The cost of living in the Netherlands is relatively affordable for western Europe, although the cost of living in Amsterdam and other main Dutch cities is typically higher.
In the OECD Better Life Index, the Netherlands performs well for general well-being and ranks at the top in work-life balance. Earnings, housing and education are also ranked above the average, with the net-adjusted disposable income per household estimated at around €25,480, slightly below the global average. This guide explains in detail the different aspects of the cost of living the Netherlands.
This guide to the Netherlands’ living cost of living includes:
- General cost of living in the Netherlands
- Housing costs in the Netherlands
- Utility costs in the Netherlands
- Dutch public transport costs
- Food costs in the Netherlands
- Healthcare costs in the Netherlands
- Education, childcare and study costs in the Netherlands
- Dutch taxes and social security costs
In Mercer’s living standard survey, the only Dutch city to make the top 50 was Amsterdam. However, there are many cities in the Netherlands that offer expats a high standard of living, ample green spaces and quality public infrastructure at more affordable rates than the Dutch capital, including Utrecht, Amstelveen, The Hague and Haarlem.
The general cost of living in the Netherlands is typically cheaper than its western European counterparts, despite offering the same standard of quality for food, housing, utilities and public transport. Jobs are slightly less well paid than in France, UK, Belgium or Germany, but higher than Spain, Italy and Portugal.
Housing is a large part of the Netherlands’ cost of living for expats, due to high demand (and low supply) of quality rental properties, especially influencing the cost of living in Amsterdam. For students and singles on a modest salary, house sharing is the best option, but you can’t always guarantee the conditions are what you are accustomed to in your own country. Read more about finding student accommodation.
Food, on the other hand, is typically an affordable expense when budgeting the cost of living in the Netherlands. On average, you should expect to pay between €8 and €15 for lunch in an average bar, café or restaurant or up to €5 for a sandwich or bakery snack. To compare the Netherlands’ cost of living, a McDonald’s value meal is €7.50, a cup of coffee is around €3 to €3.5 and a pint of beer is between €3.50 and €5.
Other typical expenses in the Netherlands include buying a bicycle, which can be an essential investment for saving money on public transport or owning your own car.
Amsterdam is the official capital of the Netherlands although not the political centre, which is based in The Hague. Known as the ‘Big Village’ to the locals, Amsterdam’s network of canals makes an idyllic setting to call home.
However, its popularity means Amsterdam’s cost of living is significantly higher than other parts of the country, with rent prices higher than comparable cities in Europe, although it depends on which neighbourhood in Amsterdam you choose. Living in Amsterdam’s central areas is particularly expensive, pushing residents to seek out accommodation in Amsterdam’s suburbs, such as Amstelveen.
The cost of living in Amsterdam is estimated to be:
- 36% more expensive than Madrid
- 16% more expensive than Munich
- About the same as Paris
- 17% cheaper than London
- 23% cheaper than New York
Utrecht’s close proximity to Amsterdam, good transport links and student population have influenced the popularity of living in Utrecht, but also have pushed up the cost of living in Utrecht.
The cost of living in Utrecht is estimated to be:
- 22% more expensive than Madrid
- 12% more expensive than Berlin
- 11% cheaper than Paris
- 26% cheaper than London
- 31% cheaper than New York
Rotterdam’s changing landscape, unique architecture and affordable prices are increasingly attracting more foreigners to live in Rotterdam.
The cost of living in Rotterdam has traditionally been lower than other main Dutch cities, but Rotterdam’s cost of living is rising as the city continues to focus on developing luxury facilities.
The cost of living in Rotterdam is estimated to be:
- 17% more expensive than Madrid
- 8% more expensive than Berlin
- 14% cheaper than Paris
- 29% cheaper than London
- 34% cheaper than New York
As the seat of the International Court of Justice and the location of many embassies and non-governmental organisations, the cost of living in The Hague can be pricey in certain neighbourhoods. However, living in The Hague offers a good quality of life, a spattering of international schools and Michelin-starred dining.
