Steps involved in buying a home in the Netherlands

Hey “An almost proud owner of a home” 😊. Good to see you here! This blog is to explain the steps involved in buying an existing property in the Netherlands. If you are still thinking if you should buy a property or not, do check out my other blog which explains why you should buy with a mathematical example.

So, here we go:

  1. Deciding on the type of property: Do you want an apartment or a house away from the city center or a house in a historical city center? Are you someone who loves gardening? Then maybe you want a house with a garden. Are you someone who loves the waterside? Then, maybe you are looking for canal house. Different people have different wishes – when I say different, I also mean wife and husband 😊. Decide together on what exactly are your wishes. Believe me, this takes more time than you can imagine, so start early!!!! I suggest start looking for properties in your area even if you have no intention to buy that house. This will give you an idea on the different types of properties available and will also give you a clarity on what you don’t want (let’s be honest, when you visit a house, you will mostly spot things which you don’t like – that’s just how our mind works).
  1. Deciding on a neighborhood (buurt): Deciding a city/town where you want to live is one thing. Then you also need to decide on a neighborhood you would like to live. Do you want to live in lively neighborhood bustling with shops/cafes or would you rather live in a quiet neighborhood near a park/lake? Do you perhaps want to live in an area where there is a (international) school? Or something close to public transport? This website shows the liveability of your area. Many cities/towns also have their own websites. Just Google for your city name+ buurtmonitor for information about your city.
  1. Determine your budget: You would most likely need a loan to purchase a house (unless of course you are super rich). So, how much can you borrow from a mortgage lender? This depends mainly on your income and a few other factors. You can make a free first appointment with most mortgage lenders and they will give you an estimate of how much you can borrow. But this can take a lot of time if you have to visit 2 or more mortgage lenders and it will also be difficult to compare them. This is where a Mortgage advisor (hypotheek adviseur) plays a role. The Mortgage advisor can give you quotations from multiple mortgage lenders and also compares them for you. A mortgage (hypotheek) is formally arranged after you have signed the preliminary purchase agreement. However, it is important to make sure you have already investigated your mortgage options and budget.
  1. Looking for a property: You can start looking for a property yourself by using websites like funda, pararius etc. or you can engage a real estate agent (makelaar). Now, you might have a question as to why you should engage a makelaar when you could do it yourself for free? There are some advantages of engaging a makelaar for a fee (there is no such thing as a free lunch 😊):
    • they have early or sometimes even exclusive access to houses which are going on sale.
    • they know the local market and help with negotiation and or the bidding process.

Makelaars have different payment models. Some of them charge a variable fee (% of the house value), some of them charge based on the number of properties you visit before you make a decision and some of them charge you a fixed fee. Do explore your options and agree with them on a payment model before engaging them.

  1. Zero-down on a property: This is of course the most important step. You find a property which you like. Now, what are the things to keep in mind?
    • How do you know if the seller is quoting a fair price for the house? For a small fee, you can get the recent property sale prices per address from kadaster. This gives you an idea about how the asking price of the house compares to recent sales in the neighborhood.
    • Check if the property has ground lease rent or leasehold (erfpacht): In cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht, it is common to find houses with a leasehold – meaning, you don’t own the land on which the house is built, instead you pay a lease amount (erfpachtcanon) to the owner of the land. There can be municipal leasehold or private leasehold. If the property you are interested in is a leasehold property, the seller must inform you about this.
    • Structural survey: You would want to know what the state of the property is before you buy it. Not all faults might be visible to the naked eye. This is where a Structural or Technical survey can help. An independent surveyor can do an assessment of the property and provide you with a detailed report and an estimate of how much repair costs might be (if any).
  1. Bidding and making an offer: It is time to negotiate or bid and make an offer. In some cases, you might be able to negotiate on the asking price. In an ideal word, you wouldn’t want to pay more than the asking price. But with the current demand-supply situation in the Netherlands, there are often multiple prospective buyers for any property. This simply means the highest bidder will be chosen by the seller. Your makelaar can help you decide what is the right amount to bid. When placing a bid, keep in mind that the mortgage lender will give you a loan only for a certain amount. This amount depends on the taxatierapport (explained later).
  1. Sign the purchase agreement: Yay!!! Your bid has been accepted. Finally, things are starting to fall in place 😊 The seller’s makelaar usually prepares the preliminary purchase agreement (koopovereenkomst). It is called preliminary because this is not the formal handover of the property to you (this happens later through a Notary). Make sure the following are covered before you sign it:
    • financing clause: simply means that if you cannot get your mortgage approved, you can withdraw without any penalty
    • structural survey clause: if you are not happy with the Structural survey results, you can withdraw without any penalty
    • The date of transfer of ownership: this is the actual date of the formal handover at the Notary (just can’t wait for this date……😊). Make sure you have enough time between now and the date of transfer of ownership so that you can approach a mortgage lender and arrange your funds.

You will need to pay 10% of the agreed price to the seller’s notary when you sign the purchase agreement. This serves as a deposit. You can get a bank guarantee (waarborgsom) for this if you cannot arrange the funds yourself.

From this point on, the timer has started (tick, tick, tick………).

