Can you afford to live in Belgium? Find out with our guide to the cost of living in Belgium, from cappuccinos to childcare.
Belgium‘s strategic position in the European Union makes it an important country in the continent, both economically and politically. The Belgian economy largely depends on exports of manufactured goods to the rest of the EU, with shipments of the raw materials coming from neighboring countries. The growth of these industries over time has allowed Belgians to enjoy a high standard of living.
Though the cost of living in Belgium is definitely high, it is nowhere near as expensive as some other western European countries. To help you navigate living costs from healthcare in Belgium and food to housing and local transportation, read on for the following:
- The general cost of living in Belgium
- Wages and salary in Belgium
- Housing costs in Belgium
- Domestic bills in Belgium
- Healthcare costs in Belgium
- Childcare costs in Belgium
- Study costs in Belgium
- Cost of food and drink in Belgium
- Transportation costs in Belgium
- Leisure activities in Belgium
- Taxation in Belgium
- Social security and pension costs in Belgium
- Assistance with living costs in Belgium
- Useful resources
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The general cost of living in Belgium
Although Belgium is not the cheapest place to live, remember is that with higher costs of living come higher standards of living. Indeed, Belgium ranks just above the OECD average in terms of standard living, scoring 6.8. This is helped by an extensive social security system in Belgium, meaning that income disparity is much less of an issue than in some other countries.
In Belgium, around 12.7% of the population is at risk of poverty (AROP). This includes people earning below €1,293 per month. Brussels has the highest AROP rate (24.9%), then Hainut (19.3%), and finally Liège (18.7%).
The cost of living in Brussels
The standard of living in Brussels remains high, and housing and public transportation costs are generally lower than in neighboring European cities. Belgium’s capital ranked 39th in Mercer’s 2022 Cost of Living City Ranking survey.
According to Numbeo, the total cost of living in Brussels is estimated to be:
- 21% cheaper than Paris
- 42% cheaper than London
- 166% more expensive than Mumbai
- 30% cheaper than New York
- 18% cheaper than Sydney
- 82%% more expensive than Lagos
The cost of living in Bruges
Bruges, or Brugge, is the famous capital of West Flanders, a province in the Flemish part of Belgium.
According to Numbeo, the total cost of living in Bruges is estimated to be:
- 22% cheaper than Paris
- 21% cheaper than London
- 129% more expensive than Mumbai
- 40% cheaper than New York
- 29% cheaper than Sydney
- 57% more expensive than Lagos
The cost of living in Antwerp
Antwerp is the largest city in the northern, or Flemish, part of Belgium and the largest Belgian city in terms of population.
According to Numbeo, the total cost of living in Antwerp is around:
- 11% cheaper than Paris
- 9% cheaper than London
- 164% more expensive than Mumbai
- 31% cheaper than New York
- 18% cheaper than Sydney
- 81% more expensive than Lagos
The cost of living in Ghent
Ghent, or Gent, is the capital of East Flanders. It is also a port and university city.
According to Numbeo, the total cost of living in Ghent is around:
- 14% cheaper than Paris
- 13% cheaper than London
- 153% more expensive than Mumbai
- 34% cheaper than New York
- 22% cheaper than Sydney
- 73% more expensive than Lagos
Wages and salary in Belgium
The average gross income in Belgium is €3,832 per month.This places it at 21st in the world for average earnings. The minimum wage in Belgium is €1,879.13 per month for over-18s working full time, equating to €10.84 per hour. This monthly minimum wage is in line with surrounding countries; it is lower than neighboring Luxembourg (€2,313.38) but higher than Ireland and the Netherlands.
For more information, read about minimum wage and average salaries in Belgium.
Housing costs in Belgium
Rental costs in Belgium
Brussels has higher rent prices and more competition for rentals, especially from foreigners. In Brussels’ city center, prices average around €1,646.67 per month for a three-bedroom apartment. Although Antwerp has an overall higher cost of living, rent for the same kind of apartment is less, at around €1,300 per month.
Of the four main Belgian cities, Bruges is the cheapest for renting a three-bedroom apartment in the city center. There, you will only spend about €955 on average per month.
One thing to note when looking to rent in Belgium is that most contracts are for nine years. While this doesn’t mean you have to stay for nine years, it can sometimes be cheaper than a short-term contract.
Property prices in Belgium
If you want to buy property in Belgium, prices in the center of Brussels are around €4,000 per square meter. In central Antwerp, apartments cost an average of €3,205 per square meter. Property in the center of Gent costs, on average, €3,320 per square meter.
Domestic bills in Belgium
Utility bills in Belgium
The average price for utilities (electricity, water, heating, and garbage) for an 85-square-meter apartment in Belgium is around €175. Utility prices vary from city to city – you can expect them to cost closer to €197 a month if you live in Brussels.
Average utility costs in Belgium are:
- 8% more expensive than in France
- 21% cheaper than the UK
- 405% more expensive than India
- 5% more expensive than the United States
- 1% cheaper than Australia
- 88% more expensive than Nigeria
For more information, read about setting up utilities in Belgium.
Telecommunications in Belgium
Internet in Belgium costs an average of €49.95 per month for a connection of 60 Mbps or more. This price is likely to rise if you include other services such as television or a landline telephone. Internet service providers, coverage, speed, and costs also vary depending on where you’re living in Belgium.
Belgian internet is relatively expensive compared to other Western European countries, with Brussels and Antwerp ranking in the top ten for the most expensive internet bills.
Healthcare costs in Belgium
Everyone in Belgium must 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 in Belgium.
Although you generally pay upfront, a good portion of healthcare costs is reimbursed. Those with state insurance can opt for supplementary private insurance to get all the money back from treatments.
If you are employed by a company in Belgium, expect about 13% of your salary to go towards health insurance each year, deducted automatically. Your employer contributes another 25% to round out the cost.
