When you want to use your cell phone in Amsterdam, the rest of the Netherlands, and Europe without paying a fortune, this post is for you because a local Amsterdam SIM card is usually the best option for most visitors.
In this post, I’ll tell you how to get the best Netherlands SIM card for your European trip. The best thing about a card for any EU country is that it works in all the others, too, at no extra cost.
I always get an eSIM card when I travel outside of Europe and to need to only use my phone. I get a Pocket Wifi when I also need to create a hotspot and connect other devices. I never use my plan from home (use-like-as-at-home), since these are always more expensive then getting a temporary travel sim card like we discuss today.
I cover more about the difference in this article: 6 Tips Using A Mobile Phone in Amsterdam, Not Just a SIM Card.
But in this post, I assume you’ve already determined a sim card is best for you. It is for most people who only use their phones when traveling.
Using a cell phone is super handy for directions, buying (entrance) tickets, and showing your e-tickets on trains and at museums. But also for things like making restaurant reservations. Having a cheap EU data bundle will save you significant money, and a sim card solution is less cumbersome than a pocket Wifi device.
Table of Contents
Ready to jump straight to the best SIM card deal for the Netherlands? Click here.
Is it worth it to get an Amsterdam SIM card in 2023? Can’t I use free Public WIFI?
You can find WIFI hotspots anywhere in Holland, from hotels to trains. Most often, they’re free to use as well.
However, there are a few drawbacks. First, you need to connect to each of them, accept policies, et cetera. That takes time and becomes annoying quickly. Some require personal information. And some networks might not be as fast as you need. There is also a safety concern about using public systems.
And apart from all that… If you’re out and need immediate directions on Google Maps, a public WIFI hotspot doesn’t help you.
I strongly advise getting a SIM Card for the Netherlands and the rest of Europe, so you’ll have your data.
How Good Is Mobile Phone Coverage in the Netherlands?
Extremely good, and this is not an understatement. Holland ranks in the top 10 countries with the best mobile coverage in the world. You’re in for a treat if you come from a country like the US, Canada, the UK, or Germany. Your phone will keep working even outside of built-up areas.
4G+, also known as 5G in some parts of the world, is available nationwide at an average speed of 40 Mbps, faster than most home connections.
Finding a location with poor reception in this country is challenging, except maybe in the middle of a forest or a National park. And then still, you probably will be able to pick up a signal just strong enough to support a call or to use the internet at a slower speed.
How Much Does Mobile Internet In The Netherlands Cost?
If you’re doing it wrong, A LOT! (That is using your home plan if you travel from outside of Europe). But if you’re smart about this, it can be affordable!
You can get up to 8GB plus free worldwide minutes for less than $30. If you need more, 20GB is available at less than $50.
Why do you need to be savvy about this? Telecom providers grossly overcharge for international roaming. When I travel to the US, I am hit with a $2-a-minute charge to make a phone call, even within the US! And I’d also need to pay $2 for every MB I use. That is not a typo: MB, not GB.
That comes down to $2000 per GB! Yikes… A GB should never cost more than $10. When you visit Europe, you’ll likely face similar roaming charges from your home carrier.
Thankfully there are better options. (Click here to go directly to my best solution for a European SIM card)
Do I Need A New Sim Card When I Am From Another EU Country?
You don’t need to change anything if you’re from the EU. There are no roaming charges anymore for EU sim card owners. You can usually use your plan just as you can at home.
There is an exception now for UK SIM card holders. Since the UK is no longer part of the European Union, roaming charges can be added to your bill. Check with your provider before you travel.
Find A Place To Stay In Amsterdam
This super handy map helps you search for accommodation on different platforms like Booking.com and VRBO (AirBNB but then cheaper). TIP: Update your (intended) travel dates to see accurate prices. And zoom out on the map (-) for more options.
I’m Traveling From Outside Of Europe. What Options Do I Have?
You have multiple options if you travel from outside of Europe, like from the United States, Canada, Australia, or any other non-European country. Not all of them are created equal. Let’s break them down (from expensive to cheap):
- Use your home carrier (with a travel plan)
- Get a Global SIM
- Get a Local / European SIM card (best option)
Option 1: Using your home carrier (travel) plan while traveling in Europe
It’s, of course, possible to use your home carrier while you travel in Europe, including the Netherlands. If you don’t take any additional upgrades to your plan, this will be a very costly option.