  1. Valuation report (taxatierapport): This is an appraisal of the property done by an independent valuer (taxateur). You will need this report to approach a mortgage lender for a loan. In 2020, the mortgage lender can offer you a maximum mortgage of 100% of the value on this taxatierapport (not on the asking price or your bid price). The validation institute  NWWI must have validated the report.
  1. Preparing your mortgage application: Reach out to your mortgage advisor/mortgage lender for a loan with all the required documentation (includes your income details, taxatierapport etc). You will be informed of the outcome (hopefully approval 😊) in a few weeks. You can avail tax deductions on the interest paid (hypotheekrenteaftrek). During your mortgage application process, your lender will inform you about the mandatory insurances you need to take.
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  1. At the notary (notaris): The big day has arrived! This is the day you are formally going to be the owner of the property. The makelaar and the mortgage advisor usually accompany you (so you have some men behind you 😉). If you don’t speak/understand Dutch, you will also need a translator. Arrange for a translator prior to your appointment with the notary. In my case, I felt like I had an army behind me 😊 (makelaar, mortgage advisor, translator, my wife and myself). Fun fact: Usually notary deals in the Netherlands happen either on the 1st or the 15th of a month. So, these 2 days are extremely busy for makelaars and translators. What exactly happens at the notary:
    • First, you and the seller sign the Deed of Transfer (Leveringsakte) and the seller hands-over the keys to you (Photo moment 😊). This deed explains about transfer of ownership, the agreed purchase price and other details.
    • Then you sign the Mortgage Deed (Hypotheekakte). This deed explains the agreement between you and the mortgage lender, the amount of loan given to you etc.
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  1. In your home: Welcome home 😊. By far, the most exciting step!!! You have made it this far by going through a hell lot of paperwork (mostly in Dutch)! Don’t forget to pop a champagne and celebrate!
  1. Arranging your utilities: You have to arrange providers for your utilities like electricity, gas, water. You might want to check out this blog about how to choose a Utilities provider.

Costs involved (buyer’s costs usually amount to around 6% of the purchase price) and can include:

  • Transfer tax (Overdrachtsbelasting): This is the transfer tax that you as a buyer pay when you purchase an existing property (bestaande woning). Current situation is that you pay 2% of the purchase price. Starting 2021, this will be zero for first-time buyers under the age of 35. You can read all about it here (in Dutch)
  • The costs of your makelaar (if applicable) [around 1.5% of the purchase price]
  • The fee of your Mortgage advisor [around 3000 Euro to 4000 Euro]
  • (or)
  • The Mortgage processing fee of the lender (if applicable) [around 1000 Euro to 1500 Euro].
  • Notary costs [around 1000 Euro to 2000 Euro]
  • Valuation (Taxatierapport) costs [around 300 Euro to 800 Euro]
  • The bank guarantee costs (if applicable) [around 1% of the guarantee amount]
  • The costs of a structural survey (Bouwkundige Keuring) (if applicable) [around 300 Euro to 800 Euro]
  • Translator fee (if applicable) [around 200 Euro]
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Some of these costs (Notary cost, Valuation cost, Mortgage advisor cost) are tax deductible. So, all is not over….you get back something too!

Personally, I felt a sense of accomplishment after I bought my home. It is a long process to buy a home but well worth investing your time and effort! Good luck!

The explanation mentioned here is purely from my own experience. It is not to be taken as professional advice.

Leave a comment if you have a question. Hit the Like button if you liked the article!

Why should you consider buying a home in the Netherlands

You’ve been living in the Netherlands for a few years now and you have started to think long term. How about buying a property in the Netherlands? It sounds simple, but it is not an easy decision to make! But it can be beneficial to you. Let me explain how.

Renting vs buying: For most of us expats, in the beginning renting is an obvious choice. But a question you need to ask yourself is: How long do you intend to stay in the Netherlands? If the answer is anything more than 3 years, then you should consider buying instead of renting. Let’s take a layman’s example: For an 70 m2 apartment outside the city center (centrum), you typically pay a rent between 1000 Euros to 1500 Euros per month (sorry, need to exclude you Amsterdam as you are too expensive for this example) depending on the city you live in. Best case scenario, 1000 Euros per month, that is a whopping 36,000 Euros for 3 years – this is money you are throwing-away – you will never get this money back. On the other hand, if you buy the same apartment worth about 350,000 Euros (again, you won’t get it for this price in Amsterdam, but in a smaller city perhaps), you would pay a monthly amount to the bank (via a mortgage). And guess what, the monthly amount will look very similar to your monthly rent and in many cases, even cheaper than your monthly rent. There are different types of mortgages available, but in most cases, your monthly amount will have a principal component and an interest component. The interest component is the throw-away part but the principal component is actually your investment. You will get this back in the form of your house in a few years. While you are still paying the 36,000 Euros out of your pocket in a period of 3 years, only the interest component of this is throw-away and the rest is yours. Oh, another thing – the interest is tax deductible, so you get back some money from the belastingdienst (Dutch tax authority). Yippie! 😊

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Now, let’s say you want to move out of the Netherlands (why-o-why do you want to do that!!! but anyways…..) after 3 years of buying your house. Don’t worry, you have options – you can either rent it out (if you have an outstanding mortgage, you need permission from your bank) or sell it. If the housing market has crashed and your apartment is worth only 330,000 Euros now (worst case scenario) and you still have an outstanding mortgage of 314,000 Euros (350,000 minus 36,000) with the bank. When you sell the apartment, the bank takes the outstanding balance (314,000 Euros) and gives you the rest 16,000 Euros (330,000 minus 314,000). So, you would have paid a net amount of 20,000 Euros over a period of 3 years (36,000 minus 16,000). Despite the market crash, this is still better than the 36,000 Euros you would have thrown-away in case of renting! I have not elaborated on other scenarios like renting it out and I don’t have to show you the numbers if the house prices have appreciated – it will only be more beneficial to you!

