Europe isn't the cheapest place to travel to and while Belgium isn't as expensive as the UK, for example, it isn't exactly a budget destination either. But what's the cost of living in Belgium like? When you strip away the activities you do as a tourist or the sights you go visit, is Belgium expensive then?
I went over my monthly expenses to try and give you an idea of the cost of living in Belgium. Of course, this is all relative and your cost of living somewhere highly depends on your lifestyle. I don't eat out a lot, for example, but I do live in one of the most expensive cities of Belgium when it comes to housing.
What I'm sharing here are my actual costs, but I also look at what those costs might be for someone with another lifestyle than mine.
We rent an apartment in Heverlee, which is just outside of Leuven. Our apartment is 108 m² big, but that also includes the garage and a little room in the basement. We have a balcony of about 10 m², a nice living room, a separate kitchen, a separate toilet, a bathroom with bath and shower combo and two bedrooms of which one is really just an office space.
Cost: €747.26 rent + €125 for hot water and heating
Curious about housing prices in other cities? In general, Flanders is more expensive than Wallonia and the center of Flanders is more expensive than the “sides” are. To get a good idea of housing prices, check Immoweb.be. They're the biggest housing site in Belgium and you can find both rentals and places to buy in all of Belgium on there.
Internet and cable: we pay €50.73 for a combination pack with Internet (wireless + cable) and cable television. This is one of the cheapest packs there is, but of course you pay less for Internet alone.
Insurances: €271.94/year for things like theft and natural disasters and €94/year for a more general “household” insurance.
At the end of each rental year, we have to send through the meter stands of our hot water and heating. Those are added to other costs there were for the apartment that we as renters have to contribute to, which makes that at the end of the year we sometimes need to pay a little extra. It only happened once that we needed to pay less when we hadn't used as much hot water and heating as the year before.
I'm on a prepaid plan and I charge as I go. Some months, when I'm not traveling a lot or don't make a lot of calls, I'll only spend €15. Other months it can be around €50.
I used to have a post-paid plan but I found that I didn't always use up what I paid monthly. There are tons of different pre- and post-paid plans by several providers (although the big providers tend to offer kind of the same packages), so it all depends on your usage.
Insurance: €720/year. I have about the least inclusive insurance there is as my car is 14 years old. The stronger the engine, the more your insurance will cost.
Roadside assistance: €9.5/month
Gas: I own a small, old car. The tank can contain 35 liters and with 7l/100 km it isn't the most economical vehicle, but I love it and I'll drive it until it dies. It rides on gasoline and it costs me €45 – €50 to fill it up.
How many times I need to do this each month again depends on how much I'm traveling and on how many things I'm visiting in the country. Gasoline is a tad more expensive here than diesel, although the difference has been leveled out mostly the last couple of years.
Once a week we go to Colruyt, which is the cheapest supermarket chain in Belgium. We always try to buy food for an entire week and usually we succeed, although we sometimes also have to buy some additional stuff (like bread) during the week.
Our shopping expenses add up to about €300 – €400/month (so that's for two people), depending on whether we need some more expensive things like waste bags (these can cost €20 for a roll here as you need special ones sold by the city).
We never buy water as tap water is perfectly drinkable here and we buy the “white product” (the cheap, generic version) of almost everything. We do buy real Cola and Nutella.
We rarely eat out, so our grocery costs account for most of our meal costs.
5. Having drinks and eating out
If you do like eating out, there's a wide range of options. In most casual places you'll get a proper meal for €14 – €22 depending on what you order (pasta is cheaper, meat and fish more expensive). Restaurants focused on dining tend to be a little more expensive and of course you can also go for “haute cuisine” and a multiple course meal with adjusted wines and pay at least €80 – €120 per person.
A regular beer in a not too touristy spot will set you back €2 – €2.2, but you'll never pay just that on Brussels' Grand Place, for example. The price for a soft drink is about the same, coffee and tea are usually a bit more expensive, as are the special beers.
You can get a sandwich for around €3.5, while a packet of fries will set you back around €3, depending on what size you want.
I take dance classes several times a week. Each sport or hobby has its price tag, but in general you could say that sports clubs who target children and are only open during the school year are cheaper than those who target adults. A single dance class in Brussels quickly costs €12/hour. I now pay €64 for 8 classes, which I can choose to take whenever I want in the course of 2 months. When I was dancing a lot (about 5 hours a week), I bought a “full-access” pass that would allow me to take all the classes I wanted for the duration of a month and that cost me €118. I think in general you could say that taking an adult group class somewhere will cost you between €8 and €12.
