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.
The cost of living in the Netherlands is typically lower than its western European neighbours, while still offering an excellent quality of life, although the cost of living in Amsterdam is significantly different to elsewhere in the country.
While the Netherlands’ cost of living might not be described as ‘cheap’, this charming and enigmatic piece of western Europe is still relatively affordable – with the exception of the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, as mentioned. In the OECD Better Life Index, Netherlands also performs well for general well-being and ranks 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 EUR 25,440, 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, and at more affordable rates than the Dutch capital, for example, Utrecht, Amstelveen, The Hague or 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 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 EUR 7 and EUR 12 for lunch in an average bar, café or restaurant or up to EUR 5 for a sandwich or bakery snack. To compare the Netherlands’ cost of living, a McDonalds value meal is EUR 7, a cup of coffee is around EUR 3 to EUR 3.5 and a pint of beer is between EUR 3 and EUR 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 center, 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 as:
- 30 percent higher than Madrid, with rent prices 62 percent higher
- 12 percent higher than Munich, with rent prices 19 percent higher
- 2 percent lower than Paris, with rent prices 11 percent lower
- 5 percent lower than Singapore, with rent prices 29 percent lower
- 6 percent lower than London, with rent prices 34 percent lower
- 18 percent lower than New York, with rent prices 52 percent lower
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 as:
- 21 percent higher than Madrid, with rent prices 25 percent higher
- 14 percent higher than Berlin, with rent prices 32 percent lower
- 1 percent lower than Singapore, with rent prices 46 percent lower
- 9 percent lower than Paris, with rent prices 15 percent lower
- 12 percent lower than London, with rent prices 49 percent lower
- 24 percent lower than New York, with rent prices 63 percent lower
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 as:
- 16 percent higher than Madrid, with rent prices 5 percent lower
- slightly higher than Munich, with rent prices 30 percent lower
- 10 percent lower than Amsterdam, with rent prices 42 percent lower
- 12 percent lower than Paris, with rent prices 35 percent lower
- 15 percent lower than Singapore, with rent prices 59 percent lower
- 15 percent lower than London, with rent prices 61 percent lower
- 26 percent lower than New York, with rent prices 72 percent lower
As the seat of the International Justice Court and the location of many embassies and NGOs, the cost of living in The Hague can be pricey in certain Den Haag neighbourhoods. However, Living in The Hague offers a good life quality, a spattering of international schools and Michelen-starred dining.
The cost of living in The Hague is estimated as:
- 21 percent higher than Madrid, with rent prices 2 percent higher
- 14 percent higher than Berlin, with rent prices 8 percent higher
- 7 percent lower than Amsterdam, with rent prices 37 percent lower
- 9 percent lower than Paris, with rent prices 30 percent lower
- 12 percent lower than London, with rent prices 58 percent lower
- 24 percent lower than New York, with rent prices 70 percent lower
- 45 percent lower than Zurich, with rent prices 52 percent lower
Outside 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 since 2015 to gradually return to peak prices reached in 2008 when the country experienced a housing boom. 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 non-urban areas can be much cheaper and still well-connected by rail and road.
For example, a one-bedroom apartment to rent in Amsterdam can range from EUR 900–1,700 a month while three-bedrooms in central Amsterdam neighbourhoods start from around EUR 2,300 although Amsterdam’s surburbs can be almost half that.
Living in The Hague (Den Haag) is significantly less expensive than Amsterdam with prices starting at around EUR 750 for a one-bedroom apartment in the center up to some EUR 1,550 for three bedrooms. In other popular Dutch cities including Rotterdam, Utrecht, Amstelveen and Haarlem, expats can expect to pay slightly less. Executive home rentals start from around EUR 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 percent of the natives speak English to a good standard.
If you are considering buying property in the Netherlands, a one-bedroom apartment in Amsterdam city centre can be anywhere upwards of EUR 125,000. A typical two-bedroom apartment costs between EUR 200,000–250,000. Nationally the average house price in the Netherlands is around EUR 242,000.
