A roadmap to Groningen student life: the first 9 things you have to do

Welcome in Groningen! We understand that moving to a foreign country can be quite stressful in the first months. Therefore, we have created this international student’s roadmap to guide you with your first steps in Groningen!

Step 1
Register for an appointment with the municipality
If you are going to study in the Netherlands for more than just one semester, you must register at the municipality. Registration is mandatory for everyone, and if it is your first time registering in The Netherlands, you will receive a unique citizen service number (BSN). Registration in the municipality is only possible by creating an appointment. The municipality of Groningen has outlined all the needed documents and steps you need to take before visiting them for registration on their website, you can find this page by typing “Gemeente Groningen student registration” in Google. For more information on student documents such as visa-permits (for Non-EU students), you can check with Hanze’s International Office, which specializes in international student documentation and is in direct contact with the municipality and the Ministry of Education.

Step 2
Open a Dutch Bank account
As with the BSN number, if you are going to study in the Netherlands for more than one semester, it’s always a great idea to create a Dutch bank account. Why, you might ask? Because Dutch people pay for almost everything with their debit cards, even for the smallest things. Yes, credit cards are a really popular method of payment almost everywhere in the world, but definitely not in the Netherlands. Most supermarkets, restaurants and bars do not support credit cards, and the same goes for most of the retail shops.

Thank God, all major Dutch banks offer special student accounts with no year fees, so getting an account is free of charge. In order to open Dutch bank account you will have to make an appointment with a bank of your choice, which you can do through their website. The three biggest banks in the Netherlands are ING, Rabobank, and ABN AMRO. Don’t forget to check which necessary documents you need to bring with you.

Step 3
Get a public transport pass

There are two ways to travel with public transportation in the Netherlands: you can either buy a ticket for each trip that you are planning to make (the expensive option) or buy a digital travel card (OV-kaart) that you charge with 10, 20 or 50 euro (cheaper option). There are two types of OV cards available – personalised and anonymous, the difference between the two types of cards is that with the personalised card you can add extras and discounts, which can make the cost of traveling with public transport cheaper depending on what the travel product offers.

For example, if you purchase the Dal Voordeel travel product for 56 euros a year, you get to travel with forty percent discount during off-peak hours, plus you get the OV-card for free, which would otherwise cost you €7,50. Many students say this is one of the cheapest and most beneficial travel products offered by far.

Step 4
Get a Bike

The mode of transportation that the Dutch are most famous for are BIKES. There are many places where you can get a bike in the city, be it brand new or second hand. One is WerkPro, a company that resells bikes which have been towed by the municipality and haven’t been picked up from the Bicycle Depot by their previous owners. All of the bikes they offer start from €65 and are delivered roadworthy, with a lock and battery light.

Another option that is currently very popular with Dutch students is Swapfiets, a company which works exactly like Spotify and Netflix: you pay a monthly subscription and get a bike for hire. If the bikes breaks, someone from Swapfiets will come and either fix your bike on the spot or swap your bike for a new one, and all of this is included in the price you pay for the subscription. For more information such as terms and conditions, pricing and bike types, visit their website. If you want it cheaper, there are many second hand bike stores around the city that sell bikes for a bargain price. You will have to keep in mind that those bikes might not be in the best condition and won’t come with a lock, and since bikes get stolen easily in the city, you will have to buy a quality lock (or two), which might double the price of your ‘cheap’ bike.

Step 5
Understand dutch traffic rules

Getting yourself a bike comes with a responsibility: in order to become a proper Dutch biker, you will have to know the biking regulations in the Netherlands.

Good to know No. 1:
Since July 2019, cyclists are no longer allowed to hold a phone or any other electronic device in hand while riding the bike. If you get caught by police, it might result in a fine of almost €100.

Good to know No. 2:
Two cyclists are allowed to ride side by side, but no more.

Good to know No. 3:
Front and back lights are mandatory when it’s dark outside, otherwise you risk a hefty fine.

Good to know No. 4:
When locking your bike around the city centre, you must make sure you park it in a spot where you’re allowed to, otherwise the municipality might tow it away.


Step 6
Get student financing and free public transport card
During your first months in the Netherlands, you might start hearing your Dutch classmates or friends talk about DUO. DUO refers to Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs. They are responsible for – amongst other things – the payment of study grants to students. Dutch students are entitled to receive DUO student loan and other benefits like a free public transport card, but if you are an international it might not be that easy.

When an international student wants to receive DUO student financing, they are required to have a proof of at least 56 working hours per month.

Best way to find out if you are entitled to these benefits and what documents you will need to receive DUO financing is by checking their website, duo.nl, and making an appointment with them. DUO headquarters are based in Groningen, which makes visiting them even easier.

Step 7
Get Health insurance

For students who do not feel well and need to go visit the student doctor (located on Campus and in the City Centre), or student dentist (located in the City Centre) a health insurance is needed. For students coming from the EU, the basic European Health Insurance Card issued by their home country should be more than enough, but if you start working in the Netherlands during your study you will need to sign up with a Dutch Health Insurance company. This is a regulation by the government, and if not followed the student might risk receiving a hefty fine. There are many health insurance companies in the Netherlands and all of them offer packages focused on international students.

Step 8
Buy furniture

Many of the students who move to the Netherlands for their study, look for second-hand furniture. The Netherlands is a pretty expensive country to live in, therefore being able to save money on furniture is a big deal! Here is a list with a couple of second hand furniture stores, as well as a Facebook group where people sell second-hand items:

Kringloop Plus
For Sale in Groningen City (FB Group)

Step 9
Buy food

The Netherlands is quite famous for organizing farmer markets at least once per week (depending on the city). These markets offer lots of fresh fruits and veggies, usually at a cheaper price than in the supermarkets. You can also find tons of fresh seafood and cheese, every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from nine to five on the Vismarkt and Grote Markt (two main squares in Groningen). For all other things, you’ll still need to go to the supermarket, so here’s a list of the most well-known supermarkets in Groningen, ranked from cheapest to most expensive:

Albert Heyn