Belgium can easily win your heart over with its picturesque architecture, peaceful and bucolic atmosphere, and beautiful landscapes. Together with Luxembourg and the Netherlands, Belgium is forming the Benelux region – an economically dynamic and densely populated region with 5,6% of the European population.
However, Belgium’s job market is still facing some challenges, with the employment rate remaining low with even fewer opportunities for lower-skilled workers. Most workers occupy the service sector – a typical retailer salary is around 8,000 EUR per month, where the minimum wage is 1,600 EUR.
If you’re thinking about moving to Belgium, it’s important to be aware of the employment situation there, as well as the cost of living there. To make things easier, we’ve gathered the most important info about the cost of living in Belgium as a British expat so that you can make an informed decision and be prepared for any situation.
Table of Contents
So you’re an expat who’s just moved to Belgium. One of the first things you need to do is open up a bank account, which is a very straightforward process. You may even be able to do it online.
We recommend opening your account before you arrive in the country. You can do that by applying online with your bank of choice. Once you arrive, you’d have to bring proof of identity and legal address (your homeland’s or a Belgian one). The Best Bank Award for the fifth time in a row by one of the world’s professional magazines for the finance sector announced KBC Brussels as the leader.
Accommodation costs in Belgium
Renting a property
Unlike some other Western-European countries, expats will find many reasonably priced and comfortable options when looking for accommodation in their city of choice in Belgium. Therefore, it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle to secure a typical Benelux region housing – compact and comfortable with adequate heating systems.
There are several websites you could browse for your housing options – like HousingAnywhere, LogicImmo, and more. We recommend that you check out the property in person before committing to it since the standard assumed agreement in Belgium is usually nine years. It’s a big commitment, and you have to make sure you’re making the right decision, especially if you’re moving with your family.
Using a rental agent’s services may be a better option as they will know your preferences and offer the best possible option for your requirements. Of course, the service will come at a certain fee, but the entire process will be much shorter and not as nerve-racking as it would be if you try to do it yourself.
Renting process and renting cost
So, you’re ready to find your new home in Belgium? What do you do? As we mentioned, there are two main ways you can go about this – use an estate agent, or go through an online portal such as Immoweb. Thankfully, unlike in other countries, you don’t have to bring a pile of documents with you to qualify for renting. This is a much less bureaucratic process that will save you from the nightmare of getting buried in tasks and, instead, let you settle in your new home and enjoy the country.
Speaking of documents, you will still need to prepare a few. A copy of your identity document, employment contract, and current residency is all you need to close the deal. After signing the rental agreement, you must register with the Receiver of Registrations’ local office within the next two months.
If you’re wondering about the prices, worry not. Most properties are actually quite affordable for the quality that it’s offered. A furnished one-bedroom apartment in the centre of a major city would cost you about 500 euros, excluding bills, and in Brussels, the rent may go to 800 euros for the same accommodation. On average, Belgians spend about 30% of their net salary on accommodation costs. Another good thing is that you don’t have to worry about hidden costs like taxes – only landlords pay tax on rental income.
Cost of utility bills in Belgium
Gas and electricity
It’s important to note that the electricity suppliers market in Belgium is quite competitive. This means that the price per kWh and the annual subscription fee are both subject to competition, so we really recommend that you keep an eye on the market and compare prices regularly.
For example, in the first half of 2020, the average price of electricity was 27,92 euros for kWh, and for gas, the number is substantially smaller- less than 5 euros per Kwh. A great feature is that you can choose the billing frequency – regular bill with a deposit invoice that comes monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly. Consumption will be estimated based on the previous year. You will receive an adjustment invoice at the end of the calendar year.
On average, for an 85 sq.m. apartment, you should expect to pay around 130 euros for gas, electricity, water and garbage bill.
Internet and phone
The leading Internet provider in Belgium is Proximus group, with 99% nationwide coverage and very competitive packages. If you are looking for a fast download speed (350 Mbps) and unlimited internet, you should be willing to pay about 45 euros monthly. For half that price, you will get 120mbps download speed, and 20mbps upload speed. Depending on the offer, a prepaid plan starts from 10-13 euros.
Belgium cities are well connected with public transport, and because of the country’s size, they are all within an hour or two distance. A monthly travel card for public transport in major cities is between €35 and €50, and the single fare is €2–€3. In Belgium, the gasoline price is 1,509 euro cents per litre and Diesel costs about the same price – 1,512. LPG is a little less than half a euro. Taxi rates start off at €4 and will cost you around €2 per kilometre.
Motorways in Belgium are free for motorbikes and vehicles less than 3,5 tonnes. The penalty for exceeding the speed limit of 10 km/h is €55, and a fine of €150 will be issued for exceeding the speed limit of 20 km/h.
Cost of necessities
When looking at a global scale, we can say that Belgium is a relatively affordable country. That is if you have a well-paying secured job, of course. For example, a single person’s monthly estimated cost is an average of €800 without rent, whereas the average monthly net salary is about €2000. In addition, a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant costs about €65. If you want to go to the cinema, one seat is €11. A lunchtime menu is €15-€19.
Now, let’s look into the prices of basic groceries:
|Type of Product
|Price in EUR
|Fresh White Bread
|0.5 liter bottle
A pair of jeans is about €85, and you should expect to pay a similar price for a pair of sneakers. Charity shops are open to all, and you can find good bargains there. Confection stores like H&M and Zara don’t come that cheap, either. A girl can expect to pay €30-€40 for a dress. The price for a standard man haircut is €25, and for ladies, a cut and blowdry is about €60.
Brussels may not be the most expensive capital in Europe, yet to live comfortably with a family of four, each parent should get, on average €2,500. The cost of living in Brussels is 25% less expensive than in Paris and 50% more expensive than in Budapest. If you aim to relocate for affordable living and a multi-cultural vibe, Brussels and Belgium, in general, are options you should really consider.
If you do decide to go along with this relocation, make sure you plan everything in advance and connect with other expats that can give you real-life advice and make the transition a lot easier. And if things get too complicated, don’t hesitate to call for help – whether it’s relocation, cleaning up your old place or finding a new one.