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This stunning city known for its canals and architecture is a modern day business and cultural hub.

Canals? Check. Red light district? Check. "Special" coffee shops? Check. While these may be the things most tourists think of when Amsterdam comes up, there's a lot more to the city. This was, after all, the center of the Dutch empire, which reached from South Africa to India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. At one point in its history -- the so-called Golden Age of the 17th century -- it was the richest city in the world. The wealth from these colonies and other trading posts flowed back to Amsterdam, resulting in the magnificent architecture and art we enjoy today.

It's still a major business hub, home to giant companies like ABN AMRO, ING Group, Elsevier, KPMG, Philips, Heineken, and Akzo Nobel. In addition to these stalwarts, it's also a draw for the world's creative class. Dozens of fashion brands large and small are based here and entrepreneurs are making it the third biggest home for startups in Europe.

In recent years Amsterdam has enjoyed a rising profile and the spotlight has shown brighter since Brexit has generated speculation about which cities will replace London's role in the global order. This rising profile, however, has resulted in increasingly expensive housing, regardless of where you are renting or buying. This is pushing residents into neighborhoods previously considered rundown, though as they gentrify many are becoming desirable destinations. 

A lot of different things have contributed to Amsterdam's rise. The Dutch rank second in the world in English proficiency; the Netherlands has a great education system; it's a multicultural society home to 180 different nationalities (only about half of the city's population are native Dutch); and it's a tolerant city, with a strong LGBTQ community.

The diversity has resulted in a rich culture. Music, theater, and art are in abundant supply. Food has become its own art form, and you'll find everything from humble Middle Eastern restaurants to fine dining. And of course, just walking the beautiful streets along the canals is a show unto itself. 

It all adds up to a superbly livable city and it's no surprise that people from all over the world want to be here.

Read on to learn about the basics (housing, transportation, internet, and more!) in Amsterdam and to find the perfect neighborhood for you.

Studio / 1 BR
69% Complete
1,488
2 Bedrooms
72% Complete
1,550
3 Bedrooms
84% Complete
1,800
4 Bedrooms
100% Complete
2,150

AVERAGE TEMPERATURE (F°/C°)
Jan
37°F
3°C
Feb
39°F
4°C
Mar
43°F
6°C
Apr
46°F
8°C
May
54°F
12°C
Jun
59°F
15°C
Jul
63°F
17°C
Aug
63°F
17°C
Sep
59°F
15°C
Oct
52°F
11°C
Nov
45°F
7°C
Dec
39°F
4°C

Safety

Amsterdam is ranked as one of the safest cities in the world, though it does have pockets of higher crime.

Car vs Public Transit

Amsterdam has excellent transit in most neighborhoods, though biking is the standard method of transportation in town.

Need help figuring out where to live in Amsterdam? Browse neighborhoods below or use our Neighborhood Explorer to find a good fit for your lifestyle.
  Regions & Neighborhoods
Mentally prepare for   Mentally prepare for:
Cash Culture

With the exception of tourist attractions, many businesses in The Netherlands don't accept credit cards. This means you should carry enough cash around for daily necessities.

Perceived Rudeness

The Dutch aren't actually rude (at least most aren't), it's just that their communication style is very direct. In fact, the Dutch are among the most direct communicators in the world. This includes sharing negative feedback, something that may shock those from countries where feedback is more indirect. If you don't know about this communication style then you may perceive the Dutch as rude.

Housing   Housing



OVERVIEW

Thanks to the great lifestyle and its role as a business hub, Amsterdam is one of the most expensive cities in Europe. That means you're not likely to find cheap housing, especially in the more desirable neighborhoods. Rentals don't last on the market here very long so you'll have to move fast.



HOUSING TERMINOLOGY

Once you start your housing search you'll come across some unusual terminology and symbols. It's important to understand what these are since they have a financial impact, so we've outlined the most common ones you'll see: 

  • Gemeubileerd: A fully furnished home
  • Geen kosten huurder: No fees are charged to the tenant.
  • Gestoffeerd: A partly furnished home
  • In overleg: Translating to "In consultation" in English, you'll see this for some rental properties. It means the home is in the process of being rented.
  • Kaal or Ongemeubileerd: An unfurnished home
  • Kosten Koper: Typically displayed as k.k. after the price of a home (example: € 500.000 k.k.), this means that you, the buyer, are responsible for all the costs associated with purchasing the home. This includes contract fees and taxes and can equal 6% of the home's price.
  • Rechtsbijstandverzekering: Winning the title of most unpronounceable word you'll see today, this refers to legal assistance insurance. This affordable insurance offers legal assistance for a host of things, but when it comes to housing it helps in the event of a legal dispute, for example, with a landlord.



