Moving to Rotterdam: a complete guide on all you need to know when relocating to Rotterdam

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

In the following sections, I’ll cover registering and moving to Rotterdam, things to do in Rotterdam, where to live in Rotterdam, getting around Rotterdam, sorting your health insurance and bills etc and also how to find a place to live in Rotterdam. Let’s get started:

First things first: finding a place to live in Rotterdam

When moving to Rotterdam, finding a place to live can be a struggle. 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, cities within the Randstad (Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht) are the most popular.

moving to Rotterdam
Have drinks with this view, how can you resist moving to Rotterdam? Image: DutchReview/Supplied.

It’s important to know that 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, that being said, 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) in spite of 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 really 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 happen often (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 neighborhoods of Rotterdam

Also, don’t forget to sort your utilities once you have your house sorted (PartnerPete are pros with this!)

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 you need to register at the town hall (catch the metro to Stadhuis to do this if you’re stuck).

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

Bringing your pet to Rotterdam

People love their pets in the Netherlands and this 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.

There are also many dogs in Rotterdam and although it is a bit of a concrete jungle, there are plenty of parks around. For a lot of people in Rotterdam though, getting pets like dogs just 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, it’s important to know that in most cases, you will need to register with a health insurer within the country. For example, if you are working in the Netherlands or living here for more that four months, you will have to take out insurance.

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.)

It can be confusing but luckily we have a complete guide to setting up health insurance if you want to know the details!

Finding a GP (huisarts) in Rotterdam

To find a GP in your local area, a quick Google search should do the trick. Once you have found the closest practice, then 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 this can be done 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, you will have to show some ID and provide your health insurance details.

You will then 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 in comparison to if you moved to a small town, so you’ve good 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 then this city is the perfect place. There are also a few major energy providers in Rotterdam, so working in that industry is also perfect within the city.

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.

moving to Rotterdam
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 (we’ve actually compiled a massive list of things you can do for free in Rotterdam, so check it out). Seeing as we’ve gone to town with that article, I’ll just briefly talk about some of the most popular places to visit now:

  • 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 — the second largest in the country in fact — so going around Rotterdam by 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 definitely something that you should get used to once you arrive.

Buying a bike is easy and they are inexpensive. As I said before, Rotterdam is modernised and 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 into the country because frankly, the country just 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.

living in rotterdam
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 just 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 journey’s (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 also to get to places where the metro doesn’t go to. 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 both leisure purposes and to commute. You can catch the Spido which will take you on a tour around the Rotterdam harbour, which is 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 not only drives on the road but 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 and this 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 city. It’s also much faster than going by car or by 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 some city life. It’s easy to navigate around, there is 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 fully updated in March 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. 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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