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Life as a student in Amsterdam

As an international student at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, you will have to arrange a number of things upon your arrival. On this page you will find everything involved in living in the Netherlands.

To do upon arrival

After you have arrived in the Netherlands, settled in your new house and may have already explored Amsterdam a bit, there are a couple of practical actions to take:

  • register with your local municipality to get a BSN;
  • get your DigiD;
  • open a Dutch bank account;
  • check the coverage of your current health insurance;
  • insure your belongings.

Good to know

Once you have taken care of the above, there are still some things that are important to consider, such as:

  • Money matters
  • Health & safety
  • Language skills
  • Religion


Upon arrival in the Netherlands


Register with your local municipality

If you stay in the Netherlands for more than 4 months, you must visit your local municipality and register as a resident in the Basic Registration of Persons (BRP) database. In order to register you have to make an appointment with the municipality.

After your registration you will receive a citizen service number, which is called Burgerservicenummer (BSN), on the spot. You need a BSN to open a Dutch bank account, to take out Dutch health insurance, to apply for benefits or to get a job or internship in the Netherlands. Read more about the BSN on the website of the Government of the Netherlands

At the start of the academic year (and sometimes halfway through the academic year) the municipality of Amsterdam often organises registration days for international students. During these registration days, you can register without making an appointment. More information about registering at the municipality of Amsterdam can be found here

Get your DigiD

After you have received your BSN, you can apply for a DigiD. With this ID, you can arrange government-related matters online. With a DigiD, you can log in to government websites such as DUO (student finance), the Tax Office (taxes) or municipal services. Read more about DigiD for expats in the Netherlands.

Opening a Dutch bank account

If you are staying in the Netherlands for a longer period of time, it is advisable to open a Dutch bank account. Most people use a Maestro debit card. Many supermarkets do not accept credit cards and some shops do not even accept cash. You must have a bank account if you are working or doing an internship. Read more about banking for expats in the Netherlands.

Check the coverage of your health insurance

Health insurance is compulsory for all residents of the Netherlands. Whether you need a Dutch health insurance as an international student, depends entirely on your situation. If you are just here to study, then legally you are not allowed to have a Dutch health insurance. If this is the case, please make sure that your current health insurance company covers your insurance costs while studying in the Netherlands. Things change however when you have an internship or a part-time job. Chances are you probably do need to have a Dutch health insurance.  

Read more about health insurance for international students in the Netherlands on I Am Expat  and on Study in NL.

Insure your belongings

There are various things you can get insurance for. Personal liability, repatriation and travel insurance, for example, are common in the Netherlands. Another important one is contents insurance. This insurance covers the contents of your student room against damage from fire, water damage or burglary. Many insurance companies offer student discounts or competitively priced insurance packages. It may look expensive, but it is really worth to be well insured. Read more about insurance for expats in the Netherlands.

    Additional matters

    Money matters

    Cash is used less and less in the Netherlands these days. However, it is still useful to have a couple of euro coins or some bank notes in your pocket. But what is the current exchange rate and where is the best place to exchange it when you stay in the Netherlands for a longer period of time? And what else do you need to do in order to be able to arrange your financial affairs in the Netherlands? Here we will help you on your way.

    Payments in euros

    The euro (symbol: ; Dutch plural: euro) is the currency of the Netherlands as one of the 20 Member States of the European Economic and Monetary Union. The official ISO code for the currency is EUR.

    Current exchange rates

    On you will find the most up-to-date exchange rates for the euro and other currencies. 

    Student discounts

    By showing your student card, students receive discounts at many cultural institutions, on computer software and at gyms. The AHK has special agreements with institutions in the fields of sports and software & hardware. 

    CJP Cultuurkaart

    The CJP Cultuurkaart is not specifically for students, but for all young people under 30 years old, and gives discounts on (film) festivals, concerts, theatres and museums, among other things. The card costs €17.50 per year.

    Do you want even more discounts? Then take a look at this small selection of websites (information only available in Dutch): 

    Financial difficulties

    If you experience financial problems during your studies, please contact the CvA Student Counsellor, Mirjam Pol by email:

    The student counsellor will work together with you to find possible solutions, that will enable you to continue your studies as well as you can or guide you in deciding to defer or discontinue your studies for the time being. Discussions with the student counsellor are confidential and personal information is handled with great care. In general, the sooner you contact the student counsellor, the better advice you can expect to receive.


    The National Institute for Budget Information (Nibud) is an independent organisation that informs and advises on financial matters. What does it cost to study? How much borrowing is sensible? Should I live in rooms or at home? Nibud outlines what studying involves.

