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Living in the Netherlands

What You Should Know About Living Costs and More in the Netherlands

Which of the popular stereotypes about the Netherlands are actual facts about the country? Are they really that direct and frugal? Do they actually love the color orange so much? Find out all about it in this practical overview of the country.

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When considering the practicalities of moving to the Netherlands, one definitely thinks of the cost of living. Living in the country is rather expensive, especially when it comes to housing prices. Groceries, health insurance, and utilities and communications costs add up quite a bit as well, so managing your expenses to feel things out in the first few months is essential.

Driving in the Netherlands might not be the best idea, as commuting with a car will guarantee you idling somewhere in an endless traffic jam. Instead, many locals opt for cycling. Bicycle lanes in the country are exceptionally well-maintained, so your commute should be more than manageable. However, when the weather is its typical gray and you do not want to get wet when biking on your way to work, choose public transportation. Reliable and well-connected, trams, metros, and buses will take you where you need to be in no time.

Practical Information

The Kingdom of the Netherlands, more commonly referred to as the Netherlands, is a constitutional monarchy in Western Europe, bordering Germany and Belgium. The kingdom also has territories in the Caribbean, islands of Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, and Saba.

Sometimes, you can hear people referring to the Netherlands as Holland. However, technically, that is the wrong term. Holland is only a part of the Netherlands––that is how a few of the country’s municipalities are named. In the 1800s, this part of the country was the most prosperous, the name “Holland” became synonymous with the whole kingdom. These days you are better off calling it the Netherlands to avoid confusion or offending someone.

Emergency Numbers

  • Police, ambulance, and firefighters – 112
  • Police (non-emergency) – 0900 8844
  • Power problems and gas leaks – 0800 9009
  • Animal emergencies – 0900 0245
  • Sexual abuse hotline – 0900 899 8411
  • Child line – 0800 0432
  • SOS helpline (mental support) – 0900 0767

Public Holidays

  • 1 January – New Year’s Day (Nieuwjaarsdag)
  • Sunday in March or April (the Sunday during the first full moon after the spring equinox) – Easter Sunday (Eerste Paasdag)
  • Monday in March or April (following Easter Sunday) – Easter Monday (Tweede Paasdag)
  • 27 April – King’s Day (Koningsdag)
  • 5 May (celebrated every five years) – Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag)
  • 40 days after Easter – Ascension Day (Hemelvaartsdag)
  • 7 weeks after Easter – Pentecost (Pinksteren)
  • 25 December – Christmas Day (Eerste Kerstdag)
  • 26 December – Boxing Day (Tweede Kerstdag)

Good Friday (Friday before Easter) is not a public holiday. However, some schools, shops, and offices might be closed. Saint Nicholas’ Eve (evening of 5 December) is widely celebrated in the Netherlands, yet it is not a day off.

Main Embassies

Interestingly enough, the main city for embassies is not the capital. Most of the embassies in the Netherlands are located in The Hague.

Embassy of Canada

Sophialaan 7
2514JP ‘s-Gravenhage
+31 70 311 16 00

Embassy of the Republic of India

Buitenrustweg 2
2517KD ‘s-Gravenhage
+31 70 346 97 71

Embassy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Lange Voorhout 10
2514ED ‘s-Gravenhage
+31 70 427 04 27

Embassy of the United States of America

John Adams Park 1
2244BZ Wassenaar
+31 70 310 22 09

Main Airports

For a country so small, the Netherlands has quite a few international airports. The main one is Schiphol Airport located near Amsterdam. It is one of the busiest airports in Europe, on par with London’s Heathrow and Paris’ Charles de Gaulle. Some of the smaller airports are Eindhoven, Rotterdam The Hague, and Maastricht (mainly used for cargo) airports.

As the Netherlands has territories in the Caribbean, some islands have airports as well. Those are Flamingo or Bonaire International, Juancho E. Yrausquin, and F.D. Roosevelt airports.

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Cost of Living

The average cost of living in the Netherlands is rather high. Some ways to minimize your expenses are to opt for electricity and water meters, choose to live away from city centers, and opt for public schooling.

Is It Expensive to Live in the Netherlands?

