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Studying in the Netherlands: your arrival guide

New surroundings, a new culture, a new group of friends. The start of your studies in the Netherlands marks the beginning of an unforgettable period in your life. And because the Netherlands, just like any country, has its own rules and customs, we would like to give you a few tips so that you can quickly find your feet and get the most out of your period of study.


Want to make sure you haven't forgotten anything while settling in? Make a personal checklist.

The Dutch culture

Once you get to know the Dutch a little, it will soon become apparent that they are direct – very direct. They come straight to the point with no beating around the bush. And that can take some getting used to. The Dutch, however, see it differently: they simply want to be honest with you. So, don’t take it personally when faced with this ‘brutal honesty’. The Dutch also have a strong sense of fairness, which is apparent when it comes to paying a bill, with the Dutch generally preferring to, well, ‘go Dutch’. So, if you go out to eat with a few friends and one person pays the entire bill, you'll likely receive a ‘Tikkie’ soon after asking you to repay your part of the bill.


Bikes outnumber people

In the Netherlands, kids learn to ride a bike pretty well as soon as they start to walk. A two-year-old starts off with a balance bike or a kid’s bike with training wheels. By the time they have reached their senior years they are still biking their way through traffic, though perhaps now on an e-bike. Pretty well every Dutch person has their own bike. They feel this is the healthy way to go, and they like the independence it gives them (no depending on timetables). That’s why you see those wonderful bike paths everywhere in the Netherlands.

"All those bicycles here are insane! 

I feel I need to take some lessons how to bike here in all this chaos"

International student from South Korea

If you have never ridden a bike before, don’t worry: you really don’t need to take bike-riding lessons. But it will take some getting used to, all those bikes on the paths and in traffic. Even more so if you live in the city! Fortunately, the rules are fairly simple and logical.

  • You can ride side by side with one other person as long as this does not impede other cyclists or traffic. 
  • You can park your bike anywhere where there are no signs stating that this is not permitted.
  • When passing another cyclist, you must do this on their left; pass all other road users on their right.
  • As soon as it gets dark your bike lights must be on.
  • If you come to a traffic light that is red and you see the sign 'rechtsaf voor fietsers vrij' (right turn on red permitted for bikes) you are allowed to turn right.

If you don’t have a bike yet, you can, of course, buy one new or second hand. You can also hire a bike, like a ‘Swapfiets’ for example. With this bike, you pay a fixed monthly fee and never need to worry about repairs or maintenance.


Public transport

If it’s too far to bike to your college or university you can take public transport instead. The train and bus are the most popular ways to go. The Netherlands has two types of trains: the intercity, which stops only at the larger stations in the cities, and the sprinter, which stops at all stations, also in smaller places. Buses run between the cities and into the smaller communities too. In addition to the train and bus, some towns and cities also operate a metro or tram. Whatever your preferred mode of public transport, you can plan your journey via  https://9292.nl/en

Fortunately, the days of having to buy a separate ticket or pass for each type of public transport are long gone. These days, all you need to travel on the train, bus, metro or tram is a public transport contactless smart card, called the  OV-chipkaart .  You can register for a personal OV-chipkaart or purchase an anonymous card. You buy your personal OV-chipkaart online and pay for this using iDEAL. You will need to upload your photo for this.  You can buy an anonymous OV-chipkaart from a ticket machine at a train station, at the desk of a public transport company, at the supermarket, or via  OVshop .

As an international student studying in the Netherlands, you may qualify for a student travel product that will allow you to travel free or at a discount when using public transport. You can read all about it at  studentenreisproduct.nl .


Student discounts

Books, tuition fees, your own living space… not to mention all those fun things you want to do and see in the Netherlands – living the student life does not come cheap. The good news is that many shops offer student discounts, so be sure to ask about this before buying your new laptop or outfit.


Insurance for students

When you move to the Netherlands, that’s a good time to review your insurance. You should know, for example, that everyone staying long-term in the Netherlands is required to take out health insurance. However, it’s also a good idea to have other types of insurance too. If you live on your own, for example, home contents insurance is certainly worth considering. This covers the costs of replacing or repairing your possessions lost or damaged due to fire, water or storm. You should also look into your personal liability insurance. After all, if you accidentally injure someone or damage their property it’s good to know that the costs will be covered. With our Student Insurance you can take care of both your home contents and personal liability insurance in one go.


Money matters: getting it sorted

In the Netherlands, like with most European countries, you pay in euros. So, if you’re planning to study in the Netherlands, it can be handy to have a current account in euros, like our Student Account for example.

Most people use a debit card to pay for their purchases in the shops, but you can also use Apple Pay or cash of course. If you do prefer to pay cash, you can get this from a bank’s own ATM or from one operated by Geldmaat. 

Online banking is becoming increasingly popular in the Netherlands, also when it comes to paying for online purchases. Most people here pay for these using iDEAL. This e-commerce payment system is the easy, fast and safe way to pay online using the mobile banking app on your phone or via Internet Banking.


Insurance for students

Even if you have health insurance in your home country, you may still need to take out health insurance in the Netherlands as well. And there are also other kinds of insurance that you would be wise to take out.