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Phew!!! We did some number crunching, but in the end, even a market crash did not impact you so badly… so that’s a relief indeed. I am not a finance guy, so the example taken here is a simple one with a worst-case scenario. If you look at the actual mortgage formulae, the calculations are more complex, but the idea is the same! I have excluded Amsterdam for this example, but the calculations will look similar even for Amsterdam (just append an extra zero to every number you see here 😉)

If you have read the article till here, I am convinced that you are convinced to buy instead of rent 😊

If you need more reasons to buy, here are a couple:

  1. All-time low interest rates – the mortgage interest rates are going down and down and down and doooooown. They are in search of that zero, I guess!
  2. If you are turning 35 in 2021 or later, this is for you 😊. Overdrachtsbelasting is the transfer tax that you as a buyer pay when you purchase an existing property (bestaande woning). Current situation is that you pay 2% of the purchase price. Starting 2021, this will be zero for first-time buyers under the age of 35. The Dutch government wants to encourage young first-time buyers. This can be a substantial saving. You can read all about it here (in Dutch). Overdrachtsbelasting is not applicable if you buy a newly built property (nieuwbouw)

Check out my next blog on the steps to buy an existing property.

The examples and explanation mentioned here are purely from my own experience. The examples are not to be taken as professional advice.

Leave a comment if you have a question. Hit the Like button if you liked the article!

Is It Safe To Visit A Dentist During The Corona Pandemic?

Unlike Dutch nationals, expats might not visit oral health practices too often for routine dental care as the treatment costs sound sky high, unless insured. However, if someone suffers an intense pain in tooth or gums, then you are not left with a choice but to consult a dentist. And now with the Corona virus into the bargain, everyone across the globe is so skeptical about visiting general/dental care centers. During the time when the active Corona cases are increasing daily in the Netherlands, staying cautious is the safety mantra. Well, considering the fact that dentist needs to work in an intimate contact with the patient and in an aerosol generating environment which could be a possible threat, it’s quite obvious to enter a state of dilemma of whether to visit the dentist or not. Not to worry friends, if it’s urgent don’t hesitate to run to the nearest dental practice. I have seen Dutch natives and many expats from everywhere across the world actively making their appointments for simple dental procedures like scaling and polishing(mondhygiene) and a routine check- up(controle) or follow- ups. Though it may seem strange to us but we need to get over the fear of nosocomial infections. All we need to do is follow the Corona Guidelines sincerely anywhere we go. In fact, I would say that it is more safe in a dental atmosphere than in a grocery shop or supermarkets. Have you heard of any Corona case transmission through a dental practice? I guess, no. Isn’t it commendable that despite a close contact work and a high- risk category, dental staff makes sure that the highest level of disinfection protocols are being followed at every cost. As the health safety is of utmost importance, the Dutch Dental Associations(ANT, KNMT) have come up already with strict guidelines to make sure that the preventive measures against corona are effectively put into action to keep up the good standards of hygiene for both the clients and employees. So you need not to be anxious while going out for a dental treatment, it is completely safe. Find out how safe is it to visit a dentist during the Corona pandemic.

Corona safety measures taken in a dental practice

  • A general telephonic enquiry about the Corona/flu symptoms and travel history is made thoroughly by the dental staff before scheduling any appointment.
Man in White Crew Neck T-shirt Holding Stay At Home Sign
Image from pexels.com
  • Patients are requested to arrive 5 minutes before the appointment. If they arrive too early and no seat is available, they need to wait outside/car.
  • Use of special door posters with corona measures for better understanding and awareness are pasted.
Door posters with the Corona Measures (with English translation)
  • Waiting rooms are arranged such that 1.5m distance is maintained between the patients if more than one arrives at the same time. A demarcation line is drawn to ensure safe distance during conversation between a dentist and patient.
  • Patients are advised to come alone as much as possible
  • Everyone entering the practice (oral care professionals, patients or others) need to wash their hands with soap and water or disinfectant(hand alcohol) and are not allowed to touch unnecessarily mobile phones, door handles or any stuff around. .
  • Hand shakes are avoided.
  • 1% hydrogen peroxide is used to rinse the patient’s mouth for 1minute prior to any aerosols treatment procedure to decrease the bacterial pressure. Rubber dam use is mandatory.
  • Every dental equipment or materials used are disinfected with 80% alcohol or sterilized using an autoclave after each use. Disposable cleaning stuff is brought in use as much as possible.
  • Dental staff use hand gloves, nose and mouth mask, water proof face shields for protection.
  • Door handles, card transaction machine, wash basins, chairs and tables are cleaned from time to time daily.

What if you are infected with the Coronavirus but need urgent dental care?

If you are corona positive and suffer toothache or any severe dental related problem that needs urgent care, you can receive a referral from the dentist to visit the CAM (Corona Centre for Acute Dental Care). Also dentists might not accept clients over the age of 65 to maintain safety as they are a risk category. A special department for that is established in the hospital, if elderly are in need for dental treatment.

