One of my sister’s friends is looking at applying to a school in Rotterdam and asked me how much things would cost. This was what I said:
I’ve been to Rotterdam a few times. It’s a nice enough city, though it’s no Amsterdam. =) The vibe is very different there because it’s a more working class city, thanks to its massive harbor. Also, it looks very different from just about every other Dutch city because it was carpet bombed by the Germans in World War II. It was rebuilt after the war in all sorts of wild (and sometimes very ugly) modernist buildings.
I don’t know what rents cost in Rotterdam, but I believe it’s a little bit lower in Amsterdam. Student rooms or studios here in Amsterdam are maybe 250 to 500 euros a months. You can look at sites like Kamernet for things available right now. I’ve collected a few links to other sites over the years here: http://delicious.com/pr1001/netherlands+housing
Beyond that, for cost of living I guess you need to look at food, transportation, and communication. Food naturally depends on how much you eat out, but a rule of thumb is that you’ll probably pay €10-15 for a decent dinner. Supermarkets are reasonably cheap (beer is super cheap!), though meat is kinda expensive compared to the US and generally the quality isn’t great. Albert Heijn is the main supermarket chain in Amsterdam and most of the Netherlands, though I believe that Jumbo is kinda big in Rotterdam. C1000, Aldi, and Lidl are really cheap, for better or for worse.
For transportation, you’ve got trains around the Netherlands, trams and buses within Rotterdam, and of course the ubiquitous bikes. A train from Rotterdam to Amsterdam costs €13.60 for the full fare, but you would probably never pay that. I and most people have a discount card that for €60 a year gives me 40% off all trains after 9 am. RET, the Rotterdam transit company, will probably charge you around €1-3 per average journey.
All public transit trips in the Netherlands are now on a common contactless travel card called the OV-chipkaart and trips are charged by distance traveled. The NS, the national train company, also accepts them. There are specifically cards for students, and the NS and RET both offer various discount products for students. I’m not sure but you might even get free passes.
However, realistically you’re probably going to be biking most of the time. You can by a second hand bike, whether for next to nothing on the street from a junkie or for maybe €75-150 from a shop. New bikes will start from maybe €250. I got a new BSP for my latest bike, though if you’re studying you’ll fit in a lot more with your fellow students if you have a old bike. It’s incredible how decrepit the bikes are that people ride! =)
As for communication, you’re going to need a mobile phone and internet. Internet would be included with a room, but if you rent your own place you’ll probably need to get it yourself. It’ll cost maybe €20-30 a month. Mobile phone contracts cost around the same, though you can also pay less if you’re really cheap and/or never use your phone.
Putting that all together, I would say that you could survive on €600 a month but it wouldn’t be fun, while at €1000 you’d have a pretty comfortable life. At approximately 1.35 dollars to the euro (that’s a little conservation right now but not in the past) we’re talking approximately $1000 to $1350 a month.