If you are moving to Amsterdam or the Netherlands it is important to get to grips with how the local utility services work - that is electricity, gas, water, refuse collection and telecommunications.
In this article we provide an overview on Dutch utility providers from which companies, estimated costs and how to pay your bills...
Energy: Electricity & Gas
The consumer energy sector in Netherlands is liberalised and you are free to choose one energy company that will supply your dwelling with both electricity and gas. Some houses/appartments may also be heated by a district heating scheme which is paid separately.
In Amsterdam the main energy company is Nuon (nuon.nl); other energy companies in the Dutch consumer market are Delta (delta.nl), E.ON (eon.nl), Eneco (eneco.nl), Energie Direct (energiedirect.nl), Essent (essent.nl), Green Choice (greenchoice.nl), Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij (nle.nl) and Oxxio (oxxio.nl).
Most offer a number of fixed and variable tariff options although prices are quite similar across the board. There is also the possibility to purchase energy from renewable sources (groene stroom) such as from wind or biomass.
Netherlands has some of the highest retail electricity prices in the world at around €0.25 per kWh. There are dual tariffs available with slightly cheaper rates during weekday nights 2300-0700 and at weekends.
Depending on your usage, expect a combined monthly bill of around €120 for a standard appartment, and up to €200 for a larger dwelling. Electric meter readings are done on an annual basis. When you first move in the energy company will estimate a monthly payment to take by direct debit - unsurprisingly, this is usually on the high side so it may take 1 year to adjust the payments to fit with your usage pattern.
Adding solar panels to houses in the Netherlands is becoming more popular with a few subsidies available. 10 solar panels producing just over 2000 kWh per year will cost approximately €5,000 to install.
Netherlands is on 230V mains voltage with 2 pin plugs. Power cuts are extremely rare.
The quality of the drinking water in Netherlands is very good. Water services in Amsterdam are provided by Waternet (waternet.nl) which handles both supply and sewerage.
There are various components to paying for water which covers direct consumption, sewerage, maintenance of dykes/waterways and some taxes. You will get an annual water bill from Waternet plus pay a water component via city taxes.
Consumption charges depend whether you have a water meter installed or not. With a water meter you will pay a €42 annual standing charge plus €1.57 per cubic meter of water used - this includes the tap water tax but you also have to pay VAT (6%) on top. Without a water meter the bill is calculated on the number of inhabitants and the type of house you have - this can range from €42 up to €487 per year.
Sewerage charges amount to about €150 per year.
Rubbish & Recycling
Your rubbish will normally be collected from the street (in bags or wheelie bins) by the council weekly or twice-weekly depending on which suburb you live. Alternatively you may have to dispose of your rubbish in a street bin (labelled "rest") with underground storage.
There are also street recycling bins for glass (glas) and paper/card (papier). Many councils around Netherlands have introduced plastic (plastic verpakkingen) recycling as well.
Bulkier items such as old furniture, electric items, commercial waste can be taken to one of Amsterdam's waste collection depots (afvalpunten).
The fee for refuse is included in the annual city council tax bill and varies depending on which area of Amsterdam (or Netherlands) you live in. As a rough estimate annual waste collection fees in Amsterdam for 2015 are €240 (single occupancy) or €320 (multiple occupancy).
Communication: Telephone, TV and Internet
The market has supposedly been liberalised in the Netherlands and you are free to choose from a number of companies for telecom and media services. That said there are a limited number of big providers and prices are generally equivalent. Companies heavily promote their "all-in" packages trying to induce customers to sign up for all inclusive telephone landline, phone calls, internet and cable TV.
The main telecom company is KPN (the former state monopoly provider, kpn.nl) which also has retail shops throughout the country. Other providers are Tele 2 (tele2.nl) and the cable companies such as Ziggo (ziggo.nl).
Home (landline) telephone - you need to decide whether to get a landline phone or whether you can make do with a mobile. Line rental starts from about €12 monthly and you then pay for each call. Alternatively, pay a monthly subscription fee to get inclusive calls - about €20 per month for evening/weekend calls and €35 per month for all calls to Dutch landlines and mobiles.
Note, international calls can be expensive from standard landline telecom providers and you should consider using online options such as Skype or Localphone.
Cable TV - packages start at about €18 per month which include English speaking channels such as BBC1, BBC2, BBC World and CNN. You will also get Dutch national channels Nederland 1/2/3; commercial channels RTL 4/5/7/8, SBS6, Veronica and Net 5 which show many imported English language shows and films with subtitles; and also Eurosport, Discovery, National Geographic, plus a host of foreign and local channels. Most people have switched over to digital TV, however the analogue signal is still working.
There are various extra subscription options available such as sport channels and on-demand films. Premier League matches are shown live by FOX whilst Formula 1 is shown by Sport 1. Ziggo Sports is a new free sports channel (available to Ziggo digital subscribers) which will show Formula 1, Spanish league and World Cup qualifiers.
Note to British Expats: Officially there is no access from Netherlands to UK Internet TV services such as BBC IPlayer and ITV Player. It is possible to get around the restrictions by using UK Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or proxies.
Home Internet - Broadband in the Netherlands costs around €23-€45 per month depending on your speed package. There are no data limits and use of WiFi hotspots is included. Cable companies usually bundle Digital TV + Internet together from about €40 per month.
Mobile telephones - Most people take out a contract (abonnementen) with a mobile telecom provider over either 12 or 24 months. This can either be a SIM-only deal or you can lease/purchase a smartphone. For a contract you will need to show ID and give a Dutch bank account number.
There are a number of retail mobile providers with shops in most towns and cities - such as T-Mobile (t-mobile.nl), Vodafone (vodafone.nl), Telfort (telfort.nl) and KPN (kpn.nl).
Your monthly rate will depend on calling minutes (belminuten), the number of SMS texts and internet bandwidth usage. A SIM-only deal of around €15 per month (2 year contract) will get you 300 minutes or SMS and 500MB. Similar contracts which include a leased smartphone range from €25-€45 per month.
Alternatively you could opt for a pre-paid SIM deal - these are offered by the mobile companies and others such as Lebara (lebara.nl) and Albert Heijn (ah.nl/mobiel). These can be topped up by buying credits at supermarkets, newsagents etc. No ID is necessary but you will pay rates up to €0.35 per minute for calls.
On street markets there are stall holders who will unlock phones for a nominal fee.
There are various ways to pay bills in Netherlands. The cheapest and most convenient method is setting up a direct debit. Alternatively you can be sent an "accept giro" yellow invoice slip but some companies may charge a little extra to do this. The accept giro can be paid off using internet banking or the old fashioned way by filling it in and sending it to your bank. Note that cash payment for bills is rare in Netherlands.