The cross-infection protocols in the Netherlands are always amongst the most strict in Europe.

Public Transport in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is a compact country – which means you can reach any corner of the country within a few hours. Coming from a vast country myself, I know how useful it can be to be able to reach anywhere within a few hours! What better way to explore this beautiful country than using public transport? This post is to explain about how Public transport works in the Netherlands. First things first – if you are in a new Dutch city and you are looking to get back home, all you need is a smartphone because there is free WiFi in almost all train and bus stations (and in most trains and buses as well – that’s a bonus).

Types of public transport available

Like many other European countries, there are several modes of public transport available in the Netherlands – Train for long distance travel, Bus, Metro, Tram and sometimes Ferry for short intra-city travel. So, you might be wondering how long is “Long” in the Netherlands?? One of the longest train rides in the Netherlands is from the student city of Groningen to the harbor town of Vlissingen which takes about 5 hours.

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Photo by Hatice Yardım on Unsplash

How does public transport work?

The Dutch public transport system is integrated and well connected. You can easily switch between different modes of transport to reach your end destination. Unless you are making a one-off journey (believe me, you wouldn’t want to stop with just one journey in this beautiful country 😊), it is highly recommended to get an ov-chipkaart for public transport travel. This is a smart card which can be used across all types of public transport. With this, you don’t have to worry about buying individual tickets anymore. I started using this smart card from the very first day I arrived in the Netherlands but did not realize what ‘ov’ stands for until recently. It simply means openbaar vervoer (Public transport in Dutch). Quite obvious if you understand a bit of Dutch 😊

There are 2 types of ov-chipkaarts available – personalized and anonymous. If you like to admire yourself every time you use public transport, then personalized is the one for you because it has your photo on it! Jokes aside, there are other advantages of going for a personalized ov-chipkaart because you can get it blocked if you happen to lose it. Both of them cost 7.5 Euro. You need to top it up with a minimum amount before you can travel. You can register your card on ov-chipkaart website here to track your travel, check your balance etc. The minimum amount you need to have on your card differs per type of public transport – for train without any subscription, you will need 20 Euro, for most other public transport, you will need 4 Euro. The actual fare depends on how far you travel.

If you must buy an individual ticket, you can buy these in train, metro stations and bus/tram tickets directly on the bus/tram with the driver/conductor. Some companies accept cash, but some of them don’t. Always make sure you have a Dutch debit card for easy purchases. Individual tickets are generally more expensive than using the ov-chipkaart.

How to travel from A to B?

Your ultimate travel planner in the Netherlands is 9292. You can also download this app on your iOS, Android. This is integrated with all the public transport types/companies in the Netherlands and it shows you the best possible routes to reach your destination.

There are several public transport companies operating in different regions of the Netherlands, but if you use this app, you don’t have to worry about which company operates in your region. Simply key-in the details and off you go!

NS season tickets for regular travel

NS (Nederlandse spoorwegen) is the national train company. If you travel by train regularly (for example to work), you can opt for a NS season ticket (abonnement) depending on your route and distance of travel. There are several season tickets available and they are described in the NS website.

Kortingen

What is a Korting (en)? It means discount in Dutch. It is one of the first Dutch words I learnt (for obvious reasons 😉). If you are travelling together with another person who has a valid NS season ticket, you can get a 40% korting on your travel during non-peak hours (daluren). Again, the NS website explains which season ticket has this feature. This is called the joint journey discount (samenreiskorting). You can apply for this at a NS kiosk in any train station. This short video explains how to do it.

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Other ways to get cheap tickets

If you do not have a season ticket, for one-off long-distance travels there several other ways to find cheap NS day tickets (dagkaart). You can find these deals here. Popular supermarkets/departmental stores like Albert Heijn, Kruidvat, Hema often have these deals. NS also has deals sometimes during the year. Keep checking these links often as most deals are for a limited time only.

Another great way to travel for cheap during non-peak hours is the NS group tickets. You need a group of 4 or more people to avail this discount. If you are travelling with less than 4 people, here is a tip for you: there are several Facebook groups (search for NS group tickets) just to find a travel companion. Simply join a group, find your companion in the same route, and make a new friend 😊

Ov-fiets

After finding your way through all the Kortingen and other cheap tickets, you buy a ticket and finally arrive at your destination train station. For the last leg of your journey, to make your travel a little exciting why not bike to your end destination? Ov-fiets is the rental bike offered by NS. The ov-fiets is available for rent in almost all train stations across the Netherlands. You need to add a season ticket to your personalized ov-chipkaart to be able to use this.

If you would rather use your own bike, it is of course possible to carry it in the train for an extra fee.

Leave a comment if you have a question or would like anything else to be added.

Hit the Like button if you liked the article!

A Safe Road trip to Bavaria, Germany during Covid-19

The Eibsee Lake, Bavaria Copyright by Kanika Gupta
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The Obersee Lake in foggy summers

It was a thoughtful journey of two couples, me and my husband, and a companionable pair who were actively waiting for the signals to turn green for traveling within the European Countries during the Corona outbreak worldwide. Another important concern was to follow the Guidelines and the necessary tips before booking a summer trip. Following a few informational links, it was clear that Germany falls under code yellow and we need to strictly trail around with certain measures such as using mouth and nose masks at public places ( WC, Petrol stations, public transport), using hand sanitizers and staying 1.5-meter distance away from others.