You will also need to add the cost of a Dutch mortgage, home insurance (EUR 45–65 a month), transfer tax (2 percent of property price) and utility costs. Average utility costs for a three-bedroom Dutch home is around EUR 250. Expats should budget at least EUR 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 EUR 300 and EUR 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. You will pay EUR 0.20 per Kwh although dual tariffs reduce the cost of utility bills. Expats should budget around EUR 120 a month for a standard apartment and around EUR 200 if you have several bedrooms. Water costs are much cheaper when measured with a water meter; you can expect to pay around EUR 50 a year. Without a water meter, bills are calculated on the number of inhabitants and the type of property. Bills can be calculated as high as EUR 450. Residents also pay a sewerage charge of EUR 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 in Amsterdam city tax is EUR 235, or EUR 313 for multiple occupancy.
There is no fee for a TV license in the Netherlands, but there are also few channels. Most Dutch internet companies offer broadband packages which include internet, phone and TV starting from EUR 25–50 a month. Read more in our guide to Dutch communications and compare prices here or at www.prijsvergelijken.nl.
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 also a comprehensive system including trams, buses, metro and trains. A single fare on the tram, bus or metro in the Netherlands costs EUR 2.90, but your ticket is valid for multiple modes of public transport (other than trains) within one hour of stamping your ticket. Multi-day tickets range from EUR 7.50 to EUR 34.
The most common way of paying for public transport throughout the Netherlands is the plastic OV-chip card. An empty card costs EUR 7.50 but last for 4 or 5 years and is a more cost-effective solution than buying disposable tickets. OV-chip cards can be topped up online, at stations, from OV-chipkaart vending machines and tourist information offices.
Taxi prices in the Netherlands vary considerably. The cheapest city is Groningen where the starting tariff is EUR 2.97 and EUR 2 per 1km after that. Amsterdam and The Hague are surprisingly average at EUR 3.50 and EUR 2.10 per kilometre. At the top end of the scale is Utrecht (EUR 7 and EUR 2.05 per 1km), Haarlem (EUR 7.50 and EUR 2.13 per 1km) and Maastricht (EUR 7.75 and EUR 2).
Staple foods are not overly expensive in the Netherlands. General supermarkets such as Albert Heijn and Dirk 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 percent. As a general rule, expat families should budget around EUR 300–500 per month for basic grocery shopping. Singles can live off around EUR 200–250 euro a month if they don’t smoke or drink.
Cost of dining out in the Netherlands
Dining out in the Netherlands is affordable if you stick to the 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 budget lunch costs around EUR 5–11, while a standard evening meal can cost between EUR 8 to EUR 17 euro per person in a cheap restaurant and around EUR 25 per person in an average restaurant. If you have a couple of beers or a glass of wine add EUR 10 euros on.
If you budget for between EUR 30 and EUR 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 EUR 2.80, with a house wine costing around EUR 5. Tips are not included in the bill and are typically up to 10 percent, while 15 percent 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 EUR 100 per month, in exchange for free or subsidised primary care including the cost of prescription medicines. Comprehensive packages are available up to a maximum of EUR 385. If you are a member of the EU and only plan 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 EUR 1,950 per year for EU students, with typically higher fees non-EU students, plus EUR 2,000 for books. MBA programs average between EUR 40,000 and EUR 50,000. The Dutch Immigration and Neutralisation Service (IND) estimates students need a minimum of EUR 10,412 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, dominantly in English. Tuition fees start from EUR 5,000 to EUR 16,000 a year. Click for a full list if international schools in the Netherands.
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 EUR 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 EUR 650 and EUR 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 EUR 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 EUR 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 income and middle earners. There are also special tax breaks for non-resident taxpayers, including the Dutch 30 percent rule. The percentage of Dutch income tax is based on earnings and includes worldwide income as follows:
- Singles earning up EUR 19,922 – 8.4 percent
- Singles earning EUR 19,923–33,715 – 12.25 percent
- Singles earning EUR 33,716–66.421 – 40.40 percent
- Singles earning over EUR 66.421 – 52 percent
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. The maximum deductions are 46.12 percent of annual salaries, 18.47 percent of which is paid by employers. Read more on the costs of social security in the Netherlands.
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