RENTING IN AMSTERDAM

Finding a rental in Amsterdam requires quick action...and patience. Apartments don't last long on the market given the high demand in many of the more desirable neighborhoods.

There are a number of real estate websites (listed in the Helpful Real Estate Websites section) that you can use to find a home. Most properties listed on these sites will either be immediately available or available within a few weeks. You should ignore the ones that are "In consultation" since those are in the process of being rented out.

Whether you find a property on one of these websites and contact the agency listed or go directly to a real estate agency, in general the agents are representing the landlord. If that's true of the agency you work with, then you, as the tenant, are not required to pay any agency fees or commissions. It used to be standard for them to charge a fee equal to one month's rent if they were successful in getting you the property; that morphed into charging a "contract fee" of €300 to €400. Both of those practices are illegal (again, if the agent is representing the landlord). 

If you do use an agent that is not representing the landlord, however, you can expect to pay a commission of up to 1 month rent plus an additional 21% VAT.

Rent is displayed per month in the Netherlands (example: € 2,000 /mnd). Security deposits are typically equal to 1 or 2 months rent. You should be sure to ask whether there are other fees you'll be responsible for (such as electricity and gas) or if they're all inluded in the rent.

Laws in the Netherlands are very pro-tenant but you should still protect yourself by ensuring your rental agreement is in writing. Once the initial rental term (typically 12 months) has passed agreements can only be terminated by the tenant, but you must give the landlord one month's notice.

If you suspect you may need to move before the initial rental term has finished you can request a Break Clause, also known as a Diplomatic Clause. This let's you or the landlord terminate the agreement at any time.



BUYING IN AMSTERDAM

There are no restrictions on foreigners purchasing property in the Netherlands. If you know you'll be staying in the Netherlands for a while there is a key benefit to owning versus renting: homeowners get a tax refund on the interest paid for the home's mortgage up to a maximum level of 52%. 

Purchasing a home can be a time consuming process with a number of steps:

  1. Once you've agreed on the price with the seller you wil both sign a pre-sale agreement. This contract may have financial penalties for not completing the transaction.
  2. A notary holds the signed contract and a 10% down payment
  3. The buyer secures a mortgage for the purchase price
  4. You and the seller sign a final sale contract. You do get a 72 hour "cooling off" period after the sale to change your mind and cancel the purchase, though as mentioned above, there may be financial penalties to doing so.
  5. The notary registers the sale with the land registry process

There are a number of costs you'll incur beyond the purchase price: 

  • Transfer tax of 2%
  • Real estate agent fee equal to 1.5% of the purchase price (if you're using an agent); some agents may also just charge a per hour consultation fee
  • € 1,000-3,000 for a notary
  • € 200 for a translator (mandatory for non-Dutch citizens)

Note that if you do secure the services of a real estate agent they may make you sign an exclusivity agreement. This means that even if you end up finding (and buying) a property on your own you'll still owe them a commission.



HELPFUL REAL ESTATE WEBSITES

Funda.nl - The Netherlands' largest real estate website makes it easy to find homes for rent or for sale by street or neighborhood. It's only in Dutch, however, so non-speakers will need to use Google translate (although it's pretty easy to figure out the key words). Mobile app available.

Pararius.com - Another big real estate website, Pararius has the advantage of offering its content in several languages. However, its search feature doesn't let you be as specific with location as Funda, but you can view results on a map to focus on a certain area. Also offers a mobile app.

Kamernet.nl - This real estate website is focused on helping you find an available room (though it you are able to search for a whole home). The downside is you can only search by city, not neighborhood, so you can't be too picky...or expect to spend a lot of time looking through results.

Transportation   Transportation



OVERVIEW

The most ubiquitous mode of transport in Amsterdam is the humble bicycle. Biking is serious business on the city's roads and pedestrians who don't pay attention are in danger of getting run over. But when a bicycle just won't do, rest assured that you've got plenty of public transit options here: train, tram, bus, metro, and ferry. 

For travel on everything but ferries you'll need to purchase a reusable smart card called the OV-chipkaart. This card can be purchased online or at transit stations for €7,50. You can manage your card via an online account, adding funds to the card when needed (or set it to automatically reload funds). Some business also provide OV-chipkaarts to their employees. 

You "check in" with your OV-chipkaart when you get on any method of transit and "check out" when you get off. Each time you ride the bus, metro, or tram it costs €4. You will not be charged this base fare again if you transfer between buses, metros, or trams within 35 minutes of "checking out". 

