The Dutch market offers a large variety of Sim Only deals (Sim Only aanbiedingen). But that isn’t too helpful for those that struggle to understand if & which Sim Only subscription is the right fit for them. This complete guide defines the essentials you need to make the right choice.

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Download a PDF version of the guide and read it when it's most convenient for you.


What is a Sim Only?

A Sim Only is a common type of a mobile plan subscription provided by telecom companies. The name is derived from the idea of companies selling ‘standalone’ sim cards in contrast to phone, TV & internet bundles.

a girl looking at a phone with sim only

However, don’t let the name confuse you - a Sim Only is much more than a standalone sim card. It is a powerful monthly subscription which oftentimes dominates the value of a cheap prepaid solution. And yes, we’re talking about those irritating salesmen that continuously push you their prepaid plans in some of Netherlands’ busiest public spaces.

Take a deep breath, sit down & relax. No one will put you under pressure to purchase the best Sim Only deal within the next 30 seconds. Let’s find the perfect solution for you by helping you fully understand all options you can select from. After all, College Life’s mission is to make your life easier.


Benefits of a Sim Only

Sim Only deals are packed with value. It’s really only about the choice you make between various options that will determine what aspects of the subscription are most valuable to you.

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Easy Setup

Getting started with a Sim Only is simple. It usually takes less than 5 minutes to compare, select & purchase a Sim Only. And if you oftentimes face a choice overload with a large number of available options, College Life selected three most popular mobile subscriptions (mobiel abonnementen) for different types of users.


Affordable Prices

Having the option of purchasing a sim card without any other product or service allows you to start calling, texting & surfing at a ridiculous price.


Contract Flexibility

It is a common misconception that Sim Only subscriptions are available only for a fixed period of 1 to 2 years. Telecom companies provide flexible contracts allowing you to subscribe on a monthly basis. If you opt-in for a month-to-month (maandelijks opzegbare) Sim Only deal, you won’t have any additional commitments once you decide to stop your subscription. Just keep an eye out on the cancellation period, which is usually 30 days.


Bundle Adjustability

Do you enjoy tailoring everything exactly to your needs? With a Sim Only mobile subscription you can adjust everything, including your contract duration, amount of data, number of minutes & number of texts. Ask yourself the following questions to create the perfect plan for yourself:

  • How often do I stream movies using data on a monthly basis?
  • How often do I text my loved ones on a monthly basis?
  • How often do I call my friends per month?


Functionalities of a Sim Only

There are a few core functionalities that you can make use of with a Sim Only. Some of these will vary from provider to provider so make sure to do your research and dig into the specifics of your preferred subscription.

A girl showing how customisable mobile subscriptions can be

New Number vs. Number Transfer

As a newcomer to the Netherlands, you’ll likely be requesting a new number. The telecom provider will generate a random phone number for you and all you will have to do is to activate it.

If you’ve had a mobile number for a longer time and aren’t in the mood of notifying your friends & family through every single social media channel on earth, you can have your number transferred. Usually, this is a simple process & the telecom provider takes care of it entirely. One of the only prerequisites is for you to stop your existing contract – if, you have one. A prepaid number may also be transferred.


Calling & Texting

Depending on the Sim Only subscription that you select, there will be a limit on the number of minutes & texts you can use per month. Nowadays, you can easily track your usage via the website of your provider to ensure that you don’t go over your limit. And if you have unlimited calls & texts, go wild.


Data Usage

Similarly to calling & texting, you will likely have a limit on how much data you can use per month. Data is measured by the number of megabytes (Mbs) you download and so it’s important to only use those apps that don’t juice out all of it within seconds (*cough* Instagram *cough*). Keep an eye on your data usage to have a few spare MBs left in the last days of the month.


International Calls, Texts & Data

As of June 2017, all roaming charges in the EU have been abolished. This means that you are welcome to use your subscription in any EU country, just as you would in the Netherlands. You may also call other Dutch numbers while travelling in the EU. If, however, you’d like to call a non-Dutch EU number, you will be charged with additional costs.

Using data, texts & minutes outside of the EU is not included in the bundle (buiten je bundel). Make sure to ask your provider if you’re still not clear to prevent any unforeseen expenses.


Selecting Sim Only Subscriptions

If you’re still holding in your breath as we asked you in Chapter 1, you may now exhale. You might be surprised that selecting the right Sim Only deal will, in fact, not require you fry your brain and face a choice overload.

