Settling in The Netherlands

In my previous post I wrote about the first weeks in my new home city Amsterdam and how fascinating it has been. This post is also about the first weeks, about the essential tasks 📝 to take care of to smoothly settle in the Netherlands. Some are mandatory and some optional that can make your life easier. Check them below.

First things first.

Visit the Expat center. Make sure you have the required docs properly legalized, which depends on the individual’s nationality. You’ll need to register both at IND (Immigration and Naturalisation) and at the Gemeente (municipality), here you’ll receive your Residence permit, which is your ID card that you must carry with you all the time and you will be assigned a citizen service number (burgerservicenummer, BSN), this is just a printout paper, no card, so I recommend to take a picture of it or save it in your phone’s notes for easy access because it is going to be required in many transactions you’ll need to complete in the following days.

The must popular banks around are ABN Amro, ING and Rabobank. Which ever you choose, open your account and get a debit card ASAP since they might take a week or two for delivery + activation and almost every service you will get in the Netherlands are set up to automatically debit from your account. Also, there are a lot of establishments that don’t take cash. An interesting thing about banks in the Netherlands is that they don’t handle cash in their offices, no cashiers, the windows are just for customer services. All their transactions work via online banking, ATMs and for currency exchange you will have to visit the Currency Exchange windows in Amsterdam Centraal station or surroundings.

In case you need to exchange your money from a foreign currency, know that there are bills up to 500€, so if you are exchanging to then deposit to your new account, you can accept any bill denominations, however make sure you leave a certain amount of money in bills not higher than 50€ at least for the survival of the first weeks before you get your cards active. In some shops, it is an issue to accept higher bills for day to day transactions and if you return to the currency exchange window to break your bills to singles they will charge an exchange fee…

Health insurance is mandatory for anyone who lives in the Netherlands and it must be obtained within four months of your registration to the city hall or receiving your residence permit, you must at least get the basic package. After the forth month of not having insurance you get a warning and then you get a fine. However, don’t wait! You will be charged retroactively for the full period since you arrived in the Netherlands so the sooner the better. Also note that you are covered since your arrival, so if you break an arm but haven’t registered yet, you can still get the treatment and then get your papers to the insurance company. You will find some insurance companies options and additional information here.

Start your apartment hunting. The market in the Netherlands is extremely dynamic and challenging, so I am putting together some info in another post you’ll be seeing soon.

Optional but recommended.

Get an OV-chipkaart to move around in public transportation, you can get them in the metro station and are good for riding in the train, tram, metro & buses. Once you have a bank account and a permanent address you can apply for a personal OV-chipkaart that will grant you with many additional benefits and discounted fares.

No better dutchie way to move around than your bike, seriously this city is designed for bikes. Get your info in where to get a bike that fulfills your requirements (new or second hand, pedal or hand break, sizes and budget). I have to say that bikes in The Netherlands are very simple, no fancy gear, it is the typical granny bike, you just need to make sure that you have front and back lights working, back wheel lock and a chain lock.

There are big chances you lose your bike in a certain point. Either don’t remember were you parked, falling in a canal or yes, get stolen. So its not recommended to purchase a very expensive one, but of course it will come to each needs and budget.


Get your DigiD(Digital ID), it will make it easier for some transactions like exchanging your driver’s license or online update of your residence address (instead of going to the city hall).

Exchange your foreign driver’s license for a dutch license. If you are from outside of Europe, your license will only be valid for six months, so if you are interested in exchanging it, check in the city hall if this benefit applies to you. If it does, you won’t need to make any drivers tests or written exams and you will get an International license plus you can request to keep your country’s license too. You will need to pay the medical check and the administrative fees, should be ready in a couple of weeks. Additional info here.

Get the most information you can upon your arrival. These are the basics, but there are a lot of new things you will encounter depending on your situation, so get maps, brochures, guides, look for expat fairs, blogs or any place where you can find useful reliable information. Below some useful links. Good luck!

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