Dutch Telephones

The Dutch telephone system has undergone a complete revolution thanks to the developments of the past few years. Once upon a time the system was under the complete control of KPN, the royal Dutch phone company. Today, several years after the monopoly was broken, KPN is nearly bankrupt, failing to compete with mobile phones, international and other Dutch phone service providers.

So what options are now available for making calls in Holland? First, the once ubiquitous phone booths are almost extinct. It used to be every public business like pubs, restaurants even shops had a public phone. But thanks again to the widespread use of mobile phones, few locals need to use a pay phone anymore. So finding them is next to impossible. In fact, not long ago I was in the Jordaan, without my cellphone, and needed to make a call. I stopped in half a dozen public places, some of which still had a phone, but not one still worked.

You can still find public phones in post offices, hotels, airports, railway stations and occasionally on the most touristed streets. But not many other places. You'll need to have a phone card (available at those places just mentioned) or a credit card or a Chipper/Proton cash card, as public phones don't take coins anymore.

If you're going to be living in Holland, you have a choice of home/business phone services offered by KPN, UPC and others. You can get a regular dialup line, an ISDN line which usually allows two phone lines, one for fax or internet, or a cable line which gives you two phone lines, Internet access and digital TV thru one cable! This last option is by far the best deal around.

UPC is the dominant player, and its service has improved greatly over the years. It has the fastest internet (up to 1MB/sec), cheap long distance (I pay 7 cents per minute for calls to the US), and a very good cable TV service. Monthly charges for all this run less than 100 euros. And you don't have by-the-minute charges for the Internet, like with dialup services, so if you use the Internet heavily, you will save big time (my charges had been almost $200 a month with KPN, for slow dialup Internet, without the extras!).

Mobile phones are very popular in Holland, and everyone seems to have one. There are many companies and service plans available. You can purchase a phone for about 100 Euros and buy prepaid cards so you don't have to have a monthly subscription. This is the best option if you rarely use the cellphone. But if you like to use it, you can a FREE mobile phone with a monthly subscription, for as little as 10 Euros a month. I've been using Ben, which gives me 150 minutes a month for about 23 Euros. It carries over unused time from the previous month up to 300 minutes, so I've never had to pay extra above the subscription.

Calls to other countries, or from other countries using a mobile phone can be very costly, but convenient. So if your travels take you to France for instance you might want to make sure you have a mobile service that also covers that country, otherwise you'll pay yet another premium for using it there. If you go to signup for a mobile phone, you must bring a passport or identity card for ID purposes!

Phone bills in Holland do not usually give you the detail of every call, unless you specifically request this information. You will be charged an extra fee for this service. It's a good idea to have monthly charges automatically deducted from your bank account so you don't have to worry about making the payments on time.

Note: From the KPN monopoly to the half dozen mobile phone companies, a variety of choices in phone service is available in the Netherlands. Find out the cheapest ways to make phone calls in Holland.

Dutch Telephones
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