Top events in Belgium

November
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Canal in Bruges, Belgium
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Canal in Bruges, Belgium

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Belgium Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

30,528 sq km (11,787 sq miles).

Population

11,267,910 (2016).

Population density

363 per sq km.

Capital

Brussels.

Government

Constitutional monarchy. Federal state comprising three autonomous regions.

Head of state

King Philippe since 2013.

Head of government

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo since 2020.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are standard.

The “boring” tag is laughable – Belgium, pretty and creative, is one of Europe’s most underrated travel destinations. Beer, chocolate and moules-frites might be the starting points for many first-time visitors, but while you’ll eat and drink well, the country’s other selling points are no less weighty.

Medieval cities like Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp and Ghent play home to some stunning architecture, while a military legacy that covers everything from Waterloo to WWII holds its own interest. It’s compact, easy to travel around and boasts no fewer than 60 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. On top of that it hosts riotous festivals like they’re going out of fashion and has a world-class arts heritage, to boot.

What Belgium isn’t, however, is straightforward. Divided into three regions − Flanders (the predominantly Dutch-speaking north), Wallonia (the predominantly French-speaking south) and the capital region of Brussels – it’s still very much split down linguistic lines. Even Belgians themselves will often refer to their homeland as an “artificial country.” In many ways, this only makes the place more fascinating.

Flanders is filled with museums and medieval architecture, its countryside studded with white-washed hamlets and paved with miles and miles of cycling paths. Its North Sea coastline offers opportunities to try land boarding or kitesurfing. Wallonia, meanwhile, follows a slower pace. Steeped in folklore, its main towns have a faded French elegance and are ideal jumping-off points for exploring the rolling hills of the Ardennes. In both halves of the country, there are some genuinely beautiful landscapes.

Brussels itself is a blend of Art Nouveau mansions and gleaming skyscrapers, art galleries and flea markets, “fritkot” chip stands and Michelin-starred restaurants. Made up of 19 communes − from the chic Ixelles district to up-and-coming Anderlecht − it’s a city with many faces. Each quarter offers a different take on the personality of “Europe’s capital,” which is apt in itself: in Belgium, very little matches the monochrome preconception.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus health information

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Belgium on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Belgium.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • make arrangements to quarantine at your hotel or the place you are staying, if you test positive (rules for what you can and cannot do during quarantine are found on the Belgian government’s website under ‘What should I do?’)
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Public spaces and services

The Belgian Government has significantly eased COVID-19 restrictions. However, wearing a face mask remains mandatory for those above 12 years old in hospitals, pharmacies and when visiting GP surgeries.

Accommodation

All types of accommodation are permitted to open subject to compliance with general rules related to COVID-19. Details are available on the Belgian Government website. Check with your accommodation provider for further information.

Healthcare in Belgium

For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should follow the guidelines set out by the Belgian Government.

You should contact local authorities for information on testing facilities.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health

View Health for further details on healthcare in Belgium.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

Check the guidance published by the Belgian Government if you require any additional information

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations often take place in Brussels, including around transport hubs and the Schuman area. While the vast majority of demonstrations are peaceful, there is a risk of isolated incidents of unrest or violence. If you’re in and around areas where demonstrations are taking place, remain vigilant and move away quickly if there are signs of disorder.

Some demonstrations can affect access to the British Embassy and the British Consulate General and cause travel disruption in central Brussels. For regular updates on any disruption, you can check local news, the Belgian Railways website (train and metro travel) and the HERE map website (road travel).

Crime

Petty crime rates are similar to the UK, but on the increase. You should take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.

Take only the minimum amount of cash, credit cards and personal ID necessary when you go out. As far as possible leave jewellery, other valuables and documents in a secure place like a hotel safe. Avoid carrying money, bank/credit cards and your passport in the same bag or pocket. Leave a photocopy of your passport and itinerary with a contact in the UK. Enter next-of-kin details into the back of your passport.

In the event of theft, contact the nearest police station and get a police report. If you lose your passport, you should also contact the British Embassy in Brussels. If you have difficulty reporting the theft of your cards to your UK card issuer, you can ask the Belgian group ‘Card Stop’ (telephone: +32 (0) 70 344 344) to send a fax to your UK card company to block your card. Alternatively, if you have Belgian issued bank/credit cards, Card Stop will be able to block them.

