When you arrive

What to do when you first arrive in Amsterdam

Your first days and weeks in Amsterdam will be filled with new experiences, new people and a few practical considerations too. We have compiled the following information to help you:

  • Introduction activities: Activities during the introduction week.
  • Registering with the municipality: It is important that you register your address with the municipality. You will need to bring certain documents with you.
  • Opening a bank account: It is important that you open a Dutch bank account. Find out what you need to do and the documents you need here.
  • Insurance: You must be adequately insured during your stay in the Netherlands.
  • TB test: A tuberculosis (TB) test may be part of your application for a residence permit. If so, please visit the Municipality Health Services (GGD).
  • Cost of living and working while studying: Living in Amsterdam can be expensive. Make sure that you have sufficient financial means to cover the costs of living. If you are considering working while studying then there are certain rules and regulations connected to this.
  • Cycling and public transport: Amsterdam is a city of bikes. However, the city is also served by an excellent public transport network


During your stay you will have access to VUnet, the internal network of VU Amsterdam. You will be sent login details during the process of preparing for your arrival. It is important that you familiarize yourself with VUnet, as a great deal of important information is only available via this network. Registration for courses etc is also carried out via VUnet.

When you arrive

As you can see in the schedule below, our official Arrival Days will take place on Monday 19 August and Tuesday 20 August. Depending on the day you arrive in Amsterdam, you can choose which day works best with your schedule to complete the practicalities.

What can you expect during the Arrival Days?
Starting from 19 August, the International Office will host the Arrival Days to welcome you to VU Amsterdam. We hope to meet you all then! To give you an idea of which matters to take care of and in which order, we have included an explanation and overview below.

  • Register with the municipality in order to receive a personal public service number (BSN). You will need the BSN to open a bank account, to take out health care, and to apply for benefits or allowance in the Netherlands. Please note that you can only register with the municipality if you arranged accommodation via VU Amsterdam or if you already have an address in Amsterdam, Amstelveen or elsewhere.
  • Arrange all practical matters regarding your registration at VU Amsterdam, meet your International Student Advisor, pick-up your student card, get to know VU study associations and much more.

Depending on the Arrival Day of your choice, you can follow the programme as listed below.

Monday 19 August
Tuesday 20 August
If you arranged your accommodation via the VU International Office, you can pick up the keys to your room.
9:00AM - 4:30PM
Register with the Municipality at BelleVUe, VU Amsterdam main building
9:00AM - 4:30PM
Register with the Municipality at BelleVUe, VU Amsterdam main building
9:00AM - 4:30PM

Visit the campus to arrange all practical matters regarding your registration at BelleVUe, VU Amsterdam main building
9:00 AM - 4:30 PM
Visit the campus to arrange all practical matters regarding your registration at BelleVUe, VU Amsterdam main building
9:00AM - 4:30PM

Our Introduction team will arrange several activities in order to help you become acquainted with the city of Amsterdam and the university campus, to get to know your fellow students and of course to have fun! The introduction week will take place in August 2019.

Attendance is not mandatory. However, we strongly advise you to participate in the introduction week. Reasons include:
- Good start of your social life in the Netherlands;
- Smooth and simple way to deal with all practicalities;
- A way to get well informed about what's coming ahead before starting you study programme;
- Gives you some time to make Amsterdam your home before you busy student life really kicks off.

More information about the Introduction week can be found via this link.

If you will stay in the Netherlands for more than four months, then you need to register with the local authorities, the municipality. After registration the municipality office will send a social security number (BSN) to your Dutch address.

Required documents

  • Passport or European ID card.
  • Rental agreement for your Dutch address (if you do not have a rental agreement then you must bring a written statement of approval signed by the main tenant and a copy of his/her passport).
  • Birth Certificate (legalized)* - please note that this is only required if you are staying for longer than one year in accommodation outside of Amsterdam or Amstelveen. If your birth certificate is not in Dutch, English, French or German, then you must supply a sworn translation into one of these languages.

Students who are married will also need to bring their marriage certificate (legalized)*.

* The legalization method depends on the respective country. The Dutch missions in other countries are responsible for legalizing foreign documents for use in the Netherlands. The documents must first have been legalized by the country’s own authorities, usually the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country where the document was issued.

You will need to open a bank account in order to arrange your day-to-day finances in the Netherlands. Especially for non-EU students it is recommended to open a bank account as soon as possible.

Once you have your BSN number, you can open a bank account at any bank of your preference. You usually receive your BSN number approximately after 2 to 4 weeks after you registered with the municipality. In need of a Dutch bank account and you cannot wait until you have received your BSN number from the municipality? In that case we have some good news.

