How to not be homeless in Amsterdam (some hopefully helpful housing advice)

By Hannah Carter-Moore, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Nowhere does a housing crisis quite like Amsterdam. When I was in the midst of looking at all the options for accommodation, I wished I had someone to just tell me what to do – so that’s what I’m doing here.

First and foremost – do not let this put you off applying to Amsterdam for your year abroad. Finding housing might be somewhat of a struggle for different reasons regardless of where you go – whether it’s affordability or excruciating waiting lists (sending love to those going to Lund – turns out egalitarianism can be a bit brutal). 

Also, this is of course all my own advice, so go with whatever suits you and your situation best.

Your first decision will be whether to go for student or private accommodation. Both have their pros and cons, but to summarise, please just go for student accommodation. 

Private housing:

Before I go into the reasons I went for student housing, I’ll give a quick overview of my opinions on private housing – because I have several mates that went that route. The most likely way you’ll get a flat here is if your mum’s ex husband’s sister’s friend has a place they can put you up in. So if you have that kind of connection, then you’re golden. Otherwise, you might be looking at hopping around couches. Two of my friends lived in 6 different places (two of which were houseboats) before finally landing on their permanent address. To be fair, what a story to tell people. I think though, even for the most free-spirited, this kind of instability can get draining. Nevertheless, if your heart is really set on going private, or if you’re not successful in your student accommodation application, just start planting those connections as early as possible.

Student housing:

While the thought of going back into halls was off putting at first, I’m so glad I went for it. It’s firstly much much cheaper than renting privately. Particularly considering the location I get to live in, I would be paying at least two or three hundred euros more a month if I was renting privately. It’s also not the case that you’re just chucked in a flat full of first years. Most of the people you’ll live with will be other international students, either doing their undergrad study abroad or their masters. 

I won’t go through the whole UvA housing application procedure (you’ll get an email from UvA at the end of May that explains everything), but I’ll go through my best bits of crucial info and advice. 

UvA student housing is done through several private firms, so I can only speak from experience with Lieven de Key (although pretty much everyone I know got allocated De Key too). You’ll have to pick a budget category in your application (this happens at the beginning of June). 1 is the cheapest and 4 is the most expensive. I’d recommend either choosing category 2 or 3. In short, category 1 comes with the risk of having a shared room, and category 4 is expensive. Then in July, you’ll be sent a link with room offers (based off your budget category) where you get to pick not only your halls but your room too. You have to – and I can’t stress this enough – be on it, because the best go quick.

Where to live:

Student halls are spread out across Amsterdam, and several are fairly central. If location is your priority, go for any of the halls that Lieven de Key label as ‘downtown’. This includes Plantage Muidergracht, Weesperstraat and Prinsengracht. 

In terms of the best areas, Jordaan is really cool, and so is De Pijp, but I don’t know of any students living there. I live next to the Roeterseiland campus which has a great studenty feel with Kriterion (everyone’s fav student bar), Cantina Caliente (a Mexican restaurant with 10% student discount), and CREA (the student union bar/cafe). In general, for the optimal experience IMO, you want to go somewhere inside the triangle that connects the Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum, and Artis Zoo.

Noord is also slowly becoming a favourite amongst everyone – it’s got a great nightlife scene and some other hidden gems (not to mention home to the Ij Hallen flea market). It is, however, a bit of a faff having to get the ferry to get there (even if it is only a couple minutes long) – so that’s something to bear in mind.

As I said, this is all very biased, so go with your gut!

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