The actual cost of travel is based on distance and calcuated on how many kilometers you've traveled. 



TRANSIT AND WALKABILITY RATINGS

For each Amsterdam neighborhood you'll see a Transit rating and a Walkability rating. The Transit rating tells you how good and reliable public transportation options are in that neighborhood. The Walkability rating tells you how many local amenities (shops, restaurants, fitness options, etc.) you can walk to in that neighborhood. 

Transit Ratings

  • Excellent: Public transit options in the neighborhood, such as buses and trains, are frequent and reliable and the neighborhood is served by more than one transit option. Having a car is not needed.
  • Good: The neighborhood is only served by one type of transit but the service is frequent and reliable. Having a car is not needed for local activities.
  • Average: A public transportation option is available but the frequency and reliability are not sufficient to rely on for daily needs, or many residents have a long walk to reach transit. Having a car is a good idea.
  • Poor: The neighborhood has very limited or no access to public transit and providing your own transportation via a car or bike is necessary. Having a car is required.

 

Walkability Ratings

  • Excellent: You can walk to every type of local amenity: shopping, dining, fitness options, grocery stores, and more, and have a good selection of choices for those categories.
  • Good: You can walk to most local amenities though you may have limited choices in some categories.
  • Average: You can walk to a limited number of amenities but will have to go elsewhere to have all your needs covered.
  • Poor: There are very few or no amenities you can walk to; you'll have to go elsewhere for most needs.

 

Banking   Banking



OVERVIEW

The Netherlands has a modern banking system with nearly two dozen different Dutch banks. Deposits are insured up to €100k by the Dutch government. There are no service charges to use any of the banks' ATMs as long as your debit or credit card is from one of the Eurozone countries.



WHAT YOU NEED TO OPEN A BANK ACCOUNT IN AMSTERDAM

  1. Proof of Identity - A valid passport, a Dutch driving licenSe, or an identity card
  2. Personal public service number (aka burgerservicenummber or BSN for short) - Similar to a Social Security Number in the United States or Canada, a Tax File Number in Australia, National Insurance Number in the UK, or the equivalents in other countries, this is a unique identifier for each person and you must have one to be employed, open a bank account, and receive healthcare in the Netherlands. Expats receive this number when they register with the Amsterdam government upon moving here.
  3. Proof of address - This could be a lease or bill showing your home address. If you don't have one yet, you can use your company's office address.
  4. Residence Permit Card - only required for expats who aren't citizens of another EU member country
  5. Evidence of income - This is sometimes required and a letter from your employer specifying your salary or three consecutive pay slips will be sufficient documentation.



COMPARISON OF THE MAJOR BANKS IN AMSTERDAM

While there are many banks in the Netherlands, the three banks below serve more than 9 out of 10 Dutch residents. Each offers various personal banking services, including checking (current) accounts, savings accounts, credit and debit cards, mortgages, and more. Banks charge a modest monthly fee to maintain your account but the actual fee depends on the type of account you have.

Below is a comparison of these major banks and the services they offer:

Type of service

ABN AMRO
ABN AMRO

ING BankING

Rabobank

Rabobank

Checking/current account fees

€1.45-3.15/mth

€1.45-2.45/mth

€1.30-4.60/mth

Services for expats

Yes

No

No

Online banking

Yes

Yes

Yes

Mobile banking

Yes

Yes

Yes

Online services in English

Yes

No

No

Online account opening

Yes

No

No

Savings interest rate

0.15-0.40%

0.05-0.30%

0.15-0.35%

Another bank that gets a lot of attention despite its small size is ASN Bank, which is known for being highly ethical. (Yes, it's a shame that all banks aren't highly ethical).

Any of these banks will have English speaking staff able to help you.

Education   Education



OVERVIEW

The Netherlands has an excellent education system and its consistently ranked in the top 10 globally. Students are considered among the happiest as well, reporting low stress -- that could be because homework doesn't really become a thing until they're older.

All public and most private schools are open to all children and teachers, regardless of faith or cultural background

The Dutch keep it simple with just two phases of compulsory schooling: primary and secondary. Primary and secondary education is free, although there may be some costs for things like class trips, gym clothes, or calculator.

School hours are typically from 8:30am to 3:00pm. There are three school terms per year. While dates vary, the Autumn term runs roughly from early September to mid-December, the Spring term runs from early January to mid-April, and the Summer term runs from early May to mid-July. Each term has a mid-term holiday break.