Countryside Bavarian Alps

Since we were free from any flu symptoms, it was time to scroll the bucket list and plan a thorough itinerary crossing across the district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in Southern Bavaria and the radiant romantic road, Germany. It was end of July when we fastened the seat belts to navigate through the fascinating lakes, mountains, castles and fanciful towns while exploring the countryside bordering Austria – Germany. Ultimately the most awaited road trip to 350 km long romantic route in southern Germany began in the early morning for a 10 hour’s drive from Amsterdam to the first place of our stay in Gästehaus Heiss Sonnbichl 3, 6633 Biberwier, Austria completing the enthralling journey of about 850km.

Day 1 – Fussen town, Neuschwanstein, Eibsee lake 

With an exciting smile on our faces, we turned on the car wheels towards the medieval city center of the Fussen town that embraced the southern end of the romantic road. We could feel a leisurely and captivating ambiance around the shops, open restaurants, cafes, museums, and unique frescoes. The Neuschwanstein, the fairy tale castle was in the vicinity(5 min drive), so we booked a horse cart service(€4 per person) in the downtown that seemed to be packed with souvenirs, resorts, parking, bus station, a huge crowd of tourists and a far-sighted view of the castle. You can also book a guided tour to get inside the castle to appreciate the typical historic creation but to avoid hassle standing in an unending queue for tickets, we chose to take an exterior view of the castle which was spectacular and quite a primitive simulation of a castle from Disney classic. The spare time was dedicated to the upcoming natural wonder, the gorgeous Eibsee lake, Grainau. The simple hike along the turquoise-colored, translucent natural waters washing through the foot of Zugspitze mountain was literally mesmerizing. It was simply soothing to have a fascinating landscape view while strolling around the enticing alpine lake of South Bavaria. 

Museum der stadt, Fussen
Horse carriage ride to Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
The castles of Bavaria

Day 2 – Hiking trail to Alpspitze

Keeping in mind the weather forecast (sunny, 27-31°C), we checked out for an interesting hike(level- moderate) to Northern limestone Alps, Alpspitze, 2,628 m. It was just a 45 min drive to the base Hammerbasch village and a 10 min walk to the Alpspitzbahn cable car up the mountain( ticket cost – €17.50 per person). We were welcomed by the AlpspiX viewing metal mesh- platform, restaurants, and seating deck after an enthralled ascent through the lush green valley. Few hours of sightseeing, photography, and refreshments, it was time to march downhill 8.5 km along the Höllentalangerhütte to continue towards Höllentalklamm Gorge and back to Hammersbach. The trek began in the scorching sun and ended up walking through the river streams, waterfalls, tunnels and caverns. The melting glaciers dropping and roaring of the boulders was a phenomenal epitome of pristine nature, adventure, and romance in cold tumbling showers in a hot humid summer.

Timings for the hike- 3.5 hours descent

Alpspitzbahn cable car ticket showing extended metal platform
Waterstream, Hammerbasch village
Hiking trail to Alpspitze
Edge of the hiking track, Alpspix
Caves, Hollentalklamm gorge
Bene Throne

Day 3 – Konigssee Lake, Obersee lake, Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden 

Just an hour’s drive and a quick walk-through attractive shops displaying vintage clothing, antique crystals, and sparkling stones on each side of the road, we reached the Boat dock for purchasing tickets. The quiet electric ferry rides you gently through the serene beauty of the majestic lake and emerald fjords cuddled in the arms of gigantic alpine alps. It was a feeling of lying peacefully in the lap of mother nature when we encountered Christlieger Island, numerous boathouses, and the Falcon Stone memorial across the poised lake. Another impressive part that drew our attention was when the boat’s captain told about the world’s famous echo chamber and demonstrated it by playing trumpet. We could actually hear the reverberating sounds played by the man. We got off the boat at the first stop, the Church of Saint Bartholomä, spent some time traversing the grounds and hopped back again into the final ferry boat that landed us to Salet where you can take nature’s call in restrooms and relax under restaurant huts. It took a 10-minute walk from the ferry dock to reach the secluded crystal- clear lake, the Obersee. What an awestruck moment for each one of us to witness such an incredible and heavenly piece of earth, the drizzling raindrops, and fog draped mountains added to the theatrical scenery. We dedicated 5 hours completely to the place taking pictures and swimming in the lukewarm waters(15°) in Obersee. We headed back and eventually decided to visit St. Sebastian church in Ramsau village. Again a picturesque place with a riverside church and a spellbound bridge in front of the ReiterAlpe Mountain range. 

Round trip ferry cost- Adults- 16.90€ per person, the boat is every 15-30 min on the stops till 6:00 pm. 

Useful Tips: Double-check the time for the last boat to depart from the Salet. 

Electric Ferry Boat, Konigsee lake in Berchtesgaden
Church of Saint Bartholomä with onion red rooftops, Berchtesgaden
Europe travel to Nature, Der Obersee
Mesmerizing Obersee lake
Waterfall and Alps reflection on the crystal clear Turquoise Obersee water

Day 4 – Romantische strasse, Dinkelsbuhl

After checking out from Airbnb in the morning, our new day began with the rocking music beats in the car that was rushing through the green and golden terrains, vineyards and sunflower fields towards the theme route, the Romantic towns of Germany. The first destination was Augsburg, which is famous for the history of Fuggers, a rich family of bankers or merchants who built Fuggerei, the world’s oldest social settlement. Keeping a close look at the maps, the next stop probably was romantic Strasse and medieval towns of Dinkelsbuhl, a free monarchical city with unusual yet magnificent street plans that were never actually planned but grown organically. Spending our day around the magnificently colored structures, cathedrals, lofty gates, and endless green fields along the romantic road of Germany, we then headed to the next place to stay in Marktbergel, Germany.  After an amazing dinner, we chose to go out for a pleasant night walk around the homestay. 

