Cost of living in Belgium: How much do you need?

Cost of living in Belgium: How much do you need?

Home About Belgium The Basics Cost of living in Belgium: How much do you need?
Last update on November 19, 2018

The cost of living in Belgium is relatively high but still considered affordable, including the cost of living in Brussels, when compared to some of its neighbours.

Though the cost of living in Belgium is definitely up there, it is nowhere near as expensive as many other western European countries. This guide will help you navigate the costs of living from healthcare and food to housing, transportation, education, and much more.

Belgium’s strategic location in the European Union makes it an important country both economically and politically. A lot of the Belgian economy depends on the export of manufactured goods to the rest of the EU, with shipments of the raw materials coming in from neighboring countries as well. This has allowed Belgians to enjoy a high standard of living.

Though the cost of living in Belgium is not exactly low, it is still cheaper than other EU countries, despite being home to the EU headquarters. It is close enough to other popular EURopean destinations like Germany, France and Austria that expats in Belgium can enjoy regular trips to other countries.

This guide to the cost of living in Belgium includes:

Cost of living in Belgium

If you are concerned about steep living costs, keep in mind that Belgian social security and taxes are very advanced, meaning income disparity is much less of an issue there. Another thing to remember is that with higher costs of living come higher standards of living. Belgium is among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of standard of living, according to the OECD.

Cost of living in Brussels

Brussels was ranked 27th in Mercer’s 2016 quality of living survey, dropping six places due to the terrorist attacks. However, the standard of living in Brussels has not declined, and the cost of housing and public transportation are generally lower than neighbouring EURopean cities. 

Cost of living in Brussels

The total cost of living in Brussels is estimated at:

      • 14 percent more expensive than Madrid.
      • 4 percent more expensive than Munich and Rome
      • 6 percent less expensive than Paris
      • 10 percent less expensive than London
      • 24 percent less expensive than New York.

Cost of living in Bruges

Bruges is the famous capital of west Flanders, a province in the Flemish part of Belgium. Living standards are not as high as Brussels but the cost of living in Bruges is more affordable. Rent, food and transportation are some of the things that Bruges’ residents spend the most on. The total cost of living in Bruges is estimated as:

      • 14 percent more expensive than Madrid
      • 4 percent more expensive than Munich
      • 3 percent more expensive than Rome
      • 7 percent less expensive than Paris
      • 10 percent less expensive than London
      • 24 percent less expensive than New York.

Cost of living in Antwerp

Antwerp is the largest city in the northern, or Flemish, part of Belgium, as well as the largest Belgian city in terms of population. It is also a huge business and fashion centre, which hikes up prices but also the standard of living. The total cost of living in Antwerp is around:

      • 17 percent more expensive than Madrid
      • 7 percent more expensive than Munich
      • 6 percent more expensive than Rome
      • 4 percent less expensive than Paris
      • 7 percent less expensive than London
      • 21 percent less expensive than New York

Cost of living in Ghent

Ghent is the capital of the East Flanders province. Like Bruges, the standard of living isn’t as high as in Brussels and Antwerp, but as a port and university city it offers some things that Brussels doesn’t.

The total cost of living in Ghent is around:

      • 16 percent more expensive than Madrid 
      • 6 percent more expensive than Munich 
      • 5 percent more expensive than Rome
      • 5 percent less expensive than Paris
      • 8 percent less expensive than London
      • 22 percent less expensive than New York.

Housing costs in Belgium

It is possible to buy and own property, although most expats rent in Belgium. When you compare the average renting prices with the average salary in Belgium, renting a house with two bathrooms and three bedrooms is feasible.

Naturally as the capital of Belgium, Brussels has higher rent prices and more competition for rentals, especially from foreigners. In Brussels’ city centre, prices average around EUR 1,500 per month for a three-bedroom apartment. Though Antwerp has an overall higher cost of living, rent for the same kind of apartment is less, at EUR 1,200 per month.

Of the four main Belgian cities, Bruges is the cheapest in terms of renting a three-bedroom apartment in the city centre. There, you will only spend about EUR 1,000 on average per month, even though Bruges’ living cost is only slightly less than the cost of living in Brussels.

One thing to note when looking to rent in Belgium is that most contracts are for nine years. This doesn’t mean you have to stay for nine years, however, it can sometimes be cheaper than a short-term contract. Read more in our guides to renting in Belgium or renting in Brussels.

Belgium cost of living

If you want to buy property in Belgium, prices in downtown Brussels are around EUR 3,188 per sqm. In Antwerp’s city centre, apartments cost an average of EUR 2,656 per sqm. Ghent is the most expensive for buying at around EUR 3,733 per sqm. Read more about buying property in Belgium.

Utility costs in Belgium 

In Brussels, you can expect to pay about EUR 125 a month for utilities, which generally include electricity, water, heating and garbage, for an apartment measuring around 85sqm. Depending on your area, these prices could rise, but not by much. Read more about utilities, internet, TV and telephone in Belgium.

