Like anywhere, finding cheap housing in Leiden is easier if you start early. There are 20,000 students in Leiden and only about 80,000 "normal residents", so it’s hard to squeeze everybody in! However, if you begin your search in good time, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a place you like that’s also within budget.
Remember that if you’re going on an official exchange, a room could be organized for you by your university!
The best place to start is usually online. Chuck "rooms for rent Leiden" into Google and you’ll find a whole bunch of listings, prices and locations. The problem that often arises is that you can’t book a room months in advance without actually being in Leiden to handle the transaction. On the one hand, you don’t want to pay for an apartment you haven’t physically seen - you could be scammed. On the other, landlords might be unwilling to rent to someone they haven’t met.
You can sometimes get around these obstacles (a Skype tour of a room, for instance) but not always. An alternative is to use online room sharing platforms like ours. The Housing Anywhere Leiden search will give you a bunch of listings (private rooms, whole flats, studios) which you can book immediately, if you want to. This can be done in advance, and your money isn’t given to the lessor until you have arrived and verified the room.
We run a couple different Facebook groups to help students connect with others and arrange cheap rooms in the city. One is specific to University of Leiden Students, and even if you don’t manage to sort a flat there, you might still make some new friends and have someone to grab a beer with in the city! The other is for general Leiden Housing, aimed at interns as well as students. It has over 6,000 members, so there’s a fair community there already.
Students normally share an apartment, either by renting a flat together or by getting a single room in another student apartment. This is always the cheapest way to operate. As a rule, the more people who live in an apartment, the cheaper everything becomes - particularly expenses like utility bills and WiFi.
In Leiden, you’re looking at €350-600 for this type of room. It’s not cheap, and is a main contributor to the slightly above average cost of living in the Netherlands. However, a studio apartment will cost anywhere from €550 to over €1000 per month for rent alone, and the €550 one will probably be small and in an obscure location.
If money is your main constraint, look for an apartment with 3-4 others and try to keep costs to a minimum. If budget is no object, then still remember that a studio apartment can be a bit lonely, depending on your personality.
It’s important to remember that you will have to pay money upfront to secure an apartment. Your security deposit could be 1-3 months rent, plus the first month upfront. This will all be due when you sign the contract, so you’ll need sufficient savings to handle around €2000 when you first land in the country.