    Health and Safety

    Medical care

    Students in need of medical assistance, should contact their general practitioner (GP) by phone. If you do not have a GP, you should register with one as soon as possible. If you are at a loss, you can contact our student counsellor, Mirjam Pol, in case of emergency, at

    Essential information regarding medical care in the Netherlands

    CvA Health Care Programme

    Working as a performing musician places physical and mental demands on you, in addition to artistic ones, that should not be underestimated. For a good completion of your training and further career, it is therefore important that you adopt a responsible way of working. To that effect, the Conservatorium van Amsterdam has developed a healthcare programme especially for music students. The scheme lists several healthcare specialists and treatment options, with the emphasis on preventative care. CvA students can find more information on MyAHK 

    CvA Student psychologist

    Psychic tensions can affect your physical well-being and your ability to make music. When these tensions cause you to get stuck, you can turn to the school psychologist. 

    The psychological consultation hour offers students low-threshold help, support and advice with emotional and psychological problems (depression, low self-esteem, sleeping problems, mental stress).

    The psychologist can refer to other care providers if necessary. 

    For more information and contact details, see MyAHK (login is needed).

    Study difficulties?

    If you have are running into study difficulties like fear of failure, dyslexia, or problems with concentrating, you can contact the Student Counsellor. She can help you find the right person to talk to at the AHK. 

    Physiotherapy for musicians

    The Conservatorium van Amsterdam refers the specific need of music students for physiotherapy to Bleeksma physiotherapy. Physiotherapist Arjen Bleeksma specialises in the recognition, treatment and guidance of physical and mental problems resulting from the specific strain that the profession of a musician can entail. 

    For more information and contact details, see MyAHK (login is needed).

    Please note: appointments are made directly between you and the practice, not via the CvA. The first consultation is free. Afterwards the consultations are at your own expense, or at the expense of your health insurance if you have supplementary insurance. To be sure, check your insurance policy.

    Confidential Advisor AHK

    It is of the utmost importance that everyone at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam can study and work in a pleasant environment. Safety, mutual empathy and respect are conditions for a good working environment and a successful study period. To counter any undesirable sexual intimidation and/or aggression, the AHK offers support by means of a code of conduct, confidential advisers and a complaints procedure. On MyAHK you can find more information.

    Study and disability

    If you need certain facilities or adaptations to access and participate in education and/or taking exams as a result of a (learning) disability (for example dyslexia), you can contact the student counsellor of the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. She can refer you to the contact person of your study programme with whom you can discuss which facilities or adjustments you need to be able to progress with your studies. The discussions are confidential. The student counsellor can also refer you to organisations outside the conservatoire.

    GGD – Public Health Service

    The GGD is the municipality’s public health care service. The Amsterdam Public Health Service (GGD Amsterdam) protects, monitors and promotes the health of each resident living in and near the city of Amsterdam.

    You can contact the GGD for, among other things: 

    Narcotics: legislation & CvA school rules

    What should students know about use of alcohol and other drugs? What do these substances do to you? What is the effect of their use on your memory and study performance? How can you get through your student days without a hangover? Where can you get your drugs tested? And if you are worried about someone who drinks too much or abuses drugs, where can you turn to?

    The answers to these and other questions can be found here.

    If you need help

    Your student life is a period full of new experiences: a new city, education, house and responsibilities. For many students, this also includes get-togethers, club nights and parties. Sometimes it can be a challenge to find the right balance.

    Going to college with a hangover or calling in sick because of a Tuesday slump is not of immediate concern. However, what if it happens often enough to worry you and/or starts to affect your study results? Or if it makes you feel down, anxious or stressed for a prolonged period of time? It is possible that your substance use (or gaming or gambling) has got out of control. Read here what you can do (information only available in Dutch).

    Language skills for international students

    Lessons at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam are taught in Dutch or English. Therefore, every student at the CvA must have both a passive and active command of Dutch or English.

    Almost everyone in the Netherlands speaks English. You will find that the Dutch are very considerate towards non-Dutch speakers and will quickly switch to English to make things easier for them. But it can still be useful to learn a bit of Dutch. Knowing the language will help you understand Dutch culture and society better.

    English language course 

    At the start of the academic year an English language course is taught at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam for students who want to improve their English language skills. The course is offered in cooperation with De Taalkamer.

    The Student Information Point of the CvA can give you more information about this. The STIP is open from Monday to Thursday with the exception of school holidays. Email:

    Voksuniversiteit Amsterdam

    You can also go to the website of Volksuniversiteit Amsterdam. Here you can find language courses at different levels and for many languages. 


    Map of religious gatherings in Amsterdam

    Many religions are represented in Amsterdam. The most represented religions in Amsterdam are listed below. Click on the map below to go to the interactive map where you can find addresses for religious gatherings in Amsterdam.

    Evangelical or Pentecostal church
    Roman Catholic Church
    Protestant Church Netherlands (PKN)
    Reformed Church
    Christian church (other)
    Moroccan mosque
    Turkish Mosque
    Surinamese/Pakistani mosque
    Jewish synagogue
    Hindu temple
    Buddhist temple
    Sikh temple