Childcare costs in Belgium
Crèches (or kinderopvang in Dutch) in Belgium are the go-to option for working parents. There are both state-run and private Belgian childcare centers, although tax deductions are available for both. Many nurseries and nannies charge parents based on their income. On average, income-related childcare costs range between €5.24 and €29.09 per day of childcare.
If parents opt for non-income-related childcare, the cost will depend on the rate set by the nursery or childminder. On average, non-income-related childcare is more expensive than income-related childcare, with prices going up to €28–32 a day.
Everyone living in Belgium is entitled to child benefits. The monthly amounts for children born after 1 January 2020 are the following:
- Dutch-speaking Flanders: €169.79 per child
- French-speaking Wallonia: €164.49 per child
- German-speaking Community: €159.63 (first and second children), €296.89 for a third child
- Bilingual Brussels-Capital Region: €159.18 per child
Additional allowances based on age are added once the child reaches six years. Find out more in our guide to childcare in Belgium.
Study costs in Belgium
When it comes to the Belgian school system, public schooling is free, but there might be costs for trips and materials.
If you are considering a private or international school, tuition fees in Belgium range anywhere from €6,000 to €35,000 a year.
University in Belgium is also much cheaper than in the United States and many other countries. Students from Belgium and other EU countries pay fees of up to €835 a year, although students from non-EU countries typically pay considerably more.
Cost of food and drink in Belgium
Cost of groceries in Belgium
The average Belgian cost of monthly groceries is around €190 per person. Of course, this value depends on the supermarket, dietary requirements, and budget. Costs are similar to those in neighboring countries, but alcohol is often more expensive in Belgium.
Here are some of the average costs for products in Belgium:
- One liter of milk: €0.96
- Loaf of fresh white bread: €1.79
- 1kg rice: €1.87
- 12 eggs: €2.64
- 1kg cheese: €12.69
Restaurants in Belgium
Belgium, especially Brussels, is home to some excellent fine dining. But there are also plenty of affordable options. Inexpensive meals for one person range from €10–15. As a comparison, a McDonald’s value meal is about €9.
A mid-range restaurant offering a three-course meal for two generally costS about €50, up to around €120 per person or more in Belgium’s top restaurants. A service charge may automatically be added to your bill at a Belgian restaurant, so make sure to double-check before deciding whether to tip or not.
Beer, wine, and spirits in Belgium
Belgium is famous for its beer, so how much will one set you back? 0.5 liters of domestic beer on draught in a bar or restaurant costs about €4. Meanwhile, a 0.33 liter bottle of imported beer costs around €3.60. This is cheaper than some neighboring countries, given that beer costs about €5 in the Netherlands and about €6 in France.
Coffee in Belgium
A cappuccino in a restaurant or café in Belgium will cost you, on average, €3.04. This varies slightly from region to region; coffee in Flanders is around 50 cents more expensive than in Wallonia.
Transportation costs in Belgium
Public transport in Belgium
Most cities are well connected by public transport in Belgium. In major Belgian cities, a transport pass for the month costs around €30–57. These passes can be used on every mode of public transportation. A single fare usually usually costs approximately €2–3. Overall, this is cheaper than in Belgium’s neighboring countries.
Private transport in Belgium
Taxi rates start at around €5 in Brussels and are about €2 per kilometer after that. Driving in Belgium is common, with gas prices ranging from €1.64–2 per liter. If you want to buy your own car, a Volkswagen Golf or an equivalent new car will cost you around €25,000.
Leisure activities in Belgium
Clothing in Belgium
Clothing costs a similar price in Belgium to its neighbors. A dress in a high-street chain such as H&M or Zara costs, on average, €37.33. Mid-range jeans fetch an average of €84.72, while trainers come in around €83.57. Designer clothing varies greatly, but major designers charge similar prices to those in the rest of western Europe.
Sports and leisure in Belgium
Of course, you can keep fit in Belgium for (almost) free by going for a walk or run. But if you need a gym membership to stay motivated, this comes in at an average of €28.62. That’s much cheaper than other countries, such as Germany (€32.15) and France (€33.11). There are also plenty of sports clubs to get involved in.
A cinema ticket in Belgium costs around €12. Generally, leisure costs are slightly higher in Brussels than in the rest of the country.
Taxation in Belgium
Belgium is famous for having the highest tax rates in all of Europe, which contributes significantly to the cost of living in Belgium. Top earners pay 50% of their income. However, government reforms aim to reduce the Belgian income tax burden, and several tax deductions can be claimed.
Taxes start off at 25% on income up to €13,870 a year, with the highest tax being 50% on incomes of €42,370 or more. The state collects income and company tax, while municipal authorities handle municipal and property taxes.
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, 13.07% is taken from your salary, and your employer pays another 27%. If you are self-employed, you can also get social security but must register for it yourself.
Those who live and work in Belgium are also entitled to a pension. This is usually based on how much you earned, and the years you worked. If you are employed in Belgium, you have to pay into a state pension. Employees pay 7.5% of their wages into it, while employers pay 9%. You might also pay into an occupational or private pension.
Assistance with living costs in Belgium
Residents in Belgium are entitled to certain benefits should something happen that leaves them unable to earn their usual wage. Here is a short overview of the help available:
- Benefits in respect of accidents at work and occupational diseases
- Family benefits
- Invalidity benefits
- Long-term care
- Maternity and paternity benefits
- Old-age pensions and benefits
- Sickness benefit
- Survivor’s benefit
- Right to social integration
Bear in mind that to claim these benefits, you might need to meet certain criteria. For example, some are age-dependent. Most benefits also have an upper limit for the amount you can claim. In some cases, it is also possible to combine benefits if you have been paying social insurance in other European Economic Area countries.