A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
If you are already living in the Netherlands, you know, and if not, you will know soon: Bikes are Life here! Seriously, coming from a big city where bikers are only a bunch of very brave people, I had never thought that biking could become such a huge part of my everyday life. Once you get here you will find this is the most practical and most used way to move and you will not be able to live without. Here some bits of advice for you.
If you are an international, there is a thing that you should know: in the Netherlands, most bikes only have pedal brakes. Therefore, it is possible to get a bike with also hand brakes, but it will be more expensive. You can find a second-hand bike (average price around 60/70 euros) pretty much everywhere.
Your best options are the housing Facebook group, where people put offers for pretty much everything. Be sure to always check a bike before you buy it though! some of them are in really bad conditions and overpriced.
Second option is to buy it in a bike shop: most shops have a huge choice of second-hand bikes and, in this case, you are likely to pay a little bit more but you will be sure that the bike is at least in good conditions.
Your third option is to rent the bike. This is a service you could get through two main companies in Leiden: Swap Fiets and Easy Fiets. In both cases the prices are quite the same (Easy Fiets is cheaper though!) and you will be able to rent a bike for around 10\15 euros per month. In this case reparation costs are for free and with 2 euros per month at Easy Fiets you even get insurance in case your bike gets stolen.
This will seem to you common sense but there are a few golden rules in the Netherlands when it comes to bikes. First of all, buy some lights. You will see how important they are when you will come home in the pitch-dark-Dutch-winter. Second of all, you may want to buy a cover for your seat, some bags or these kinds of accessories. In that case my advice would be to go to SoLow, Hema or Action. Third, buy a good chain\lock! In general not-so-good-looking bikes don’t get stolen, but you can never be sure and a lot of students experienced this unpleasant adventure. Finally, don’t leave your bike next to the station if not in the “official” parking lots as it is probable it would be taken by the municipality. In that case, you should check on the municipality’s website as they post on a daily basis the pictures of the bikes they found, but to have back yours you would have to pay around 30 euros!
If you live in The Hague but you study in Leiden (or the other way around) you may
want to know a few things. First of all, it may be the case to invest in a foldable bike, as bringing a “normal” bike on the train would cost you an additional 7 euros. Second of all, you may want to buy a normal bike but to leave it in the city where you have to bike the most. Thirdly, you can decide to spend money on an OV-Chip Bike, if you need the bike only once in a while. An OV-Chip Bike is one of those yellow and blue bikes you can rent at the train stations with a personal OV-Chipkaart. They are very cheap (3,50 euros for 24 hours) and they can work very well for occasional transfers.
These were my tips on bikes in the Netherlands! Do you have more? let me know in the comments!