Making Calls in The Netherlands: A Complete Guide

Sofia Van Dirk

No Comments

This guide aims to make calls easier in the Netherlands by providing practical and clear instructions. Let’s ensure you stay connected without any hiccups while equipping you with cost-saving tips that make communication wallet-friendly. Dive in to navigate the Dutch-calling waters with ease!

Key Takeaways:

  • Understanding the Dutch phone system provides a seamless communication experience.
  • Local calls within The Netherlands are straightforward, usually starting with a region code.
  • International calls require the country code, with apps providing cost-effective solutions.
  • Receiving calls in The Netherlands usually excludes the initial zero of city codes.
  • Various apps, from translators to public transport aids, assist in daily Dutch life.
  • Purchasing a local SIM card or temporary phone service ensures cost-effective, reliable connectivity.

Making Calls in The Netherlands: Understanding the Dutch Phone System

Navigating a foreign phone system can initially seem daunting, but with a practical understanding of its basics, it becomes a breeze. Let’s delve into the intricacies of The Netherlands’ phone system so that you can make and receive calls with confidence.

Landlines vs. Mobile

In The Netherlands, like many parts of the world, mobile phones have grown in prominence, overshadowing the traditional landline. Most households and businesses still maintain a landline, but you’ll find the majority of Dutch residents relying heavily on their mobiles. Here’s what to keep in mind:

Coverage: Both landline and mobile coverage in The Netherlands is commendable, with mobile networks offering extensive 4G and 5G services across the country. Whether you’re in bustling Amsterdam or the tranquil tulip fields, staying connected isn’t a challenge.

Popularity: Given the convenience and mobility, mobile phones are the go-to for most. However, landlines can often provide clearer call quality, especially for international connections.

Country Code

Every country has a specific code that needs to be dialed to reach its phone numbers from abroad. For The Netherlands, this code is +31. When dialing from outside The Netherlands, you would begin the number with +31 and then input the local number, leaving out the initial zero. For instance, if the local number is 020 123 4567, an international caller would dial +31 20 123 4567.

Emergency Numbers

While we hope you never encounter a situation that necessitates it, it’s always good to be prepared. The primary emergency number in The Netherlands is 112. It connects callers to police, fire, and medical services. It’s essential to note that operators responding to 112 calls usually speak both Dutch and English, ensuring timely assistance.

Making Local Calls within The Netherlands

While exploring the canals of Amsterdam or cycling through the countryside of Limburg, you’ll undoubtedly find instances where making a local call becomes necessary. Maybe it’s a restaurant reservation, perhaps a local friend. Whatever the reason, here’s a straightforward guide to ensure your local calling experience in The Netherlands is smooth and cost-effective.

Dialing Local Numbers

When making a local call within The Netherlands, things are kept simple. There’s no need to input the country code (+31). Just dial the local number directly. For instance, if you’re in Rotterdam and need to call a local Rotterdam number, such as 010 1234 567, dial it as it is. Remember, though, if you’re using a foreign phone number in The Netherlands, there might be roaming charges (more on this later).


While their popularity has waned due to the ubiquity of mobile phones, you’ll still encounter payphones, especially in busy city centers or transport hubs. They can be handy in a pinch:

How to Use: Payphones in The Netherlands typically operate with coins or prepaid phone cards available at nearby kiosks or tobacco shops.

Costs: Charges for local calls from payphones are generally higher than from a regular landline or mobile. Make sure to check the rates on the payphone before dialing.

Using a Mobile Phone

Most people will rely on mobile phones for their daily communication. Here’s what to keep in mind if you’re making local calls with a mobile:

Dialing Format: As mentioned earlier, dial the local number directly. However, be attentive to any automated messages, especially if using a foreign phone number, as this could indicate possible roaming charges.

Roaming Charges: If you’re using a non-Dutch mobile number, even while making local calls, there could be roaming fees. It’s wise to check with your service provider about local call charges within The Netherlands to avoid unexpected bills.

International Calls from The Netherlands

Whether it’s touching base with family back home, connecting with global colleagues, or making a reservation for your next travel destination, making international calls is a common task for many staying in The Netherlands. Here’s your clear and practical guide to ensure your international calling experience is both seamless and cost-efficient.

Dialing Out of The Netherlands

Initiating an international call involves a few extra steps compared to a local call. First and foremost, you’ll need the exit code, followed by the country code of the destination you’re calling.

Exit Code: For The Netherlands, the exit code is 00. This informs the system that you’re making an international call.

Country Code: Each country has its unique code. For instance, the USA is +1, the UK is +44, and Australia is +61. After dialing the exit code, you’d input this number next.

