Guide to Dutch telephones

29th July 2003, Comments 0 comments

From getting a landline to the important topic of phone etiquette. We help you dial into the Dutch telephone system.

Standard landline
Carrier (pre-)select
Mobile telephones
Answering machines and voice-activated menus
Special numbers
Number portability

In 1930 KPN received a monopoly on the Dutch telecommunications market when the Staatsbedrijf der PTT was founded. Bureaucracy ruled, and just getting a landline required a kilo of forms to struggle through - and a lot of patience. It was not unheard of to wait more than six weeks to set up your connection.


KPN changed for the better when the Dutch government decided to privatise its state telecom business. Competition resulted in lower prices and, most importantly, better service.

Getting a landline now is pretty straightforward: simply go to the nearest KPN Primafoon shop, where you can arrange your new connection and buy a telephone at the same time. Just remember to bring a lease contract and your passport.


Standard landline

Most households have a standard landline, which is used for everyday telephone conversations and Internet access via modem. For this, KPN offers three different services: BelBudget, BelBasis and BelPlus. Which subscription is most economical depends on your telephone habits. BelBudget has the lowest subscription fee, but charges more per minute; BelPlus works the other way around.

KPN offers voice mail, redirection, combined voice mail for mobile and land line, call waiting and 10 percent off for your three most frequently called numbers.

The fee to set up a new landline is EUR 45. A new ISDN connection or moving from an existing landline to ISDN costs EUR 102. You'll be billed for these fees on your telephone bill. KPN sends its bills every two months.

Just remember that your landline can only be used for one connection at a time. If there are more than two people in your house and you access the Internet by modem, it might be wise to get ISDN or cable through a provider like Chello.

ISDN allows you to have a mini-switchboard at home, which comes in handy if you have more than two telephones or live in a big house. ISDN Internet connections are faster as well - up to 128Kbps.

For people who want really fast connections, KPN now offers ADSL via its MXStream package. Most large cities already have the necessary cable infrastructure, but folks living in small towns will have to wait for ADSL.

Carrier (pre-)select

Several carrier select firms have started operating in the Netherlands recently. You can save considerably on your phone bill when you register with one of these companies. You must dial a four-digit code in front of every telephone number to be eligible for discounts. This might be a bit annoying at first, but you'll get used to it once you add up the savings.

For instance, if you want to call the United States on a work day between 8am and 8pm, you pay only 9 cents per minute with Budget Phone, instead of 17 cents on KPN.

Tests by the Consumers' Union showed companies that invested the most in marketing provided the worst service, in particular One.Tel and Tele2. Recommended carriers offering a good price/quality relation included:

  • KPN Telecom
  • Bel1600
  • NetSource
  • Scarlet
  • Talkline
  • Axxon Telecom
  • Ocean
  • Versatel
  • Budget Phone
  • Vocalis

The pull-down menu in Dutch at might help you find out which carrier select companies fit your calling habits best. You can sign up there straight away as well.

Registration is free at many carrier select firms, but there are a lot of invoices. KPN will also still bill you every two months for your subscription fee.

To make things easier, at KPN you can register with your preferred carrier for national and international telephone calls. This way, you don't have to go through the ordeal of typing four extra digits before every call.

You can set up carrier pre-select via 0800 1273. You must be registered with carrier select before setting up your pre-selected carrier with KPN.

Mobile telephones

The Dutch UMTS auction didn't yield as much profit as was hoped for, probably because the Netherlands is not a big fish in the mobile communications industry. Still, more than half of Dutch people own mobile phones, and the figure is still growing rapidly. Phones are for sale at many specialised shops, and you can also buy prepaid phones, even at video rental shops. Cheaper models cost around EUR 40, including EUR 40 of calling credit.

There are seven mobile telephone companies in the Netherlands:

  • KPN
  • Libertel (part of Vodaphone)
  • Telfort (part of BT)
  • Ben
  • Dutchtone (part of Orange)
  • Talkline
  • Debitel

Talkline and Debitel are so-called service providers that lease networks from the other five but communicate as independent providers to consumers. Several consumer tests showed KPN and Libertel had the best reception and better customer service than smaller companies such as Ben, Dutchtone and Telfort.

All companies claim to provide national coverage, which means that you can call and be called across the country. But don't count on reception by the smaller telephone companies in more remote areas such as the IJsselmeer and the Veluwe.

If you don't call very often, you might be better off getting a prepaid phone. KPN and Libertel prepaid packages offer good services, such as SMS and calling abroad. In general, phones are more expensive to buy without a subscription, and it might be a nuisance to buy cards with phone credit. KPN circumvents this problem by allowing you to upgrade credit via your bank account.

Subscriptions are more economical if you usually call during working hours. After you choose a mobile phone provider, you have to choose the most suitable subscription. It's best to go to a specialised store like Belcompany or Teletools.


Dutch people like to know your name when you call. It's considered rude to call and say, "Hi, Klaas de Bruin please." Talking on the phone Dutch-style involves some explanation.

For example, this is the start of a polite Dutch telephone conversation between Gijs Kloosterman, who works at ABN-AMRO, and Simone van Drunen, who works at Bloembinderij De Tulp. Gijs calls Simone to order a bunch of flowers, but Simone's colleague answers the phone first.

Anneloes: "Goedemiddag, Bloembinderij De Tulp, met Anneloes de Waal."
Gijs: "Goedemiddag, u spreekt met Gijs Kloosterman, van de ABN-AMRO. Kunt u mij doorverbinden met Simone van Drunen?"
Simone: "Goedemiddag, met Simone van Drunen, hoe kan ik u van dienst zijn?"

Click here to listen to this telephone conversation.

Translation in English: Anneloes: "Good afternoon, De Tulp florist, Anneloes de Waal speaking." Gijs: "Good afternoon, (this is) Gijs Kloosterman, of ABN-AMRO. Can you please put me through to Simone van Drunen?" Simone: "Good afternoon, Simone van Drunen speaking, how can I help you?"

Dutch people usually begin with a greeting and always introduce themselves to the person on the other end of the line.

Answering machines and voice-activated menus

You might have come across some problems with interactive voice menus in Dutch. Most phone companies can switch your voice menu to English, but you have to call their help desk or visit one of their stores to request it.

 Your office phone will probably have a Dutch menu, which might be hard to use at first. Look at the picture for an explanation of the various buttons.

Some Dutch people use voice mail messages for creative expression, such as in this message. Most, though, are pretty straightforward: all you have to do is wait until you hear the beep and leave a message.

Directories , KPN's phone directory , another phone directory , a fax number directory

If a number is not listed in one of the online databases or the regular telephone book, you can call 0900 - 8008 for help from a real person. This service is usually quite adequate and costs about EUR .70 per call.

Special numbers

Phone numbers that begin with 0800 are toll-free, so the owner of the number pays for the connection fee.

Phone numbers that begin with 0900 numbers have higher rates than normal telephone numbers, usually because they provide special services, such as telephone directories, erotic messages or travel information. Rates vary from 0,22 to 1,50 per minute. It's compulsory to warn people in advance that a number costs more.

Number portability

Number portability is compulsory, according to European guidelines. This means that you are entitled to keep your telephone number, either landline or mobile, in the following circumstances:


  • when you move within the same area code
  • when you transfer to ISDN
  • when you subscribe to another telephone company


If you find anything about phoning in the Netherlands missing here, why not tell us about it?


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