For example, in the US, AT&T will charge just over $2 per minute/MB/text for calls and data usage overseas. That gets VERY expensive VERY quickly!
Most carriers, however, offer international travel add-ons for your plan. This will reduce the cost a bit, but still, it’s expensive.
For example, Verizon and AT&T (in the US) charge you $10 daily to use your home plan overseas. If you’re on a 10-day trip, that’s a $100 charge. Are you going away for three weeks? That’s a whopping $210 added to your phone bill!
You can also buy international bundles. AT&T, for example, has a $70 30-day travel plan, limiting you to 2GB of data—a limit you reach much quicker than you might think. Plus, $70 for 2GB is still 35 dollars per GB. You can do much better than that.
The only plus side about using your home carrier is that you keep your phone number while you travel. You will get a temporary new local phone number with a local SIM. This is no problem for Whatsapp (Google How-to), but it can be for regular incoming calls.
PS: at the end of this article, I’ll give you tips on tackling this problem.
Option 2: Get a Global SIM card
Often in airline magazines (or while doing a Google search), you’ll find Global SIM cards. The benefit of these is that you’ll have one card for all your international travel.
When you’re ready, add a one-time bundle for the country/region you’re traveling to. There is some convenience, but rates are higher than buying a local SIM card. I wouldn’t buy a global SIM.
Option 3: Get a Local / European SIM card
As you might have guessed (by far), this is the best option for most people. If you buy a local SIM card, you often get the lowest rates plus the most data for your money.
However, there is a catch in Holland. Most local SIM cards you buy in a store are a hassle to activate as a foreigner. Let’s dig in:
- Buying a card when you arrive at Schiphol Airport from a kiosk
- Buying a SIM Card in the Netherlands, like in a supermarket
- Buy a European prepaid SIM card online before arriving in Amsterdam (the best choice by far)
1. Buy a SIM card at Schiphol Airport
Many tourists (including me) buy a local SIM card immediately after arrival in the country we’re traveling to.
Doing that here in the Netherlands is not such a good idea. The Dutch are very good at creating a system that is only easy to use for locals. For example, you must register with a Dutch address to receive the credit with your card. And sometimes, you even need to provide a Dutch bank account number. Not very helpful if you’re visiting.
Save yourself the trouble and get a European SIM card before leaving home (option three below).
- Vodafone prepaid: 2GB €9 or 10 GB €29 (cheapest option for a local Dutch SIM card)
- KPN prepaid: 1GB €9.99
- T-mobile prepaid: 1GB + 10 minutes €10
Important to know about the above options; You won’t get the (whole) credit without a Dutch address.
WARNING One thing to look out for at the airport is the Lebara sim card mobile stands. They’re everywhere in the arrival areas. This company does not offer good value for money, and the salespeople at these booths are pushy.
I noticed other blogs (that are not local) advising these SIM cards. It is not a good deal. They will charge you a ridiculous €24.95 for 1 GB of data or €34.95 for 2 GB. Compare that $30 for 8GB to $50 for 20 GB in the below-mentioned deal.
2. Buying a SIM Card in the Netherlands in a supermarket like Albert Heijn.
You can also buy a Dutch SIM card at most supermarkets. But you would get the same deal as at the airport in a kiosk. That is not a good deal, plus a hassle to activate if you’re not a local.
The other downside of getting a Dutch prepaid SIM card is that you’re tied to one provider. Sometimes coverage can be spotty with one provider but good with another. With the EU card below, you can roam on any Dutch network.
3. Buy a prepaid European SIM card for Holland online before you travel (best choice)
You can also purchase a European SIM card before you leave home. This will give you the best price and is the best option! They’ll send the SIM card to your home address anywhere in the world. Easy as that.
If your phone is capable of eSim, it will be even easier. You can activate your sim instantly. Just activate everything upon arrival, and don’t lose any time. The activation process is in English.
What Is The Best Prepaid SIM Card In Holland For Tourists?
What is vital to know is that Europe is not created equal regarding mobile plans, prices, and deals. Some countries have much better deals than others.
You can benefit from these differences. This is because EU rules require your plan to work in any EU country without extra costs for up to 60 days. It doesn’t matter where your SIM card comes from.
