The Exchange Student’s Guide: Amsterdam On A Budget

Four months: that’s how long I’ve been living in Amsterdam for. God, time has flown so fast! I remember my first days here and how overwhelmed I felt:  I didn’t know where to go, what to buy… how to survive, basically. But hey, I’m still here, I made it in the end!

Iamsterdam sign, Museumplein

Looking back at those early days though, I wish I knew from the very beginning some tricks to save money. In fact, it’s true what they say: Amsterdam is ridiculously expensive. So, thinking about all the future exchange students or expats coming to Amsterdam, here are a few tips and tricks for you and your pockets.


I’m currently studying at the UvA, whose student accommodation is provided by either by De Key or DUWO. Personally, I applied as soon as possible and I would advise you to do the same. I am living in one of De Key’s dorms and I must say that I’m happy with my choice: the location is super central, the rent is quite cheap and I have no serious complaints about the building I’m staying in. I mean, this is my view:


N.B.: Since the housing market in Amsterdam is really competitive, it’s extremely difficult to find accommodation, so try to apply and choose your accommodation as early as possible.

Grocery shopping

Although the shiny and blue Albert Heijn sign will catch your eye and its omnipresence will win your soul, I’d rather choose Dirk or Lidl, if you’re looking for a cheaper supermarket. In fact, AH – unless you’re  looking at special offers or avidly searching its bottom shelves, is quite expensive (the same can be said for Jumbo, even though it might be considered slightly less expensive).


Both a tourist attraction and a good alternative to supermarkets, markets abound in Amsterdam. The cheapest is probably De Ten Katemarkt in Oud West, but the city has plenty of them. I live just a few minutes from the Noordermarkt, the farmer’s market, which I totally advise you to visit. I just love it. Go for a walk on a Saturday morning and enjoy its atmosphere!

Pro tip: there’s a stand selling home-made cakes. Try their raspberry cake, you’ll find yourself thinking: “Lekker!”

More markets here.

Everyday life and stuff: from dishes to candles

You will find plenty of things at HEMA and Blokker (like AH, they are everywhere), but I would have a look at Action and Big Bazar as well, especially if you’re on a budget!

Plus, don’t forget to join as many Facebook groups as possible: you’ll be able to find lots of second-hand stuff! Consider this online market as well, both for selling and buying:

Forget public transport, embrace the Dutch lifestyle and ride that bike!

Cycling will save you so much money and stress. Riding your bike around the city will be fun and cheap, you just need to get one!


Consider whether it’s easier for you to rent or buy a bike: if you’re staying for just a semester, you might want to rent one (it will come with the lock, and if the bike is stolen, you just need to bring them your keys and you won’t have to pay them anything. Plus, any repair you require will be free of charge!). If you’re staying longer, you might want to buy your own: head to Waterlooplein for some good bargains or join this Facebook group.

If you’re a sucker for culture, get a Museumkaart!


Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Museum Card will be your Lord and Saviour. Since museum tickets are quite expensive in Amsterdam (20 euros each for the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, for instance), spending 60 euros on that card is more than worth it.

You just need your BSN number (and the money, of course) and you’ll get the chance to visit numerous tourist attractions (not only in Amsterdam) for “free” and more than just once!

Earn some money at the UvA or by bringing back your bottles

If you’re studying at the UvA, you can earn some money by helping their psychology students with some experiments. If you’ll choose to be a participant, you’d probably need to do some memory experiments and you’ll be paid cash! Just go to and log in to your UvA student account. Most of the experiments are in Dutch, but you can find a few in English as well!

Moreover, you can get back some money from AH or Jumbo, if you bring back beer or plastic bottles (but no wine bottles, unfortunately).

Cook your own meals

Either go for drinks or dinner, if your budget is really tight. Buy some basic ingredients and make some tasty meals, or cook together with your friends and split the bill. Buy your alcohol from the supermarket and have some pre-drinks at home. It will all help lowering your expenses!

Get a job

You know, earning money quite helps with lowering your expenses 😉 If you’re European, finding a job will be easier, document-wise. You just need your BSN number and a health insurance(you can get it even online and it’s around 105 euros per month).



Zuid-Kennermerland National Park, The Netherlands


If you plan to travel within the Netherlands, check the special offers by HEMA, AH or Etos. They usually have cheap tickets with which you can jump on a train and discover the country! You can find them both online and in their stores.

For other cheap tickets, check these two FB groups: 1 or 2

If you have any question, post it in the comment section below. I’ll be happy to reply!


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