Other sports clubs – usually the ones who work per school year – make you pay per (school) year or per half year. The prices at these kinds of clubs are usually lower.
As in most Western destinations, you can go as crazy with clothes as you want. You can go shopping in thrift stores, H&M or at exclusive boutiques. I used to be a very avid shopper until I discovered travel. Now I only go shopping about four times a year, usually twice when it's sales time (January and July) and then maybe once abroad and some other time with moms. I rarely spend a lot of money on clothes, except when I'm buying shoes as I find it important to have something decent on my feet. My last purchases, however, were all Nike's and the price for those is much higher than in the US, but then again it's like that in all of Europe.
If you want to find really cheap (European standard) clothes, head to second-hand markets or the Rue de Brabant in Brussels.
Ah, entertainment. This includes going to the movies, eating out, going to museums, visiting a theme park… Just as with clothes, you can spend as much or as little on this as you want. There's plenty of stuff in Belgium that you can do for free, especially if you like being outdoors.
A museum visit will likely set you back between €5 and €12, while clubs charge around €10 entrance fee. In many cities, there are also bars when you can dance the night away and where you just have to pay for your drinks.
Going to the movies will cost about €10 for your ticket, but drinks and snacks can be expensive and some movie chains charge extra when the movie is longer than average or when you go see a 3D film.
9. Public transportation
Both the bus companies and the NMBS (National Railroad Company) have different formulas where you can get a pass for a specific route and a specific period of time or a card with several rides on it that you can use freely between several cities and towns.
I have a 10-ride card for the bus which has cost me €17. When I take the train, I pay per ride. A return ticket from Leuven to Brussels costs me €10.60. Good to know is that train rides are half the price from Friday evening until Sunday included.
To be honest, I rarely buy medicine abroad so I'm not able to say whether they're cheap or expensive in Belgium. What you need to know when you live here, is that you need to be a member of a “mutualiteit”, a health fund, something for which you pay a rather low annual fee and then when you are sick, a large portion of your doctor's visits and sometimes even a portion of your medicine cost is paid back by that fund.
Because I travel so much now it's really hard for me to say what my average monthly cost of living in Belgium is, but in general I'd say it's around €1,000, not counting travel costs. Living with Boyfriend, I also don't carry the costs alone, so your situation might be different. However, I hope the costs discussed above give you a fairly good idea of how much you'd need to live comfortably here.
Is there anything I forgot to mention? Anything you'd like more details on? Let me know, and I'll add it!
Silvia @ Heart My Backpack says
This was really interesting to read through! I actually expected living expenses in Belgium to be higher. I’m moving to Trondheim in a couple of weeks and am bracing myself for the high costs, haha.
Well Belgium isn’t a cheap place to live in, but it depends a bit on where you live and – mostly – on how you live. Except fir the fact that we have a nice apartment, we live quite frugally. We rarely eat out, we only buy food and drinks that we know we’ll finish and we rarely go shopping for clothes etc.
We’re very boring;)
Kratika Jain says
I’m an Indian looking to move to Brussels, for 1-2 years. How about living expenses in Brussels? I would be staying most of the time alone, but my hubby would visit me once or twice a year for 1-2 months.
I don’t want a luxurious life, normal but safe life would do good to me.
Waiting for your response. Thanks
I recommend doing a search on Facebook for a group like “expats in Brussels” as they’ll be able to answer all of your questions. In general, rent in Brussels isn’t cheap if you want something a bit proper. The best way to get an idea of the offer is to search for the kind of apartment/house you’d like to rent on Immoweb.be. That’s the biggest site for housing in Belgium.
It also depends a bit on whether you want a furnished or unfurnished apartment. My guess is that it’s cheaper to get an unfurnished one and buy second-hand furniture, or some things from Ikea, than to rent a furnished one specifically aimed at expats.
you surly choose a cheap place to live try stavanger if you want cheaper
The Guy Who Flies says
Nice insight to life in Belgium Sofie.
Your opening sentence really grabbed my attention in saying Belgium is not as expensive as the UK, I guess it is all subjective depending upon the choices we make?
