Cost of Living in Belgium and Brussels, a Comparison
Considering moving to Belgium for work? One of the things to research is the cost of living there. That alone is not enough though, standard of living is also an important metric to keep in mind when comparing different areas before you settle. In this living in Belgium guide, we will take a look at the different costs associated with life in Belgium to give you a good picture.
Cost of Living in Belgium
When taking a look at cost of living, we normally take several factors into consideration, and we will take a look at each one on its own in the following sections. But first, let us mention what the average salary is so the breakdown makes more sense to us.
As of January 2021, the average net salary in Belgium is € 2,041 per month, or € 24,492 per year.
Before getting into the details of the cost of living in Belgium, we will share a couple of international comparisons so you can get a general idea, and we will highlight what it's like in Brussels.
Cost of Living in Brussels
As in most major cities and capitals, the cost of living can be higher than other places, but as well, the salaries earned do account for that. The average salary in Brussels is € 2,423 per month, or €29,076 per year, after tax.
A family of four is estimated to spend € 2,866 per month without rent. And a single person is expected to spend € 796 without rent.
So a single person can live very comfortably with their salary, but a family of four would need two working members based on average salaries.
Cost of Living in Belgium Compared to USA
Consumer Prices in Belgium can seem a bit more expensive than the US, but rent is cheaper in Belgium, so overall cost of living in Belgium ends up being cheaper. We will share some details below.
- Consumer Prices are 8.05% Higher
- Rent Prices are 35.66% Lower
- Restaurant Prices are 16.25% Higher
- Groceries are 5.28% Lower
- General Cost of Living is 6.90% Lower
Cost of Living in Belgium Compared to the UK
Consumer prices in Belgium are also a bit higher than the UK, but rent is lower so on average cost of living is lower in Belgium than the UK. We will share some details below.
- Consumer Prices are 6.95% Higher
- Rent Prices are 18.17% Lower
- Restaurant Prices are 6.58% Higher
- Groceries are 15.00% Higher
- General Cost of Living is 0.28% Lower
Cost of Renting
In Belgium the rent to salary ratio is quite good. It is said that one should be wary of paying more than ⅓ of their household income on rent. Most major cities worldwide break that rule, with for example, Londoners paying up to 50% of their salaries on rent.
In Belgium, on average, one would pay 30-35% of their salary in rent. The below table shows average costs for a one bedroom apartment and a three bedroom apartment.
|Region||Flat Size||Monthly Rent - City Center (€)||Monthly Rent - Outside Center (€)|
|Belgium General||1 Bedroom||721||604|
You will have lots of options for accommodation while searching for a place to live. You can find furnished apartments, serviced apartments, sometimes called aparthotels, and unfurnished accommodation. The different levels of service and amenities will affect the price you pay, but if you are new in Belgium, it will save you the trouble from having to find and buy the items yourself.
Depending on where you live, and the type of contract you have, some utilities will be included in the contract, such as water, sewage, garbage collection, etc. But some will not be included, such as electricity and gas, sometimes internet, etc.
- The cost of the basic utilities (electricity, gas, water, garbage) will be around €140 a month.
- Internet at 60Mbps will run at around €45.
Utilities such as water and garbage are mostly provided by regional monopolies, so you will not be able to shop around. But for your electricity, gas, and internet, the market has been liberalized, so you can definitely shop around to find the best service and best prices.
Things to keep in mind while shopping for electricity and gas are what kind of meters you have, single rate vs dual rate, and what type of tariff you prefer, fixed price tariff vs variable price tariff. The major players in the market are Engie and Lampiris, but you can find good deals with Eneco and Mega.
Public Transport Costs
As we saw above, outside the city center, prices are cheaper than in the center. So if you want to save on rent, it is viable to live outside the center as Brussels, and Belgium in general, have very good public transportation.
Major cities, such as Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent, and Charleroi have tram systems covering the entire city able to take you around without hindrance. Brussels also has a metro network.
The regular price for a monthly pass for public transport is € 50, with a one way ticket being € 2.40, so if you will use the public transport network often, you are advised to get a monthly pass.
Cost of Entertainment and Eating Out
One of the nice things about living in Brussels is that it is not much more expensive than the rest of Belgium in terms of entertainment and eating out. And a great thing about Belgium in general is that they have great food.
Starting off, a single meal at an inexpensive restaurant would cost around € 16, while a three course meal in a mid-range restaurant for two people would average to € 60. For comparison, at McDonalds, the average cost of a combo meal is € 9,
When it is pub time, you have options of both domestic and imported beers. Belgians are known for their beers, so you will be happy to know that a full pint of local beer is the same cost as a smaller bottle of international beer.
Your average pint of domestic Belgian beer (500 ml) would set you back € 4 in a pub, and € 1.57 at the supermarket.
A can or bottle of imported beer (330 ml) would cost you € 4 in a pub, and € 1.84 at the supermarket.
Finally, a cappuccino would cost € 3.16 at a cafe or restaurant, and a pack of Marlborough (20 cigarettes) would be around € 6.70.
In general, at most restaurants where you might consider leaving a tip, a service charge of 10-15% would be added to your bill automatically, so you do not have to leave a tip.
|Single meal at inexpensive restuarant||16.00|
|Three course midrange meal for two||60.00|
|McDonalds combo meal||9.00|
|Pint of domestic beer (pub)||4.00|
|Bottle of imported beer (pub)||4.00|
|2 tickets to the movies||21.00|
|2 tickets to the theatre||67.00|