Many expats are attracted to Belgium due to the high number of jobs in the IT, pharma and international public sector as well as the overall high standard of living. However, Belgium’s world leading income taxes means that your monthly take home pay will be significantly less than your gross salary; which can reduce your overall disposable income by quite a bit.
This raises the important question of how much money do you actually need to earn to live “comfortably” in Belgium?
Although cost of living varies considerably due to each individual’s personal preferences and situation, according to our estimations a single person would need a net salary of €1,550 to live comfortably in most Belgian cities while a family of four would typically require a net salary of at least €4,150 per month.
*The figures above include rent however, it is worth noting that Brussels will typically be a bit more expensive (around 20% more) than some other cities in Belgium largely due to higher rent prices.
In the sections below I will give you a more detailed breakdown of different living expenses in Belgium to give you a better idea of how much you would need to live comfortably in Belgium depending on your own unique personal situation.
- Salaries in Belgium
- Living Expenses
- Other frequently asked questions
- Is Belgium expensive to live in?
- Why is Belgium so expensive?
- Is Belgium cheaper than France?
- Is Belgium more expensive than the US?
- Is Belgium more expensive than Germany?
- Is Canada more expensive than Belgium?
- How much is a good salary in Belgium?
- What is a low salary in Belgium?
- What is the average salary in Belgium?
- Why are salaries in Belgium so low?
- What is the average Belgian gross monthly salary?
- Are salaries in Belgium High?
- Is Antwerp cheaper than Brussels?
- Is it expensive to live in Antwerp?
- Is Belgium cheaper than the UK?
- Is Canada more expensive than Belgium?
- Is it expensive to live in Bruges?
- How much is rent in Bruges?
- Is Liege expensive to live?
- Is it expensive to live in Ghent?
- How expensive is Leuven?
Salaries in Belgium
The table below shows an overview of the average salaries for common professions in Belgium.
|Job Type||Average Monthly Gross Salary||Average Monthly Net Salary|
|Fast Food Employee (minimum wage)||≈ €1,625|
|Taxi/Uber Driver||≈ €2,300|
|Executive Assistant||≈ €2,300|
|Electrical Engineer||≈ €3,750|
|Software Engineer||≈ €3,350|
|Doctor GP||≈ €14,500|
Some things to note about these salaries are:
- They are average salaries (i.e. 50% earn above this number and 50% earn below).
- Variations at the top and bottom of these numbers can differ quite a lot depending on the profession.
- These are national averages and location will impact these figures slightly.
- Net salaries vary depending on factors including age, part time vs full time, marital status, children etc. These figures listed in the table were calculated based on a full time, single employee over the age of 21.
Housing costs will also vary by location. For example rent in Antwerp is typically around 17% lower than in Brussels. Below is a table showing the average rental prices in the four biggest cities in Belgium. It is worth noting that unlike a lot of other countries around the world, unless you plan on living in your property for an extended period of time, renting generally works out to be cheaper than buying a comparable property with a typical 25-30 year mortgage.
|1 bedroom apartment||≈ €800|
|3 bedroom apartment||≈ €1,500|
Everyone’s monthly entertainment budget will vary depending on the types of activities they like doing, how often you do them and how many people you are doing these activities with.
Below I have included an overview of the average prices for popular entertainment/recreational activities in Belgium.
|Standard meal at a fast food restaurant||≈ €8.50|
|3 course meal at a mid-range restaurant for one person||≈ €40|
|3 course meal at a high-end restaurant for one person||≈ €55|
|1 Beer at a local pub/bar||≈ €4.00|
|1 Glass of wine at a local pub/bar||≈ €4.50|
|1 Cocktail at a local par/pub||≈ €11.00|
|Cup of coffee at a local cafe||≈ €3.00|
|Cinema ticket||≈ €10.00|
|Concert ticket of internationally renowned musician||≈ €50|
|Monthly gym membership||≈ €35|
Groceries also make up a significant percentage of your monthly outgoing expenses.
Groceries in Belgium can be quite expensive especially when compared to neighboring countries like Germany or the Netherlands. However, you can save a significant amount of money on groceries by shopping at discount supermarkets like Aldi or Lidl. I have even found that shopping at Albert Heijn can be significantly cheaper than other similar supermarket brands like DelHaize or Carrefour.
