Having a phone with reliable high-speed mobile data while traveling around the Netherlands is required these days because much of life in the Netherlands requires mobile data—you’ll need a phone to access mobile train tickets, restaurant menus, museum/event tickets, Google Maps, UBER/taxis, and much more.
In this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about buying a SIM Card in the Netherlands and how to buy the best high-speed mobile data plan for a fair price.
How To Buy A Prepaid SIM Card In The Netherlands With Mobile Data
There are two main options when it comes to buying a SIM Card for For The Netherlands:
- The Easy Way—Buy a SIM Card Before Your Travel: Buying a SIM card before you arrive in the Netherlands is a little more expensive but it’s much more convenient (and you have mobile data as soon as you arrive in the Netherlands).
- The Cheaper Way—Buy a SIM Card In The Netherlands: Buying a Dutch SIM Card in the Netherlands can be cheaper but it can be more of a hassle because you have to track down a retailer after arrival.
- As a general rule, it’s easier to pre-buy a prepaid data plan if you’re visiting for less than two weeks but a local SIM card will be cheaper for longer trips.
UPDATE: Most new phones are eSIM compatible—these are MUCH more convenient than physical SIM cards because they don’t require you to install a new physical SIM card. You simply buy the prepaid eSim data plan, scan a QR code that’s sent to your email to install the digital “card”, and you’re ready to go.
Read The Savvy Backpacker’s Guide To The Best eSIM Data Plans for Europe to learn more.
Where To Buy A Prepaid SIM Card For The Netherlands Before You Travel (i.e. The Easy Way)
The easiest way to get mobile data for your phone is to buy a European SIM card before you depart. There are a few data plans aimed at visitors/non-residents. These are a bit more expensive than buying a SIM card in the Netherlands—but there is zero hassle (no tracking down a mobile phone shop, no registering your SIM card, no having to deal with people who don’t speak English, etc).
All you need to do is install the SIM card into your phone once you’re in the Netherlands and it will automatically connect to a local mobile data provider—as an added bonus, the European Union banned data roaming charges so any European data plan will work in any EU country.
There are a number of different mobile data plans available at SimOptions.com (I’ve used them in the past) and they’ll ship the SIM card to you before your trip.
For reference, you will probably spend an extra $15-$20 over the course of a two-week trip if you prepurchase your SIM card vs waiting to buy in the Netherlands—I think the extra cost is worth the convenience.
The Best Prepaid SIM Cards For The Netherlands
Here are my top SIM cards if you’re wanting a pre-purchase your SIM before arriving in the Netherlands.
UPDATE: eSIM Data Plans are much more convenient than physical SIM cards—instant email delivery, no shipping fees, no time without data, and you keep your phone number. Check out my guide to the Best Prepaid eSIM Data Plans For Europe.
Orange Holiday Europe Prepaid SIM Card
I believe that the Orange Holiday Europe Prepaid SIM Card is probably the best all-around, full-featured SIM card because it offers a lot of data for a good price—and it includes plenty of worldwide calls and text.
Additionally, Orange is one of the largest mobile companies in Europe so they have a vast network throughout most of Europe (which isn’t always the case with smaller European carriers).
The main drawback is the 14-day validity period—which doesn’t matter if your trip is less than two weeks. That said, you can buy an extra 10GB of credit after the two weeks are up for around $25.
- PRICE: $50
- DATA: 20GB
- CALLS: Unlimted in Europe and 1200 minutes worldwide
- TEXT: Unlimted in Europe and 1000 worldwide
- USED AS A MOBILE HOTSPOT?: Yes
- CREDIT VALID FOR: 14 Days
- COVERAGE AREA: All of Europe
Check out the Orange Holiday Europe eSIM if you’d rather have the eSIM version of the Orange Holiday Europe data plan.
Orange Holiday Zen Prepaid SIM Card
Orange Holiday Zen SIM Card Specs:
- PRICE: $30
- DATA: 8GB
- CALLS: Unlimted in Europe and 600 minutes worldwide
- TEXT: Unlimted in Europe and 500 worldwide
- USED AS A MOBILE HOTSPOT?: Yes
- CREDIT VALID FOR: 14 Days
- COVERAGE AREA: All of Europe
Check out the Orange Holiday Zen eSIM if you’d rather have the eSIM version of the Orange Holiday Zen data plan.
Three UK Prepaid SIM Card
Three UK is another large European mobile carrier and their PAYG AIO15 plan is a good value for people who don’t need the 20GB offered by the Orange Holiday Europe plan. I like how the plan has a validity period of 30 days so it’s good for longer trips.
- PRICE: $30
- DATA: 10GB
- CALLS: Unlimted in Europe
- TEXT: Unlimted in Europe
- USED AS A MOBILE HOTSPOT?: No
- CREDIT VALID FOR: 30 Days
How To Buy A SIM Card In The Netherlands
Buying a prepaid SIM Card in the Netherlands is a fairly straightforward process since they’re widely available—the largest inconvenience is finding a retailer and then picking which plan you want. You’ll also have to deal with not having service until you find the SIM retailer.
