Living in the Netherlands – A Guide for PhD Students
Written by Chris Banyard
Dutch universities are welcoming and prestigious institutions, perfect for international students looking to study a PhD. The Netherlands offers a relaxing lifestyle, unique attractions and rich heritage for you to explore and perhaps even research during your doctorate.
This guide provides useful information for students thinking of moving to the Netherlands for doctoral study. It covers accommodation options, living costs, work permits, transport and banking.
The Netherlands is a popular destination for PhD students, and has a strong international student population. There’s plenty to discover during a Dutch doctorate as you explore the country’s café culture, canals and excellent nightlife.
As one of the most progressive and liberal countries in the world, the relaxed and welcoming culture of the Netherlands is an attractive proposition for international students. You may like to visit the museums, galleries and theatres celebrating the arts and music of the Dutch Golden Age, with work from the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer, and van Gogh. The Netherlands’ historic and cosmopolitan cities prove popular with visitors, with Amsterdam in particular receiving many tourists (and not all are on hen parties or stag dos!).
Perhaps the best way to explore the Netherlands and experience Dutch cities, lowland countryside, coast, windmills, and tulip fields is by bike. Cycling is huge in the Netherlands and is perhaps the nation’s favourite pastime. Football is also popular, and many of the world’s best players and teams hail from the country. There are also lots of Dutch festivals to experience throughout the year, including the famous Scheveningen New Year’s Dive, Amsterdam Light Festival, Tulip Festival, and King’s Day.
As you’d expect from the nation that turned carrots orange (Google it), agriculture, seasonal foods and sustainability are key parts of Dutch cuisine. With fresh fish from the North Sea, Limburg asparagus, Texel lamb, and seasonal fruit from North Brabant (and not forgetting the famous array of Dutch cheeses like Gouda and Edam). You can experience all of this cuisine at the world-renowned restaurants of the Veluwe region. The Netherlands also produces the internationally-distributed Heineken, Grolsch and Amstel beers.
Most housing in the Netherlands is privately rented – there is not a strong tradition of university-managed accommodation (although it may be available in rare circumstances).
Due to this, and the high population density of the nation, you may find it more challenging to find student accommodation in the Netherlands. However, your university’s international office will be able to provide assistance in your search for housing.
Types of available student accommodation in the Netherlands include:
- Private renting – most students will live in a privately-rented shared student flat or apartment
- University accommodation – similar to UK halls of residence, this form of accommodation is very limited and only available at some universities
The cost of accommodation in the Netherlands is marginally higher than in the UK. You can expect to pay around €400-600 per month for rented housing (and more if you have university housing). This can vary depending on your city of residence, and the size / location of your accommodation.
The overall cost of living for a PhD student in the Netherlands is somewhat higher than in the UK, but similar to neighbouring countries of Western Europe.
You can expect to pay around €800-1,100 per month, budgeting €300-600 for accommodation, €400-600 for food and €200-500 for miscellaneous costs.
Prices in the Netherlands
The following table gives an indication of prices for some common expenses during a PhD in the Netherlands:
Student Cost of Living in the Netherlands - 2022
|Monthly Travel Pass
|Based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.
Most PhD students in the Netherlands are employed by their universities, and therefore there may not be much scope for additional work. Nonetheless, in some cases you may wish to undertake additional employment.
EU / EEA / Swiss students are free to work alongside PhD studies without restrictions. Other international students will require a work permit from the UWV, and are permitted to work a maximum of 16 hours per week and full-time during the summer.
All students studying in the Netherlands who are employed are required to have basic health insurance, a social security number (BSN) and pay Dutch income tax.
Employment contracts with your university
Some structured PhD programmes in the Netherlands include an internship component as part of your studies – in these cases, you do not require the aforementioned documentation (although there will need to be a signed internship agreement).
Additionally, most students are employed by their university as a PhD researcher. Therefore, you may be required to comply with the work-related documentation and procedures. Your university’s international office will be able to provide more assistance with this.
The currency of the Netherlands is the Euro (€ or EUR). As part of the EU, this is the same currency used by all neighbouring countries making movement around Europe easier.
There are several banks to choose from in the Netherlands, some of which are digital or mobile specific, and most will provide student accounts for international PhD students.
To set up a bank account, you will normally need to visit your desired branch in person. You are usually required to bring the following:
- your BSN (social security) number
- a valid passport or identity card
- proof of Dutch address (e.g. a contract or bill)
- a valid residency permit (if you are a non-EU / EEA / Swiss student)
For more information about banking in the Netherlands, you should contact your university’s international office.
Getting around in the Netherlands is made easy by the country’s developed and widespread public transport networks. These travel options are ideal for PhD students, and many will offer discounts for holders of the Dutch OV-chipkaart travel card.
With an extensive, comfortable and quick rail network connecting Dutch cities to each other, and to other major cities of Europe, the Netherlands’ train network is ideal for most long-distance journeys.
The major airport in the Netherlands is Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, but the nation has four other airports based at the other major cities. Additionally, these airports are situated with easy access from their nearby towns and cities.
The Netherlands is famous for its bikes and its cyclists. You will find most people travel around in this way, making use of the extensive networks of cycling lanes and cycle-friendly traffic. And, if two-wheels aren’t for you, most cities have handy bus networks. The Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam also operate tram services (the latter two cities also have a city-wide metro services).