I remember (way back) in 1993 (I appreciate a lot can have changed since then) that I first arrived by train into Belgium, Brussels in fact. I arrived fairly early in the morning and was gob smacked at how crazily expensive it is. Within about 2-3 hours I got a train out of the city because it was too expensive for my budget at the time. On the bright side, on a whim I went to Antwerp which I absolutely fell in love with.
I found Antwerp to be more expensive than my experience of living in the UK, but certainly more affordable than Brussels.
Then again, if in terms of the UK we are referring to London, then heck yes, that place is very expensive. I live in Yorkshire where life is a lot more affordable, and we have lower incomes which reflect that.
You highlight some good choices, such as pay as you go mobile phones which can be a good cost saver. Personal choices in the supermarket can make a difference too. I’m happy with the low cost, simple label products whilst my wife has a taste for specific (and dare I say more expensive) brands.
I’m sure there are places in the UK that aren’t that expensive, but I guess we always look with travelers eyes unless we are at home. Your London is my Brussels (although, honestly, London is way more expensive), but there are just as many smaller towns in Belgium which aren’t so pricey at all. I’d have to go live in the UK to compare, but I really think 50% of how expensive a place is depends on your lifestyle.
When I started freelancing I had about €2500 in my account. I wanted that money to last as long as possible without touching my savings. Two days ago was the first time I wired over some savings money since I quit my job the beginning of February. And I don’t even need the money yet, but I’m leaving on a trip and would rather not find out that I can’t withdraw any more at a certain point:)
So 5 months on €2500 (taken into account that I share costs with Boyfriend), that’s not too bad, is it?
To be honest I don’t know how I did it, besides not having a social life:D
The Guy Who Flies says
Very true, lifestyle is a big influencer.
I think you did really well to make that money last so long in a 1st world country. Hope you still had some fun too, after all the best things in life are free :-)
Hopefully you can pick up on your social life. Friends popping by for a natter or cup of tea/coffee are good friends. That is often how I catch up on my friends now -it works out best since they have kids and I’m in the country for only limited time periods.
I think I did too:D It helped a lot that I’ve traveled more and danced less the last months. I love dancing, but my classes are in Brussels and I’m always in a traffic jam when I drive there, so the more I go dancing, the more my gas costs rise.
I had to Google “natter” :D
The thing with real good friends is also that even though you don’t see them often, you can always pick back up again and have fun.
Definetely not comparable to the cost of living in Brussels alone, without the possibility of sharing expenses with someone. This estimate is to be taken with a grain of salt.
Hey Flora, thanks for commenting! As you can read in the beginning of the post, I indicate that these are my personal expenses, and not an estimate of what it would cost someone else to live in Belgium. I’m sharing the actual costs I have :-) It’s definitely true that rent is higher or lower depending on the city/region you live in, which is the case for every country I’d guess.
I will be moving to Leuven for 4 months business trip. Can you help me in providing some insights on the rented accommodation or any studio apartments .
Looking to your blog I did not find Belgium that expensive compared to Singapore or London but still.
While Leuven is considered an expensive city to live in in Belgium, it’s not nearly as expensive as London is.
While Immoweb.be is the best website in Belgium to look for rentals, most people won’t want someone who only stays for four months. Your best best is to ask around in some Facebook groups (do a search for “expats in Belgium” or even “expats in Leuven”) and perhaps also have a look in the Internations community. There are forums there to ask questions.
A quick search for “furnished apartments Leuven” lead me to this site: https://www.leuvenbusinessflats.be/, but this is ridiculously expensive. You easily be able to find something for less than €800/month, although it might be more expensive if you’re looking for something furnished.
I am from Nigeria and I am thinking of relocating overseas and Belgium came to mind. will I have any language problem because I speak only English. which city has the lowest cost of living ?
In Flanders, most people speak English. It will be hard to find a job, though, as most jobs require knowledge of either Dutch or French and often both. Smaller villages are usually cheaper to live in and the south of the country is less expensive than the north, but it’s harder to get by there just with English.
Sophie, thanks so much for this article! I moved to Brussels for work over the summer and have been living in colocation for the past six months. While it has been a great way to save money, I’m starting to feel a bit cramped and have begun looking for my own place. Though it’s true that living alone in Brussels comes with a few additional financial hurdles, this article was really helpful in preparing my budget.
I’m so happy you found it helpful! And I hope Brussels treats you well :)
Living on your own in Brussels in a 35 square meters Ikea furnished apartment that is in a safe and nice area, not sharing food cost, insurance (home(most cases obligatory for the landlord) and medical) phone and transportation, plus occasional going out or eating out, cultural things as newspaper or books will cost you at least 1500 euros in Brussels on a monthly basis in 2017.
