BELGIUM

Waffles, chocolate, fries and beer.

The Big Bang Theory originated in Belgium by a Belgian priest: Georges Lemaître.

You’ll need:

  • Either a valid passport or travel document. It must be valid for at least three more months beyond the date you plan to leave Belgium and must be issued within the last 10 years.
  • A visa – but only if you are subject to the Belgian visa regime. Not necessary for US Citizens.
  • You may also be asked for other supporting documents: these documents could be an invitation letter by a Belgian host, proof that you are staying in Belgium or a round-trip ticket.

*British passport holders are not required to fulfill the passport validity and issuance date criteria.

In 1995, the government of Belgium signed the Schengen Agreement, meaning that it became part of the European border free area.

You must apply for a Schengen Visa if you are:

  • Citizens of a third-world country that has not reached a visa liberalization agreement with the EU.
  • A citizen of a third-world country that has reached a visa liberalization agreement with the Schengen states, but you were rejected from entering Belgium or any other Schengen country visa-free.

For more detailed info, check out Schengen Visa Info.

These are 3 popular international airports in Belgium:

Brussels Airport (BRU) and Antwerp International Airport (ANR) in Antwerp (Northern Belgium), and Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL).

Brussels Airport (BRU) is located northeast of Brussels, and services both premium and budget airlines. Brussels Airport is easily reachable by train, bus, taxi and car.

Antwerp International Airport (ANR), located in Antwerp, is the smallest of the three. ANR is reachable by train, bus and tram.

Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL) is south of Brussels. The airport services many budget airlines and is about 50 minutes from Brussels city center.

Belgium is a country that provides ample modes of transportation to navigate the adventure-filled country.

Uber is currently available in Brussels- but there has been periods where it has been illegal so it is important to be wary. However, there are also many taxis available in the major cities of Belgium. 

Within the cities of Belgium, there should be public transit such as buses, taxis, trams, metros, trains or even bikes to get around. The metro service is large and relatively cheap and most locals use it in order to get around Belgium. 

To venture throughout the country, Belgium’s train services are a popular option. For example through Rail Europe you can book a ticket from Brussels to Antwerp for just $12. The train is a very convenient way to navigate the country. 

However, once in the cities it is definitely recommended to take metros, bikes and walk! Many of the cities, like Antwerp or Bruges, are very compact and often transit isn’t even needed.

Belgium is a relatively safe destination for travelers. As is usual in most cities be sure to keep your belongings close to you and be wary of pickpockets.

The emergency number for the police in Europe is 101. The phone number for ambulance and fire is 101- and the general emergency number is 112.

It is against the law in Belgium to bring in, carry and use illegal drugs and other controlled substances when you go to Belgium.

Overall, Belgium is considered one of the safest places in Europe. But, of course, be street smart and have fun!

Temperatures in Belgium are relatively mild all year long. The average low during the winter is 1 Celsius (34 Fahrenheit). The average high during the summer is 23 degrees Celsius (73 Fahrenheit). However, Belgium is a rainy country- expect rain throughout the year and pack an umbrella!

December, January, February (Winter): Cold but rarely snows. Expect rain.
March, April, May (Spring): BEST TIME TO VISIT.
June, July, August (Summer): Slightly warmer. Hot days are rare.
September, October, November (Autumn): BEST TIME TO VISIT.

Belgium is on the Central European Time Zone (CET). It’s GMT +2 hours, meaning that it’s 6 hours ahead of New York and 1 hour ahead of London (Not calculating for Day Lights Savings).

Belgium has three official languages, French, Dutch (Flemish), and German. Belgium has distinctive regions with Flemish being spoken in Flanders to the north, French being spoken in Wallonia to the south and German being spoken in a community in the east. However, Brussels itself is a bilingual capital with both French and Flemish being spoken.