That said, it’s easiest to just buy the Orange Holiday Europe plan since it works in any EU country.
Where To Buy SIM Cards in the Netherlands
- The Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and Train Stations: You’ll find a handful of shops and kiosks selling SIM Cards at the Schiphol Airport and in most large train stations. However, you’ll pay a premium since they’re targeting data-hungry tourists so expect to pay anywhere from €35-€60 for not much mobile data.
- Carrier-Specific Retail Locations: Major mobile carriers like Vodafone and T-Mobile have storefronts in most city centers that sell their SIM cards. This is your best bet if you need technical support and you’ll typically find better deals than at the airports and train stations.
- Third-Party Mobile Phone Shops: Many independent mobile phone shops sell a range of phone plans from multiple companies. Employees might be able to offer some help getting set up but service probably won’t be as good as carrier-specific shops.
- Newsstands, Tobacco Shops, Vending Machines, etc: You can find SIM cards in multiple smaller shops and grocery stores that sell super cheap SIM cards but don’t expect any customer service.
The Best Mobile Data Companies In The Netherlands
Now let’s take a look a the largest and best mobile companies in the Netherlands to give you an idea of who you should check out if you want to buy your SIM card once you arrive in the Netherlands.
The three major mobile providers in the Netherlands are KPN, Vodafone Nederland, and T-Mobile. There are a few other smaller providers but they all lease traffic from the providers above. You’ll also have to visit an actual retail location (typically in the city center) to buy any of the plans from the major carriers.
KPN Netherlands SIM Card Data Plans
KPN is one of the largest Dutch mobile providers offering a wide range of prepaid data plans. Their monthly plans range from €20-€25/month but they charge a €25 activation fee so they’re not ideal for short-term visitors.
Vodafone Netherlands SIM Card Data Plans
Vodafone Netherlands has multiple mobile data plan options—notably prepaid monthly plans that range from 2GB to 10GB/month and unlimited data bundles sold in 1,3 or 7-day increments. I don’t believe they charge an activation fee so that’s a pus.
T-Mobile Netherlands SIM Card Data Plans
T-Moble Netherlands is the other largest mobile provider in the Netherlands but most of their plans are designed as yearly subscriptions. They do have a €2.95/day plan that gives unlimited data (calls and SMS texting not included) but you get limited data if you use the plan outside the Netherlands. You’ll also have to activate the plan inside the Netherlands.
FAQ: PREPAID SIM CARDS FOR THE NETHERLANDS
Here is some helpful background info on mobile data plans so you can better understand how mobile data service works in the Netherlands.
BRING YOUR PASSPORT
I recommend that you bring your passport with you when buying a SIM card within the Netherlands. They might also ask for a local address but you can use your hotel or rental apartment’s address.
EUROPEAN UNION-WIDE COVERAGE
A law was recently passed in the EU which banned mobile carriers from charging roaming fees within the EU—which means you can use a SIM card you bought in the Netherlands and use it in Spain, France, etc. without paying any extra fees. This is great for travelers because you can use one plan everywhere.
- Here are the countries/areas where there is no data roaming: Andorra, Azores, Aland islands, Austria, Balearic Islands, Belgium, Canary Islands, Cyprus, Corfu, Crete, the Cyclades, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faeroe Islands, Finland, France mainland, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guernsey, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg. Madeira, Malta. Isle of Man, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Rhodes, Romania, Spain, United Kingdom, San Marino, Sardinia, Sicily, Slovakia, Switzerland, Sweden, Vatican
Technically Switzerland and the UK are not part of the EU, and while many plans still give you service there, many don’t so read the fine print if those countries are part of your trip.
YOUR PHONE MUST BE UNLOCKED
Some mobile carriers (mainly in the US, Australia, and New Zealand) “lock” their phones so they’ll only work on that carrier’s network—this typically applies if you have a plan that includes a free phone with a multi-year contract. You’ll need to contact your carrier and have them “unlock” your phone so it will accept a third-party SIM card.
In the US, carriers are required to unlock phones if the customer requests it but it’s rarely unlocked by default. That said, a few companies still make customers jump through hoops to unlock their phones so don’t put this off until the last minute or you could be out of luck.
A NEW SIM CARD GIVES YOU A NEW PHONE NUMBER
Installing a new SIM card gives you a new phone number so your old number won’t work until you reinstall your original SIM card. So, if people need to reach you, you’ll need to tell people your new Dutch/European number.
One of the benefits of using an eSIM is that you can keep your phone’s number while also using your new eSIM.
Furthermore, many websites/apps use two-factor authentication—which is tied to your phone number so that will no longer be an option with the new SIM installed. And if you use Uber/Lyft, you’ll need to update your new phone number in the app when you install your new SIM.