While the living expenses in the Netherlands do not compare to what you would have to spend when living in Switzerland or Norway, the country is rather pricy. This is mostly due to the size of the country, which results in high property prices. The Dutch housing market is rather expensive, and your rent will take about half of your paycheck.

Cost of Living in the Netherlands by Cities

Choosing to live in one of the bigger cities such as Amsterdam or The Hague will cost you considerably more than if you are aiming for smaller towns. Rural areas could be the cheapest in which to live. However, you do not always need to sacrifice the connectivity and liveliness of a city’s atmosphere for a cheaper cost of living. Choosing to live and work in more affordable cities, such as Eindhoven, Brenda, Groningen, or Tilburg should offer a good balance of affordability and quality of life.

The Most Expensive Cities
  • Amsterdam
  • Utrecht
  • The Hague (Den Haag)
  • Rotterdam

The Netherlands Food and Alcohol Prices

Groceries Price EUR Price USD
White bread (loaf) 1.10 1.20
Milk (1l) 1.50 1.60
Apples (1kg) 3 3.30
Potatoes (1kg) 2 2.20
Pasta (500g) 1.50 1.60
Rice (1kg) 1 1.10
Eggs (10) 3 3.30
Chicken breast (1kg) 9 10
Beer (0.33l) 1 1.10
Wine (0.75l) 6 6.60

Eating Out Costs

Item Price EUR Price USD
Fast food meal (medium) 6.60 7.20
Pizza 8.50 9.20
3-course meal (mid-range) 30 33
Beer and a bar 3.80 4.20
Medium coffee at a cafe 3 3.30

Rent Prices

In general, housing in the Netherlands is very expensive. These are the average monthly rent prices for a furnished one-bedroom place in the largest cities:

City Rent EUR Rent USD
Amsterdam 1,700 1,850
The Hague 1,100 1,200
Rotterdam 1,200 1,310
Utrecht 1,300 1,420
Eindhoven 1,000 1,100

These are the monthly averages for a furnished three-bedroom place in the biggest cities:

City Rent EUR Rent USD
Amsterdam 2,700 2,950
The Hague 2,100 2,290
Rotterdam 1,900 2,070
Utrecht 2,100 2,290
Eindhoven 1,700 1,850

Utility Costs

The Netherlands has one of the highest electricity costs in the world, at about 0.25 EUR (0.27 USD) per kWh. Cheaper tariffs are available at night and on weekends, which might decrease your bill significantly. However, you should still expect to pay 120–200 EUR (130–220 USD) per month. Gas costs around 0.08 EUR (0.09 USD) per kWh.

There are a few ways your water bill might be calculated. If you opt for a water meter, you will need to pay an annual fee for it plus monthly costs for every cubic meter used (usually around 1.10 EUR (1.20 USD) per one meter). If you do not, your water bill will be calculated according to the size of your house. Your monthly bill should be around 15–30 EUR (16–32 USD).

Internet should cost you around 40 EUR (44 USD) per month.

Cost of Education

If you are coming to the Netherlands with your children, they will need to attend a school there. The costs you need to cover will depend on which school you choose––public or private. In general, public schools are free of charge. However, parents are expected to make some sort of contribution throughout the year which can be for school trips or after school activities. These can cost about 100 EUR (110 USD) annually.

When opting for private international schools, you will need to open your wallet a little more. Government subsidized schools’ yearly costs are around 3,600–6,000 EUR (3,980–6,630 USD). If you choose a fully private school, expect to pay 12,000–24,000 EUR (13,250–26,510 USD) per year. More information on the Dutch education system can be found in the Education section of our guide.

Healthcare Costs

Healthcare in the Netherlands needs to be covered out-of-pocket. The costs for a standard package can go to around 80–130 EUR (90–140 USD) per month. The deductible you have to pay before health insurance starts covering your expenses stands at 385 EUR (425 USD). More information on health insurance can be found in the Healthcare section of this guide.

Travel and Transportation Costs

The public transportation in the country is very well-developed and rather cheap. For example, inter-city travels charge a base fee of around 1 EUR (1.10 USD) per journey, plus a price-per-kilometer. The latter depends on which city you are travelling in, but usually it is around 0.15 EUR (0.16 USD). This means that a single journey can cost you approximately 1.50–2.50 EUR (1.60–2.70 USD). A monthly pass for all modes of transportation is around 420 EUR (460 USD) or 4,150 Eur (4,540 USD) if you pay for the whole year in one go.