Be vigilant and take extra care in major railway stations, and on public transport, particularly late at night. Thieves and muggers operate around the Brussels Gare du Midi/Zuidstation (Eurostar terminal), Gare du Nord and Schuman (the EU quarter). Pickpockets also operate on international trains, mainly Paris-Brussels and Amsterdam-Brussels.

Never leave luggage unattended. There have been reports of luggage being stolen from the racks at the end of carriages in high-speed trains (TGV and Thalys), usually just before the doors close.

If you travel by taxi, use official, licensed taxis or a pre-booked minicab. We recommend that you avoid hailing taxis on the street, and do not use taxis that stop but were not specifically hailed.

Do not leave valuable items visible in your car, even when you are in it. Keep car doors locked and windows secure at all times. It is increasingly common for thieves, usually on motorbikes, to break a window and snatch valuables from the front or back passenger seat when the vehicle is stationary at traffic lights. Car jacking, especially of up-market vehicles, remains a risk. 

Local travel

When visiting former WW1 battlefields in North West Belgium, stay on the footpath and exercise caution if you see anything that looks like shells or munitions. Unexploded shells have recently been uncovered. Move away from the site and call the police emergency number 112 to report any incidents.

Road travel

Traffic is fast and Belgium’s accident rate is high mainly due to speeding. In 2019 there were 646 road deaths in Belgium (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 5.6 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.6 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2019.

If you are planning to drive in Belgium, see information on Driving Abroad.

Licences and documents

When driving in Belgium, always have:

  • your driving licence
  • your car papers
  • your insurance paper
  • your MOT or ‘contrôle technique’ certificate
  • your passport or ID and those of your passengers

If you’re driving a vehicle that does not belong to you then written permission from the registered owner may also be required.

If you’re living in Belgium, check the Living in Guide for information on requirements for residents.

Driving a British car abroad

You may need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK. From 28 September 2021 UK stickers have replaced GB stickers. Check the GOV.UK Displaying number plates website for more information on what to do if you are driving outside the UK.

Low emission zones

There are low emission zones in Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp. You can find more information on the Brussels Low Emission Zone website, Ghent Low Emission Zone website and Antwerp Low Emission Zone website.

Driving regulations

Speed traps, cameras and unmarked vehicles are in operation throughout the country.

Drivers must give absolute priority to vehicles joining a road from the right, even if they have stopped at a road junction or stopped for pedestrians or cyclists. Exemptions to this rule include motorways, roundabouts, roads sign-posted with an orange diamond within a white background, and drivers who are attempting to join a road after having driven down a street in the wrong direction.

Trams have priority over other traffic. If a tram or bus stops in the middle of the road to allow passengers on or off, you must stop.

There is a speed restriction of 30 km/h in school areas, which is operational 24 hours (even when schools are closed), unless indicated otherwise. The start and finish of these zones are not always clearly marked.

Fines have increased dramatically (up to €2,750 for exceeding the speed limit by 40 km/h and a possible court appearance for exceeding the speed limit by more than 40km/h). If you are unable to pay an on the spot fine your vehicles may be impounded.

Don’t drink and drive; frequent alcohol checks are made. Less than 0.05% alcohol in the bloodstream is allowed (a lower level than in the UK). A blood sample will be taken if you refuse to be breathalysed. Fines are heavy depending on the degree of intoxication and range from €1,100 to €11,000. In certain cases driving licences have been confiscated immediately.

Using a mobile phone while driving is not allowed; the use of ‘hands free’ equipment is allowed.

Information on road travel (in French) can be found on the website of Le Soir.

See the European Commission, AA and RAC guides on driving in Belgium.

Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Belgium.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

Attacks could happen anywhere, including on public transport and transport hubs and in other places visited by foreigners. You should be vigilant in public places and follow the advice of local Belgian authorities.

There have been a number of high profile terrorist attacks across Belgium. The main threat is from extremists linked to Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL). Previous incidents include attacks against civilians and security forces.

  • On 29 May 2018, 2 police officers and a passer-by were killed in a shooting in the city of Liège in a suspected terrorist incident.
  • On 22 March 2016 co-ordinated terrorist attacks killed 32 and injured hundreds more at Brussels Zaventem airport and on the metro system.