AVOID YOUR CURRENT PROVIDER’S INTERNATIONAL DATA PLAN
Your current mobile provider likely has an international data plan but they’re typically expensive and the service is often slow, inconsistent, and has limited data allowances.
For example, the AT&T International Day Pass costs $10/day, Verizon TravelPass is also $10/day and many T-Mobile plans offer free international roaming but you’re only guaranteed 2g data speeds… which will struggle to load Google Maps or even email.
HOW MUCH MOBILE DATA DO YOU NEED?
As long as you’re not streaming music/videos or uploading a ton of photos, you probably won’t use more than 4GB-8GB of mobile data a week. For reference, the average American smartphone owner uses around 15-20GB of mobile data each month.
If you’re spending a lot of time on social media (notably Instagram and TikTok) then you’ll use more but if you’re just doing normal web browsing and using Google Maps then you might only use 1-2GB a week.
KEEP YOUR OLD SIM CARD SAFE
If your current phone uses a SIM card, be sure to keep the SIM in a safe place while using your new SIM Card because you’ll need to reinstall the old card to use your normal service.
DOES THE NETHERLANDS HAVE 5G?
Yes, you’ll find widespread 5G coverage in most cities and 4G is common in more rural parts of the Netherlands.
More SIM Card and Mobile Data Plan Resources
Here are a few more country-specific SIM Card guides I’ve written:
- The Best eSIM Data Plans for France
- The Best eSIM Data Plans for Germany
- The Best eSIM Data Plans for Italy
- The Best eSIM Data Plans For Ireland
- The Best eSIM Data Plans For Portugal
- The Best eSIM Data Plans for Spain
- The Best eSIM Data Plans for the United Kingdom (UK)
- Guide To Buying SIM Cards and Mobile Data Plans in France
- Guide to Buying SIM Cards and Mobile Data Plans in Germany
- Guide To Buying SIM Cards and Mobile Data Plans in Italy
- Guide to Buying SIM Cards and Mobile Data Plans in Ireland
- Guide To Buying SIM Cards and Mobile Data Plans in Spain
- Guide To Buying SIM Cards and Mobile Data Plans in Switzerland
- Guide To Buying SIM Cards and Mobile Data Plans in the United Kingdom
GENERAL TIPS FOR USING YOUR PHONE IN EUROPE
I’ve written extensively about using smartphones and data plans in Europe and tips for buying SIM Cards For Visiting Europe. Below are some more helpful tips about using your phone in throughout Europe.
BRING A PORTABLE BATTERY CHARGER
Traveling with your phone will quickly drain your batteries so I highly recommend a portable battery. I use Anker PowerCore 10000 because it’s tiny and affordable but there are multiple options.
BE AWARE OF THEFT WHILE USING YOUR PHONE
Pickpockets love stealing smartphones so pay attention while you’re using your phone, stash it away safely while on public transportation/crowds, and don’t set it down while you’re in public. Read my guide to Pickpockets in Europe for more anti-theft advice.
TAKE STEPS TO LOWER YOUR MOBILE DATA USAGE
It’s easy to burn through a lot of data because many apps use data in the background. Facebook, email, Instagram, Snapchat… those all constantly use data throughout the day without you knowing it. That’s it’s important to know how to limit your data usage.
- USE AIRPLANE MODE AND BLOCK DATA TO SPECIFIC APPS: I’ll put my phone in Airplane Mode because that disables all data (but GPS still works in Airplane Mode). You can also go into the settings and disable data access to each individual app. I’ll go in and turn every off except for things like Google Maps or others that I’ll use more frequently — this way when I turn off Airplane Mode only those apps that will use data. Then I’ll turn Airplane Mode back on when I’m done.
- DOWNLOAD OFFLINE MAPS: Google Maps lets you download entire city maps so they can be used offline. As a bonus, GPS doesn’t use data so offline Google Maps works fairly well (but not all functionality works). Here is a good YouTube video that explains everything.
- SAVE HEAVY PHONE USAGE FOR WIFI: Wait until you’re somewhere with a WiFi connection before you do any heavy streaming or download files.
MORE NETHERLANDS TRAVEL ADVICE FROM THE SAVVY BACKPACKER
Here are a few of my favorite travel articles to help you plan your trip to the Netherlands and throughout Europe:
- Complete Guide To Train Travel In Europe
- The Best Party Cities in Europe
- The Best Travel Backpacks
- The Best Hostels In Amsterdam
- Amsterdam Price Guide
- Amsterdam Travel Guide
- Fashion Advice: How to Avoid Looking Like An American Tourist In Europe - February 20, 2024
- How To Purchase Train Tickets for Europe | Strategies For Buying European Train Tickets - February 16, 2024
- Complete Guide To Train Travel In Europe | How To Travel Europe By Train - February 15, 2024
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Thanks For Reading! — James