Why knowing efficient ways to travel around NL matters? Not only you as a student can better schedule your future plans but it can also be beneficial to your budget.
Regardless of the rain, hail, wind, etc., the Dutch like to bike around! Personally, it feels like a sin not to own a bicycle in The Netherlands.
What impresses me about the Netherlands is that it is not only famous for having more bicycles than the total population but also for the infrastructures that make riding more effortless than ever. In The Netherlands, you can always find priority routes for cyclists which are painted in red. This makes it safer for you as a cyclist as you do not have to compete with other kinds of vehicles.
Owning a bicycle as a student in NL is not that difficult, so is losing one :D. Normally, students would go for second-hand bikes being sold on Facebook Marketplace or from someone they know. I bought one Gezellig brand fiets (“fiets” means bicycles in Dutch) at only 60euro and was over satisfied with it!
However, bikes are not always ideal for long commutes. Then buses and trains are perfect alternatives. Traveling in NL can be as easy as pie because it is a small country. For example, it takes just a little more than 4 hours by train from Groningen to Maastricht which is near the border between NL and Belgium. Besides, train and bus stops are within short distances, which compensates for the absence of trams or metros in some smaller cities.
I would highly recommend having an OV-chipkaart (Openbar Vervoorer (OV) = public transportation). With this powerful small card, you can hop on and off any kind of public transport available: from buses, trains, to trams or metros, etc. With an OV card, you, as an international student can subscribe to travel products sold by different Dutch travel providers. I preferably go for the 31euro subscription (*prices can be different depending on when you buy it) provided by NS which allows me to travel unlimitedly at the weekends by trains. With this subscription, I can FREELY visit any city in The Netherlands at the weekend. How cool is that?
What I find interesting about traveling by trains in NL is that you can bring your bike or pets on the trains, of course with just a little extra paid in advance. That basically means you can just travel everywhere, whether by train or bicycles. Wat gezellig!!!
Of course, there are also other cool travel products by NS (the Dutch train provider) that you can choose based on your personal needs. Having one of those travel products is an economical and flexible way to travel.
What is your favorite way to travel around The Netherlands? Do you recommend any better way(s) to travel economically? Let me know in the comment below!
Finding a roof over your head is among the pre-departure essentials for any international student, especially when most universities in The Netherlands do not offer dormitories. Trust me, finding a stay here as an international (or not) can be even harder than becoming a Harvard student.
First thing is to know reliable housing sources. There are of course plenty of trust-worthy housing websites in NL that you can reach out:
SSH is commonly recommended by your desired university when it comes to student housing. One thing to remember is to register for a room as soon as possible, starting from the very first moment that vacancies are opened. One big plus is that having an SSH account is totally FREE, as long as you have an acceptance letter from your institution. However, one thing you might need to consider is that SSH normally offers stays for only first year Bachelor’s or Master’s students, which means after one year, you need to move out and find a new stay.
Kamernet is also a good name when looking for housing in The Netherlands. With a Kamernet premium account, you can search, filter, respond to rooms and arrange viewings with the landlords in any city in Netherlands, unlimitedly.
With this website, you can find stay in more than 300 cities in Europe, whether it comes to rooms, apartments or short-stays. You can filter your preferences using the website’s filtering options ranging from sizes, type of room, distance from city center, and even the possibility to register with the city municipalities.
Still no luck with housing websites? Then hopefully you can still look for something from groups on other platforms (e.g. Facebook, Whatsapp, etc.) However, be mindful of some below life-lessons gained from our fellow students in The Netherlands:
1. NEVER PAY until you (or your friends) see the room with your own eyes
There are of course lots of scams, and many first-time students fall for this. One useful tip is to rent a room from someone you know well enough. In case you cannot view the room in person, make sure that you can video call the landlord or whoever owns the room, even when they promise to send you pictures and videos. Or it is better to have someone you trust to view the room for you.
There are actually some keywords to spot SCAMMERS, things like ‘the owner is currently abroad‘, or “I am away for holiday“, “I’ll send the keys once the contract is signed“, or “NO physical viewing possible at the moment”. Those are 100% SCAMS!!!
2. Still in doubt? Google the image
If the room looks too good to be true: shiny floors, classy furniture, neat and tidy kitchen, etc. everything is low-priced, be CAREFUL!!. You can avoid such potential scams by Googling the images first. If you see the room images elsewhere on a website, then highly likely that the person steal the images and try to scam innocent newbies.
3. Never trust new Facebook account with silly avatar/ unreal names
If you see a Facebook account with a very ridiculous name, or a newly created account. Based on my experience, these types of accounts are MAJORLY scammers. So have a good eye on whom you will pay your money to!
Hope my tips will give you a helpful hand on being scam-free when finding your shelter!
So what do I do living in this land of bicycles?
“Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving”
How it started
The Netherlands has never been my dream destination for education, Europe was still a completely new land to me as where an international student would stream to. But in the end, I found myself land in this country where I would love to call my second home.
I reluctantly packed my luggage and stepped on the one-way flight to Amsterdam in the midst of the Corona pandemic. My decision to still go knowing that the come-back day was still an open question gave me mixed feelings. I was worried, sad and frustrated, thinking about having no acquaintances in The Netherlands, my stay had not been set yet, the virus was still present taking away thousands of lives per day. Honestly, I did not know what to expect except for the fact that I came here for a better education and (hopefully) living environment. Apart from those motivations, I was completely lost. But still I decided not to return my tickets and be here.
Now that I am writing these lines, I am being wrapped up in warm blanket, in my recently renovated room while the wind is blowing hard outside. All in all, my life has been getting better each day, or at least I believe so although I must admit that it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The struggles behind are still there, raw and real, always! But I believe they all help to build the person I am today, much stronger and always love more to receive more!
It cannot take just seconds to paint the whole picture about my life here in The Netherlands, obviously. Therefore, my next blogs will be more detailed about life experiences in The Netherlands as an international student. How staying, studying and traveling are like, and everything else that life has to deal with.
Particularly, I will dive into my life experiences in Groningen – the biggest city to the north of The Netherlands. I bet you have never heard of it, but trust me, Netherlands is not just about Amsterdam. You may be amazed at how magnetic this student-friendly city of Groningen can be. All I could give is that this is now my tweede huis (second home) , and will always be.
So I really appreciate your patience until these last lines of my very first blog about The Netherlands!
Stay tuned for my next blogs! And hope to see ya soon in Groningen – The Netherlands!