By Sahil Nisha

Amsterdam is the best city you can live in as a student. If you are reading this, I suppose you are arriving soon or have just arrived in Amsterdam. Get ready for the lifetime experience in this city of bikes, rain and culture. In order to get most out of your time in Amsterdam, you need some survival tips to be on top of your game which I am going to help you with.

I am an international master student at VU University Amsterdam and I come from the exotic lands of India. Last semester I joined the ESN VU Amsterdam Marketing Committee!

 In our first blog, I am going to share with you 6 basic yet essential tips that will make your stay smooth and comfortable.


There is nothing better than having your own bike. There is no part of Amsterdam that is not accessible by a bicycle. Opt for a second-hand bike from the Waterlooplein market or any online selling platforms. Don’t forget to get bright, shiny lights for the bike otherwise you might get fined. It's important both for your pocket and your safety! If you don’t feel like biking, buy an OV-chipkaart. It is the Dutch card for travelling which can get you into any public transportation across the Netherlands (bus, tram, metro, train, ferry), but let me tell you: it’s quite expensive.

2. Prepare for the Dutch weather

There is nothing that you can complain about when in Amsterdam but one thing” THE WEATHER”. The weather in Amsterdam can be annoying sometimes especially in the winter. If you are planning any outdoor activities you should install the app ‘buienradar’ for accurate prediction of the weather. Fill your wardrobe with as many warm and waterproof clothes as possible and if not, you can always visit the local shops around the city centre plus the big brands such as Zara, H&M. Always drink enough water, be hydrated and have some hot coffee with the ESN board during the office hours.

3. Fill your (empty) room

I hope you already found a place to live knowing how hard it can be here in Amsterdam. You might want to buy some essentials, utensils, furniture, decorations for your room. The best options are Ikea, Action, Hema, Kruidvat to shop among with best quality and cheap rate. My personal favourite is the Action store with a lot of variety and reasonable rates. Pay a visit to the local markets which gives a wide range of products from households to clothing to food. And always you can rely on the thrift shops here (for example at Uilenstede), I always find what I need.

4. Know your supermarkets

Groceries and daily needs: Albert Heijn, Dirk, Jumbo, Lidl and Aldi, Vomar are the most renowned supermarkets. They spread across the whole of Amsterdam, so you will find one of these every few miles. Albert Heijn has the best quality products and its very famous among the Dutch locals. Aldi and Lidl are also known as the economy stores and provide a lot of choices from international brands. Jumbo, Dirk and Vomar have considerably fewer branches around the city centre but do offer a slightly cheaper selection of food.    

5. Learn basic Dutch

Though most of the Dutch people speak English pretty well , but having some knowledge about the language always comes handy. It's not compulsory but it’s always better to know some Dutch so you can have conversations with the nice local Dutch people. You might need when you are looking for some address or to read the menu on the restaurants or reading labels while buying something. You can start by having a look into our Survival Guide (page 35) where we have given some basic Dutch phrases and sentences. Also, on Instagram we’re going to teach you some nice Dutch words and phrases on a weekly base, so stay tuned!                                                                                             

6. Go meet other students

The last and most important survival tip from my side is to meet a lot of people from various cultures and countries. Gladly, the responsibility of that is on the shoulder of ESN VU Amsterdam and I promise you that we are best at making sure that you have the best time here.  Stay connected with us through social media, visit our Office Hours to hang out with the board and committee members and visit the International Student Night in my personal favourite place “COCO’S OUTBACK’  at Rembrandtplein!          

Thank you for spending your time reading our blog. If you want to follow my personal adventures, follow me on Facebook or Instagram @sahil_nisha! I hope these tips will help you during your stay. Do you have other tips to survive in Amsterdam? Let us know in the comments!

Follow ESN VU Amsterdam on Instagram and Facebook so you can be updated on their amazing events and parties.

Read more:
ESNblog2: How To Become A True Amsterdammer
ESNblog3: 10 Dutch Dishes You Have To Try