It will be possible to open a bank account with either ABN AMRO or ING even if you do not yet have your BSN number. Please note that you do have to provide them with your BSN number once you have it. Please follow the instructions below carefully if you wish to open a bank account with either bank, because the application procedure does differ.

N.B. it is unfortunately not possible to open a bank account at either bank when you are a minor and your parents/legal guardians are not with you. Please read the information under Bunq for more information.


As a student you will receive from ABN AMRO a student bank account, bankcard and access to Internet/Mobile banking.

ABN AMRO Bank will be present during the Arrival Days on 19 and 20 August. During the Arrival Days you can conveniently open a bank account with them in a few steps. Please read the instructions below carefully! If you don't follow every step, then you cannot open a bank account during the Arrival Days. 

In order to open a bank account you need to follow the steps below:

  1. Complete the application form and bring it with you. Please note that you have to fill in your Dutch address.
  2. Make a copy of your passport and bring the copy with you.
  3. Print and copy your acceptance letter from VU Amsterdam and bring it with you.
  4. Attend the VU Event at ABN AMRO headquarters on 26 August. The headquarters are located approximately 10 minutes walking from VU Main Building. Please click on this link for the directions through Google Maps. The address of the ABN AMRO headquarters is Gustav Mahlerlaan 10, 1082PP Amsterdam. It’s located next to the NS train station Amsterdam Zuid.

During the Arrival Days you can hand in the documents mentioned above. Please be sure to also bring your actual passport/EU ID-Card with you. A driver’s license is not acceptable.

The forms you hand in at the Arrival Days will be processed by ABN AMRO to set up everything for your account. After the forms have been processed, all you need to do is sign your contract which you can do on 26 August during the VU Event at ABN AMRO headquartes. During the Arrival Days you will be able to select a timeslot for this VU Event. During the event you will be provided with all the necessary information and documents, and you will sign the contract for your bank account. After that, you will receive your bank card very soon!

Cannot make it to the Arrival Days? Please send ABN AMRO an email at internationalstudents@nl.abnamro.com so they can schedule an appointment with you which will take place from 30 August onwards.



At ING you can open a student bank account as well. You will receive a student bank account, bankcard and access to Internet/Mobile banking.

ING will not be present during the Arrival Days unfortunately. However, by booking an appointment with one of their offices, you can easily open a bank account with them. Please note that in the period of 12 August until 13 September only the following offices will open student accounts:

·         Amstelveen

·         Bijlmerplein

·         Osdorpplein

·         Kinkerstraat

·         Rokin

·         Van Swindenstraat

·         Buikslotermeerplein

·         Centuurbaan

·         Rijnstraat


N.B. If you schedule an appointment with any other office in the period of 12 August until 13 September, they will not open a bank account for you! It is also not possible to open an account without an appointment. After 13 September, you can visit any ING office.

Please read the instructions below carefully.

1.       Schedule an appointment using the ING online appointment tool. Please note that once you made an appointment, you will unfortunately receive the confirmation in Dutch. Pay attention to the confirmed date, time and address of your appointment.

2.       Show up at the appointment on time. You have to be there at least 5 minutesbefore the start time of your appointment. If you come in late, they will not be able to help you.

3.       Bring your passport or EU ID card with you; a paper ID card cannot be used to open a bank account. Please note that a driver’s license is also not sufficient to open a bank account.

4.       Bring your proof of enrollment and student card.


The appointment will take approximately 30 minutes. Your bank card will be ready after approximately 3 weeks. It will be send by post so it is paramount that you have a Dutch address at which you can receive mail (i.e. they cannot send it to a hotel, for example).


Bunq is an online bank. You can only open a bank account here once you have obtained a BSN number. However, it is a convenient choice in case you are still a minor. At regular banks, it is not possible to open a bank account when you are not yet 18 and your parents or legal guardians are not with you. However, at Bunq bank it is possible because the registration is done online so your parents or legal guardians do not have to be in the Netherlands! Please have a look at their website for more information concerning the general procedure of opening an account with them and what you need to do when you are a minor.



It is important that you are properly insured during your time in the Netherlands. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam requires all incoming international students to be properly insured by an internationally recognized insurance agency for the duration of their stay (this is also required by Dutch law). Your insurance policy should cover all costs related to sudden illness, accident or death.

Insurance packages
To simplify the business of arranging suitable insurance during your time in the Netherlands, it is advisable to consult your insurance company and explain that you will be studying abroad for a semester or an entire academic year. If your insurance company is unable to meet your needs, then you may consult either of the following companies, each of which offers packages specifically tailored to the needs of international students.