Clothes shopping, leisure not included in this amount.
Hope it helps.
Thanks for commenting Nikoletta!
I do know people who do it for way less than that, but I guess it all depends on what you call a “safe and nice area” :)
Depends. I live in Brussel.
I have a furnished 50m2 flat with a south facing balcony near Merode, a lift and concierge. This costs me 840 inclusive ( charge/hot+cold water+heating). Home insurance is 15 euros monthly. Health insurance is free if you use the mutulle caami.be. If I include all food, insurance, food, STIB ticket ( metro/bus/tram) , gsm, internet and electricity then I spend 1200 p/m.
All social life is excluded.
Thanks for your input, Sophie!
I really liked ur article. I got a job offer in belgium, Leuven. I need to take care of my accommodation. Im not a luxury living kind of person. Is there, can i get any sharing apartment/ house in Leuven. A single room is enough for me.
Hey Vino, Congratulations on the job offer! :)
Immoweb is pretty much the biggest site in Belgium to find housing on, though it’s only for “complete” places and not for renting rooms. If you’re looking to rent rooms, I’d check on Facebook for groups such as “expats in Belgium” and maybe “expats in Leuven” or something like that. The people in there usually help each other out with things like this and oftentimes also post accommodation when something becomes available.
There are a lot of rooms for rent in Leuven as it’s a student city, but I think some of them only take students and the renting period is usually in line with the academic year, so from September until the end of August, for example.
Really liked your article. I am planning a move to Brussels for job (I have an offer though).
One slightly different / unusual question (that you may feel) are there any specific areas famous for country specific people e.g x area may have a lot of Irish, area may be loved by a lot of Indians etc.
Good question, but one I’m afraid I don’t have the answer too. I’m sure there are, but I’d suggest you join an expats in Brussels Facebook group and ask there. These kinds of groups tend to be pretty active.
Best of luck with the move!
Thanks Sophie for your response.
One more query – how’s the people behavior in Belgium towards Muslims… as everyone understands that all the fingers are not equal but just checking the situation at this stage.
Also, is Muslim food easily accessible in Flanders area?
It really depends from person to person. I know that doesn’t help you at all, but as with all things, the people who don’t care are the ones you never hear and the people who have issues, are the ones who more often make them heard.
I also find it hard to comment on this as I’m not Muslim and so don’t know what it’s like on a day-to-day basis.
What do you mean by Muslim food? It’s very easy to avoid pork, if that’s what you mean?
As you have your job offer, I hope you’ll just come with excitement and an open mind and I equally hope we’ll all be very welcoming :)
Thanks Sofie for your prompt responses…. much appreciated.
You’re very welcome!
Manu Mehta says
Just wanted to know if I want to stay in a safe but economical area in Flanders then what area do u suggest?
How much would b a living exp (a normal life style) for a couple with a 12 yrs old daughter.
As an expat their kid is allowed to study there, if yes then would that be free of charge ? If not then how much?
Flanders covers almost half of Belgium, so it’s a bit weird to ask about an area to stay in. If you don’t yet know where you want to move to, you’ll have to figure out first where you will be working and then whether you want to live in the city or more in a town/in the countryside. Living expenses depend on where you’ll live. There’s a big difference in rent depending on which province you move to. In general, the closer to Brussels, the more expensive it gets, but areas around Ghent can get quite expensive in terms of rent too.
Sure your kid is allowed to study here. You’d pay the same as anyone unless she’d go to a special international school, which is more expensive than the regular school system, which is in Dutch, in Flanders. In theory, high school in Flanders is free, but schools can ask parents to pay for books, activities and other things. It’s the enrollment that’s free, though you would have to look into how that works if you’re an expat. I’m native so I my parents haven’t had to deal with this and I don’t have kids myself.
Sherri Meuris says
My husband is from Belgium, but living in Canada with me for the last 12 years. We are thinking about moving back to Belgium, but trying to budget if it makes sense (I won’t be able to work right away).
I notice this is an older post. Do you have an update on these costs?
I’m afraid I don’t immediately have time to update this post but what I suggest is you look on Facebook for groups like “expats in Belgium” (or something similar). These are usually very helpful and will probably be able to answer more specific questions than I can in a general post like this.
Wishing you the best of luck!