Tip: You can appreciate the colors of the street houses more during the dusky twilight.

Romantic Strasse, Germany

Terrains alongside the Romatic road, Germany

Day 5 – Plonlein, Rothenburg ob de tauber

With a nostalgic feeling, we packed our bags again and followed the route towards our home in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Luckily, our desire to hold another trace of memories from Rothenburg ob de Tauber decelerated the car in Plonlein which was known for the yellow, tilted timber-frame house at the entrance with a fountain. The place was so rich and charming, that wherever we stood for pictures, it seemed like a photography spot. This place itself led to a historic double road bridge, the tauber bridge with two rows of arches and apple trees on its way. And with this, it was time to bid adieu to Romantic road at Wurzburg. We were carrying bundles of ever cherishing memories of magical landscapes and tons of fun we had during our stay.

Plonlein, Rothenburg ob de tauber
Rothenburg ob de tauber
Souvenirs Shop
The Tauber Bridge
Wide- Open streets, Rothenburg

You must have noticed that most of our stay was booked in Austria while the main trip destinations were mostly in Germany so that we could experience and cherish Austria’s countryside way of living as well.Here, I have some helpful tips for curious travelers.

Essential backpack items:

  • Identity card: Passport/ Residence permit
  • Phone chargers
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Hand sanitizer
  • 10-12 face and nose masks or scarf
  • Trekking poles/ sticks
  • Sun protection lotion
  • Medicines- Paracetamol, pain relief gel or spray, band-aids
  • Eatables- Burgers, bread, bread spread, jam, tea bags, butter cake, veggies, fruits 

Non- essential items:

  • Bluetooth speakers
  • Playing cards
  • Camera
  • Umbrella  

Driving tips:

Do not forget to carry your valid driver’s license, fuel card, vehicle RC card. Also make sure you have easy access to GPS or navigation apps (Google Maps, Waze).

Before entering the Austria motorways border, buy and display a toll vignette(sticker) at any major border crossings into Austria or at larger petrol stations (cost is € 9,40 for 10 days) or get digital vignette online to avoid a toll fine of €120.

You can also rent a car at genuine rates from Goldcar.

Hiking tips:

Wear Lightweight hiking shoes and don’t miss grabbing trekking poles/ sticks, water bottles, sun protection lotion, energy bars or drinks.

Personal tips:

Use of ‘Splitwise app’ to keep the record and distribute the expenses amongst the group of friends. Save your planned itinerary and a list of important stuff on ‘keep notes’ mobile app. 

What we missed?

Swimming in a natural bathing city of Salzburg in river Taugl, near Kuchl town due to heavy rainfall.  

Mittenwald village amidst the alpine peaks and painted cottages. 

Total group budget:

€1,134.87(excluding fuel)

Travel with extreme care. Stay safe and healthy!

Corona: Testing Procedure in GGD Netherlands

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If you have Corona symptoms, Government of Netherlands offers two ways to register and get you tested.

  • Website dedicated to Corona https://coronatest.nl/ – You need “Digid”, Phone number, email address to book a test and check the results. You will receive confirmation email once you registered successfully. Take this along to the test location. Important: You can not use Public transport to travel test location. Discuss this when you are making an appointment.
  • Dedicated telephone line 0800-1202-In case you are booking a test for child aging 0-6 years or you do not have Digid or you are a foreign tourist you can 0800-1202 is the contact number available all day between 08:00 and 20:00. Have your Social security number(BSN) handy which must be required.
  • If you are outside Netherlands +31 850 659 063 is the number you can contact at.

If you have any corona symptoms you can get tested for free of charge. In case of serious complaints you can call your GP and for danger of life call emergency number 112.

Role of Municipal Public Health Services (GGD)

The Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) and hospitals administer the test. GGDs are the Medical and Health services in Netherlands. If you have Corona symptoms, you can register online or via phone for the test.

  • On registering a test, GGD will send you an email.
  • Nearest Test location will be possibly allocated and test procedure will be informed through an email.
  • Take an email Print out, Proof of identity: your passport, identity card or driver’s license and carry it with you to the designated location.
  • The GGD employee conduct the swab test by inserting a cotton swab in your nose and throat. This only takes a few seconds.
  • The cotton swab will be sent to the lab and test for Covid-19 will be verified. 
  • Test is free of cost. You need not to pay.
  • You should immediately go home and stay inside till you get the result.
  • Do not use Public transport. Come on foot, by bike or by car. Use a mouth mask if you are in a car with someone else.
  • If you have any questions about test locations, Inform GGD while making an appointment.
  • GGD will trace the contact history if your test report is positive and you share room, house or have been in close contact with someone throughout that period.Your contacts will be called by GGD and advised to quarantine for 10 days.

Types of tests

  1. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test – detects the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and Indicates if you are infected presently or not. Smear Test is the most common way of testing and is used by the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs). Result is given within 24 – 48 hours.
  2. Serological test – Checks for antibodies against Corona virus. This test tells whether you were already infected. GGD does not test for antibodies and hence perform no serological test.

