Keukenhof Gardens

Buying a SIM Card in the Netherlands

By Dave Dean Get Connected27 Comments

Looking to stay connected in the land of windmills and tulips, canals and bitterballen?

The Netherlands has plenty of free Wi-Fi in cafes, bars, and even on the trains. If you prefer your data to be mobile, though, the good news is that buying a local SIM card is easy and doesn’t have to be particularly expensive.

There are some big differences between vendors, however, and the top-up process isn’t always straightforward.

Here’s what you need to know.

  • Need travel insurance for your time in the Netherlands? We currently use HeyMondo, thanks to its comprehensive coverage options, competitive pricing, and the ability to buy or renew a policy while outside your home country. Residents of most countries get a discount with this link.


  • We recommend Lycamobile for most travelers
  • A Netherlands eSIM is often the best option if your device supports it

There are three main cell networks in the Netherlands, operated by KPN, Vodafone, and T-Mobile. KPN has the largest network, followed by Vodafone and T-Mobile, but its resellers offer better pricing for prepaid customers.

I tested with Lebara and Lycamobile SIMs, which both use the KPN network.

While this article is about buying physical SIM cards, if you have a recent iPhone or other supported device, the best way to get connected in the Netherlands may be to buy an eSIM instead.

We've written an explainer of what eSIMs are all about if you're not familiar with them. Because they're software rather than a plastic card, you can buy before you leave home, avoid the hassle of kiosks and phone stores entirely, and get connected as soon as you land.

These days, we use aloSIM: easy to buy and set up, it's a simple, low-cost way of staying connected when you travel. You'll get a discount on your first purchase with the code TMA.

How to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in the Netherlands

Purchasing either SIM card was extremely simple. I just walked into the nearest mobile phone shop with a Lycamobile or Lebara sign in the window, and had a working connection within a few minutes.

In both cases, the vendor activated the SIM for me, but as instructions are in both English and Dutch, you could probably do it yourself if necessary. You don’t need to be in a major city to buy a card — I picked mine up in Leiden and Utrecht, for instance.

Getting set up with a data package on Lebara was also straightforward. I just asked the vendor to add credit to my SIM after he activated it, and then texted the code WEB1GB (found in the brochure he handed me) to a given number.

It wasn’t as easy with Lycamobile, however. For some reason, none of the three places I tried in Leiden (two phone stores and a major supermarket) had data top-up packs available.

In the end, buying credit online was the easiest option. There was no problem using an international debit card to do this, and took a lot less time than walking around the shops!

Prefer to spend your vacation sightseeing instead of buying SIM cards? Grab one in advance to stay connected in the Netherlands and across Europe.

This Orange SIM includes 20GB of data, 1000 international texts, and two hours of international calls. The price includes US delivery, and it's valid for two weeks in 30 European countries. Use the code SIMOFF20 at checkout to get 20% off!

Other options are available if you're traveling for longer, need a portable hotspot, or want a different mix of calls, texts, and data. No matter how you do it, you'll be connected with a minimum of fuss before you've left the airport.

Prepaid SIM Costs

With Lebara, €15 gets you unlimited national calls, 1000 national texts, and 5GB of data valid for a month. You’ll pay extra for the SIM card when buying instore: mine cost €10, with €5 of credit preloaded.

The Lycamobile SIM cost five euros with the same amount of credit on it. At the time of writing, you can get unlimited national calls and texts and 5GB of data for €10, valid for a month. Bundles change all the time, so check what’s on offer before you commit.

Buying the SIM card online from either company is usually free, but you’ll need a Dutch address to get it sent out to.

Topping Up

You can buy top-ups almost anywhere you see a sign for Lycamobile or Lebara. In the Netherlands, that seems to be about every hundred metres.

Supermarkets, convenience stores, mobile phone stores, and many others sell them, or you can buy online (at least with Lycamobile) and save yourself the hassle.

Coverage and Data Speeds

When it came to data speeds, Lebara was a total disappointment. Despite being on the KPN network which spans the entire country, I’d regularly see my phone struggling to maintain a data signal. It would regularly switch between HSPA+, 3G, and EDGE while standing in the centre of a major town or city.

I ran speed tests in Utrecht, Leiden, Amsterdam, Maastricht, and The Hague, and never got a download speed above 1Mbps, or an upload speed of half that. Web pages would often timeout, or take minutes to load.

Given the higher cost and poor data speeds, I just can’t recommend using this company in the Netherlands.

Lycamobile was much better, although HSPA+ speeds still weren’t particularly fast. Speeds were similar to those shown in the screenshot below, regardless of where in the country I tested.

If your phone supports the right bands, you’ll get 4G/LTE coverage throughout the Netherlands with Lycamobile, but not Lebara. All of the data bundles include LTE.