Aon Student Insurance has developed a tailor made ICS Complete+ insurance for international students from VU Amsterdam. This insurance package insures you when you study abroad and covers health and non-medical costs worldwide. The package includes home contents, baggage, accidents, liability and legal costs. The complete insurance policy information and quote about this insurance can be found on www.aonstudentinsurance.com/vuamsterdam. An agent of AON Student Insurances will be present during the arrival days

Health insurance (ziektekostenverzekering)
Everyone living in the Netherlands is legally obliged to have health insurance. The rules are quite complex for international students. Please find here extensive information on this subject and have a look at the Nuffic website.

Liability insurance (aansprakelijkheidsverzekering)
If you damage someone’s property or cause an accident, then Dutch law states that you are responsible for paying the costs of this. You are therefore advised to take out a liability insurance policy, especially if you will be working in a lab or doing research using expensive instruments.

Travel insurance (reisverzekering)
When temporarily studying in another country, most students make use of the opportunity to travel and become acquainted with new cities and countries. It is important that you have a suitable travel insurance policy to cover the costs of stolen baggage, repatriation etc.

In case you need medical care in the Netherlands, you will need to register with a doctor (General Practitioner (GP)/ in Dutch: Huisarts) close to your home. Your GP should be the first point of call for all medical problems with the exception of real emergencies. If suffering from flu, a twisted ankle, abdominal pain, psychological problems, chronic illness or even gynecological problems, contact the GP first. Please do not go to the ER if you are not in a life-threatening health situation, since this can involve high costs.

Please read this important information carefully before arrival in the Netherlands.

Experience shows that living and studying in the Netherlands for one year costs a student between €1000 and €1,100 per month. Some students manage to spend less, but this of course depends on your own lifestyle. An indication of likely monthly expenses:

  • Rent for housing: €450
  • Food: €250
  • Insurance: €100
  • Public transport: €50
  • Books: €50
  • Other costs: €60
  • Total: €960

Working while studying

You cannot count on finding a source of additional income after you arrive and, unless you are from an EU member state, your opportunities to work are restricted. If you are a non-EU student, under Dutch law you are only permitted to work a maximum of 10 hours per week if you have a work permit.

How many hours am I allowed to work in the Netherlands?
If you hold a passport from a country that belongs to the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, then you are permitted to work in the Netherlands without limitation. If this is not the case, then you are only permitted to work a maximum of 10 hours per week averaged over the year or full-time during the summer months (June, July, August). Your employer will also be required to apply for a work permit.

Do I have to pay income tax if I work in the Netherlands?
Under Dutch law, everyone who works in the Netherlands is obliged to pay income tax to the Dutch government. However, the rules may be different if you are already paying income tax in your home country and that country has signed a treaty with the Netherlands that income tax is only to be paid in one of the two countries. All EU member states have signed such a treaty.

What does the Dutch government do for international students working in the Netherlands?
The Dutch government has a comprehensive system of social security, insurance and tax measures related to working in the Netherlands.

More information can be found on the Nuffic website Working while studying. There is also a factsheet on international students and part-time jobs (pdf).

Amsterdam is a city of bicycles. With an extensive network of cycle lanes, bicycle parking everywhere and even traffic lights specifically for bicycles, there is no safer or easier place to cycle than here. There is a bike shop in the basement of the main building of the university. Bike sales for exchange students will also be arranged several times throughout the year. Most students arriving for the first time in Amsterdam find that buying a (second-hand) bike is both an affordable way to travel between home and study, as well as a great way of getting to know the city and the surrounding area.

Public transport
The city of Amsterdam has an extensive public transport network consisting of trams, metro services, buses, ferries and trains. Extensive maps and timetables of all routes can be found on the GVB (municipal transport company) website.

Public transport smart card (OV-chipkaart)
The most convenient (and affordable) method of paying for public transport is the OV-chipkaart. You can buy an anonymous (refillable) card at ticket vending machines, GVB Tickets & Info locations, certain newsagents and supermarkets. More information is available on the GVB website.

Check in, check out
It is very important that your remember to check both in and out when using your OV-chipkaart. This can be done by holding the card against the reader present on platforms (for trains and metro) and on board the vehicle (for buses and trams). You must also check in and out when changing to a different line or mode of transport.

If you have a smartphone, the app 9292 (available in English) is a convenient way of planning your journey.

In our Getting Started Brochure you can find contact details and general information about studying at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. We invite you to take a look at it!

Getting Started 2018-2019

Students-4-Students@VU offers various programs to students who find it difficult to engage with VU or when things aren’t working out as planned. The programs offered are:

• Study partner
• Studying Together
• Studying & children
• Studying with ASD

For more information please check Students-4-Students@VU page.