Bring your unlocked phone to a Vodafone store. The easiest one for tourists to get to is on Kalverstraat (Amsterdam’s main shopping corridor). Ask for a pre-pay/”top up” sim card. Have your passport on hand in case they need it. I didn’t but you never know.
Easy to ridiculously easy. Pop in, buy sim card (comes with credits), top up at a Vodafone store or the Albert Hein super market.
Providers and Networks:
Vodafone, KPN, Telfort, T-Mobile
All providers GSM 850/900/1800/1900/2100
World Phone Compatible
“The Netherlands is one of the main leaders into the mobile telecommunications market which will give you plenty of choice when it comes to choosing a service provider. The Ministry of Economic Affairs has released a ‘conceptual note’ regarding future policy on mobile development for 2011-2017, which includes objectives such as the pursuit of effective competition, removal of barriers to entry and a timeline for the renewal of existing mobile frequencies.” (source: justlanded.com)
In my early twenties I moved to Amsterdam for a few years and recently went back to visit my friends en route to Oktoberfest in Munich. Amsterdam has always (for me) been a very easy city to visit. The Dutch are a very efficient and pragmatic people. Their cities tend to be well organized and fairly utilitarian making it very easy to get around. Also, almost 100% of the population speaks English to some degree so that’s a bonus for us Anglo’s.
Couple of bonus pro tips for those wanting to visit before I dive into it:
- Rent a bike – taxis are very expensive and it’s 100% easier to get anywhere by bike. Transit is fine too but just get a bike
- If you arrive by plane at Schiphol it’s stupid easy to get to Amsterdam Centraal. Get off the plane, hope KLM didn’t lose your bags then head to the main area. Approach a large yellow box that looks like an ATM. Select a one way (enkle reis) ticket to Amsterdam Centraal. Go to Spoor (platform) 6 and hop on train. It will take 20 minutes. Don’t be lazy and take a taxi.
Carriers, Coverage and Getting Set up:
There are four providers in The Netherlands : Vodafone, KPN, Telefort & T-Mobile. Vodfone is fairly ubiquitous throughout western Europe and while those who have monthly plans with them say they’re a pain to deal with it’s relatively easy to get a pay-as-you-go set up.
Here’s how it went for me:
- Drop my bags off at my rental in Amsterdam Noord (definitely worth a visit next time you’re in AMS).
- Grab my bike as provided by my host
- Bike to the centre of Amsterdam to hit the Vodafone winkel (store) to pick up my SIM – address: Kalverstraat 173
- Pay €10 Euro for my SIM which came with an additional €10 Euro for use.
- Load the SIM into my phone and bike to my favourite Belgian beer cafe (which will remain my secret) and surf the internets.
What do you get:
- For €1 a day you get 100MB of data. Everything after that is charged at €0.15 per MB.
- Calls are €0.30 for a minute
- SMS’s are €0.15
More info here.
While pre-paid is great for sms and data it’s bad for calls. One of my friends from Belgium basically refused to sms, Facebook message or email and called me which ate up some of my credit *sigh*. Apparently you can top up your phone online. I tried this, hungover, from my bed one morning and I kept getting an error message … so I had to go somewhere to top up like a caveman. You add credit to your SIM at the Vodafone winkel for any amount (€5, €10, €20 + ) or you can top up at the Albert Hein. The catch here is the Albert Hein will recharge your card if it’s for €20 or more – probably not worth it if you’re only staying for a few more days.
The coverage was great. It was strong even after we jumped in the car and headed out of the city. Granted the Netherlands is tiny so we only had to drive for 40 minutes until I was roaming in Belgium (Dear EU please see about an EU phone plan, seriously).
If anyone has been and checked out other SIM cards and plans please post in the comments, or contact us, and let me know what your experience was like. I hear there’s an Aldi (cheap supermarket) prepay card that you can get which would be great because I love the Aldi (however at time of writing it appears that, unfortunately, their data rates are not competitive with Vodaphone).
Bliep appears to also offer an interesting option with by the day “unlimited” plans starting at €1.00/day (€0.50 for ‘slow’ internet access). This does run on T-Mobile’s network which is not as developed as other providers. You may end up surfing on 2G more often depending on the areas you’ll be visiting. Vodaphone’s €1.00 for 100mb is still the recommended option unless you expect to use more than 100mb per day. The Bliep plans do, however, allow for unlimited domestic calls and SMS at a very reasonable price. While this likely won’t be overly important to most travellers, if you do require it, Bliep may be worth a look.
If you are staying for more than 10 days, and expect 1GB of data will suffice (for most it will), you could save some money by trying Lebara Mobil (SIM cards available at their own stores). They sell access on the KPN network (very good coverage) at a rate of €10 for 1GB for 30 days (Vodaphone charges €15 for this option).