Everything you need to know when moving to Rotterdam

Are you thinking of moving to Rotterdam? Great choice! Rotterdam is the city-of-cool in the Netherlands as it’s filled to the brim with modern and funky architecture and certainly is unique compared to the rest of the country.

There’s plenty to do and see, and if you’re addicted to food like us, then you’re going to love living and moving to Rotterdam.

Moving to Rotterdam: why, when, how?

Rotterdam is a popular place for internationals as it’s one of the most diverse cities in the Netherlands. With so many different nationalities living in the same region, it attracts even more internationals to its door.

So if you’re looking for somewhere modern, interesting, and diverse, then moving to Rotterdam will be the right choice for you.

The following sections will cover registering and moving to Rotterdam, things to do, how and where to live, getting around, sorting your health insurance and bills, etc. Let’s get started!

First things first: finding a place to live in Rotterdam

Finding a place to live can be a struggle when moving to Rotterdam. If you are new to the Netherlands, then it’s important to know that there is a housing shortage throughout the country, which means that finding a place can be a struggle no matter where you go.

However, the most popular cities are within the Randstad (Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht).

Image-of-people-standing-outside-having-a-party-next-to-the-river-in-the-afternoon
Have drinks with this view; how can you resist moving to Rotterdam? Image: DutchReview/Supplied.

In general, the second that places go on the market, they are quickly snapped up, and it’s a huge struggle to find somewhere that hasn’t already been taken yet.

If you’ve just arrived in the Netherlands, you’ll find that many places ask for you to earn at least double the rental price, which can be impossible if you’ve not sealed the deal on that job yet or if you are on a low salary. Some rentals are also “Dutch only”, making it hard for internationals to find their home.

However, it’s not impossible. Rotterdam is an extremely diverse and multicultural city, and two of us here in the DutchReview managed to land in Rotterdam on our feet (with a roof over our head) despite it all.

Tips for finding housing in Rotterdam

Here are a few tips on how to find your new humble abode in Rotterdam:

  • Look well in advance and don’t leave it till the last minute like I did. Not cool, not clever, really damn hard.
  • Try and secure some sort of job first — this will help when you try and find a place in Rotterdam because then you will be eligible for more properties.
  • Be informed about how people scam you out of money when looking for an apartment — sadly, it does often happen (it almost happened to me).
  • Don’t just look in the centre! You will likely find more properties closer to the outskirts, and they’re cheaper.

READ MORE| Where to live in Rotterdam? The guide to the neighbourhoods of Rotterdam

Also, don’t forget to sort your utilities once you have your house sorted.

Where is Rotterdam located?

Rotterdam is located in South Holland. It’s only 40 minutes from Amsterdam via high-speed train, 24 minutes from The Hague and 37 minutes from Utrecht.

It’s only 50 minutes to the border of Belgium via car and 1 hour 30 to the German border. Rotterdam also has an airport: Rotterdam-The Hague airport, but you’ll find that it’s much cheaper to fly into Amsterdam if you need to get here.

How to register in Rotterdam

When moving to Rotterdam (or anywhere in the Netherlands), you must register at the local Gemeente. In Rotterdam, you will need to register at the town hall (catch the metro to the stop Stadhuis to do this if you’re stuck).

You need to register so your information will be on file. Where you live also determines what taxes you need to pay and how much they’ll be. You will receive a BSN (Citizen Service Number) when you register. You will need this number when it comes to opening bank accounts and starting work in the Netherlands.

Bringing your pet to Rotterdam

People love their pets in the Netherlands, which doesn’t stop in Rotterdam. Bringing your pet is no issue; however, be aware that many properties won’t allow you to have a pet in them (ask first). Cats are popular in the Netherlands, and you’ll find that there are more indoor cats here than you may be used to.

Although it’s a bit of a concrete jungle, there are plenty of parks around. For many people in Rotterdam, getting a pet isn’t practical.

Not all areas have adequate green spaces, and living in high-rise apartment blocks aren’t really suitable for dogs (and the landlords aren’t a fan either). You have to pay dog taxes in Rotterdam too, and they aren’t cheap.

READ MORE| Having a pet in the Netherlands: all you need to know

Getting health insurance in Rotterdam (and the Netherlands)

Once you arrive in the country, in most cases, you will need to register with a health insurer within the country. For example, if you work in the Netherlands or live here for more than four months, you will have to take out insurance.

Image-of-a-surgeon-in-uniform
Health insurance is mostly compulsory in the Netherlands. Image: Artur Tumasjan/Unsplash

However, if you are an international student studying in the Netherlands, you will not have to take out insurance until you finish your studies. This is also the case if you are completing an internship (that pays below minimum wage.)

Finding a huisarts (GP) in Rotterdam

You can find a local GP in your area through a quick Google search. Once you have found the closest practice, you will have to register with a GP there.

To do this, you should go to the practice and ask the person at reception if there is any space for you to register there (sometimes you can online, but it depends on the practice!)

In some cases, it may be full, so you will have to try the next closest place. Once you are accepted, you will be presented with a form to fill in, and you will have to show some ID and your health insurance details.

You will be issued with a GP, and every time you call up to make an appointment, it will be with that GP. The whole process is really quick and usually painless.

Finding a job in Rotterdam

Finding a job in Rotterdam and throughout the Netherlands isn’t known for being easy, but it’s not impossible. As Rotterdam is the second-biggest city in the Netherlands, there is a large job market compared to if you moved to a small town, so you’ve got quite a large variety of options here.

