When you want to use your cell phone in Amsterdam, the rest of the Netherlands, and Europe without paying a fortune then this post is for you.
We all need to use the internet when we travel, right? Sure, it would be best to put work down and relax. But sometimes that's just not an option. And we need our cell phones also for directions, buying (entrance) tickets, and making restaurant reservations!
In this post, we'll tell you how to get the best Netherlands SIM card for your trip to Europe, which you can use everywhere in Europe by the way, not just in the Netherlands.
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Is it worth it to get a Dutch SIM card in 2020? Can't I just use free Public WIFI?
It's true 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. Some require personal information and let's not forgot some networks might not be as fast as you need them to be. There is also a safety concern using public systems.
And apart from all that... If you're out and you need immediate directions on Google Maps, a public WIFI hotspot isn't going to help you.
We strongly advise you to get a SIM Card for the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. The great thing is with free-roaming you can use the same SIM card all around Europe at no extra charge.
How good is mobile coverage in Holland?
Extremely good, and this is not an understatement. Holland ranks in the top 10 countries that have the best mobile coverage in the world. If you come from a country like the US, Canada, the UK, or Germany, you're in for a treat. Your phone will keep working even outside of build-up areas.
4G+, also known as 5G in some parts of the world, is available nationwide at an average speed of 40 Mbps, which is faster than most home connections. It's a challenge to find a location with poor reception in this country. 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 the wrong way, 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 really affordable!
Why do you need to be savvy about this? Telecom providers have not yet caught on to our global lifestyle. When we personally travel to the US, we are hit with a $2 a minute charge to make a phone call, and we'd also pay $2 for every MB we use. That's $2000 Per GB! Like what? A GB should never cost more than $10. When you visit Europe, you're likely to face similar roaming charges from your home carrier.
Thankfully there are better options. (Click here to go directly to our best solution for a European SIM card)
I'm traveling from another European country. Do I even need another SIM card?
If you're from the UK or Europe (or you have a European SIM already), you can stop reading because you don't need to change anything.
Why? Since we have the European Union, there are no roaming charges anymore in Europe and the UK (despite Brexit). You can use your own plan to make phone calls and use data just like you would at home at no extra charge.
I'm traveling from outside of Europe, what options do I have to use my phone in Europe?
If you travel from outside of Europe, like from the United States, Canada, Australia, or any other non-European country, you have multiple options. Not all of them are created equal. Let's break them down (from expensive to cheap):
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 a rate of $2.05 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 bring down the cost a bit, but still, it's quite expensive.
For example, Verizon and AT&T (in the US) charge you $10 a day to use your home plan overseas. If you're on a 10-day trip, that's a $100 charge. Going away for 3 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 - but it limits 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 own phone number while you travel. With a local SIM, you will get a temporary new local phone number. This is no problem for Whatsapp (Google how to), but it can be for regular incoming calls. At the end of this article, we give you tips to tackle 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 about these are that you'll have one card for all your international travel. When you're ready to go you just add a one-time time bundle for the country /region you're traveling too. There is some convenience to that, but rates are still higher than buying a local SIM card. Personally, we wouldn't buy a global SIM.
Option 3: Get a Local / European SIM card
This is as you might have guessed (by far) 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, and can still be expensive, but there are good options too! Let's dig in:
1. Buy a SIM card at Schiphol Airport
Many tourists (including us) 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.
Why? Well, for some mysterious reason we don't like to make things easy for tourists here in Holland. Just look at the OV chip card for public transport or using the public OV-bike system. The Dutch are very good at creating systems that are only easy to use for locals.
It's no different with SIM cards. For example to receive the credit that comes with your card, you need to register with a Dutch address. And sometimes, you even need to provide a Dutch bank account number. Not very helpful if you're visiting.
And when you did got over that hurdle, data packages on prepaid SIM cards are still small in the Netherlands compared to other European offers! Whether for locals or tourists. Prepaid data packages from most providers are just ridiculously overpriced. This is getting a little bit better, see the Vodafone option below. But still it's expensive, and a hassle to activate.
