Cost of Living in Brussels

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The cost of living in Belgium is generally considered to be fairly expensive, even by European standards. This is especially true when it comes to items such as electricity. At the same time, expats will also be able to save a significant amount on food and public transport, while the cost of accommodation in Brussels is lower than many other major cities

Cost of housing in Brussels

An apartment in the European district of BrusselsHousing is usually the largest expense for expats in Brussels. With the economy only recently stabilising, some landlords are willing to negotiate lease prices, whether for new or existing leases. Prospective tenants should ask how long a property has been vacant, and may have some leverage if the figure is more than six months.

The cost of apartments and houses in Brussels vary dramatically and depends on size, quality, and the proximity to the city centre and the European quarter.

Certain neighbourhoods are more expensive than others; Ixelles, Uccle and Woluwe St Pierre are among the highest. But the good news is that there is a large variety of choice when it comes to finding a place to live in Brussels, and there is truly something for every budget.

Further out of the city, in Waterloo, Tervuren and Overijse, expats can expect to find more family friendly homes with large gardens, garages and sometimes pools for anywhere from EUR 3,000. Again, the cost of living ultimately depends on the size, location and style of the home.

Cost of utilities in Brussels

The monthly costs incurred for heating, electricity, gas and phone also swing wildly, depending on the system and usage. Electricity is expensive – more expensive than in Germany – but gas prices in Belgium are among the cheapest in the EU. A large house can cost more than EUR 300 a month for electricity.

Heating is necessary in the winter. Some older houses require tanks in the basement with oil. There are services that come and do this, and landlords will likely recommend one, but it’s up to the tenant to pay for it.

Cost of communications in Brussels

Expats can get a phone line for around EUR 20 per month and there are various plans that include television, Internet and mobile phone services. Mobile phone charges in Belgium are some of the most expensive in Europe.

Belgacom is partly owned by the state, and the company’s website or a representative can help expats pick a plan that is right for them. It is important to ask about contract terms, however; sometimes a contract renews every time a new feature is added. Expats should plan and ask questions ahead, and sign up for what they need all at once.

Cost of eating out in Brussels

Frites are an affordable popular food when eating out in BrusselsSome of the best bargains in Brussels are inspired by food, and good restaurants are too numerous to list. The snack stands around town sell the famous Belgian frites (which many people call French fries) in heaping quantities for a few euros. Waffles (gaufres) are best bought from the trucks set up in tourist locations and in the main squares, and are also cheap.

The snack shops found in almost every neighbourhood also give good deals. These family-run places dish up falafels, gyros, frites and other specialties served in a pita or wrap with veggies and garlic sauce for several euros.
For high-end fare, many of the finer restaurants around the city offer a great chance to try the food at a fraction of the cost of the dinner menu on the prix fixe lunch menu.

Like housing, the cost of dining out depends on where a person goes and what they eat. One thing to note is that the food in Belgium is top notch, and from the less expensive snack shops to the high-end Michelin star restaurants, dining in Brussels is a pleasure that will not disappoint any taste or budget.

Cost of public transport in Brussels

Lots of people drive in Brussels, and depending on where an expat lives, this might be a requirement. If someone works and lives in the city centre or the European quarter, however, public transport is affordable and well connected via the Metro, bus and tram lines.
 Getting from point A to point B via public transport in Brussels also ends up being less of a headache since it prevents having to deal with expensive and limited parking or parking fines. A ride on the Metro, a tram or bus regularly costs less than EUR 2. Expats who will regularly be using public transportation can also save money by buying multiple ride cards. A taxi ride from the city centre to the airport costs around EUR 40.

Unfortunately, public transport services to the airport are not very effective, so if an expat plans to take public transport to Zaventem Airport, they give themselves plenty of time to get there from anywhere in the city.

Cost of shopping in Brussels

There are dozens of specialty and ethnic shops in Brussels; the main supermarket chains are Delhaize and Carrefour; and both offer everything from meat and fish to laundry detergent and cat food. In general, typical items are similarly priced to that of the US and other EU countries.

Colruyt is a chain around Belgium that is known to sell things in bulk at very competitive prices. Colruyt is characterised by its no-frills appearance. Items are displayed on metal shelves, the lighting is dimmed, and the company does not provide shopping bags to customers. 

None of the major chains provide bags anymore, so expats should buy them once and re-use them each time or bring their own from home. 

Things like fruit can be very pricy in the winter but prices stabilise in season.

Cost of living in Brussels chart (2014)

(Note that prices may vary depending on product and service provider and the list below shows average prices)
Accommodation (monthly rent from unfurnished to furnished)
Two bedroom apartment in city centre EUR 1,150
Two bedroom apartment outside city centre EUR 950
Food and drink
Milk (1 litre) EUR 1.05
Cheese (500g) EUR 6.85
Dozen eggs EUR 2.40
White bread  EUR 1.60
Rice (1kg) EUR 2.20
1 packet of cigarettes (Marlboro) EUR 5.40
City centre bus/train fare EUR 2.10
Taxi rate per km EUR 1.80
Petrol (per litre) EUR 1.60
Eating out
Big Mac Meal EUR 7.75
Coca Cola (330ml)    EUR 2.10
Cappuccino EUR 2.70
Bottle of beer EUR 3.50
Three course meal at a mid-range restaurant EUR 30
Mobile call rate (per minute - mobile to mobile) EUR 0.25
Internet uncapped ADSL per month EUR 37
Electricity and gas (average per month for standard household) EUR 160

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