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. This guide will help you navigate living costs from healthcare and food to housing and transportation. This guide to the cost of living in Belgium includes:
- General cost of living and standards of living in Belgium
- Wages and salary in Belgium
- Housing costs in Belgium
- Cost of domestic bills in Belgium
- Healthcare costs in Belgium
- Childcare costs in Belgium
- Study costs in Belgium
- Cost of food and drink in Belgium
- Transport costs in Belgium
- Leisure costs in Belgium
- Taxation and social security in Belgium
- Social security and pension costs in Belgium
- Assistance with living costs in Belgium
- Useful resources
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 among the top 15 countries in the world in terms of standard of living, according to the OECD. 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 14% of the population is at risk of poverty (AROP). This includes people earning below €1,284 per month. Brussels has the highest AROP rate (27.8%), then Wallonia (18.2%), and finally Flanders (9.3%).
Cost of living in Brussels
The standard of living in Brussels remains high, and housing and public transportation costs are generally lower than neighboring European cities. In fact, Brussels was ranked 28th in Mercer’s 2019 quality of living survey.
The total cost of living in Brussels is estimated to be:
- 15% more expensive than Madrid
- 13% cheaper than Munich
- About the same as Rome
- 21% cheaper than Paris
- 31% cheaper than London
- 43% cheaper than New York
Cost of living in Bruges
Bruges, or Brugge, is the famous capital of West Flanders, a province in the Flemish part of Belgium.
The total cost of living in Bruges is estimated to be:
- 13% more expensive than Madrid
- 4% cheaper than Rome
- 15% cheaper than Munich
- 23% cheaper than Paris
- 33% cheaper than London
- 45% cheaper than New York
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.
The total cost of living in Antwerp is around:
- 8% more expensive than Madrid
- 8% cheaper than Rome
- 18% cheaper than Munich
- 26% cheaper than Paris
- 36% cheaper than London
- 47% cheaper than New York
Cost of living in Ghent
Ghent, or Gent, is the capital of East Flanders. It is also a port and university city.
The total cost of living in Ghent is around:
- 7% more expensive than Madrid
- 20% cheaper than Munich
- 27% cheaper than Paris
- 37% cheaper than London
- 58% cheaper than New York
Wages and salary in Belgium
The average yearly salary in Belgium is €62,079, but the most typical salary is €42,823. This places it at 11th in the world for average earnings. Minimum wage in Belgium is €1,625.72 per month for over-18s working full time, equating to €9.87 per hour. This monthly minimum wage is in line with surrounding countries; it is slightly lower than the neighboring Netherlands (€1,684.80) but higher than France and Germany.
For more information, read about minimum wage and average salaries in Belgium.
Housing costs in Belgium
Rental costs in Belgium
Alternatively, expats might choose to rent a serviced apartments on a monthly basis through a property portal such as BBF, which has flats in Brussels and other cities in Belgium.
Brussels has higher rent prices and more competition for rentals, especially from foreigners. In Brussels’ city center, prices average around €1,530 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 €1,150 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 €1,050 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. Read more in our guides to renting in Belgium or renting in Brussels.
Property prices in Belgium
If you want to buy property in Belgium, prices in the center of Brussels are around €3,700 per square meter. In Antwerp city center, apartments cost an average of €2,900 per square meter. Property in the center of Gent costs, on average, €3110 per square meter. Read more about buying property in Belgium.
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 €144. Utility prices vary from city to city – you can expect them to cost about €136 a month if you live in Brussels, but they can reach up to €200 in some cities.
Average utility costs in Belgium are:
- 21% more expensive than in Spain.
- Comparable to the United States
- 5% cheaper than in France
- 20% cheaper than in the UK
- 36% cheaper than in Germany
Not sure how to get water, gas, and electricity in Belgium? Read our guide to setting up utilities in Belgium.
Telecommunications in Belgium
Internet in Belgium costs an average of €47 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. Indeed, many Belgian cities rank in the top ten for highest internet bills. Read our guide to setting up TV, home phone, and internet in Belgium for more information.
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 insurances 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 will contribute another 25% to round out the cost. Read more about health insurance in Belgium.
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.
Childcare costs vary depending on which part of Belgium you are in and your personal income. In Flanders, expect to pay between €1.30 and €23 a day per child. Meanwhile, the prices are slightly higher in French-speaking Wallonia, at around €2–28 per day. Keep in mind that this is based on household income and is tax-deductible to an extent.
Everyone living in Belgium is entitled to child benefits. The monthly amounts for children born after 1st January 2020 are the following:
- Dutch-speaking Flanders: €163.20 per child
- French-speaking Wallonia: €158.10 per child
- German-speaking Community: €157 (first and second children), €292 for a third child
- Bilingual Brussels-Capital Region: €153 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
Public schools in Belgium may seem tricky to navigate at first, but our guide to the Belgian school system can help you. 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 €30,000 a year.
University in Belgium is also much cheaper than in the United States and many other countries. Students from other EU countries pay an annual fee of around €500–€600, 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 and about 16% of households’ monthly budget. Of course, this 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: €0.90
- Loaf of fresh white bread: €1.68
- 1kg rice: €1.88
- 12 eggs: €2.59
- 1kg cheese: €12.40
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, with a half-liter of commercial beer costing around €4. As a comparison, a McDonald’s value meal is about €9, and a cappuccino is around €2.90.
A mid-range restaurant offering a three-course meal for two will generally cost about €65, up to around €100 per person or more in Belgium’s top restaurants. A 10–15% service charge will be automatically added to your bill, so you do not need to tip unless you want to.
Beer, wine, and spirits in Belgium
Belgium is famous for its beer, so how much will one set you back? For 0.5l of domestic beer on draught in a bar or restaurant, you’ll pay about €4. Meanwhile, a 33cl bottle of imported beer costs around €3.60. This is cheaper than some neighboring countries; beer costs €4–4.50 in the Netherlands and €5–6 in France.
Coffee in Belgium
A cappuccino in a restaurant or café in Belgium will cost you, on average, €2.89. This varies slightly from region to region; coffee in Flanders is around 50 cents more expensive than in Wallonia. Coffee in nearby countries costs around the same.
Transport 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 €35–€50. These passes can be used on every mode of public transportation. A single fare usually costs approximately €2–€3.
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 €1.20–€1.40 per liter. If you want to buy your own car, a Volkswagen Golf will cost you around €25,000, which is:
- €2,000 more expensive than in Germany, the UK, and France
- €1,000 more expensive than in the Netherlands
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, €39.24. Mid-range jeans fetch an average of €86.47, while trainers come in around €85.40. 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 €27.38. That’s much cheaper than other countries, such as Germany (€30.30) and France (€33.21). There are also plenty of sports clubs to get involved in.
A cinema ticket in Belgium costs around €11. 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, compared to 45% in other European countries. 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 €13,540 a year, with the highest tax being 50% on incomes of €41,360 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% is taken from your salary, and your employer pays another 24%. 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 8.9%. You might also pay into an occupational or private pension. More is explained in our guide to Belgian pensions.
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.