Below is an overview of what you can expect to pay for commonly bought grocery items.
|Tomatoes (1kg)||≈ €1.80 |
|Apples (1kg)||≈ €2.75|
|Bananas 1(kg)||≈ €1.99|
|Oranges (1kg)||≈ €3.00|
|Fresh Milk (1L)||≈ €1.95|
|Rice (1kg)||≈ €1.65|
|Onions (1kg)||≈ €1.19|
|Domestic Beer (1L)||≈ €2.50|
|Ground Beef (500g)||≈ €5.60|
|Chicken Filets (500g)||≈ €5.30|
|Eggs (12)||≈ €2.85|
Utility Costs in Belgium
While your utility bills will vary depending upon your own usage rates as well as the energy efficiency of your accommodation, according to statistics the average household in Belgium will spend around €421 per year or €35 per month on their electricity bill.
The average price of heating is harder to calculate as many buildings will cover part of the heating costs from the buildings communal fees, however the average gas bill in Belgium is said to be around €412 per year or around €34 per month.
Water is generally the cheapest utility bill and will normally work out to between €15 to €20 per month.
TV and Internet Costs in Belgium
Most people in Belgium will get a packaged deal which combines both internet and tv which will cost around €60 per month. Since most municipalities will only allow one internet service provider to provide internet and tv in your area you will normally not have the choice to pick between various cable and internet providers meaning you will be limited to only selecting what kind of plan you want (i.e. more channels, no data cap, internet speeds etc.). Below is an overview of the internet prices for the two main service providers in Belgium:
|Service Provider||Monthly Cost|
|Proximus Internet (100 GB per month)||€27.50|
|Proximus Unlimited Internet||€50.99|
|Telenet (150 GB per month)||€30.00|
|Telenet Unlimited Internet||€55.10|
Mobile Phone Costs in Belgium
If you get a cell phone plan that is pay as you go you will normally pay around €0.20 per minute for calls, €0.07 per sms and €0.10 per MB of data used. However you can also get a monthly package that would cost around €20 per month for 3GB of data.
Healthcare Costs in Belgium
Healthcare in Belgium is very good and as a result, Belgium usually scores quite highly in global health care rankings. In my three years of living in Belgium I have always had a good experience using the Belgian healthcare system.
You will normally only pay about €10 per month per person for your health insurance premium (known as the mutuelle/ziekenfonds) with kids being “free”.
The reason that your health care costs in Belgium may seem low is that you already pay for it as part of your income taxes with 7.35% of your gross salary going towards your health insurance plan. For most employees the amount that they see deducted from their paycheck will actually be 3.55% since your employer is responsible for paying the remaining 3.8%.
As long as you are okay with sharing a room with a fellow patient, hospital stays are quite inexpensive after your mutuelle/ziekenfonds plan has covered the majority of your medical expenses. Similarly, a quick checkup at the doctor’s office will only cost between €10-20 out of pocket; and when it comes to prescriptions my doctor provides them to me free of charge over the telephone.
Below is an overview of what you can expect to pay for common medical treatments/medications in Belgium.
|Treatment||Cost||Out of Pocket Cost|
|Visit to the GP||≈ €30 – €50|
≈ $34 – $57
|≈ €9 – €21 |
≈ $10 – $24
|Childbirth||≈ €3,215 |
|≈ €373 |
|≈ €241 |
|1 week dose of over the counter cold medicine||≈ €9.50 |
|≈ €9.50 |
Every parent knows that the children can add a significant amount of cost to a family’s living expenses.
As an expat you may wish to send your children to one of the international schools in order to make their transition to Belgium go as smoothly as possible. International schools in Belgium are quite expensive especially when compared to ones located in neighboring Germany or the Netherlands. That being said, most international schools in cities like Brussels or Antwerp will cost between €18,000 to €32,000 per year per child.
Daycare costs in Belgium can differ depending on a number of factors including the region you live in (Brussels vs Flanders vs Wallonia), your income as well as whether you choose to send your child to a state subsidized facility vs a fully private one.
It is worth noting that if you are paying income taxes in Belgium you can apply for a tax credit which is given to you at the end of the year which reduces your daycare fees by around €180 per month, although this reduction generally only applies to those who send their children to more expensive private facilities.
Some things to note about the Belgian daycare system is that it can be difficult to secure a spot, particularly at a state subsidized facility. As a result, it is very common for Belgian residents to secure a spot as soon as they find out that they are pregnant. I have found that if you are willing to pay a premium and are not too picky about which daycare you send your child you can usually find a spot in a fully private facility quite easily (although it is probably best to register early in order guarantee a spot at the facility of your choice).