Air Travel During Corona

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We know World is affected by Corona crisis so does our lives . Unforeseen travel situation made this even more difficult. This post is sum up of all such questions that may arise while travelling to and from Netherlands.

Is Health Declaration needed to travel?

Yes, If you are travelling from Netherlands, Schipol Airport has a form available on their website-https://www.schiphol.nl/en/page/coronavirus/ .You must have two hard copies of this form which can be asked to show while coming in- or going out of the Netherlands. Ministry of health, welfare and sport uses this data to prevent and decide corona measures. You may asked for Health declaration anywhere throughout the journey. Always keep it handy.

Does Testing for Corona is needed ?

If you are travelling from Netherlands, it is important to have PCR test done. PCR Test detects presence of novel corona virus in the body. Many countries asked for proof of Corona testing and only allows travelers with Negative test report to enter. **Check the destination country/airport for their travel advisory during corona.

Where to do PCR test?

A) Airlines like KLM provides PCR Testing by appointment only. KLM only test travelers either with no corona symptoms or those who does not covered under Dutch testing policy. Book a test atleast two to three days before the flight and Result will be given within 24-32 hrs. Testing costs Eur 145. https://klmhealthservices.com/en/journey-preparation/coronatest/book-now/. KLM has Travel Clinics in Hague, Schipol Oost (East) and Schipol Airport. Timings and availability may vary.

B) You can visit various websites for private testing irrespective of Corona symptoms. Below are two of them :

  • https://www.hethuisartslab.com/veelgestelde-vragen. The U-diagnostics test technology has been validated by RIVM / RKI. They Charge Eur 100 per person. Test result will be delivered very next day to the registration.You can either get a referral from GP or register for a test without that.
  • https://coronalab.eu/.This is Dutch CDC (RIVM) valid laboratory, opens 6 days a week and provides the result on the same day. Testing for an adult costs Eur 149.95 ( Payment accepted only through Card).

C) Schipol Airport: You can get tested at the airport between hall 3 and 4 if you are coming from Covid-hit areas. GGD will select the flight and inform passengers accordingly at the arrival gate. As of 12th September 2020 testing center is closed temporarily.

D) Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs): If you have mild to severe symptoms, you can book an appointment with GGD. Test is free of cost. You can register and book a test at Website: https://coronatest.nl/. In case of much severe symptoms, call your GP or hospital. And for life and death situation call emergency number 112.

Follow our another Post for GGD’s Corona Testing Procedure https://themovinghumans.com/2020/09/13/corona-testing-procedure-in-ggd-netherlands/.

Quarantine In Netherlands

On reaching Netherlands, you have to self quarantine for 10 days at your accommodation and should avoid to go outside. If you have Corona test report already done and it is negative even then the same quarantine rules apply.

** Travel advice may change during the travel. Check the destination country for their travel advisory during corona as well.

Utilities providers

Utilities providers in the Netherlands

So, you got the keys for your new home in the Netherlands. Congratulations! One of the most important things you will need to setup are the Utilities. Unlike few other countries, some of the utilities in the Netherlands are privatized – meaning you can choose a provider yourself. This can be good news if you understand how things work or terrible news because you have to do all the hard work. But do not worry – this article will help you make an informed decision.

You will typically need providers of electricity, water, and sometimes gas (depending on the area you live in). In some areas, you will have district heating (Stadsverwarming) instead of gas. Water providers and district heating providers are usually fixed depending on the area you live in and you as a consumer do not have a choice here – so, one less thing to worry about 😊

For the other providers, there is plenty of choice available. Some of the most popular providers for electricity and gas are Essent, Greenchoice, Budget Energie.

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How do Energy providers work

The Energy provider in consultation with you will come with a “fixed” monthly amount that you will pay – this is based on an estimate of your usage. If you are new to your home and you are not aware of your usage, the provider will use a previous estimate. At the end of the year, your provider will send you an annual invoice (jaarnota) with your actual usage and the difference amount you have to pay (or receive).

How do you choose

Energy providers can be confusing in terms of what they offer and it can be quite a challenge to choose the right one.

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There are many comparison (vergelijken) websites like https://www.independer.nl/, https://www.energievergelijk.nl/ etc. You simply have to enter your address and they provide you a list of providers with their quotes. Keep in mind that these websites do not compare all providers. If you have a quote from another provider and would like to compare, keep reading!

What should you actually compare before choosing the right provider

The price breakdown of the quotes will show different components:

  • Energiebelasting and Opslag Duurzame Energie are government levies on your consumption of electricity and gas. These will remain the same irrespective of the provider. So, you may safely ignore these during your comparison.
  • Vermindering energiebelasting is a reduction on your energy tax. This is also determined by the government every year. This will remain the same irrespective of the provider. So, you may safely ignore this during your comparison.
  • Netbeheerkosten is the same irrespective of the provider. It is determined by your meter company every year. Again, you may safely ignore this during your comparison.

That brings us down to just three things you need to compare:

  • Leveringstarief normaal is the Delivery rate per kWh of usage during day-time.
  • Leveringstarief dal is the Delivery rate per kWh of usage during night-time (the exact timings can vary depending on the area you live in). This rate is typically lower than the normaal rate.
  • Vaste leverings kosten is the Fixed Delivery costs per month.