Why? In collaboration with Lebara - one the leading telecom providers in the Netherlands – College Life has prepared 3 simple options tailored to the international student & graduate. And if you’d like to customise your plan, you’ll have the choice to do so. For now, simply select the plan that you believe fits you most.

A group of people discussing which option to go for
  • 3
  • Affordable

    • €0 Setup Fee
    • €30, - Cashback
    • 150 Minutes/SMS
    • 1GB Data Plan
  • Continue
  • 5
  • Popular

    • €0 Setup Fee
    • €30, - Cashback
    • Minutes/SMS
    • 5GB Data Plan
  • Continue
  • 9
  • Ultimate

    • €0 Setup Fee
    • €30, - Cashback
    •  Minutes/SMM
    • 10GB Data Plan
  • Continue


Sim Card Fundamentals

This guide wouldn’t be complete without diving into sim card essentials. Although telecom companies aim to automate everything so that you don’t have to drop a sweat when making your sim card work, it’ll be handy to know a few pointers once your sim card arrives in the mailbox.

A guy leaning on a mobile phone

Activating the Sim Card

If you purchased a new phone number, you will likely have to activate it through the dashboard provided by your telecom operator. On the other hand, if you are transferring your existing number, the sim card should be activated automatically. Most of the time, this happens as soon as your number is converted at the starting date of your subscription. It’s never a bad option to contact customer service if you get lost in the process.


Setting up the Internet Connection

The telecom provider will likely forward you the internet settings via text or email. The most important piece of information you need is the access point (APN). On an android device, you can change your APN by navigating to your Wireless & Networks settings. For setting up your Apple device, read this article.


Requesting a new Sim Card

Did your sim card fall out of your hand and vanish from the surface of the earth? Probably not, but there’s plenty of reasons why you might need a new one. Depending on your provider, you might need to pay a fee for a new sim card to be delivered to you. In the meantime, make sure to block your sim card to protect it against misuse.


Preventing Extra Costs

Waking up in the morning to realise that your telecom provider deducted 10x the amount you initially subscribed for from your bank account, can painful. And although a few of us at College Life have experienced this, we agree that it isn’t the telecom providers’ goal to overcharge you (and make you cry). To avoid this from ever happening (again), it’s important to take the right measures ahead of time.

A vault with money in it

Monitoring via the Dashboard

Most telecom providers will have a real-time dashboard allowing you to monitor your data, call & text usage. Open this dashboard at least 2-3x per month to have a better understanding of how close you are to your limit.


Activating Usage Ceilings

The safest solution is to set data & call/text ceilings. This will prevent you from incurring any additional costs ever again. Although some companies charge a small fee for this ceiling, we strongly recommend activating it. It will insure you against unforeseen expenses in the future. For more information on usage ceilings, contact your provider.


Alternatives to Sim Only

If Sim Only deals aren’t the home run you were looking for, there are alternative solutions you may explore. To help you understand why these alternatives might be the right choice for you, each option has a list of common scenarios that might fit your current situation.

A guy calling on a couch


You might have never heard of the term, but you’ve definitely heard of Skype. VoIP is an acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol. It is a solution allowing you to make calls using any internet connection available. Since free WiFi is now available almost everywhere, you may consider this solution as one allowing you to make ‘free calls.’ And that includes facetime with your childhood pet back in your home country.

You may also use VoIP via your mobile data. If you opt-in for this option, you can cut costs by subscribing to Sim Only plan with a low number of monthly minutes & texts. The College Life’s Affordable subscription is an example of a plan that’s fit for this option.

Suitable for those:

  • Planning to only call their family 1-2x per month
  • On a low monthly budget


Phone Bundles

Subscribing to a phone bundle allows you to make use of a new or refurbished phone in combination with a sim card subscription. When purchasing phone bundles, you will be required to commit for a longer period of time of 1 to 2 years during which you’ll be paying off the price of the phone.

Suitable for those:

  • Planning to purchase a new phone & get a sim card at once
  • Interested in having their monthly phone payments distributed across a longer period of time


Prepaid Card

The fastest option is getting a prepaid card. It’s usually a short-term solution for those planning to call, text & use data (mobiel internetten) for only 1 to 2 months. If you’re visiting the Netherlands as a tourist, this is definitely the option for you. Simply go to the nearest (super)market and select your desired prepaid card.

 Suitable for those:

  • Wanting a sim card immediately
  • Without a Dutch bank account
  • Without a Dutch Address
  • Without a BSN


Download the step-by-step checklist to avoiding overpaying SIM-Only subscription deals.

sim only checklist

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