Just moved to the Netherlands? Get connected with your new friends and colleagues with this guide to getting a mobile phone and SIM card in the Netherlands.
With more mobile phones than people, it’s safe to say the Dutch love being connected at all times. It’s not surprising, either, given that the Netherlands is one of the world leaders when it comes to telecommunications. Furthermore, it boasts excellent 4G coverage and plenty of mobile operators.
This increased competition has pushed operators to create a range of affordable mobile services that are perfect for expats and visitors alike. But with so much choice, finding the right SIM can be confusing. To help you out, this helpful guide to getting a mobile phone in the Netherlands including the following information:
- The mobile network in the Netherlands
- Can I use my mobile phone in the Netherlands?
- Mobile phone operators in the Netherlands
- Prepaid vs mobile contracts
- Mobile phone plans in the Netherlands
- Prepaid SIM cards in the Netherlands
- Dutch mobile phone numbers
- Repairing a mobile phone in the Netherlands
- Dutch mobile phone laws
- Useful Resources
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The mobile network in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is home to one of the best mobile networks in Europe. It uses the GSM mobile network, instead of the CDMA network. This means that generally speaking, foreign visitors to the country will have little problem connecting to the Dutch network. Even if you’re arriving from a country that uses the CDMA network, your smartphone will still likely work in the Netherlands.
When it comes to networks, the vast majority of the Netherlands has 4G or 4G+ connectivity. From the islands in the north to the hills of the southern provinces, you should be able to connect to 4G wherever you are. The only exception to this being certain rural areas – particularly to the north and east of the country – where you’ll be able to connect to 3G.
In 2020, the Dutch government plan to start auctioning frequencies on which mobile operators can provide 5G around the country.
Wi-Fi connectivity in the Netherlands
Generally speaking, public Wi-Fi is not widely available in the Netherlands. However, Wi-Fi is often accessible in public buildings and institutions, including local government offices, museums, and many public transport services. If you’re looking to set-up Wi-Fi at home, read our Guide to setting up TV, home phone, and internet in the Netherlands.
Most visitors and expats arriving in the Netherlands will find it easy to connect to the country’s mobile networks. The only exception are those traveling from a country that uses the CDMA – including Japan, parts of the US, and Canada. However, many smartphones will still connect on arrival although you should check with your operator beforehand on the costs you can expect to face.
Should your phone not be able to connect to the Dutch network, you can purchase a pre-paid mobile on arrival. These start at €30 for the most basic models. Alternatively, you can pick up a world phone in your own country before traveling. If you’re staying a little longer, you might want to consider buying a secondhand smartphone to keep you connected. On sites like Refurbished.nl, you’ll be able to pick up a refurbished smartphone while doing your bit for the environment.
Roaming charges within the EU were abolished in 2017. This means that EU residents arriving in the Netherlands will likely find they can use their phone at the same rates they would enjoy at home; including data usage. However, you should double-check this with your operator before you travel to avoid any unexpected charges.
If you’re moving to the Netherlands – or planning a longer-term stay – you may want to buy a Dutch SIM card or even a brand-new phone. There are plenty of mobile operators to choose from. Many offer a range of deals depending on usage and budget. Some, including KPN and Vodafone, also offer discounts should you choose to take out another service, such as home internet or TV.
There are many mobile operators in the Netherlands so competition is fierce and mobile package deals typically offer good value for money. As such, it pays to shop around. It’s also a good idea to compare mobile operators as many offer add-on benefits.
Mobile operators in the Netherlands include:
Vodafone is the second-biggest operator and offers mobile discounts when you take out TV and internet with Ziggo. Alongside T-Mobile and Tele2, all four of the biggest Dutch mobile operators claim almost total 4G coverage of the Netherlands. So, you’ll always be able to stay in touch.
Comparing Dutch mobile phone operators
Still not sure what operator to choose? Thankfully, there are plenty of options when it comes to comparing mobile phone plans and tariffs. These comparison sites can give you a better idea of what type of plans you can choose from, and many have additional deals for new customers:
If you’re still not sure of which operator to choose – or simply want someone else to take the stress out of setting up your mobile phone – why not choose a set-up service? Expat-friendly specialists such as Partner Pete can help find the right provider for you and set you up with a brand new SIM.
Mobile phone coverage in the Netherlands
Mobile coverage in the Netherlands is typically better in the larger cities, however, rural Dutch areas are surprisingly well connected when compared to other countries. If you want to check coverage before buying, visit www.nperf.com and check your local area.
KPN generally has the best coverage throughout the Netherlands, although its closest competitors also rank well. For those living close to the border, choosing a larger provider can be the best option. Some networks don’t have strong connections in border towns. This means mobile phones tend to switch to Belgium or German connections, which can see you end up paying more for calls and data.
Alternatively, if you are moving to one of the major cities such as Amsterdam or Rotterdam, you might find one of the smaller operators is a better fit for your needs.