The Dutch use a 10 point grading scale that is roughly equivalent to the A-F grades in the United States, where a 10 is the best and anything less than a 5.5 is failing.

Amsterdam is also home to over a dozen international schools serving French-, Japanese-, Chinese-, and English-speaking students. These schools are in high demand and often having limited availability; some even have waiting lists.



PRIMARY SCHOOL IN AMSTERDAM

Primary education is compulsory starting at the age of 5, but many children start kindergarten classes when they are 3 or 4. Primary school lasts until the age of 12, at which point the student's secondary schooling begins. A test in the final year of primary school, the “Cito Eindtoets Basisonderwijs”, just Cito for short, helps determine what type of secondary school the student attends, though parents and teachers will also weigh in on the decision.



SECONDARY SCHOOL IN AMSTERDAM

There are three types of secondary education: HAVO, VWO, and VMBO. When the student is completing primary school, he/she picks the type of study to purse during secondary school.

HAVO (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs; literally "higher general continued education") is a 5 year course of study and is attended from the ages of 12 to 17.

VWO (voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs; literally "preparatory scholarly education") is a 6 year course of study and generally lasts from 12 years of age to 18 years of age.

Either a HAVO or VWO degree is required to attend university in the Netherlands. VWO is considered the more challenging school. While HAVO enables students to attend a vocational university (also known as a university of applied sciences), VWO enables students to attend a research university. However, the Netherlands does not make a distinction between bachelor's or master's degrees earned at either type of university. A Ph.d. degree can only be earned at a research university.

VMBO (voorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs; literally "preparatory middle-level applied education") is a 4 year course of study and is more like pre-vocational training for students. Though it includes basics like math, history, science, and arts, it also provides job training. There are several levels of VMBO that range in how much emphasis they put on job training.



HOW TO REGISTER YOUR CHILD IN AN AMSTERDAM SCHOOL

First, you'll need to find the eligible schools based on your address. You can use the city of Amsterdam's School Finder website to see what schools qualify. This will show you a list view of nearby schools; a filter on the right side of the page lets you only display schools that are religious or by the education approach (i.e. Montessori).

By default, the 8 closest schools are considered 'priority' schools. This means that if there are more applicants than spaces available, your child gets priority over children who live farther away. (You can apply to any school in Amsterdam if you wish, which is why priority matters.) Other things also give 'priority' to certain students, like whether the student has an older sibling already attending the school or if the student practices the religion the school is denominated in. You can read the complete rules on priority on Amsterdam's school board website.

Clicking on the school shows basic information like the grade given by the Education Inspectorate, a governmental organization, number of students, and whether it's linked to a pre-school program (if it's a primary school). By default the description of the school is in Dutch so you'll need to use a browser translator to read if you're not fluent in Dutch.

Most schools have information days (voorlichtingsdagen) though you can also book a private appointment if timing doesn't permit you to attend.

Once you've identified the schools you like, you fill out a registration form where you can list up to 10 schools listed in order of preference. You can either download this form at the City of Amsterdam School Board website (http://bboamsterdam.nl/website/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Aanmeldformulier-schooljaar-2017-2018.pdf) or pick one up at any school. You must provide proof of address when you submit the registration form, such as an apartment lease.

Then deliver the form to the school you listed in the #1 spot. The school registers this information in a central system. Your child's school is determined based your preference, available spaces at the schools, and priority.

Internet   Internet



OVERVIEW

Amsterdam has a number of internet service providers. Which ones are available to you is very dependent on where you live in the city. Where fiber is an option it's something that you should consider since you'll have a faster, more stable experience -- particularly for streaming or online games. Cable is the more ubiquitous option, however, and is preferable to the slower ADSL that some providers still offer.

Ziggo is perhaps the biggest provider in the Netherlands and they also boast 2 million WiFi hotspots around the country that you can use as a subscriber. But there are some faster options available. 

You can compare your options by entering your postcode and house number at this provider comparison website.

Below are download speeds and annual costs for different service providers.  Again, these options may not be available at your specific address.

Download
Speed

T-Mobile KPN

Ziggo

XS4ALL Stipte

20Mb

€292,00/year

---

---

--- ---

40Mb

€328,00/year

€423,00/year

€461,00/year

€495,00/year ---
50Mb --- --- --- --- €604,00/year

80Mb

€364,00/year

€415,00/year

---

--- ---
100Mb €467,00/year €475,00/year --- --- €724,00/year

150Mb

--- --- €536,00/year --- ---
300Mb --- --- €646,00/year --- ---
500Mb €588,00/year €565,00/year --- --- €844,00/year

 

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