Mobile phones and SIM cards in the Netherlands: ultimate guide

Adapting to life in the Netherlands offers a number of challenges, but you’ve beat them all. You’ve navigated the housing crisis and found accommodation, you’ve even worked your way through Dutch bureaucracy and registered yourself! But now, one more challenge begs the question: how do you set up your mobile phone in the Netherlands? 

Do you really need a Dutch SIM card? Are there expat-friendly mobile phone providers? And what sort of phone package should you get? These are the questions you’re likely asking — and we have the answers. 

Here’s all you need to know about mobile phones and SIM cards in the Netherlands.

Note: This article contains some affiliate links which, at no cost to you, will help us buy cheese to fuel the DutchReview machine.

Do I need a Dutch SIM card? 

Even if your international mobile phone is working fine upon arrival in the Netherlands, it may be worth your while to switch to a Dutch SIM card. This is for a number of reasons.

Firstly, if you plan on signing up for certain services (such as an IKEA delivery or even a food delivery) you are often asked to provide a Dutch phone number. 

This is also the case if you want to join your fellow Dutchies in sending a Tikkie or even if you want to set up more important services such as certain health insurance policies or hospital appointments. 

Photo-of-people-holding-mobile-phones-Netherlands
It’s probably best to set yourself up with a Dutch SIM card when you arrive to the Netherlands. Image: 7shifts/Unsplash

Secondly, if you want to register a business, you should always use a Dutch number. If potential clients see that your number is international, they may doubt the legitimacy of your business. 

Finally, the Dutch mobile phone market is flooded with various providers, meaning the competition is on to offer some very affordable plans. 😉

Mobile phone plans in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, expats have three options to choose from: 

  • a mobile phone contract (where you take a phone plan and a phone at the same time)
  • a SIM-only contract (where you bring your own phone), and 
  • a prepaid subscription (where you bring your own phone and pay as you go).

Mobile phone contracts (with phone) in the Netherlands 

With a mobile phone contract, you purchase a new phone and a fixed monthly subscription for calls, texts, and data. You can generally choose to pay for the phone itself upfront, or bit by bit each month, along with your monthly subscription cost. 

However, getting a mobile phone contract in the Netherlands can be tricky for expats. Signing up for a contract also means signing up for a certain contract duration (usually at least one to two years). This can be difficult as many internationals arrive in the Netherlands without a clear idea of how long they will be staying. 

Photo-of-hand-holding-mobile-phone-and-taking-a-picture-of-a-tree
Perhaps you want a new mobile phone? Then opt for a Dutch mobile phone contract. Image: Jorge Luis Avila/Unsplash

For the same reason, some mobile phone providers are reluctant to offer mobile contracts to expats. Plus, without a few months of payslips to prove to the provider that you can pay your bills, you may be turned away on the spot. 

💰 Price range: starting from €15 per month for a very basic phone, up to €60 for a top-line phone with unlimited calls and data.
✍️ Contract length: generally 12-24 months.

SIM-only subscription in the Netherlands

However, if you are happy with your current phone and you just want to switch to a Dutch provider, then your best bet is to opt for the SIM-only subscription (SIM only aanbieding)! 

Don’t let the name fool you; with a SIM-only subscription, you will pay for your Dutch SIM card and a monthly subscription for a designated period.

When you apply for a SIM-only subscription you will be given the option to select a plan that works best for you. Perhaps you need a lot of data, or want to call home as cheaply as possible — the price you pay and the deal you get depends on your choice!

SIM-only contracts offer much more flexibility than mobile contracts. Firstly, if needed, you can opt for a month-to-month (maandelijks opzegbare) subscription. This means that you can choose to cancel your subscription whenever you like (as long as you stick to the notice period.)

Secondly, you can also adjust your subscription if you find that you call your mother a bit more than you expected or you’re eating up far too much data on your daily walks.

This option is great for expats who need to work out a plan that suits them best and who don’t want to dedicate themselves to any long-term fixed contracts. 

💰 Price range: starting from €15 per month for a very basic phone, up to €60 for a top-line phone with unlimited calls and data.
✍️ Contract length: from one to 24 months.

Prepaid mobile phone sim cards in the Netherlands 

If you’re looking for something cheap and cheerful that will do the job then a prepaid mobile phone contract is the one for you. 

For this, you buy a Dutch SIM card and then top up your balance whenever you want. Your credit will usually go towards a fixed amount of data, calls, and texts (you choose a package that suits you best). If you leave the Netherlands, no problem! You just stop topping up your credit — just make sure you don’t set up your account to auto-renew 😉.

Photo-of-woman-calling-on-the-phone
Prepaid SIM Cards are a great option for expats in the Netherlands. Image: Magnet.me/Unsplash

It’s very easy to get a prepaid SIM card in the Netherlands, because, unlike in other countries, there’s no registration scheme in place. That means you can walk into a grocery store, postal shop, or mobile phone store and pick up a SIM without having to show your identification. 

💰 Price range: Range from €0.10 to €0.20 per minute/text/MB, but packages are available.
✍️ Contract length: As long as you want! Simply stop topping up when you’ve had enough. 

Mobile phone providers in the Netherlands 

So, you want to get yourself set up with a phone provider? Great! Here is a comprehensive list of Dutch telephone providers for you to peruse: 

The big three Dutch phone services

There are three major telephone providers in the Netherlands: KPN, Vodafone Nederland, and T-Mobile (which is merged with Tele2). 

