How-to's, Netherlands

Relocating to Amsterdam. The checklist

December 19, 2016
Relocating to Amsterdam

We’ve been living in Amsterdam for 5 months now. Some of you asked how it went and I thought I’d sum it up here. Relocating to Amsterdam wasn’t hard. It was complex, but not as hard as one would assume, also thanks to lots of help and guidance from my employer,, – they relocate many foreigners to Amsterdam and their processes are very smooth. So for anyone moving to Amsterdam, here’s a checklist, which, I hope, will be of help.

Please be mindful that this list is based purely on my experience. Everyone’s situation is different and policies and processes might change over time – this is just a rough reference (we moved in July 2016). I’ve included as many official links as I could so hopefully the information there will stay relevant. But always check with your employer (or other official sources – depending on your situation).

Prior to your arrival

  1. Confirm a job offer/contract. You will need an official job offer for a number of things in the future.
  2. Start your visa application (if you, like me, need a visa to enter the country). With we had help from the agency, if you are doing this yourself, is a good place to start your research.
  3. Arrange shipping of your personal belongings. This, too, was arranged by a partner agency of Booking’s. My advice here: please sell what you can, especially the things you can buy as you arrive (like Ikea pillows – we shipped them and because of that, we slept on uncomfortable pillows in temporary accommodation. Instead, we could have just gone to Ikea on day 2 and bought all the things we are used to). And when you pack your luggage, do pack things you’ll need for the next 2-3 months, in case your shipment takes longer. We didn’t pack our running shoes, for example, and had them shipped instead, so we missed out on running a lot.
  4. Prepare yourself and your family for the move (emotionally first of all). I wrote a post about moving countries, in case it’s your first move, do check it out.
  5. Read up on Dutch culture and traditions. I can recommend a few books from this post, as well as these blogs:
  6. If you are a parent, check out Amsterdam Mamas and join their Facebook group – it’s a wonderful community for parents and parents-to-be.

Once you arrive in Amsterdam

You’ll need to go to the Expat centre to register at your temporary address, unless you have a permanent place to stay already (then lucky you!). We were staying at the temporary accommodation for the first 6 weeks while getting all the paperwork done and hunting for an apartment (many large companies help new hires with this).

The things you’ll need to obtain as soon as you can (go to the Expat centre within 3 days of your arrival):

  • registration at local address (a very important sheet of paper – don’t lose it, replacing it costs €!)
  • BSN – the citizen service number (burgerservicenummer, CSN)
  • Residence permit

Once you have those three, you can start getting the following:

  • Dutch bank account (once you have that, you can transfer your savings from abroad or deposit your cash). The best exchange rates found in Amsterdam are here. They do direct transfers to Dutch bank accounts too – very handy.
  • Banking cards (debit and get the credit one if you can for international online shopping – for local shopping, there’s a system called IDEAL).
  • Health insurance (you need a BSN and a bank account with some money on it). You must get one within the first 3 months of your arrival and you pay from day one, so the sooner you get one, the better. I went with CZ (I have Zorgkeuzepolis + Basis Collectief add-on). So far I’m happy with it, you do need to follow up on some claims, but all the basic things are very well covered and processed. A good place to start with choosing the health insurance is one of the comparison sites.
  • Register for a DigiD account. It’s an account for accessing all government websites. Takes a while to process and receive your logins by post, but very handy to have when you need it.
  • Get a local sim card (cheaper than prepaid). I went with T-Mobile 3GB package (2 years contract). Here’s a website where you can compare operators and their packages (a Dutch term to Google it would be “abonnement mobiele vergelijken”).

Looking for apartment

This tedious quest deserves a separate blog post. Finding a place to stay in Amsterdam is not easy, but doable. Start as soon as you can, don’t wait for the bank account and money on it to start the search (our mistake, we thought we needed that for the deposit, but the search and paperwork take time, so you can start right away) and try to avoid Summer months and end of the month viewings (very hot times for renting – we were “lucky” to experience both).

If you like, I can share our experience with finding an apartment in Amsterdam in a separate post, let me know in the comments below.

Cards to consider getting in Amsterdam

You’re settled, more or less. Now, to make your Amsterdam living an even more comfortable experience, I suggest considering these cards and memberships. These are the ones I have (except for the movie cards), if you know more cool cards, do let me know, I’ll add them to the list.

  • Personal OV-chipkaart – a card for all public transportation in the Netherlands that you connect to your bank account and it loads automatically. There’s currently a great discount running until Jan 15th.
  • Museum card – if you are a museum person, get this card. It’s €60 per year and pays off after 6 museum visits. I’m writing a separate post about it.
  • For the movie lovers, there are a few options I know of: a Cineville card (€19/month) and Pathé Unlimited (€19-26/month)
  • And for the bookworms, consider getting an OBA membership. I have a €55 /year card and it has already paid off – so far I’ve borrowed 7 books (that’s at least €20 saved compared to buying physical books here). If you are planning to read 10+ fiction books a year and you like paper books over digital, it’s worth giving a try. They have an ok selection on English fiction, some DVDs, reference books etc, but I probably won’t extend the membership to next year – I download most of my books, for work-related non-fiction I get them at work and I buy hardcovers when it makes sense. So not really worth it for me. Unless you read in Dutch. Then totally go for it. The card also gives you 3 hours of free wifi in the library which is great for freelancers looking for a quiet place to work in the city centre.

This is already a lengthy post. If you’ve read this far, thank you and I hope your relocating to Amsterdam goes smoothly and isn’t too overwhelming. It is a bit of a vicious circle, but once you have your BSN, residence permit and bank account, things get easier. One by one you can start “unlocking” things that make life here  much easier.

Good luck and feel free to ask or add anything in the comments below.



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