Culture and Social Etiquette

Apart from cycling, loving cheese, and putting chocolate sprinkles on toast, the Dutch will teach you how to be blunt and manage your agenda. They will invite you to borrels(get-togethers that involve drinking), complain to you about the weather (usually the rain), and make you appreciate sarcasm. Want to prepare yourself for the culture that awaits you in the Netherlands? Check out the possibilities of cultural integration training with the help of our local partners.

How to Greet People

When greeting your Dutch friends, do not be surprised if they lean in for a quick peck on the cheek. In fact, all three little kisses. That is the common way of saying hi and bidding farewell to people you know here. However, note that that does not happen with acquaintances or when you just meet the person. Also, this kissing tradition is only common between women and women and men, as two men usually greet each other with a handshake.

If you do get into a situation when a three-kisses-greeting is necessary, start with the right cheek, then left, then back to right. Also, keep in mind that these are air kisses and you are not supposed to actually put your lips on your friend’s cheek.

Dutch Directness

Dutch people are often very direct when it comes to communicating. It could be a comment about your looks, actions, or what you say––they will not hold their opinions back. The people here are blunt no matter the situation, whether they are spending time with family or out on a first date. They also freely express their feelings about certain topics that might seem taboo in other countries.

And while this bluntness might be a little off-putting at first, many learn to appreciate the straightforward honesty. In fact, this often seeps into the lives of local expats. The major advantage of this sort of communication is that relationships are clear, and misunderstandings are dealt with immediately.

The Importance of Agenda

To put it straight, the Dutch do not like spontaneity. Every meeting or get-together is scheduled in advance–sometimes even a few weeks. Some people even schedule their down time at home which they will compromise for nothing. So, do not be surprised if your friend is only available for a quick lunch-time catch-up only in three weeks or so––it is absolutely normal. Remember, if they are avoiding you, they will be direct about it.

Every Penny Counts

Maybe it is due to the high taxes or maybe it’s just in their blood, but the Dutch are generally very frugal. They are known for always staying on their budget and avoiding unnecessary splurging. There is even a common term, “going Dutch”, which means splitting the bill. So, do not be surprised if your Dutch date does not offer to pay for your dinner––that does not mean they did not enjoy your company.

Why Orange?

The Netherlands country flag consists of red, white, and blue, yet the country’s national color is orange. Why is it so? That is because orange is the color of the country’s respected and widely appreciated royal family. The monarchs are of House Orange-Nassau, which dictates the now-popular hue associated with patriotism and national pride. Many people wear orange during the King day celebrations of 27 April.

A fun fact about the Dutch obsession with orange is that they were the ones responsible for cultivating orange carrots. The Dutch farmers did so as a sign of celebration and respect to their monarch William of Orange that led the country to independence. Over the years, orange carrots have become so popular and widespread, it became the default color of the vegetable.

Driving in the Netherlands

Driving in the Netherlands can be a little frustrating. The country is quite small with many inhabitants and while many that live in big cities avoid using cars, people who live in suburbia have to. This causes serious traffic jams from 07:00 to 09:00 and from 16:00 to 19:00 every working day.

Driving Rules in the Netherlands

  • You drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  • The driving age in the Netherlands is 18 for cars and 16 for mopeds.
  • Seatbelts are mandatory for all passengers.
  • Cell phones are only allowed to be used with hands-free equipment. Holding a cell phone while driving is an offense.
  • You must stop for pedestrians at pedestrian crossings.
  • The speed limit in urban areas is 50 km/h, 80 km/h in rural areas, and 130 km/h on highways.
  • When driving you need to have your license and your ID on you, as well as your car insurance and registration papers.

How to Get a Driving License in the Netherlands

Driving in the Netherlands with a European license should not cause you many troubles. The drivers who own an EU/EEA driver’s license can use it in the Netherlands without taking any special action. If the license has been issued before 19 January 2013, then it is valid for ten years after the issuance. If you obtained it after 19 January 2013, you can use it for up to 15 years, as long as it is valid.