Lycamobile speed test, Netherlands
Lycamobile 3G/HSPA+ speeds, Netherlands

EU Roaming

The Netherlands is part of the European Union, so EU roaming regulations apply. These “roam like at home” rules ended roaming charges across much of Europe in 2017, letting you use a SIM card from any EU country across all the others at no extra charge.

There are some exceptions and limits, however, especially with large data packages. Double-check the exact details at time of purchase.

Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.

About the Author
Dave Dean

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave managed infrastructure and ran tech support teams for multinationals for 15 years before the desire to travel took over in 2011. That’s when he sold whatever wouldn’t fit into a backpack and moved to Thailand to start life as a digital nomad. He’s been running this site alongside a small team of fellow experts ever since.


  1. Avatar

    Thanks for this Dave.

    Off to the Netherlands in a couple of weeks and your experience matches my research.

    Cheers, Paul

  2. Avatar

    KPN prepaid isn’t too bad either, for data use. I pay 7,50 euros for 30 days UNLIMITED amount of internet (the speed is rather low though). If you make a lot of international calls or SMS, KPN is very expensive, in this case you can rather use Lycamobile and so.

  3. Avatar

    Where do you get 5 GB of Lycamobile data for €5? The link you provide above offers 500 MB of data for €5. 5 GB of data is listed as costing €30 on the same site.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      I guess that pricing must have been a promotion (although it wasn’t listed as such) — you’re right, it’s definitely changed now, for both the 3G and 4G bundles. Lycamobile is still better value, and faster, than Lebara, but the gap shrinks with that new pricing.

      Ahh, the ever-changing world of prepaid SIM cards. :/

  4. Avatar

    How do I sign up at Lycamobile website if I don’t have their phone #? I am planning to get a data sim package for myself to use at Amsterdam in a month later. Thanks

    1. Dave Dean Author

      I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question. Which phone number do you need/want?

  5. Avatar

    Hi Dave,
    Thank you for this informative post. I am a first time visitor to the Netherlands. I will be in Leiden and Amsterdam. I want to get a nano sim card for the data. I looked up lebara they said it was only if you had a local address. The lycamobile site is not in english. But is it available for visitor without a dutch address?

    1. Dave Dean Author

      I suspect the local address requirement you’re seeing is more for getting a SIM sent out to you, than a legal requirement for buying one.

      I had no problem purchasing either a Lyca or Lebara SIM in person while I was in the Netherlands — I don’t recall if I was asked for an address, but if I was, I would have just given the address of my hotel.

  6. Avatar

    Hi Dave,

    I visit Netherlands very often & wish to keep my SIM. I have a HI sim card which was taken over by KPN. How often do we have to recharge it so that the my balance remains & also the number remains the same?

    Thanks in advance.


  7. Dave Dean Author

    I’m not sure, sorry. You may want to check their site or contact the company direct.

  8. Avatar

    Halo Dave, Are pre-paid sim card available at Schipol airport arrivals area? Can a tourist buy & get it activated immediately?

  9. Avatar

    My dad is in Holland and has purchased a pay as you go SIM card which charges him every time he receives calls from overseas, is this normal? Also its not possible to send him a text message from UK. He is old and not very techie, i just cant think what his doing wrong. Hope you can help. Thank you

    1. Dave Dean Author

      Without knowing which company he’s using, it’s hard to offer much advice. It’s not common to be charged to receive international calls, but it’s not unheard of. Is he able to send texts internationally but not receive them, or can he not send either?
      In any case, he (or you) are probably best to contact the cell company he’s using, for a faster and more accurate answer. 🙂

  10. Avatar

    Hi… Just googling and found this site :-)… Hope you Can help me. Just arrived to eindhoven, staying for 6 month. Have a mobilephone with sim-card and added some foreign within the EU solution, from back home , before going so that i can Call, SMS and mms nummers from my home country. A minimum of data goes with it, and i need a solution to go online for maps, Facebook and so on, with my mobile. What can you recomment ? A simcard with free data ? Or ? I understand that lycamobile is the cheapest and fastest ? Do i just find a store that sell mobilephones, and they can help me ? Thank you SO much !!!!

    1. Dave Dean Author

      Yes, just go to a phone store and ask them to help you out. Lycamobile has good rates and reasonable speeds, but I found that quite a few of the stores sell SIMs from a range of different companies, so they may have a better option depending on your exact needs for six months.

  11. Avatar

    ok, so today i’ve seen that the sim card is free and i want 1gb of lte data with the saver plan so i just topup 15 euros and activate the plan? so i will pay only 15 euros for the sim 1gb lte data?

    1. Dave Dean Author

      This page has instructions on how to activate the Saver plan. Once you’ve done that, I believe you top up online with 15 euros and activate the plan, as per this page.

      That said, you’re always better off to ask the person you’re buying it from for the specific information, and/or get them to do it for you.