Dialing Format: An example for clarity — if you’re calling a US number, 555-123-4567, from The Netherlands, you’d dial: 00 1 555-123-4567.

Cost-saving Tips

International calls can sometimes be pricey, but with these practical suggestions, you can often reduce the impact on your wallet:

  • Calling Cards or International Calling Plans
    • These are available at many kiosks, supermarkets, or mobile stores. They offer discounted rates for international calls and come with clear instructions on their use.
  • VoIP Services
    • Platforms like Skype, WhatsApp, and Zoom use the internet to make calls, often at a fraction of the cost of traditional phone services. They’re especially cost-effective (or even free) when both parties are using the same app.
  • Check Rates Before Dialing
    • Different countries and even different regions within countries can have varying rates. A brief check can save you from unexpected costs.


If you’re using a non-Dutch mobile number, it’s vital to be aware of roaming charges. While you’re technically “dialing out” of The Netherlands, your service provider might still see this as an inbound call to your home country and then an outbound call to your destination, incurring potentially hefty fees.

  • Avoiding Excessive Charges
    • Always check with your home service provider about rates and any international plans they offer. Sometimes, activating an international package can save significant costs.
  • Using Wi-Fi
    • If possible, using Wi-Fi for internet calls can often bypass many of the higher roaming charges.

Receiving Calls in The Netherlands

making calls in the netherlands

Being away from home doesn’t mean you’re out of reach. Whether it’s friends reminiscing, family check-ins, or crucial work calls, receiving international calls in The Netherlands can be a regular occurrence for many expats, students, and tourists. To ensure these calls come through smoothly and without unexpected expenses, here’s a concise guide tailored just for you.

Informing Callers

It’s essential that those trying to reach you understand how to correctly dial your Dutch number from abroad.

Using the Country Code: Remind them to start the number with The Netherlands’ country code, which is +31.

Omitting the Initial Zero: Local Dutch numbers often start with a zero (like 020 for Amsterdam). When dialing from abroad, this initial zero should be dropped. So, if your Dutch number is 020 1234 567, the caller should dial +31 20 1234 567.

Potential Charges

Both the person calling and the one receiving might incur charges during an international call. It’s crucial to understand the possible costs associated:

For the Caller: The charges for them depend on their service provider’s international rates to The Netherlands. It’s a kind gesture to remind them to check these rates or consider alternative calling methods if the costs are high.

For the Receiver (You): If you’re using a Dutch number, receiving international calls typically doesn’t cost extra. However, if you’re on a non-Dutch number, there might be roaming charges for incoming calls. Always consult your service provider’s terms to avoid surprises.

Considering VoIP Services for Receiving Calls

Given the potential expenses of traditional phone calls, many opt for internet-based services when expecting international calls.

Cost-effective Platforms: Services like WhatsApp, Skype, or Viber allow you to receive calls using Wi-Fi or mobile data, often bypassing roaming charges.

Clear Communication: If you prefer receiving calls through these platforms, ensure to communicate this to potential callers. They’d need the same application on their device to call you.

Purchasing SIM Cards & Temporary Phone Services

So, you’ve made it to The Netherlands and realized that staying connected is more than just Wi-Fi cafes and hotel hotspots. Whether you’re here for a few weeks or several months, having a local SIM card or temporary phone service can make your stay considerably more comfortable. This guide will break down the process, ensuring you stay connected on-the-go without any hitches, all the while being conscious of costs.

Why Opt for a Local SIM Card

Having a Dutch SIM card offers various advantages:

Cost-effective: Local call rates, data packs, and international calling options are often more affordable than roaming charges on a foreign SIM.

Better Connectivity: Being on a local network usually ensures better call quality and faster internet speeds.

Local Number: It can be easier for local contacts or businesses to reach you.

Where to Purchase

The Netherlands boasts several reliable telecom providers, and purchasing a SIM is quite straightforward:

Mobile Phone Stores: Outlets like KPN, Vodafone, and T-Mobile have stores across major cities and towns.

Supermarkets & Convenience Stores: Many supermarkets, like Albert Heijn, and convenience stores offer prepaid SIM cards at the checkout counter.

Airports: Upon arrival, you’ll find kiosks or stores selling SIM cards tailored for tourists, often including data and calling bundles.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Plan

Duration of Stay: Some plans offer excellent short-term deals for tourists, while others might be more suitable for longer stays.

Data vs. Call Priority: Depending on your usage, opt for a plan that offers ample data or enough call minutes.

International Calling: If you plan to make many international calls, look for packages or add-ons that offer discounted rates.