The final major monthly expense category covered in this post is transportation costs.
If you live in the city center of cities like Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent or Liege you can generally get around using the well established public transportation systems.
For example, a one hour transportation ticket in Brussels would set you back €2.10 while an unlimited transportation pass in Brussels would cost €49 per month.
Official taxis in Belgium are pretty expensive with rides starting at about €5.00 and costing an additional €2.00 per km. For example, you could expect to pay around €35 for a 20 minute taxi ride.
Fortunately you can save a bit of money by using Uber with Uber rides often costing around 40% less than taking a traditional taxi. In which case the same 20 minute ride listed above would cost €21 instead of €35.
Car ownership can be quite expensive in any country however, it is worth noting that due to the high income taxes in Belgium a high percentage of the cars that are driven in the country are provided to employees as a tax efficient benefits package. In fact, 13.5% of employees are provided with a company car and that number jumps to 41.5% amongst company managers.
Below is an overview of the average price of five of the more popular car models sold in Belgium.
|Car Model||Price New||Price Used (3 years old)|
|Skoda Octavia||≈ €24,000 – €32,000|
≈ $27,750 – $37,000
|≈ €15,000 – €19,000 |
≈ $17,340 – $21,970
|Volkswagen Golf||≈ €22,000 – €29,000 |
≈ $25,435 – $33,530
|≈ €13,000 – €20,000|
≈ $15,030 – $23,120
|Fiat 500||≈ €11,000 – €15,000 |
≈ $12,717 – $17,342
|≈ €9,000 – €13,000 |
≈ $10,400 – $15,030
|Volvo XC40||≈ €32,000 – €38,000 |
≈ $37,000 – $43,000
|≈ €28,000 – €36,000|
≈ $32,370 – $41,620
|Mercedes C Class||≈ €38,000 – €48,000|
≈ $44,000 – $55,500
|≈ €20,000 – €28,000 |
≈ $23,120 – $32,370
In conclusion your cost of living will vary mostly based on your own personal preferences and family status rather than the specific location in Belgium which you have chosen to live.
It is really important to try and calculate what you would expect to spend to live the type of lifestyle you want before accepting a job in Belgium; and given the high income taxes you should always calculate what your net monthly salary will be before making your decision on whether or not to relocate to Belgium.
To put my estimations of €1,550 per month for single individuals and €4,150 per month for families of four (rent included) in perspective these salaries should give you a comparable lifestyle to the salaries listed in the cities below.
Other frequently asked questions
Is Belgium expensive to live in?
The cost of living in Belgium is in line with most other countries in Western Europe. While the rental prices in Belgium are generally less than what you would pay in neighboring countries, groceries and eating out tends to be more expensive in Belgium than in other Western European Countries.
Why is Belgium so expensive?
The reason Belgium is expensive is that the cost of labour is high due to the high income taxes and social contributions that employers need to pay in Belgium. Belgium also taxes certain goods like groceries at much higher levels than its neighbors which increases individuals living expenses.
Is Belgium cheaper than France?
Belgium is generally cheaper than France as groceries are between 15% to 20% cheaper, restaurants are between 5% to 8% cheaper and rent is between 5% to 10% cheaper than in France.
Is Belgium more expensive than the US?
Belgium is generally seen as being about 10% cheaper than the U.S. as a whole, largely due to the much lower average accommodation costs in metropolitan areas. Belgians do tend to have lower take home salaries due to higher income taxes however healthcare costs in Belgium are much lower than in the U.S.
Is Belgium more expensive than Germany?
While accommodation costs in Belgium are generally lower than in Germany, all other living expenses in Germany are between 22% to 30% less than what you would pay in Belgium.
Is Canada more expensive than Belgium?
No, as a whole Canada is about 5% cheaper when it comes to living costs than Belgium. However bigger cities in Canada like Toronto and Vancouver are more expensive than Belgium’s largest cities like Brussels and Antwerp mainly due to the significantly higher costs in these large Canadian cities.
How much is a good salary in Belgium?
If you want to be in the top 10% of income earners in Belgium you would need to earn a pre-tax salary of over €64,200 per year which equals a net monthly salary of €2,891 per month.
