van de kapper knipt knapper dan de kapper knippen kan in no time.

We cover 50% of the costs of your language course. Uitstekend!

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Health insurance
Everyone in the Netherlands is legally obliged to have standard health insurance. If you’re not covered by Dutch health insurance, you risk being fined and billed for the months you weren’t insured (ask Harry, he knows all about it). Just to make things more complicated, you’re not supposed to have two health insurances at the same time. If you’re getting a new one, remember to cancel the one you had before.

Check if you’ve been signed up for health insurance as soon as you can. If you’re not, get one immediately. If you register at IN Amsterdam, you can sign up for health insurance there. is a great site for comparing different insurances, and your colleagues in the office will surely be able to help you as well.

Social security
To see an overview of national insurance schemes that might affect you, check this list.

Find your doctor
In the Netherlands, you’re free to choose your own doctor within your postal code area. Search for doctors on Zorgkaart Nederland and check their ratings before you decide, or ask your colleagues for a recommendation. You’ll need to call the doctor and book the first appointment yourself.

Find your dentist
Check Tandarts for dentists, orthodontists and dental hygienists, or ask your friends and colleagues for a recommendation. Our favourite is Tandarts aan het IJ, conveniently located in our office building. Dental treatment is normally not covered by standard health insurance, but you can get it insured.

If you need tips for what to do in the city, make sure to check out our Amsterdam city guide.

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Welcome to Amsterdam!

The Newcomer’s Guide to Amsterdam (2024)


How many days do you need in Amsterdam? ›

Three days is the perfect amount of time to spend in the city. Amsterdam is quite small, so you don't have to be here for a long time to see all the best attractions.

Why is Amsterdam called Sin city? ›

Sin city is not only Amsterdam. There is an immense number of cities involved in such activities collectively that they gain a tag of sin city to them. Amsterdam is a place where the red light district being famous around the globe for its prostitutional activities in it.

Do they speak English in Amsterdam? ›

English is very widely spoken in Amsterdam, and the Netherlands – it's a super English friendly city. In fact, a staggering 90% of the Dutch population speak English fluently as a second language, making it relatively simple for native English speakers to navigate Amsterdam.

What is tipping culture in Amsterdam? ›

This one is pretty simple to answer – the Dutch do not have a tipping culture as strongly-ingrained as much of the English-speaking world. In a bar, restaurant, or private boat tour in Amsterdam, provided the service was good, a tip of around 10% is appreciated but not automatically expected.

How much money would you need for 5 days in Amsterdam? ›

The average daily budget for a trip to Amsterdam can vary depending on your travel style and preferences. However, a rough estimate for a budget traveler would be around €60-80 per day, while mid-range travelers can expect to spend around €100-150 per day.

Is Amsterdam very expensive? ›

No, Amsterdam cannot be as expensive to visit as other European cities. However, Prices for accommodation, food, and attractions are relatively high compared to some other European cities. But we have a great experience and extensive research to help you plan a budget-friendly trip to Amsterdam.

Can I use US dollars in Amsterdam? ›

As in most European countries, the currency of the Netherlands is the Euro (symbolised as EUR or €). Other currencies (like USD, or GBP) are normally not accepted in Amsterdam, so be sure to change your currency before your trip, or at one of the official currency exchange offices located throughout the city.

What is typical food in Amsterdam? ›

Don't go home without trying at least one of these traditional Dutch foods.
  • Bitterballen. Image from Creative bros. ...
  • Stroopwafels. Image from Marie-Charlotte Pezé ...
  • Frietjes. Image from Koen Smilde. ...
  • Pannenkoeken. ...
  • Jenever. ...
  • Appletaart. ...
  • Haring. ...
  • Kibbeling.

What are the 3 X's in Amsterdam? ›

Amsterdam's coat of arms is a pretty prevalent sight throughout the city. At its core is the 'XXX' symbol, which is actually three vertical St. Andrew's Crosses, not (as some people assume) shorthand for the Red Light District.

Can you drink tap water in Amsterdam? ›

Is the Tap Water in Amsterdam Safe to Drink? Yes, the tap water in Amsterdam is safe to drink according to international standards. According to many Dutch people it's among the best in Europe. The local water provider Waternet continuously monitors water quality to ensure it meets high safety standards.

Do I need cash in Amsterdam? ›

The Netherlands is a very modern country. You can pay with cash or a debit card, and often with your phone via NFC, Apple Pay, or Google Wallet. Not to mention the latest phenomenon, 'Tikkie', which is also being used more and more.

What is the etiquette in Amsterdam? ›

Tips on culture and etiquette in the Netherlands

Arrive at appointments on time and let people know if you're running a few minutes late. Avoid dropping by someone's house unannounced. Don't make boastful comments that display a sense of superiority. Keep small talk to a minimum at formal and business meetings.

Is 3 days in Amsterdam enough? ›

Three days doesn't sound like much, but in Amsterdam—a small, walkable city with attractions clustered in its city center—it's plenty of time. In a long weekend you can check off all the must-dos, from masterpieces by Vermeer and van Gogh to beer in a brown cafe to strolling across canal after charming canal.

Is 4 days in Amsterdam too much? ›

You can get a lot of sightseeing done in 3 days in Amsterdam, so it is a great amount of time to visit, but if you have more time then we would recommend spending at least 4 days or more.

Is 2 days in Amsterdam enough? ›

Overall, we think you need at least two days to see the highlights of Amsterdam itself. Two days allows you enough time to get a feeling for the city, see the highlights, tackle one of the two major museums in the city, and eat some good food.

Is 7 days too long in Amsterdam? ›

One week in Amsterdam is more than enough time to explore what the Dutch capital has to offer. It also allows you to explore more cities in the Netherlands. After eight trips to the city, I'm clued up on all the best spots you NEED to add to your Amsterdam itinerary.

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