Cost of Living in Brussels
Cost of housing in Brussels
Housing is the largest expense for expats in Brussels, though with the economy in crisis, landlords are becoming much more willing to negotiate lease prices these days, whether you are in an existing lease or just moving to the area. Make sure you ask how long a property has been vacant. You may have some leverage to reduce the rent if the figure is more than six months.
The cost of apartments and houses varies dramatically and depends on the standard of living and space, and the proximity to the centre of Brussels and the European quarter.
Certain neighbourhoods are more expensive than others; Ixelles, Uccle and Woluwe St Pierre are among the higher cost quarters of the city. 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.
A studio apartment in the centre of town can cost around 500 euros per month, an unfurnished house in Ixelles 3,000 euros per month, and two-bedroom apartments in Woluwe St Pierre range from 600 to 1,000 euros a month.
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 2,700 to 5,000 euros or more. 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, and rates recently increased 20 percent. A large house (200m2) can be 300 euro a month or more for electricity usage, where a two-bedroom apartment might be 60-100 euro per month.
Heating is necessary in the winter. Some older houses require you to fill tanks in the basement with a type of oil. There are services that come and do this, and your landlord will likely give you the name, but it’s up to the tenant to pay for it.
Fuel charges for automobiles are pretty stable.
Cost of communications in Brussels
You can get a phone line for as little as 18 euro per month and there are various plans that will also add on television, Internet and mobile phone services. Plans for international calling exist but are still not as cheap as in the US; though, things seem to be getting more competitive. Costs associated with calling from a cell phone are very expensive within Belgium and within Europe as a whole.
Your best bet is to talk to a Belgacom representative or go to Belgacom.be and pick a plan that’s right for you.
Tip: Make sure you ask about contract terms. Sometimes the contract renews every time you tack on a new feature. So, plan and ask questions ahead, then sign up for what you need all at once.
Cost of dining out in Brussels
Some of the best bargains in Brussels are inspired by the edible, and good restaurants are too numerous to list. The snack stands around town sell the famous Frites (chips to the Brits, fries to Americans) in heaping quantities for roughly 3 euro, depending on the location. Sauce is a must, and of course is extra, about 0,50 euro. Waffles (gaufres) are best bought from the trucks set up in tourist locations and in the main squares, and sell for roughly 1 euro.
The ubiquitous “snack” shops found in every neighbourhood also give a whole lotta bang for a little buck. These family run places dish up falafels, gyros, frites and other specialties served in a pita or wrap with veggies and garlic sauce for about 3,50 euro.
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 if you go for the prix fixe lunch menu.
Belga Queen’s changes every day and offers an entrée and a main for 16 euro. L’idiot du Village in Les Marolles offers two courses for 15 euro. At the ultra fancy Le Chalet de la Foret, lunch is an entrée, a main and dessert for 34 euro - steep but still well below the dinner menu price. For daily outings, places like Mamma Roma are great and offer cheap and good quality. Order oven-baked pizza by the slice or the lunch special, two slices plus a drink for 7 euro.
A cup of coffee can range from some cheap swill at a local bar for 1,50 euro to fancier (and tastier) cappuccinos at a swank café like Cook & Book for 3,50 euro. Same goes for beer or glasses of wine. The house wine at a local bar won’t be more than 3-4 euro, unless of course you’re sipping on vino from any of the wine bars, hotel bars and fancy restaurants. Overall, the average for a glass of wine is between 7-10 euro.
Like housing, the cost of dining out depends on where you go and what you eat. One thing to note, food 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 you live, this might be a requirement. But if you plan to work and live in the city centre or the European quarter, public transport is affordable and well connected via the Metro, bus and tram lines. Getting from point A to point B via public transport also ends up being less of a headache since you don’t have to deal with expensive and limited parking or parking fines. A ride on the Metro and tram is around 1,30 euro, and on the bus, 1,70 euro. Expats who will regularly be using public transportation can buy a 10-ride card for all modes of public transport for 13 euro. A taxi ride from the city centre to the airport is about 40 euro.
Unfortunately, there is not very efficient Metro/bus service direct to the airport, so if you plan to take public transport to Zaventem Airport, give yourself plenty of time to get there from anywhere in the city.
Cost of common goods 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.
Colruyt is also a chain around Belgium and is known to sell things in ‘bulk’, and 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.
FYI: None of the major chains provide bags anymore, so buy them once and re-use them each time. Or bring your own from home.
Things like fruit in the winter can be very pricey, but in season prices stabilise.
Cost of babysitters and domestic staff in Brussels
If you decide to hire a babysitter, nanny or cleaning person, you will also find the rates to be affordable. On average, 7 euro per hour is the going rate, and many cleaning people will do the ironing and some will even cook simple meals. It is necessary to negotiate directly with the person and/or agency. Xpats.com lists classified ads where you can search for or post for domestic help.
Tip: Most domestic staff do not have a driving license nor do they have a car. If you are looking for help picking up children from school, or driving them to activities, you need to specify this upfront and search accordingly.