Prepaid vs mobile contracts
Expats arriving in the Netherlands have the choice between a prepaid SIM card and a mobile phone contract. If your phone is unlocked and compatible with the Dutch network, you have the freedom to choose an operator. If your previous operator has a presence in the Netherlands, it may be preferable to stay with the same company.
Prepaid SIMs are generally the easier option. With these, you’ll be able to make calls, send text messages, and use mobile data. This is particularly popular for expats who already own a phone and simply want a Dutch SIM card to get by. It also offers users more freedom as it doesn’t involve signing up for a lengthy contract.
However, others will prefer the security and cost advantages of a mobile contract. Generally speaking, your calls, texts, and data will work out cheaper on a contract if you use your phone a lot. This can be a good option if you’re planning on staying in the Netherlands long-term or want the latest smartphone.
Mobile phone contracts in the Netherlands offer cheaper rates than pre-paid SIM cards and typically include great deals on unlimited calls, text, and internet use. These deals can be even better if you opt for a mobile package that includes TV, home phone, and internet connection. These are available from the bigger providers, including KPN and Vodafone.
Dutch mobile contracts are either SIM-only or include a handset and are available for one, two, and three years. Monthly charges will depend on usage and contract, although an activation fee will typically be applied. This is either as a one-off charge or included in your monthly payments. These payments are collected from your bank account. You can also purchase additional minutes or data should you use up your monthly allowance.
How to get a mobile phone contract in the Netherlands
Signing up for a Dutch mobile phone contract can be done easily online or in-store. If you order online, your SIM card and/or handset should be delivered to your home address within a week. To sign up, you will likely need to provide the following:
- proof of identity, to show you are over 18
- address in the Netherlands
- Dutch bank account for payment
If you don’t already have a Dutch bank account, you can sign up for one in minutes with a mobile banking app such as bunq or Moneyou. If you’re moving to the Netherlands, you will find that many utility providers only accept Dutch bank accounts.
Should you not want to open a Dutch bank account or are unable to provide a local address, you can still get a Dutch SIM card from Expat Mobile. This is the only company that doesn’t require these details and is a popular option for expats and visitors alike.
Prepaid SIM cards in the Netherlands give you more freedom, but charges are more expensive than a contract. However, if you don’t expect to use your mobile phone in the Netherlands much, pre-paid SIMs are the better and easier option. If you’re under 18, this is your only option because, in the Netherlands, you are unable to sign up for a mobile contract.
Getting a SIM card in the Netherlands is quick and easy. You can buy one online or in a mobile phone shop. Bear in mind that you’ll need a Dutch address to receive the SIM card should you order it online. You can also pick up a prepaid SIM in some supermarkets and most convenience stores. These stores will often display the name of a phone operator outside, such as Lebara. Here you’ll be able to buy a SIM card and have a working phone connection in minutes.
Once you have a prepaid SIM, topping up is simple. You can either top-up in a mobile phone shop or at most convenience stores and supermarkets. Alternatively, you can top-up online or using your phone.
It is generally possible to switch from a pre-paid SIM card to a plan for free, with some Dutch mobile operators also deducting any unused pre-paid credit from your first invoice.
Dutch mobile phone numbers
Telephone numbers in the Netherlands are grouped into three categories: geographical numbers, non-geographical numbers, and public services.
Mobile numbers in the Netherlands are classed as non-geographical numbers. They have nine digits and require a dialing trunk code that starts with 06.
To call a mobile phone in the Netherlands from abroad, you have to use the international mobile code and drop the first zero:
- 0031 6 followed by the 7-digit mobile phone number
- +316 if dialing from another mobile phone.
Calling any of the Dutch emergency numbers is typically free, and some emergency numbers will still work even if you don’t have a Dutch SIM card or functioning international SIM. Numbers beginning with 0900 tend to be particularly expensive from a mobile. Those that start with 0800 are generally free although your Dutch mobile operator may charge a connection fee.
In some cases it is possible to keep the same Dutch mobile number, even if you transfer to a different mobile operator. You will keep the same Dutch mobile number if you remain with the same mobile operator, even if you change plans.
Repairing a mobile phone in the Netherlands
Has your mobile phone taken a tumble? Or maybe it just doesn’t work like it used to. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to get your smartphone repaired in the Netherlands. Some operators will be able to provide repair services if you take your phone into one of their stores. Manufacturers like Apple will also offer this instore service.
Alternatively, you’ll be able to find mobile phone repair shops in most major towns and cities. Search online for the most convenient location and take your phone along to the professionals.
Dutch mobile phone laws
When visiting or moving to a new country, it’s essential to understand the local laws of the land. Here are some of the things you need to know when it comes to using your phone in the Netherlands:
- As with most other countries, using a mobile phone while driving in the Netherlands is against the law and can result in a hefty fine or suspension.
- Since 2019, it’s also against the law to use a mobile phone (or any handheld electronic mobile device) while riding a bike. You could face a fine of around €100, so keep your phone in your bag.
- If your mobile phone is stolen, you should report it immediately to both your Dutch mobile operator and the police to not be charged for any calls made.
- Some mobile operators in the Netherlands do not allow non-EU citizens to sign a long-term contract.