How much living in the Netherlands costs and how to save some money
If you’re planning to go on exchange in the Netherlands here are a few things you need to know regarding your finances: - accommodation costs on average between 500 to 600€ per month - since life is pretty expensive you might need around 1000€ per month considering rent, food and leisure activities - public transports, in Rotterdam, cost a fortune if you don’t have a personal OV chipkaart (which I’d advise you to get, to have discounts also on NS trains to travel across the country). To get one you need a Dutch bank account, which is going to make life a lot easier once you are in the Netherlands since some place (including supermarkets like Albert Heijn) do not accept Visa or Mastercards but only Maestro cards. If you get a Dutch bank account you can easily pay online through iDeal, widely spread and secure online payment method in the Netherlands. - to visit museums and save money buy a Museum Kaart as soon as you arrive! It costs 64,90€, is valid for one year since the first use and with it you can visit more than 400 museums, art exhibitions and historical places across the country (even the most famous ones like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Anne Frank house). Average cost to visit a museum (without the card): 10 to 15€.
Opt for the student residence
Looking for a flat in Aix turned out to be a real challenge. Although I started searching a few months before my arrival, the small size of the city and the large number of students enrolled at the university meant that the offer did not reflect the actual demand.
Therefore, despite the fact that I was very reluctant to take a room in the university residence, a couple of weeks before my arrival I had to accept the International Relations office's offer of a room in a Crous residence.
Despite the limited size of the room, it was very functional and well organised. With a private bathroom and mini fridge, the only thing to share was the kitchen. Fortunately, my floor was so empty (due to Covid and distance learning) that the kitchen was used by me and a few other people. Nevertheless, I still managed to get to know a few people and especially to cook and dine in the company of some of my fellow Master's students.
Another very positive aspect was the cost of rent. I was paying 250€ per month and with state housing aid (APL) I paid more than 50€ less per month.
Therefore, if you plan to stay a short time in Aix and get to know people quickly and low-cost, the Crous residence is probably an ideal choice.
Don’t miss financial benefits for students and young people
Living in France as a student has turned out to be much cheaper than expected. In fact, students and young people in France are generally entitled to various financial aids.
Although the bureaucracy is long and frustrating, the results are very satisfying.
If, like me, you choose to opt for a university residence, when you sign the contract and pay the monthly fees, you will be given a sheet with the details to communicate when undertaking the procedures for APL (rent aid). If you rent a flat, do not hesitate to ask the landlord if the flat is eligible for APL. First of all, you will have to register on the CAF website, wait to receive your 'allocataire' number and password by post and then proceed to the 'aide au logement' application on the website.
You should also take out a housing insurance policy including student liability via the website assurances-etudiants.com. Thanks to this advantageous formula, I paid only 27 euros for a year, although I only needed it for a few months.
Then, arrange health insurance for foreign students via the etudiant-etranger.ameli.fr website. With this registration you can access various health services for free. In fact, during the pandemic, I was able to take antigenic tests for free.
Finally, get a free, rechargeable transport card that will allow you, if you are under 26, to travel for 24 hours in the surrounding areas for 2 euros, being able to go as far as Marseilles for example.
Living expenses in Madrid
Living in Madrid is not that pricey, but you have to be careful to control your budget. The most expensive thing in Madrid is probably the rent. In fact, the average price for a room in the city centre is between 400-600 euros. Personally, I paid 490 without bills, and about 520 with bills. In the peripheral areas of Madrid you can also find accommodation from 300 to 400 euros, but obviously there will be fewer facilities than in the centre. The monthly transport card is only 20 euros for those under 26 years old (Abono Joven) and you can take all metro, buses and trains throughout the metropolitan region of Madrid. If you are over 26 years old, the price of the monthly card starts at 54.60€ and increases depending on how many zones you add to your purchase. However, if you live with or near your friends, you can share an Uber or Cabify at very affordable prices.
Eating and drinking out in Madrid is probably the most convenient thing. Tapas and cerveza are an almost daily appointment for Spaniards. For example, a place to enjoy bocadillos and cerveza at student prices is 100 Montaditos, which on some days has an 'everything for 1€' promotion. For my monthly shopping I spend around 100€, trying to go to cheaper supermarkets such as Lidl, Dia and Mercadona. Going out in Madrid can be surprising. In fact, there are many clubs with free entry especially for Erasmus students and more chic discos, where entry is around 15€.