If you are a third-country national, your original license is valid for six months after you register at your local municipality. After that you will need to obtain a Dutch license.

Requirements for a Dutch Driving License

Exchanging a you license to a Dutch one is fairly easy, as long as you meet the following requirements:

  • You are a registered resident of the Netherlands and you have a valid residence permit.
  • You are a citizen of the EU/EEA or Switzerland.
  • You are eligible for the 30% ruling.
  • You own a non-EU/EEA license that is valid at the time of application.
  • You own an expired EU/EEA license with a statement from your country that indicates there is no objection against you receiving a Dutch license.
  • You obtained a driving license from a country where you stayed for at least six months.

There are some countries that have reciprocity agreements with the Netherlands that allow individuals to exchange their license without having their driving ability tested (categories indicated in parentheses):

  • Andorra (all)
  • Aruba (all)
  • Jersey (all)
  • Canada, Quebec (Class 5)
  • Israel (B)
  • Isle of Man (all)
  • Japan (IB)
  • Monaco (all)
  • Netherlands Antilles (all)
  • Taiwan (B)
  • Singapore (class 2 and class 3)
  • South Korea (second class ordinary license)

When exchanging your license, you will need:

  • a valid ID
  • your foreign license
  • your Citizen Service Number
  • a passport-style photo

If do not meet any of the above-mentioned requirements, you are not eligible for the exchange. In that case, you will need to take both written and practical exams to get a Dutch driving license.

Renting a Car in the Netherlands

Driving a rental car is allowed for people aged 19 and over. Most of the time you will need to have had at least one year of driving experience to lease a vehicle.

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Public Transportation in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is well-connected when it comes to public transportation. This can be said about both commuting in the city and cross-country travels. The accessibility of public transportation, the lack of parking spaces, and traffic jams are a few of the reasons why many opt for buses, trams, trains, or metros when traveling.

How is Public Transportation in the Netherlands?

In general, public transportation in the Netherlands is great. The country has one of the busiest railway systems in the world that connects all major cities, as well as neighboring countries. The rail system is considered to be so efficient that buses in the country are not common. However, they do cover connections which might otherwise be impossible where there is no train service.

Public transportation in cities is frequent and reliable. Metros and trams operate in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague. Light rail is available in and around Utrecht while buses are common in most other cities. Some areas, such as Amsterdam, also have ferries.

Most public transportation lines run from 05:00 to 19:00 or 20:00. Typically, they do not operate late in the evening or at night (unless it is a special service). They also go sparingly, if at all, during weekends. However, note that this depends on what city you live in.


Many people bike in the Netherlands. The bike lanes here are very well-structured and taken care of and cyclists have priority over all modes of transportation. However, because obtaining a bike is rather cheap and many own their own, there are usually not many bike rental places apart from those aimed at tourists.


When it comes to taxis, know that flagging them down on the street is not common as not all streets allow for cars to stop on the curb. That is why, if you want to get a taxi, you are better off calling a taxi service of your city. Taxis are also available in locations such as airports, bus and train stations, and popular hotels. Still, keep in mind that taxi services are quite expensive, 5 km drive priced at around 15 EUR (16.5 USD).

Costs of Public Transportation in the Netherlands

When using most forms of public transportation (train, bus, metro, tram, or light rail), you will need an OV-chipkaart. This can be a single journey or a personalized card. You can get it for about 7.50 EUR (8.20 USD), top it up with a sum of money (anything up to 150 EUR(165 USD)), and use it for your travels. It works across all cities and supports yearly passes. You should validate your chipkaart upon entering public transportation and when leaving it.

To use the chipkaart for inter-city buses, metros, or trams you need to have at least 4 EUR (4.40 USD) on your card. That is because upon entering a public transportation vehicle, your card is automatically charged a 4 EUR (4.40 USD) deposit. However, that is not the price for your journey.

The price consists of the base fare (typically, under 1 EUR (1.10 USD)) and price-per-kilometer (different in every city). When you leave public transportation, you need to validate your card again, so that the correct price for your journey is calculated and paid. If you forget to do that, all 4 EUR (4.40 USD) will be charged. Note that the same rule applies for train journeys, but the base fee is either 10 or 20 EUR (11 or 22 USD).

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Updated on: April 23, 2020
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