Activation & Top-Up

After purchasing, the activation process is usually quick:

Follow the Instructions: Most SIM kits come with English instructions. It typically involves inserting the SIM, dialing a specific number, and following prompts.

Top-Up: For prepaid services, you can top-up online, via the service provider’s app, or at local stores and kiosks.

Temporary Phone Services

If you’re hesitant about changing your SIM or are using a locked phone, consider temporary phone services:

Rental Phones: Some providers or specialized agencies offer phones for rent, complete with calling and data capabilities.

Wi-Fi Dongles: These are portable devices that provide internet access on-the-go. Especially useful for those who primarily need data.

Tips for Dealing with Language Barriers

Despite its high English proficiency, there might still be instances in The Netherlands where you’ll encounter language barriers, especially over the phone where visual cues and gestures can’t come to the rescue. However, with a little preparation and the right approach, these barriers can easily be overcome. Here’s a practical guide to help you navigate such situations with clarity and grace.

Learn Basic Dutch Phrases

Even a minimal effort goes a long way. Familiarize yourself with some essentials:

  • “Spreekt u Engels?” means “Do you speak English?”
  • “Ik begrijp het niet” translates to “I don’t understand.”
  • “Kunt u dat herhalen?” is “Can you repeat that?”

Slow Down & Enunciate

When speaking English, try to:

  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Avoid slang or colloquial terms.
  • Use simple sentences.

Use Translation Apps

Technology is a great ally when facing language challenges:

  • Keep a translation app handy, like Google Translate or Duolingo.
  • The voice translation feature can be particularly helpful during calls.

Opt for Visual Aids

While on the phone, this might mean:

  • Using video calls when possible. Platforms like Zoom or Skype can offer both audio and visual channels of communication.
  • Sharing screens or sending images to clarify specific points.

Repeat & Confirm

Misunderstandings can happen. To ensure clarity:

  • Repeat crucial information, such as dates, times, or addresses.
  • Ask the other party to confirm they’ve understood.

Stay Patient & Positive

Communication hiccups are natural, so:

  • Stay patient and calm. Frustration can complicate communication further.
  • Express gratitude when the other party tries to assist or understand.

Enlist Bilingual Help

If you anticipate a crucial call where language might be a significant barrier:

  • Consider having a bilingual friend or colleague assist.
  • Some services provide real-time translation for business or essential conversations.

Familiarize Yourself with Local Terms

Certain Dutch terms or concepts might regularly pop up in conversations, so knowing them can be advantageous. For example, understanding that “pin” in The Netherlands often refers to using a debit card can clarify many contexts.

Related: New to The Netherlands: Everything You Need to Know (2024)

Additional Resources

To quickly find and dial local numbers:

  • De Telefoongids & Gouden Gids: A comprehensive directory app providing phone numbers and addresses for businesses and individuals across the Netherlands. It’s user-friendly and available in English, making it perfect for those new to the country.

Language barriers can pose challenges, especially over calls where visual cues are missing. These apps can be lifesavers:

  • Google Translate: Not only does it translate text, but it also has a conversation mode, which can be invaluable during phone interactions.
  • iTranslate Voice: This app allows you to speak directly into your phone, translating your speech into another language in real-time.

International calls can be pricey, but these apps ensure you don’t break the bank:

  • Skype: Besides video calls, Skype offers affordable international call rates to landlines and mobiles.
  • Rebtel: This app provides competitive international calling rates without the need for an internet connection, making it unique and especially handy in areas with poor connectivity.
  • WhatsApp: Beyond messaging, WhatsApp offers voice and video calling features using Wi-Fi or mobile data, making international calls free when connected to the internet.

To truly immerse yourself and navigate like a local, consider:

  • NS Reisplanner: The official app for the Dutch Railways. It helps plan trips, check train times, and even purchase tickets.
  • 9292: This app is fantastic for public transportation planning, covering buses, trams, and metro services.

For those keen to delve deeper into Dutch culture and social connections:

  • Meetup: This platform hosts events and gatherings based on interests. Whether you’re into hiking, photography, or Dutch language exchanges, there’s likely a meetup for you.
  • Tandem: Want to master Dutch or any other language? Tandem connects you with people keen to learn your language, facilitating a language exchange.

ABOUT Sofia Van Dirk

Sofia van Dijk is our resident Relocation Expert at Born and raised in the Netherlands, Sofia possesses extensive knowledge of Dutch culture, local customs, and the practicalities of living in this unique country. She studied International Relations at the University of Amsterdam and spent several years working for an international relocation company before joining our team.

Leave a Comment