The majority of people in the Netherlands use these services, but here’s a tip: many subsidiaries and MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) run their service through the big three’s networks. That means you can benefit from great network connections for a much cheaper price than the big players. 

graph-showing-mobile-network-providers-in-netherlands-market-share-kpn-t-mobile-top
VondafoneZiggo has experienced growth in the Dutch mobile phone market in recent years. Image: DutchReview

Vodafone

You’re likely familiar with Vodafone because it operates in 22 different countries and has partner networks in a further 48 countries. They’ve got solid coverage, brick-and-mortar stores, SIM-only contracts but you also pay for the privilege. 

KPN

KPN is the largest telephone provider in the Netherlands, perfect if you’re looking for the best coverage no matter where in the country you are. The company offers many different mobile phone contracts as well as prepaid and SIM-only deals. 

T-Mobile 

T-Mobile is a moderately expat-friendly network in the Netherlands. While their website is still only in Dutch, their mobile app can be switched to English if necessary.

Smaller but cheaper mobile providers in the Netherlands

Lebara

What’s great about Lebara is that they are extremely internationally-friendly. They offer their site in English, give useful explanations of the different packages, and their
contracts, SIM-only and prepaid deals are aimed towards internationals. 

One particularly helpful aspect of this provider is their optional international bundle. This allows you to call unlimited from The Netherlands to 44 countries (EU + 17) for only €5 per month. They also offer one of the cheapest deals — you can pay as little as €7 per month when you go SIM-only! 

Expat Mobile 

As the name suggests, Expat Mobile is for expats specifically. One important aspect of this mobile phone provider is that you do not need a residence permit or Dutch bank account in order to get yourself started. Great for internationals who are still on the house hunt! On top of this, you can pay as little as €0.50 per day for their cheapest package! 

Simpel

Simpel also offers cheap SIM-only deals. Prices start at just €2.50 per month for a subscription, however, you can only choose between a one or two-year subscription — meaning less flexibility for you. 

Budgetmobiel

Budgetmobiel’s website is a bit difficult to navigate but it offers great deals for internationals and affordable plans overall. For example, with their SIM-only subscriptions you receive 100 free international minutes or texts per month (covering 45 different countries)! 

Simyo

Simyo runs its network through KPN and offers SIM-only and prepaid packages. One interesting aspect of this provider is that they also offer an eSIM alternative. This means that, if your phone supports this, no physical Sim card is needed. Under the eSIM package you can opt for an eSIM SIM-only contract and an eSIM prepaid contract.

Tele2

Tele2’s website needs to be translated to English but they do have the advantage of offering monthly-terminable SIM-only contracts. They also boast fast internet connection and offer a discount if someone else at your address is already signed up to the provider.

What do I need in order to sign up for a Dutch mobile phone contract? 

Found your match made in mobile heaven? Great! Let’s run through what you should have before you claim that beauty. 

Formal identification

Formal identification means something official, like a driver’s license, government I.D card, or passport.

If you’ve made it this far into life in the Netherlands without a formal ID then we salute you — but you’ve officially hit a bureaucratic brick wall. Unsurprisingly, mobile phone providers will ask for proof of identity before you can sign on for a new phone subscription unless it’s just prepaid. 

A Dutch bank account

In general, you will need to pay for your mobile phone package using a Dutch bank account. However, there are some expat-orientated providers (such as Expat Mobile) who do not require this. 

That being said, life in the Netherlands can become quite difficult without a Dutch bank account. No need to panic though, setting up a bank account in the Netherlands can be nice and easy! 

READ MORE | These are the best banks for expats in the Netherlands

Dutch mobile phone insurance 

Now, this one is not compulsory — but highly recommended. While most phones come with a two-year warranty, this does not cover the phone for incidents such as theft or even accidental breakage. 

That is why it’s always worth considering taking out mobile phone insurance when you opt to buy a phone in the Netherlands. Many Dutch mobile phone providers offer the option to take out mobile phone insurance as part of your package. 

However, you can also insure your phone independently of your subscription. Companies such as Revolut, Studentenverzekereingen, and Smartphonepolis.nl offer simple, affordable mobile phone insurance!

Will my mobile phone work in the Netherlands? 

Whether or not your international mobile phone will work in the Netherlands depends on the type of mobile network your country uses. However, in most cases, your foreign phone should work fine upon arrival in the Netherlands. 

Photo-of-person-in-airport-on-phone
Your mobile phone will most likely work when you arrive in the Netherlands. Image: Artur Tumasjan/Unsplash

Why is this? In the Netherlands, the entire country uses a GSM mobile network. The GSM network is essentially a common telephone system that was initially shared by EU countries but later expanded to other foreign countries. 

This means that anyone who arrives in the Netherlands from a country that also uses GSM should be able to use their phone without a problem. 

However, certain areas of the world do not use the same network, meaning that internationals arriving from these regions will find that their phone is not compatible with the Dutch infrastructure network. These areas include parts of the US, Canada, Latin American, all of Japan, and some African countries. 

If you’re coming from these areas you will most likely need to get a Dutch SIM in the long run but you’re unlikely to find yourself completely cut off from communication. After all, free Wi-Fi does in fact exist in the Netherlands. 😉


Look at you go, stocking up on all you need to know about mobile phones in the Netherlands — and now you’re ready to make your choice, hit up some friends, and enjoy life in the lowlands! 

Got a recommendation for a great mobile phone package in the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below! 

Feature Image: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Sarah O'Leary 🇮🇪
Sarah originally arrived in the Netherlands due to an inability to make her own decisions — she was simply told by her mother to choose the Netherlands for Erasmus. Life here has been challenging (have you heard the language) but brilliant for Sarah, and she loves to write about it. When Sarah is not acting as a safety threat to herself and others (cycling), you can find her sitting in a corner of Leiden with a coffee, trying to sound witty.

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