The cost of living in The Hague is estimated to be:
- 23% more expensive than Madrid
- 13% more expensive than Berlin
- 10% cheaper than Paris
- 25% cheaper than London
- 30% cheaper than New York
Outside of the main Dutch cities, the cost of living in the Netherlands is typically lower. Read more about:
- Living in Delft
- Living in Eindhoven
- Living in Groningen
- Living in Haarlem
- Living in Leeuwarden
- Living in Leiden
- Living in Maastricht
House prices in the Netherlands have surged in the last few years, and as a result, finding affordable accommodation in the main Dutch cities can be a challenge.
Amsterdam and The Hague have the highest rent prices and, because of the huge demand, competition is fierce. Living in less urbanised areas can be much cheaper and still well-connected by rail and road.
Living in The Hague (Den Haag in Dutch) is significantly less expensive than Amsterdam with prices ranging from around €900-€1,750 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. In other popular Dutch cities including Rotterdam, Utrecht, Amstelveen and Haarlem, expats can expect to pay slightly less. Executive home rentals start from around €2,500 depending on location and city.
The Netherlands is a nation of home owners and buying property can be complicated for expats. It is advisable to seek assistance from an English-speaking intermediary even though over 90% of the natives speak English to a good standard.
If you are considering buying property in the Netherlands, how much you’ll spend depends largely on the area you’re buying in. For example, the average property price in Amsterdam is now more than £450,000, but the overall average price of a home in the Netherlands is €300,000.
You will also need to add the cost of a Dutch mortgage, home insurance (€45–€65 a month), transfer tax (2% of property price) and utility costs. Average utility costs for a three-bedroom Dutch home is around €250. Expats should budget at least €1,500 a year for energy bills.
However, many expats rent in the Netherlands instead. A typical upfront cost is the security deposit, generally one or two month’s rent, paid to the landlord. Some rental contracts include running costs as well.
Students moving to the Netherlands can find cheaper accommodation through their university. Most universities have accommodation projects which dramatically reduces the rent fees and makes it easier for students to find suitable accommodation. You should expect to pay between €300 and €450 a month, but will have to share with three or four other students. Read how to find student housing in Amsterdam.
Gas and electric in the Netherlands is fairly expensive and can increase the cost of living in the Netherlands. Expats should budget around €120–€150 for these utilities each month.
Water costs are much cheaper when measured with a water meter; you can expect to pay around €50 per year. Without a water meter, bills are calculated on the number of inhabitants and the type of property. Residents also pay a sewerage charge of €130 a year. Read more about utilities in the Netherlands.
In addition, there are council tax fees which cover the cost of emergency services and refuse collection. For a single-occupancy dwelling in Amsterdam, the municipal tax is €235; for a multiple-occupancy home, the amount rises to €313.
There is no fee for a television license in the Netherlands, but there are also few channels. Most Dutch Internet companies offer broadband packages that include Internet, phone and television starting from €25–€50 a month. Read more in our guide to Dutch telecommunications or compare prices on Breedband Winkel or Prijs Vergelijken.
The best way to get around most Dutch cities is by bicycle. Even the major cities like Amsterdam and The Hague are fairly compact and a pleasure to cycle around.
Public transport in the Netherlands is comprehensive, including networks of trams, buses, metro and trains. A single fare on the tram, bus or metro in the Netherlands costs €3, but your ticket is valid for multiple modes of public transport (other than trains) within one hour of validating your ticket. Multi-day tickets range from €7.50 to €34.
The most common way of paying for public transport throughout the Netherlands is the plastic OV-chip card (OV-chipkaart in Dutch). An empty card costs €7.50 and is valid for five years and is a more cost-effective solution than buying disposable tickets. OV-chip cards can be topped up online, at stations, from vending machines and tourist information offices.
Taxi prices in the Netherlands vary considerably. The cheapest city is Groningen, where the starting tariff is around €3 and €2 per kilometre after that. Amsterdam and The Hague are surprisingly average at €3.50 and €2.10 per kilometre. At the top end of the scale is Utrecht, where fares start at €7 and cost €2.05 per kilometre.