A quick google search will bring up jobs within Rotterdam (Indeed and Glassdoor are popular sites).

What sort of jobs can I get in Rotterdam?

Rotterdam has the biggest port in Europe, so if you work in trade, this city is the perfect place. There are a few major energy providers in Rotterdam, so you’re in luck if you work for that industry.

In short, if you’re looking for work in any sort of industrial and logistical environment, then Rotterdam is the place. There are also other jobs such as catering, customer service, and secretarial work.

Image-of-moving-containers-in-the-rotterdam-port-pernis
Moving to Rotterdam for work. Image: HesselVisser/Pixabay

Things to do in Rotterdam

Rotterdam, being the second-largest city in the Netherlands, has plenty going for it and so much to do:

  • Rotterdam Centraal Station — An architect lovers dream. It’s modern, it’s impressive, and it’s a must-see if you’re in Rotterdam (not like you could miss it if you’re living here and commuting)
  • The Cube Houses — Literal houses shaped like cubes — what’s there not to see and love!?
  • The Erasmus Bridge — The pride of Rotterdam, this bridge, also known as ‘The Swan’, dominates the skyline in Rotterdam.
  • Markthal — This modern food market in Rotterdam is the perfect place to be if you like architecture and food. The artwork on the ceiling is so cool!
  • Euromast — The Euromast is a 185-metre high building in Rotterdam, and it gives you some of the best views of the city (360 degrees of it, to be precise)

Buying a bike, or getting your public transport in order

The public transportation system in the Netherlands is easy to navigate, and this is especially true in Rotterdam. Throughout Rotterdam, you can navigate around the city in many different ways: on foot, by bicycle, by car, by metro, by bus, by boat and by using the tram.

I’ll give you a brief outline of all of these different forms of transport in Rotterdam:

On foot

Rotterdam is a huge city, so going around on foot is not recommended if you’re looking to go from one side to the other.

However, especially if you’re near the centre, it’s easy to get around on foot. Rotterdam is modern, with large roads and plenty of space for pedestrians to walk (it’s not like the main streets of Amsterdam, for example!), you won’t be queuing here.

By bicycle

Getting around Rotterdam by bicycle is one of the best ways to go. Cycling in the Netherlands is just part of the culture, and it’s something that you should get used to once you arrive.

Buying a bike is easy and inexpensive. As I said before, Rotterdam is modern, so the roads, bike paths and pedestrian sidewalks are all in great condition with a lot of space — so no worries about cycling through narrow, extremely busy and cobbled streets.

By car

The Netherlands is trying to resist an influx of cars because, frankly, the country isn’t big enough. Congestion in Rotterdam is pretty bad — not because it’s busy, but mainly because the roads just aren’t designed for lots of cars, so you end up sitting at red traffic lights constantly.

Image-of-a-silver-car-next-to-the-maas-river-in-rotterdam-with-erasmus-bridge-in-the-background
Moving to Rotterdam and taking your car? Image: Neufal 54/Pixabay

By metro

The metro in Rotterdam is a lot more modern than many of us are used to in other cities in the world. The metro is also incredibly easy to use (once you see the madness of the London underground, Rotterdam’s looks basic as hell).

The rule of thumb is, the shorter the journey, the more it costs in general. For example, travelling for three stops will hardly differ from travelling for just one. This is because there is a standard fare price that the journey’s start with.

When catching the metro, get yourself an OV Chipcard — this will save you a fortune in the long run as you cannot buy tickets for individual journeys (you can only buy a 2-hour or a day ticket).

READ MORE| 7 ways you can level-up your Dutch life with a personal OV chip card

By bus

Travelling through Rotterdam via bus is fairly easy. In general, buses are only really used at night (once the metro has stopped) and get to places where the metro doesn’t go. Once you get off the metro and straight onto the bus, your journey price continues, so it ends up being pretty inexpensive overall.

By boat

You can catch a boat around Rotterdam for leisure and commute. You can catch the Spido, which will take you on tour around the Rotterdam harbour, a classic in Rotterdam.

To commute or for fun, you can catch one of Rotterdam’s water taxis that will talk you up and down Rotterdam across the Maas river.

You can also take a Water Bus, a bus that drives on the road and can float like a boat in the water. Honestly, it’s one of the weirdest things seeing a large yellow bus floating past.

By tram

Trams also operate in Rotterdam, which is another good way to get around the city. The trams only tend to be around the middle region of Rotterdam and are a great way to get between neighbourhoods within the town. It’s also much faster than going by car or bus because they don’t have to sit in traffic.

Rotterdam is a great place to live if you’re an international or just a Dutchie looking for city life. It’s easy to navigate around, there are lots to do, and it’s just a vibrant and up-and-coming city.

Why are you thinking of moving to Rotterdam? Or have you just moved? Let us know your thoughts on Rotterdam in the comments!

Feature Image: 3093594/Pixabay
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in April 2019 and was updated in December 2021 for your reading pleasure. 

Emma Brown
A familiar face at DutchRevew. Emma arrived in Holland in 2016 for a few weeks, fell in love with the place and never left. Here she rekindled her love of writing and travelling. Now you'll find her eating stroopwafels in the DutchReview office since 2017.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I’m definitely exploring a more simple and unfamiliar lifestyle in this part of my journey, called life. I currently live in the US in the Midwest! Thank you for your take on Rotterdamn. It’s been very helpful so far!

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