Find out if you can use your mobile phone in Netherlands as a foreigner or need a Dutch sim card. Compare Duch mobile operators and learn how to get a Dutch mobile number.
With more than 18 million mobile users out of a population of some 17 million, there is excellent 4G coverage and a wide choice of mobile operators in the Netherlands. Most Dutch mobile operators offer Dutch SIM cards to foreigners, although most operators limit visitors without official residency to pre-paid Dutch SIM cards. Many international mobile phones will also work in the Netherlands, but some restrictions can apply.
The Netherlands is a leader in telecommunications services, with smartphones reaching a penetration rate of around 190 percent in 2017 as many users start to own multiple phones. The increased competition has created a range of affordable mobile services, although discounts tend to be focused in the contract and mobile plan sector rather than pre-paid SIM cards.
This guide explains who can use their mobile phone in the Netherlands or if you should consider getting a Dutch SIM card, plus comparisons on mobile operators in the Netherlands
and details about Dutch mobile numbers.
This guide includes:
Can I use my mobile phone in the Netherlands?
Most travellers and expats in the Netherlands can easily connect to the country’s mobile networks, with the exception being mobile phones that are not compatible with a GSM mobile network. Since KPN and Vodafone use a GSM 900 network and the others use a GSM 1800 network, most phones are designed to work on both.
GSM is widely used internationally except in countries such as Canada, some parts of the US and Japan, which use CDMA, however, some smartphones will work in the Netherlands (such as iPhones). As such, visitors from these countries may have to buy a pre-paid mobile phone in the Netherlands (starting from EUR 30–50 for basic models), or a world phone in their own country before travelling.
The alternative option is to ask your current mobile provider about roaming charges, although this can be an expensive option as calls and messages are charged at higher rates and users are also charged for incoming calls and text messages. If you come from another country in the EU, however, roaming charges were abolished in 2017, meaning you should be charged local rates while travelling in Europe, although you can confirm this with your provider.
If you have an unlocked mobile phone or are relocating to the Netherlands
long term, you can also opt to buy a Dutch SIM card (from EUR 5). To unlock your phone in the Netherlands, most mobile companies offer this service for a small fee if you have had your phone for more than a year. If you purchased your phone in the last 12 months you may be tied to your existing contract and will not be able to unlock your phone, in which case you also may need to buy a mobile phone in the Netherlands.
However, you can also check with your current mobile phone provider and ask what their policy is to unlock your phone. You may have to pay a charge to unlock your phone but, compared to roaming charges and buying a new phone, it still might be more cost-effective.
Comparing mobile operators in the Netherlands
There are numerous mobile operators in the Netherlands so the rivalry is fierce and mobile package deals typically offer good value for money. As such, it pays to shop around and compare mobile operators in the Netherlands, particularly the add-on benefits which is where they compete.
Some of the main mobile operators in the Netherlands include:
Mobile coverage is typically better in the larger cities, although rural areas rank close behind. Websites such as www.sensorly.com or www.nperf.com allow you to check the coverage of the main Dutch mobile operators in your area.
KPN ultimately has the best coverage although its closest competitors also rank well. For those living close to the border, however, choosing a larger provider can be the best option. Some networks don’t have strong connections in border towns and mobile phones tend to switch to Belgium or German connections, which cost more for making calls and sending text messages.
If you are staying in one of the major cities such as Amsterdam or Rotterdam, coverage and quality are relatively similar between the top Dutch mobile operators, while smaller companies tend to offer better coverage in the main cities. Some of the smaller companies offer lower prices for certain services, for example, Ben (www.ben.nl) only offers SIM only deals, while others such as Ortel Mobile (www.ortel.nl) offer cheap international calls.
Other mobile operators in the Netherlands include:
- Expat Mobile – www.expatmobile.nl (English website. No BSN or Dutch bank account necessary)
- Simpel – www.simpel.nl
- Youfone – www.youfone.nl
- Hi – www.hi.nl
- Lebara – www.lebara.nl
- Lyca Mobile – www.lycamobile.nl
- Robin Mobile – www.robinmobile.nl
- Simyo – www.simyo.nl (prepaid sim cards)
- AH Mobiel – www.ah.nl/mobiel (prepaid sim cards)
Besides Expatica’s tool for comparing Dutch mobile plans and SIM card deals, there are several online websites that allow you to compare call rates and other services of Dutch mobile operators:
Buying a SIM card in the Netherlands
If your existing handset is compatible with GSM networks, the most cost-effective way to use a mobile phone in the Netherlands is to purchase a Dutch SIM card. You can purchase SIM cards in the Netherlands from phone shops, grocery stores and convenience stores, although the latter typically only sell pre-paid Dutch SIM cards.
If your phone is unlocked, you have the freedom to choose any mobile operator in the Netherlands, although restrictions may apply if you are on an international network that has a presence in the Netherlands. For example, if you are arriving from Sweden and have a locked service with Tele2, you may be required to switch to the Tele2 mobile operator in the Netherlands.
Pre-paid SIM cards in the Netherlands
Pre-paid 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 option.
If you are 16 or 17, your only option is to purchase a pre-paid SIM card in the Netherlands as you are not permitted to subscribe to a mobile contract. Top-up cards are readily available in mobile phone shops and stores.
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.t
Mobile phone plans in the Netherlands
If you are planning to stay in the Netherlands long-term and regularly use your mobile, choosing a mobile phone plan or mobiele telefoon abonnement
in the Netherlands is the most cost-effective option.
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. Dutch mobile contracts are available for one, two and three years. The activation fee is typically included in the contract charges. Fees are deducted automatically from your account, and you also have the option of purchasing more phone minutes, SMS or internet data if you run up your monthly quota.
However, it should be noted that you have to be 18 years of age or older, provide proof of identity together with your permanent address in the Netherlands and your Dutch bank account details
. If you are a non-EU citizen, some companies charge a small deposit before allocating a Dutch mobile number.
You will typically be asked to show:
- An official form of identification (such as a passport)
- Proof of address
- Bank details and a bank statement.
Those presenting a foreign passport will only be accepted if they have an IND sticker or residence permit; those who are not official residents in the Netherlands will typically be limited to SIM only deals and pre-paid SIM cards in the Netherlands. The only exception is Expat Mobile
, a service that does not require these details.
Understanding Dutch mobile numbers
Telephone numbers in the Netherlands
are grouped into three categories: geographical numbers, non-geographical number 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, while 0800 are generally fee 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.
Using your Dutch mobile phone
- As with most other countries mobile phone service in the Netherlands include various products including calls, text messaging, email, messaging apps and internet browsing
- Most cafes, hotels, shops, restaurants, buses and trains have WiFi so connecting to the internet is widely available.
- Using a mobile phone while driving in the Netherlands or riding a bike is not permitted and can result in a hefty fine. In some circumstances, your mobile phone may be confiscated.
- 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.
- If you buy a mobile phone in the Netherlands, most are dual-band or tri-band and allow SMS, EMS, MMS, GPRS and UMTS.
Vocabulary for comparing Dutch mobile operators
- Minutes: Minuten
- Internetdata: Internet data
- Data in MBs: Data
- Internet speed: Internetsnelheid
- Contract duration: Contractduur
- Monthly: Maandelijks
- One-time-fee: Eenmalig
- Unlimited: Onbeperkt
- Average per month: Gem. p.m.
- The best sim only offers: De beste SIM Only aanbiedingen
- Providers: Providers