The Netherlands is not a cheap country. Like many Northern European and Central European countries, the standard of life is high and so are the prices you have to pay for rent, going out, insurance and more. Is there a cheaper area or city inside the Netherlands where it is worth living?
The less populated the area is, the cheaper it is living there. The country side is cheaper than the big cities of Amsterdam, Utrecht or Rotterdam. The provinces of Groningen, Zeeland and Limburg are the cheapest ones, but living in Haarlem, Amstelveen and Hilversum is already cheaper than living in Amsterdam.
The Netherlands is one of the highest populated countries in Europe. Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and the biggest cities in the Netherlands are very popular and there is a very reduced amount of space for people to live there. This means prices tend to be higher than prices in other cities. Tourism is another one of the main reasons why it is way more expensive to live here. So, where is it cheaper to live?
The Dutch Country Side
If I would be asked by my friends or family where is the cheapest place to live in the Netherlands I would say the country side. These are mostly the bigger and less populated provinces, for instance, Limburg, Zeeland or Groningen. What would also be included in here are all the small towns around and inside the Randstad, which is the big circle created by the connection between the biggest cities: Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht, and their surrounding areas.
As I was saying before, the Netherlands is a very densely populated country. The population density in the Netherlands is 507 per Km2, one of the highest of Europe. This means that with the amount of people and the infrastructure this country has, there is a lot of relation between the supply and the demand. For instance, most people want to live in Amsterdam, also very touristic city. This means that Amsterdam would be the most expensive city in the country. However, very few individuals would want to live in, for instance, Asperen, a small town in the province of Gelderland. It would be without a doubt, much more cheaper to live here.
Here there is a comparison table, where you can see the average prices of renting a room for a student, a studio and an apartment in three very different parts of the country. In this table you can clearly see where it is cheaper to live, always taking into account that the whole country counts with a very high standard of life and that it is very easy to commute wherever you want in a maximum time of 2-3 hours to reach any part of the country:
I am considering rent as a measure of how expensive it is to live in one place or another because this is the biggest expense you will have in the Netherlands. Around 50-60% of your salary will be exclusively for rent, no matter where you live. This is something to consider. The price of food is quite standard everywhere, but eating outside in very touristic areas is way more expensive than in the country side.
If you pay the same amount of money for a coffee, a piece of cafe, some lunch or a bunch of flowers, expect to have more value for money.
If you want to know more about the exact prices of things, you can check my Guide to Costs in the Netherlands, where prices are explained, as well as Government help and other types of benefits you can get by living in the Netherlands.
The term Dormitory Town describes those towns that are close to bigger cities and serve exclusively as a home and sleeping place to the people who spend the whole day in the city and only come back at night to their places. This is very common all over the world, since not everybody can live in the city centre, afford it, or enjoys the chaos of living there. I have done it and it ends up being very convenient, mostly if you have a family. You can have a relaxing time at home leaving the chaos behind, or have a higher standard of life, more space and so on, for less money.
Here there are some of these Dormitory towns for the bigger cities in the Netherlands:
- Amsterdam: the dormitory towns for Amsterdam are the beautiful cities of Haarlem, Amstelveen, Breukele, Hilversum and Hoofddorp.
- Utrecht: the dormitory towns for those working or studying in Utrecht are Hilversum, De Bilt, Zeist, Nieuwegein, Vianen, Harmelen and Zuilen.
- The Hague: the dormitory towns for The Hague are Delft, Scheveningen, sometimes Leiden, Zoetermeer and Naaldwijk,
- Rotterdam: the dormitory cities and towns for Rotterdam are mostly Delft, Schiedam, Gouda, Dordrecht and Spijkenisse, among others.
What to Consider Before Moving to the Country Side
I have lived in many cities in the Netherlands, I have moved to Amsterdam after living in Utrecht, Zeist (a small town next to Utrecht), Asperen (a town in the middle of Gelderland) and many times within the same cities. I have had some experience thanks to all of this moving and here there are some things you will have to consider in case you want to move to the country side of the Netherlands:
Transportation is expensive
Public transportation in the Netherlands is one of the best I have ever seen in my life, but definitely the most expensive ones I have ever seen too. There are ways of making cheaper to travel if you live there: if you have a personal OV chipkaart, you can buy the so-called products and check which one is worth getting to have some discounts on your weekly trips.
Having a Car is Expensive
Yes, having a car is expensive, mostly because the car insurance is. Plus, there are a lot of regulations inside several cities such as Utrecht and Amsterdam that forbid cars that are older than 2005 and so on. Parking in bigger cities can be as expensive as 5euros per hour, something not very convenient considering that most job places and houses don’t really include parking space. That is also why people cycle!
If you are not a very sporty person, living in the country side means that you and your family member will have to count on a car to go everywhere or learn how to cycle for over 20km per day. I have done it, but let me tell you that it is not so much fun when temperatures are under zero and you are coming late from work.
Expenses to consider everywhere
The Netherlands is not a cheap country, no matter where you live. Besides paying for rent and food (which may be a little cheaper in some small towns), you will also have to consider health insurance and other extra expenses such as car, car insurance, buying a bike, etc, no matter where you live.
You may have a harder time being able to get an English speaking job or finding someone who speaks proper English. People in bigger cities are used to speaking English, either because they work with tourists or because they are surrounded by a more international environment. In any case, people in the Dutch country side are less used to seeing foreigners and speaking English. You will be able to communicate, there is no doubt about that, but it may be a little less easy than in Amsterdam or Rotterdam.
There is no comparison to the offer of activities and events cities like Amsterdam or Utrecht offer, compared to what cities like Maastricht and Groningen offer. Dutch like to keep busy, which means you will always have activities no matter where you are, this is something that I love about the Netherlands. However, the offer of these activities will be more reduced in smaller populations. You can always jump on a train and enjoy a concert in Amsterdam Arena, and come back home at midnight!
Everything is a stone throw away
Even if you live in Groningen or Maastricht and want to go for the day to Amsterdam, it is possible. Trains go on until late at night and you may take only a couple of hours to go there. If you have plans in the bigger cities you are not completely isolated. I have done several day trips to these cities, also to Belgium, and you can easily spend the day there and come back.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
I have to admit this works marvellously. If you live somewhere like Amsterdam, as soon as you go out you have to spend money because there are a lot of options, events, activities and tempting new things you want to do, see or eat. If you live in a smaller town or in the middle of the country side, the options are reduced and so will be your will to spend money. This is a very healthy way of saving money.