Here’s a few basic words and phrases: 

*italic= flemish

Hello: Bonjour – Hallo
Thank you: Merci – Dank u wel
You’re welcome: De rien – Graag gedaan
Excuse me: Excusez-moi – Excuseer mij
I’m sorry: Désolé – Het spijt me
Please: S’il vous plaît – Alstublieft
Good morning: Bonjour – Goedemorgen
Good night: Bonne nuit – Goede nacht
My name is…: Mon nom est… – Mijn naam is
Check, please: L’addition s’il vous plait – De rekening alstublieft
I don’t understand: Je ne comprends pas – Ik begrijp het niet
Do you speak English?: Parlez vous anglais? – Spreekt u Engels?
Where is…?: Où est…? – Waar is… ?
Call the police: Appelle la police – Bel de politie

Belgium, and its bilingual capital, Brussels, are relatively modern and easy to navigate in terms of etiquette. However, navigating the language divides in Belgium may be challenging.

Language:

Dutch and French are widely spoken in Belgium. With Dutch typically being spoken in the North and French in the South. With the exception of Brussels being bilingual and the German community in the East.

The Belgium language divide is a tense subject and speaking the incorrect language may get you in trouble with the locals. Speak English when in doubt.

Social Settings:

Avoid discussing the language divide in Belgium.

Belgians tend to dress conservatively.

Wine and Dine:

Belgians do not appreciate waste so it’s important to finish all the food on your plate.

Keep your hands on the table at all types- not on your lap.

Do not use a toothpick in public.

Raise your hand to beckon the waiter or waitress.

Belgium’s unit of currency is the Euro (€). Approximately € 0.89 equates to USD $1.

Exchanging money in Belgium is safe and easy. You can either exchange at the airport or local banks that have ATM machines.

Tipping! Not expected since 10-15% is already added to your bill.

Belgium carries two different plug types- types C and E. Plug C has two round pins and Plug E has two round pins and a hole for the socket’s male earthing pin. The standard voltage is a 230V supply voltage and the frequency is 50Hz.

Your converter should look like this: This is a Plug C.

Drinking water straight from the faucet is 100% safe in Belgium. Some people do prefer to filter their water in Belgium as they prefer the taste of filtered water.

Belgium is highly technologically advanced – meaning that there should be WiFi at most locations.

Staying in the country for a long time? Here’s how to get a SIM card:

You can find mobile stores in the arrival hall of Brussels airport.
Convenience stores sell SIM cards, too.
SIM cards cost around €15 – €45.

LGBTQ+ rights in Belgium are seen as some of the most progressive in Europe and in the world. Same-sex marriage in Belgium has been legal since 1 June 2003. Belgium was the second country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, after the Netherlands.
Make sure to see Belgian Pride Weekend, which takes place in mid May.

Belgium boasts the highest recycling rate in Europe.

Here’s how the nation recycles:

Garbage is divided into trash, recycling and compost.

However, in Belgium each region has different recycling methods so make sure to check where you are.

Recycling containers can be found all over Belgium- typically in the colors white, blue, green and yellow.

Must See Highlights for Eco-Travelers:

The Blue Forest in Halle, Belgium is home to bluebells in the forest.

Discover Sanctuary Wood in Ypres, Belgium. It is a rare example of World War I trenches from the British front.

Go cycling on the The Gouden Carolus Route in Mechelen.

SHOP ETHICALLY:

packing list
A TIMELINE OF BELGIUM'S HISTORY

Belgium declares independence from the Netherlands.

Belgian Revolution
wikipedia.org
1830

Belgium renounces neutrality during World War 2. Joins alliance with France.

Belgium WWII
wikipedia.org
1920

Flanders and Wallonia regions of Belgium become unilingual.

1930

Allied forces liberated Belgium.

1944

King Leopold’s eldest son, Prince Baudouin, officially assumes kingship.

1951

Belgian government grants independence to the Congo (now known as The Democratic Republic of Congo).

Belgian Congo
Belgian Congo. Photo: ultimatehistoryproject.com
1960

Belgian constitution was changed to recognise countries three regions: Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels.

1933

The Euro replaced the Belgian franc.

cash4coins.com
2002

Prime Minister Leterme offers to resign after not reaching power sharing deal between the Dutch and French regions. But King Albert II refused to accept the resignation.

2008

King Albert II abdicated the throne in favour of his son Philippe.

2013

Islamic State suicide bombers attacked Brussels Airport and Maalbeek metro station. Thirty-five people were killed and more than 300 injured.

Brussels attack
Pixabay
2016

SNEAK PEAK…

PACKING FOR BELGIUM?

Check out Jetset Times SHOP for waterproof travel bags and accessories, handcrafted in Brussels, Belgium.

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