I just updated my recommendation on June 26, 2023, because a new package was introduced by Bouygues that gives your more data for less money. Before, I recommended the Orange Holiday Zen Package for both the small are the large package, now I recommend Bouygues for the larger package (in most cases):
- Orange Holiday Zen $29.90 > 8GB + unlimited calls in Europe and 30 outside.
- Bouygues $44.90 for 30GB and unlimited free minutes in the EU only.
The smaller package is valid for 14 days, while the large Bouygues package has a validity of 30 days. Great for extended stays in Europe. Remember, these sim card options work in all EU countries!
Both cards are available as a psychical SIM card or as an eSIM. The latter is more convenient. If your device is ready for eSIM, always use that option.
There is an exception for choosing the Orange Holiday Zen 20GB option ($49.99) instead of the $44.90 Bouygues 30GB package. And that is because the Orange Holiday package includes 120 free minutes outside the EU. Ideal if you want to call home. Also, if you need a psychical sim card, the Orange Zen Option is the best deal for a larger package. Bouygues is only available as eSIM.
Here is a list of eSIM-ready devices.
Purchase your card of choice here:
Is There A Drawback To Getting A European Sim Card in Holland?
Yes, there is. The biggest drawback of changing your SIM card is that you cannot use your regular phone number.
You will get a new local phone number. Also, you need an unlocked mobile phone to use a SIM card from another provider. Ask your provider if you don’t know if your phone is unlocked.
The simple solution to both problems is to buy a separate unlocked smartphone for use during travel. (Or use an older phone you still have somewhere).
How About Using My Own Phone Number?
There are three solutions to this “problem”:
The easiest is if your phone is ready for eSIM, then you can scan the QR code, and your European number is added to your phone and your number. In the settings, you set your phone to use data via your new eSIM. And to route voice calls to your regular phone sim card. Apple phones make this easy.
Or you can bring a 2nd smartphone. You can use your phone for incoming calls (be aware of high roaming charges). At the same time, you use the other unlocked phone for all outgoing calls and your data consumption during your trip with the local SIM card.
You can also get a Google or Skype phone number and forward your number to this number before you leave home. Then accept incoming calls via Google Voice or Skype on your European SIM data connection.
This allows people still to call you on your number without outrageous roaming charges. And since these calls are carried over the internet, they count as data, not minutes.
Prices of unlocked smartphones without a plan have come down in recent years. Buying one should not be a big problem if you don’t already have one.
How much Data do you need while traveling?
Answering this question is not easy because, of course, it’s very personal. If you use your phone to check your email, send a social media post, and use Google Maps occasionally, you might be okay with the 8GB plan.
If you want to use social media like you’re used to, send photos to your loved ones, and use Google Maps all the time, maybe listen to music or watch a video on Youtube, you can better get a 15GB-20GB plan.
Frequently Asked Questions About Travel SIM cards
Where can I buy a local SIM card in the Netherlands?
You can purchase a local SIM card at the airport, supermarkets, and convenience stores. They offer all mobile service providers like Vodafone, KPN, and T-Mobile. But I would advise against this. Registration is complicated, with a need for a local address and often a personal identification number. That’s why it’s better often to get a SIM card before your trip. An Esim card is the most convenient.
What are the primary mobile service providers in the Netherlands?
The primary mobile service providers are KPN, Vodafone, and T-Mobile. KPN is generally considered to have the best network in terms of speed and coverage. KPN is usually a little more expensive. If you have purchased a European travel SIM card, as we recommend in this article, before you leave home, you can roam on the KPN network without extra costs.
Is my smartphone compatible with Dutch networks?
Networks in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and the rest of Europe primarily use the 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, and 2600MHz wavelengths. For 5G, this is primarily 700MHz and 1800MHz. Most modern phones are compatible with these frequencies. Also, make sure that you’re phone is unlocked or has the option to add an eSIM.
Can I use my local Amsterdam SIM card to roam in other European countries?
Yes! When you have a SIM for any EU country, you can use it in all the other EU countries without extra costs. So if you go to Paris or Venice or on a River cruise, you can still use your card precisely the same for the entire trip.
Are You Getting a European Sim Card?
I’d love to hear your thoughts: If so, what package did you choose and why? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let’s start a conversation 💬.
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