This is an overview of the Top 3 Dutch mobile providers with their prices for 2020. Like we said we don't advise this because of the hassle above. Save yourself the trouble and get a European SIM card before you leave home instead (option 3 below).
The only exception to this would be when you book our Meet and Greet service, and let us install your local SIM card. Then the Vodafone deal is a good option, and we register the card for you to 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 offers the worst value for money, and the sales people at these booths are pushy. I noticed other blogs (who are not local) advising these SIM cards. It really is a terrible deal. They will charge you a ridiculous €24.95 for 1 GB of data or €34.95 for 2 GB.
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 still a lot of 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.
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 by far the best option! They'll send the SIM card to your home address anywhere in the world. Easy as that. You can activate everything upfront in English, and you don't lose any time after arrival finding a card .
If you're buying a European SIM card before arrival, you're not only getting the best deal, you can also roam on EVERY network in Holland. This guarantees you have the best coverage anywhere in the country.
So what is the best Prepaid SIM Card in Holland For Tourists?
Europe is not created equal in terms of mobile plans, prices, and deals. Some countries have much better deals than others.
You can benefit from these differences. This is because of EU rules requiring your plan to work in any EU country without any extra costs for up to 60 days. It doesn't matter where your SIM card comes from.
Sounds perfect, right? Yes! And it is.
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 will not be able to use your own regular phone number. You will get a new local phone number.
Also, you need an unlocked mobile phone to be able to use a SIM card from another provider. If you don't know if your phone is unlocked, ask your provider. If it is locked, ask them if you can unlock your phone.
The simple solution to both problems is to buy a separate unlocked smartphone to use during your travels. (Or use an older phone you still have lying around that is unlocked).
How about using my own phone number?
There are two solutions to this "problem":
If you bring a 2nd smartphone, you can use your own phone for incoming calls (but be aware of the high roaming charges). While you use the other unlocked phone for all outgoing calls and your data consumption during your trip.
(tip if you use this option > keep the incoming call short, and call the person back from your European SIM phone at a much lower rate. Or call with Whatsapp or Skype).
You can also get a Google phone number or Skype phone number and forward your own number to this number before you leave home. Then accept incoming calls via Google Voice or Skype on your European SIM phone data connection. This allows people to still call you on your own number without outrageous roaming charges. And since these calls are carried over the internet they count as data and not as minutes.
Prices of unlocked smartphones without a plan really came down in recent years. Buying one should not be a big problem if you don't already have one.
How much Data / Minutes do you need while traveling in Europe:
Answering this question is difficult because, of course, it's very personal. If you just use your phone to check your email, sent a social media post, and use Google Maps once in a while, you might get away with 100mb per day. But no photos or videos!
If you want to use social media like at home and use Google Maps all the time, 200-300mb is more reasonable.
If you're like us and you want to use the internet like you do at home. Use Spotify or Apple Music, research and watch some online videos. Then you're quickly looking at 500mb per day. That is why getting a larger bundle like the 10 or 20GB offers is the smarter choice.
Don't also forget that many apps use background refresh to update their data. Which you can turn off, but often people forget this or don't do it thoroughly and data is unknowingly used. Another reason to opt for a larger data SIM.
Calling is something we don't do very often anymore as people. You might think, why do I need minutes included in my plan when I travel, instead of just getting a paid SIM with data only?
We personally find when we travel, we call more. Whether to family or to a business to make a reservation, like a restaurant. Or call the hotel to ask for directions (that's what we often end up doing while on the road).
Having some minutes included in your bundle is not a luxury when you travel. We like a package of at least 60 minutes included for our trips.
Did this post about local SIM cards helped you?
Did we help you make a better decision choosing the best plan for you when you travel? If so, please then please join the conversation below in the comments and let us know how. We would love to hear which choice you made.
Looking for more practical information about Holland? Click the learn to learn more.
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