Staple foods are not overly expensive in the Netherlands. General supermarkets such as Albert Heijn and Dirk van den Broek stock a good supply of everyday foods that are typically less expensive than specialist stores.
If you have a smaller food budget, head for Aldi and Lidl or the street markets where you can save between 10 and 15%. As a general rule, expat families should budget around €300–€500 per month for basic grocery shopping, while singles will be able to live off significantly less.
Cost of dining out in the Netherlands
Dining out in the Netherlands is affordable if you stick to the more modest restaurants. The cosmopolitan choice of restaurants in most cities provides plenty of competition, but dining out can be expensive in Amsterdam and The Hague.
A standard evening meal can cost between €10 to €17 per person in a cheap restaurant and around €25 per person in an average restaurant. If you have a couple of beers or a glass of wine, add €10 on.
If you budget between €30 and €40 per person, you can expect to dine in a nice restaurant with a bottle of wine. Beers are typically sold in half pints (0.25L) and cost around €3, with a house wine costing around €5. Tips are not included in the bill and are typically up to 10%, while 15% or more is considered generous.
The healthcare system in the Netherlands is exceptionally high quality and funded by a compulsory insurance scheme. Both EU and non-EU official residents are required by law to take out Dutch health insurance, which includes Zorgverzekeringswet, basic insurance which covers standard medical care procedures, and Wet Langdurige Zorg which covers long-term nursing care.
The cost of a basic health insurance package starts at around €100 per month, in exchange for free or subsidised primary care including the cost of prescription medicines. If you are an EU citizen and are only planning a short-term stay in the Netherlands, you can get the same level of care through your European Health Insurance Card.
The cost of education in the Netherlands is comparable to other EU countries and the US, but obviously it depends on the school choice.
Public schools are free and universities in the Netherlands offer affordable courses starting at around €2,060 per year for EU students, with typically higher fees non-EU students. MBA programs average between €40,000 and €50,000. The Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) estimates students need a minimum of €10,500 a year to cover living expenses in the Netherlands plus health insurance.
All the major cities in the Netherlands also have international schools, which offer bilingual classes, predominantly in English. Tuition fees generally range between €5,000 to €16,000 a year. Click for a full list of international schools in the Netherlands.
Cost of childcare in the Netherlands
Children up to the age of four can be left in a daycare or nursery school, where fees average around €750 a month for the first child, with a discount usually given to the second child.
Once children attend school at age five, there are organisations and school minders that provide after-school care for the convenience of working parents. Fees are typically between €650 and €800.
Another option is to leave your children with a host parent. A gastouder is typically a mother that has young children of her own and looks after other children in her home, charging around €6–€12 per hour.
The less expensive option is to hire an au pair. By law, au pairs have to be paid a minimum of €325 a month for 30 hours work a week and be given food and shelter.
Read more in our guide to childcare in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands has some of the highest taxes in the world for top earners, but some of the most reasonable for low- and middle-income earners. There are also special tax breaks for non-resident taxpayers, including the Dutch 30% rule. The percentage of Dutch income tax is based on earnings and includes worldwide income as follows:
- Up to €20,384: 36.65%
- €20,384–€68,507: 38.1%
- €68,507+: 51.75%
- Up to €68,507: 38.1%
- €68,507+: 51.75%
Read more in our detailed guide on taxes in the Netherlands.
Social security and pension costs in the Netherlands
Social security in the Netherlands and the Dutch pension are deducted directly from your salary. Contributions are made by both you and your employer in accordance with your earnings. Social security contributions cover National Insurance, employee insurance and medical insurance which go towards your retirement pension, unemployment benefits, sick benefits, disability benefits and widows pension.
In 2019, the maximum deductions are 46.61% of annual salaries, 18.96% of which is paid by employers. Read more on the costs of social security in the Netherlands.