  12. Avatar

    Our family of three is going to Netherlands (Utrecht) for 5 months beginning Aug. 1, 2017. I’m a total neophyte. WE have iphones with AT and T. Can we use these? How? If you buy a card (SIM or what kind?) is it better to buy it in Utrecht or in the US online (40.00). After you have a Sim card what is the best way to get use of the phone. Dumb questions no doubt. Is it better to buy a plan or can you just buy time. In Argentina you could just buy time.

    How can you avoid being charged for receiving calls?

    Is it better to use wifi at your apt.? or in cafes? to make calls? If so, why not just use Skype?

    1. Dave Dean Author

      If your phones aren’t locked to AT&T, you’ll be able to use them outside the US. Check out this article for more on finding out if your phones are ready for overseas travel, and what to do about it if they aren’t.

      Buying in the Netherlands will be cheaper, buying before you leave will be easier — it’s your choice.

      If you only want to make calls and sent texts, you can probably just add some credit and use it up as you go. If you want to use data as well, you’re better off buying a set amount up front — it’s much cheaper. You won’t be charged for incoming calls if you’re using a local SIM — the caller bears the costs.

      If all you want to do is make phone calls, and you don’t need to do so while outside your apartment, there’s no need for a SIM card at all. Just use Skype. You’re better off doing so at your apartment rather than in cafes, since it’s more secure, and the connection should be better as well (fewer people using it).

      If you want to make/receive calls and texts outside the apartment, and/or have data while out and about, you’ll want a local SIM as above.

  13. Avatar

    Hi hi, lovely post.
    I’ll be going to Amsterdam for 2 weeks.
    I need a SIM card for unlimited data for Emails, Google Maps and Instagram. I do not see myself making any calls.
    Which mobile company would you recommend?
    thanks so much for your help.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      As per an earlier comment, unlimited (but very slow) data is available with KPN. As far as I know, no other provider offers it.

  14. Avatar

    Do you know if it’s possible to acquire 2G SIM cards in the Netherlands?

    1. Dave Dean Author

      You can’t buy a SIM card that’s only 2G anymore, but all of the service providers still operate a 2G network, so any SIM card will fall back to the 2G network if that’s all that’s available (or presumably, if that’s all your phone/device can support). That said, you may want to confirm your requirements beforehand with whichever provider you choose, just in case.

  15. Avatar

    I will be in Amsterdam for a couple of days in June, followed by a 2 week cruise to Norway. I live in the US and ideally I’d like to get something set up while I’m still home so I can just swap SIM cards on the flight over and have it working as soon as I arrive. I see that you recommend Lycamobile and found that I can get a SIM for a penny on Amazon, but that’s for their US service that I read does not work in Europe. I found that I can buy a Vodafone NL SIM on Ebay for around $8 shipping and then sign up for service and it would appear that for 10 euros I’ll have at least 1gb and maybe 2gb with the signup bonus, and that will work in Norway. I can probably find a Lycamobile Europe SIM on Ebay if I look harder but I don’t know if it will be as good a deal.

    I have a Samsung S7 Edge on Verizon. I could just pay them the $10 a day for Travelpass access for the 2 days pre-cruise in Amsterdam and then just look for Wifi while we’re in Norway, although if I can do something relatively simple like getting the Vodafone SIM set up in advance and it will work reliably, it’s probably a better choice for roughly the same price.

    Suggestions? Buying a SIM when I get to Schipol is an option, but we will be arriving at 6am and I’m not sure that the mobile store there will be open.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      I’m not a huge fan of buying SIMs on eBay, just because you don’t really have much recourse if things don’t work as expected, but if you want to get set up in advance and don’t want to buy something like the Orange SIM mentioned in the article, the eBay option at least looks good in terms of price.

  16. Avatar

    I am posting this in 2021, I am frequent traveler and often come to the Netherlands . In terms of comparison between Lyca and Lebara as I own both I would say for amount of data and price Lyca is the way to go . It took me nearly an hour to get it connected though . It is step by step process on their website everything is straightforward . Lyca site does accept foreign adresses and debit cards unlike Lebara you have only option to pay via Ideal or Revolut if you go for sim only which is twice cheaper than prepaid. The Speeds of Lebara’s KPN network on 2x speed sim only option is very impressive . Lyca is however slower but really it is not so much noticable as it is on LTE . I would rate Lyca speed 6,5 out of 10 and Lebara 10 out of 10 with 2x sim only option . Both actualy give you enough speed for your needs . As it is 2021 and I use iphone 12 pro , fat photos , cloud , fat videos , a lot of streaming . Lebaras maximum bundle of 10 GB a month simply is not enough . So Lyca is the way to go for me with a bundle for a new customers for only 30 EUR you get 35 Gb a month .

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