Cost of public transport in Belgium

Most Belgian cities are well connected by public transport in Belgium. In major Belgian cities, a transport pass for the month costs from EUR 35–50. These passes can be used on every mode of public transportation. One fare usually costs around EUR 2–3.

Taxi rates start off at around EUR 4 in Brussels, and are around EUR 2 per kilometre thereafter. In other major cities, the starting rate varies but the rate per kilometre is generally in the same range. Driving in Belgium is a common option, with gas prices ranging from EUR 1.20–1.40 per litre.

Costs to study in Belgium 

Public schools in Belgium may seem tricky to navigate at first, but keep in mind that the Belgian school system has the advantage of being located in the same country as the European Union headquarters. Depending on where you live in Belgium, your children will be taught in either Dutch, French or German, although there are many international schools in Belgium.

In a private or international school you have more control over what and how your child is taught. Some schools are bilingual while some teach exclusively in English. Tuition fees in international schools in Belgium range anywhere from EUR 6,000 to EUR 30,000 a year, depending on the school.

Studying in Belgium is also much cheaper than in the US and many other countries. Students from EU countries pay an annual fee of around EUR 500–600, although students from abroad pay considerably higher fees.

Costs of childcare in Belgium

Crèches in Belgium are the go-to option for working parents. There are both state-run and private Belgian childcare centres, although tax deductions are available for both. The spots go very quickly though, and it is recommended to start the application process early in your pregnancy.

Childcare costs vary depending on which part of Belgium you are in and your personal income. In the Flemish region, expect to pay between EUR 1.30 and EUR 23 a day per child, while in French-speaking Belgium the prices are slightly higher at around EUR 2–28 per day. Keep in mind, this is based on the household income and is tax deductible to an extent.

Everyone living in Belgium is entitled to child benefits. The monthly prices are the following:

      • First child: EUR 87
      • Second child: EUR 161
      • Any subsequent child: EUR 240

Additional allowances based on age are added once the child reaches six years. Find out more in our guide to childcare in Belgium.

Healthcare costs in Belgium 

Everyone in Belgium is required to have Belgian health insurance, either through the state system, privately or a combination of both. Healthcare in Belgium is paid via social security and health insurance funds, allowing patients to choose their own Belgian doctors and hospitals. Although you generally pay upfront, a good portion of healthcare costs are reimbursed. Those with state insurance can opt for supplementary private insurances to get all the money back from treatments.

Cost of living in Belgium per month

If you are employed by a company in Belgium, expect about 13 percent of your salary to go to health insurance each year, deducted automatically. Your employer will contribute another 25 percent to round out the cost. Read more about health insurance in Belgium.

Cost of groceries in Belgium

Groceries are a hard thing to gauge in terms of prices because of the variables involved, such as the size of the household, dietary needs and favourite brands. However, the average Belgian cost of living of monthly groceries is around EUR 150 per person, but this varies widely depending at which stores you shop.

Cost of dining out in Belgium 

Belgium, and its capital city of Brussels in particular, is known for its culinary prowess. Brussels has been compared to such cities as New York, Hong Kong and even Paris because of the sheer quality and variety of dining experiences it has to offer. The prices, however, are also up there for fine dining.

But you can easily find cheaper options, so those who love to eat out won’t have to limit themselves. Inexpensive meals for one person range from EUR10–15, with a half-litre of commerical beer costing around EUR 3.50. As a comparison, a McDonalds Value Meal is around EUR 8 and a cappuccino around EUR 2.70.

A mid-range restaurant offering a three-course meal for two will generally cost about EUR 60, up to around EUR 100 per person or more in Belgium’s top restaurants. A 10–15 percent service charge will be automatically added to your bill, so you don’t need to tip unless you want to.

Tax costs in Belgium 

Belgium is famous for having the highest tax rates in all of Europe. Top earners are hit with a whopping 50 percent of their income compared to 45 percent in other European countries, although government reforms aim to reduce the Belgian tax burden and a number of Belgian tax deductions can be claimed.

Taxes start off at 25 percent on income up to EUR 10,860 a year, with the highest tax being 50 percent on incomes of EUR 38,080 or more (see Belgian tax rates). The state collects income and company tax, while municipal authorities handle municipal and property taxes.

Certain expats may be able to apply for non-resident tax status, where they only have to pay tax on income earned in Belgium. Read more in our guides to taxes in Belgium and Belgian inheritance tax.

Social security and pension costs in Belgium 

Everyone living and working in Belgium is expected to contribute to the Belgian social security system. Your employer generally arranges this for you. Typically, 13 percent is taken from your salary and your employer pays another 24 percent. If you are self-employed, you can also get social security but must register yourself for it.

Social security in Belgium consists of seven different things: medical care in the form of reimbursements, pension benefits, family, accident, vacation, work-related injury, and unemployment. Read more in our guide tosocial security in Belgium.

Those who live and work in Belgium are also entitled to a pension. The pension in Belgiumis usually based on how much you earned and the years you worked. More is explained in our guide to Belgian pensions.

For economic indicators of prices, such as inflation and tax news see the Belgian government’s website.

Click to the top of our guide on the cost of living in Belgium.

Cost of living comparison