To get a better idea of what the top earners, are earning in the Belgium checkout the table below:
|Income Bracket||Gross Yearly Salary||Net Monthly Salary|
|Bottom 10% of earners||€25,020||€1,591|
|Bottom 20% of earners||€27,660||€1,648|
|Bottom 30% of earners||€30,600||€1,721|
|Bottom 40% of earners||€33,600||€1,827|
|Bottom 50% of earners||€37,200||€1,962|
|Top 40% of earners||€40,800||€2,090|
|Top 30% of earners||€45,600||€2,267|
|Top 20% of earners||€52,800||€2,530|
|Top 10% of earners||€64,200||€2,891|
|Top 5% of earners||€78,000||€3,361|
*figures in the table above were collected from the Belgian job website jobat.be.
What is a low salary in Belgium?
A low salary in Belgium would be anything under €30,600 gross per year as this salary would put you in the bottom 30% of income earners in Belgium. Earning this salary would mean that your take home monthly salary would be below €1,721 per month.
What is the average salary in Belgium?
The average take home salary in Belgium is €2,432 per month while the Median income is a bit lower at €2,314 per month after taxes.
Why are salaries in Belgium so low?
Belgian salaries actually aren’t that low when you compare them to other countries around the world. However, take home salaries are quite a bit lower than gross salaries because Belgium has amongst the highest income taxes in the world. Another factor which decreases wages in Belgium is that the cost of labour is quite high for businesses due to the high social’s that employees and employers need to pay as part of your gross salary.
What is the average Belgian gross monthly salary?
In 2019 the average gross salary in Belgium was €3,758 per month which equals to a net monthly salary of around €2,432 per month.
Are salaries in Belgium High?
Salaries in Belgium are very high compared to most other countries around the world, in fact, Belgium has the eighth highest average income in the entire world with the average salary currently sitting at €45,096 per year which equates to a net monthly salary of €2,432 per month.
Is Antwerp cheaper than Brussels?
Antwerp is cheaper than Brussels mainly due to the fact that the housing costs in Antwerp are between 15% to 25% lower in Antwerp than in Brussels. Most other living expenses will be quite similar however certain restaurants and groceries tend to be slightly cheaper in Antwerp than in Brussels.
Is it expensive to live in Antwerp?
Antwerp is less expensive than Brussels and Ghent but more expensive than cities like Liege or Charleroi. According to our estimations a single person would need a net salary of €1,450 to live comfortably in Antwerp while a family of four would typically require a net salary of at least €3,700 per month.
Is Belgium cheaper than the UK?
The overall cost of living in Belgium is cheaper than in the UK. This is mainly because the UK has higher housing costs which are between 30-50% higher than in Belgium. Restaurants in the UK are also more expensive than Belgium while used cars and groceries are generally cheaper in the UK.
Is Canada more expensive than Belgium?
Cities in Canada like Toronto and Vancouver are more expensive than Belgium’s largest cities of Brussels or Ghent due to higher accommodation costs which are more than 50% higher than in Belgium. Restaurants in Canada are cheaper than those in Belgium however groceries tend to be cheaper in Belgium than in Canada.
Is it expensive to live in Bruges?
Bruges is cheaper than Brussels and Ghent but similar in price to Antwerp. According to our estimations a single person would need a net salary of €1,1350 to live comfortably in Bruges while a family of four would typically require a net salary of at least €3,700 per month.
How much is rent in Bruges?
In general you can rent a studio for between €350 to €450 per month. A one bedroom apartment will cost between €500 to €900 per month. A two bedroom apartment will cost between €600 to €1,200 per month and a three bedroom apartment will cost between €800 to €1,300 per month.
Is Liege expensive to live?
Liege is one of the cheaper cities in Belgium when it comes to living expenses. According to our estimations a single person would need a net salary of €1,350 to live comfortably in Liege while a family of four would typically require a net salary of at least €3,800 per month.
Is it expensive to live in Ghent?
Ghent is the second most expensive city to live in Belgium after Brussels. According to our estimations a single person would need a net salary of €1,500 to live comfortably in Ghent while a family of four would typically require a net salary of at least €4,000 per month.
How expensive is Leuven?
A student studying in Leuven living in shared accommodation should be able to get by on about €1,200 per month while a young professional would typically need a net salary of €1,500 per month. A family of four would need closer to €3,800 per month to live comfortably in Leuven.
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