Only if you have a smart electricity meter (dubbele or slimme meter) installed at your address, you can make use of the two different delivery rates (Leveringstarief normaal and Leveringstarief dal). If you do not have a smart meter, then you can get a single Delivery rate (Leveringstarief).

Tip: Having a smart meter can save you money. As the Delivery rates during night-time are lower, it can be beneficial to use the washing machine during these hours. Now, that’s one money saving tip for you 😊

In addition, many providers also provide Welcome bonuses and/or cashback offers if you stay with them for a certain period of time. Always take these into consideration before making a decision.

Green energy

Comparison websites like independer also show a Durability indicator for every quote. Providers supply “Green” or “Gray” electricity/gas. Greener the better for the environment!

In conclusion

Due to the large number of Energy providers, there is healthy competition in the market and the providers try to attract you with their offers. Many people switch providers every year (or two) to take benefit of the lower prices and/or cashback offers. Do take your time to compare and switch if it makes sense!

Leave a comment if you have a question or would like anything else to be added.

Hit the Like button if you liked the article!

Buying a Bicycle in Netherlands

Woohoo… So you are planning to buy a Bicycle. Indeed, it is one of the most popular and convenient modes of transport in Netherlands. If you are a first time buyer you may have lots of questions. So here I am sharing my own experience and quest while looking for a good and reasonable bicycle in working condition.

Courtesy: unsplash.com

Here are few pointers to consider while buying a Bicycle:

1. Cost
As this was going to be my first cycle, i wanted to start with an economical budget. After finalizing my budget, i started my research to look up for a suitable buy.

2. New vs Second Hand
You can buy a new cycle starting as low as 200 euro. Apart from brand new cycles, In Netherlands you can easily get a second hand bike in reasonably good condition which would cost you somewhere around 50 – 200 euros depending upon condition and usage. TIP: If you are getting a cycle way too cheap, be careful, chances are either you may be dealing with a stolen bike which is pretty common in Netherlands or bike may need a repair which is quite expensive( Repair starts ~50 euros).

3. Type of Bikes
There are many options available here. Bikes with Hand Brakes, Pedal Brakes, Gears,Terrain bikes, Mountain bikes, Electric bikes, Male, female, children, grandma bikes etc and so does vary their size, specification and usage.

4. Buying Options
You can look up for a bike in one of the following places:

  • Facebook Groups– There are many Facebook groups like “Bike-SecondHand Bikes,used Bicycles” which offer second hand bikes to sell.
  • Marktplaats– This is another place you can look up for a second hand bike. You can check in stolen bicycle registry maintained by Dutch police to verify bike is not stolen. Website:https://www.marktplaats.nl
  • Bicycle Stores– They offer a wide range of all types of cycles. Some stores give warranty on the purchase.They do a cycle checkup usually before giving away the cycle.Some of them do sell second hand cycles as well. Keep the receipt safe and note down Frame number.
  • Online Store– There are many online store selling new bikes at a good price. You can compare and find good bike as per your requirement.
  • Local Market– In Amsterdam there is a local market named Waterlooplein market from Monday to Saturday which you can visit as well for second hand bikes. Website:https://waterlooplein.amsterdam/en

5. Add on cost
After finalizing your bicycle, you can customize it with front rack or basket as per your requirement, Choose proper front and rare lights, buy a puncture kit. As cycle thefts are quite common in Holland it is wise to invest in a good cycle lock.

6. Legal Requirements and Tips
Cyclist also have to abide by the law in Holland. Though riding a cycle is pretty safe as they have a separate lane but every Bicycle need to have a compulsory cycle bell and Working Front and rear lights and reflectors. Which is absolute must otherwise you have to pay fine. No cycling on pedestrian area or foot paths is allowed. Indicate with your hand if you want to turn right or left.

7. Traffic Rules and Regulations
A quick go through traffic rules are always advisable for yours and others safety.

Happy Cycling !! Don’t forget to hit star rating if you like this article.

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ONA Exceptions

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Yes, You heard it right ! ONA exceptions are possible. Learn what are the conditions and how you can apply for the exceptions.

ONA is known as the orientation on the Dutch Labor Market is all about working and finding work. This is one of the exam required for inburgering.

However if you have worked within the Netherlands and have a job, you may apply for exemption from ONA exam. This is called an ‘ontheffing wegens aantoonbaar voldoende ingeburgerd’ (‘exemption due to demonstrable sufficient integration’). However there are few conditions :

  • You have worked for at least 6 months in the past 12 months.
  • You have worked as a salaried employee.
  • You worked at least 48 hours a month.

How can you apply for exception?
1. Log in to Mijn Inburgering usig DigiD to apply for an exemption. If this won’t work, use the form ‘Aanvraag vrijstelling Oriëntatie op de Nederlandse Arbeidsmarkt’ attached here.
2. Click on “Request Exemption ONA”. There are two forms depending upon the type of employers. Choose the form which you have to fill.
3. Send the form to DUO together with supported documents.

What do you need as supportive documents?
You will need :

  • 6 months salary slip
  • HR declaration stating that you are currently working with the employer
  • Bank statements for the proof of salary being received for past 6 months

How long will it take to get the exception?
The decision on whether you get an exception, will be available within at least 6 weeks.

Good Luck to the ones applying for the exception ! If you find the post useful, do not forget to rate us !

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