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Exchange Experiences

Coline from France

Preparing your trip: housing

One of the most important things when you plan to study abroad is to find an accommodation. Depending on your destination, it might be quite difficult. Here are some tips to help you finding an accommodation in the Netherlands…

Netherlands map: Utrecht localisation

As you might know, housing in the Netherlands is very expensive. Furthermore, it can be extremely time-consuming to find something that suits you. My first advice is: don’t wait until June.  Everyone who knows how difficult it is to find a room in Utrecht will tell you that. Even if you plan to wait and see if you get a reserved accommodation, even if you think starting your research four months in advance is more than enough, just don’t. Beginning to search well in advance (from April-May) will allow you to save time when the housing race begins.

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Because, as regrettable as it can be, it really is a race.

Things to know!

  • Most of the time, accommodations have shared facilities. You can search for a room/apartment with your own shower, kitchen, toilet… however this is very expensive.
  • Most of the rooms are unfurnished in the Netherlands. As bathroom and kitchen are usually shared, you just need a bed and a desk to furnish your room yourself. (but also cutlery, sheets,…)
  • Public transports are very developed in the Netherlands. Consider renting a room outside Utrecht, and check the bus and the train stations before making your choice.
  • Send many requests. Some landlords won’t even reply to you. Don’t stop searching!
  • Many landlords will want to meet you. As it is not always possible to get there to meet someone, you can propose a Skype call. Some landlords organize kind of webinars with other candidates, at the end of which they choose the one that suits them the best. It can be quite stressful. Be prepared!

Attention

  • Most of the websites (see below) ask you to pay to see offers or to contact the owners of the rooms. Don’t precipitate. Choose carefully. Before registering your credit card on the website, make sure that you are interested in several rooms.
  • Remember to check the availability of the room you’re interested in. You’ll find plenty of greaaat rooms that seem cheap… rentable from June to August. True story: I spent a WHOLE AFTERNOON selecting rooms, then I realized the filter “September to June” didn’t work…
  • When you take a look at the rent, make sure you know if it is inclusive (includes taxes, charges, water, electricity, internet,…) or exclusive. Sometimes it will be specified next to the price: “excl.”, “incl.”.
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  • You should keep your passport, Identity card and bank card next to your laptop. Even though it is very important to be ready in case you’d need to respond as quickly as possible to an offer, be very careful with the last one!

Enemies of the Scam, Beware

And so you’re there, pulling out your hair, thinking about calling your best friend to borrow his tent for a year, when suddenly…

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Waw! A wonderful room for two people, 300€ each per month! Then… you realize this looks like a hotel room. Then, the price seems very low… finally the owner explains he currently lives abroad.

This is what happened to me when I started looking for a room with an other girl. She found that offer and sent it to me. Every time she asked the owner to send photos, informations etc he responded that he couldn’t help us since he was actually living in the UK for professional reasons. However, he could send us his bank account details! Of course…

This kind of scam is not rare. Now you are warned. If someone asks you to pay in advance but is not able to send you the coordinates of a previous tenant, recent photos of the room or a proof of his honesty… be very careful. An identity card cannot guarantee his good faith. In the other hand, even a perfectly honest landlord will ask you to pay in advance at least for the deposit… :/

When I found my room I had doubts, so I called a shop next to the building where the room was supposed to be. They confirmed it was real. Then I called the “owner’s” bank but of course they couldn’t provide me such personal informations. Finally the University told me they knew the owner, and I could talk to the previous tenantthanks to Facebook (the owner gave me his name and e-mail but the student didn’t write me back… that made me worried). As I also found his profile on the website erasmusu.com I am now reassured.

Now you know how to deal with suspicious offers! Take extra care when visiting “Air bnb” website (there are lots of fake websites of that kind).

As I have read many times: when an offer seems too good to be true, it often is…

Housing websites

You can start your research as soon as you know you’re going. Here are some websites that could help you to find a room, studio or apartment, alone or with a roommate. You can visit some of them in English (click the UK flag, usually on the right-top of the webpage) but some of them will be written in Dutch only! This is difficult when you begin to search (Google Translate and Reverso are your best friends), but you’ll increase your chances of finding something if you do not exclude any website during your research.

Make a first selection asap then check your mailbox!

  • SSH (Utrecht University) or any other website that provides you reserved accommodations with your University.
  • Nl-housing.com. This website provides furnished rooms in Utrecht. That’s where I found my accommodation. Some rooms are quite expensive, others are cheaper. Warning: with nl-housing.com, you can rent rooms for 1 to 5 years. You can’t rent a room for less than 12 months. There are a few buildings with a few rooms each, and you can choose the one(s) that suit(s) you the best. To reserve a room, you have to send a message using directly the website, in which you explain which room(s) you’re interested in.
  • Kamernet.nl: this website proposes you plenty of offers in the Netherlands. Rooms, apartments, shared studios… but you need a premium account to contact the owners. During your research, you’ll quickly understand that a lot of websites are linked to kamernet.nl. That means every time you’ll try to read more informations about a room, those websites will redirect you to kamernet. I didn’t need to take a premium account but kamernet is the website where I found the highest number of offers.
  • Pararius.com can help you to find an accommodation in the Netherlands.
  • Kamersocial and Rooms.expatrentals works with kamernet.nl.
  • Justhousing.com
  • Kamerjungle.nl
  • Utrechthousing.com looks a bit like nl-housing
  • Utrechtliving.com
  • Erasmusu.com (we’ll talk about this one later)
  • Rooming.nl
  • Nestpick.com (furnished rooms, apartments, studios)

The rent

In the Netherlands, rooms, studios & apartments are expensive. To be sure of your organization, plan a 700€ budget per month for housing. Relax, if you follow to the letter these perfect advises I give you (yeah, I know how amazing I am :D), you shouldn’t have to pay that much for a room (even though it is possible).

Expect 300 to 600€ for a room in Utrecht (6 to 17m^2 average), and more for a studio/apartment with your own bathroom and kitchen (600 to 900€ and more). If you choose something farther from the city center, the rent will be lower. You can for example look for a room in Hilversum, Zeist, Nieuwegein, Woerden… keep in mind that Utrecht has great public transport (train, tramway, bus) and that in the Netherlands, your bike is your best friend.

Really. Your bike is your BFF.

Finally

The best thing that can happen to you is getting a reserved accommodation, but this is difficult. Whether you are going to study in Utrecht or elsewhere in the Netherlands, this blog might help you organizing your trip.

This is the website of the Utrecht University. I know it very well because this is where I am going to study (understand: “I know this infuriating website by heart because I spent days and days on it trying to choose my courses and to plan my exchange”).

Here is THE website that will help you (after mine, of course :D) with practical details for your exchange in Utrecht. Click here if you are an International student. Enjoy!

More informations about housingThe Utrecht UniversityFinding accommodation on your ownLiving costs in UtrechtUtrecht and the Netherlands? Just click.

And don’t forget: keep searching. Some house owners or websites will call you back days or weeks after you submitted your candidature. I still received offers in my mailbox in August. So don’t stop searching, but remember there’s always hope!

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