In 2019, the Belgian authorities successfully disrupted various attack planning activities and made a number of arrests.

Brussels hosts a number of international institutions (EU and NATO) and government and foreign embassy buildings which are sensitive locations.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

According to Belgian law, you must have some form of identification with you at all times.

Possession of drugs and trafficking in drugs are serious offences.

It’s illegal to wear in public places (parks, buildings, public transport, on the street etc.) clothing that hides a person’s face largely or completely. People wearing such clothing (e.g. the burka and nikab) risk a fine of up to €137.50 and/or detention for up to 7 days. There’s no exemption for tourists.

Taking food and drink into Belgium

You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions for medical reasons, for example certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food required for medical reasons. Check the rules about taking food and drink into the EU on the European Commission website.

This page has information on travelling to Belgium.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Belgium set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Belgium’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.

All travellers

All travellers should familiarise themselves with the entry rules for Belgium before travel.

COVID-19

There are no longer COVID-19-related restrictions on travel from the UK, such as the need to present evidence of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test or to complete a Passenger Locator Form.

A ban on non-essential travel remains in place for travellers arriving from very high risk countries, and arriving passengers are required to complete a Passenger Locator Form, quarantine for 10 days and take a PCR test on days 1 and 7. See the Belgian government website for further information on who is permitted to travel and the countries this affects.

If you’re fully vaccinated

Entry requirements for Belgium are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

Proof of vaccination status

You don’t need to provide proof of your vaccination status for entry to Belgium.

If you’re not fully vaccinated

Entry requirements for Belgium are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

If you’ve had COVID-19 in the past year

Entry requirements for Belgium are the same for all travellers, regardless of whether you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past year.

Children and young people

Adults travelling to or from Belgium with children may be asked by border guards to provide proof of their relationship to a child they are accompanying at border control. This can be for parents, guardians or anyone else exercising parental authority. We recommend carrying documentation as proof, e.g. birth certificate, particularly if the parent or guardian has a different surname to the children.

If you’re transiting through Belgium

Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination.

Check with your airline before departing.

Check your passport and travel documents before you travel

Passport validity

If you are planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.

Your passport must be:

  • Issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
  • valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)

You must check your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.

Contact the embassy of the country you are visiting if you think that your passport does not meet both these requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

Visas

You can travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. This applies if you travel as a tourist, to visit family or friends, to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events, or for short-term studies or training

If you are travelling to Belgium and other Schengen countries without a visa, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries within the previous 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.

To stay longer, to work or study, for business or for other reasons, you will need to meet the Belgian government’s entry requirements. Check with the Belgian Embassy what type of visa and/or work permit, you may need.

If you are travelling to Belgium for work, read the guidance on visas and permits.

If you stay in Belgium with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.

Passport stamping

Check your passport is stamped if you enter or exit the Schengen area through Belgium as a visitor. Border guards will use passport stamps to check you’re complying with the 90-day visa-free limit for short stays in the Schengen area. If relevant entry or exit stamps are not in your passport, border guards will presume that you have overstayed your visa-free limit.

You can show evidence of when and where you entered or exited the Schengen area, and ask the border guards to add this date and location in your passport. Examples of acceptable evidence include boarding passes and tickets.

You may also need to:

  • show a return or onward ticket
  • show you have enough money for your stay

If you are resident in Belgium, read our Living in Belgium guide for passport stamping information.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Belgium.

If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.

See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate
of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Healthcare

You should get a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. If you already have an EHIC it will still be valid as long as it remains in date.

The GHIC or EHIC entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Belgian nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team on +44 191 218 1999 to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate.

It’s important to take out appropriate travel insurance for your needs. A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both before you travel. It does not cover all health-related costs, for example, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment.

Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.

If you’re living in Belgium, you can also find more information on healthcare for residents in our Living In Belgium guide.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.

If you need to consult a medical practitioner, other than for emergency treatment, you may wish to check our advice on how best to do so here. You will be prescribed medication, if needed, which you can then purchase from any pharmacy on presentation of your prescription. You may be asked to provide ID. A Medical consultations and prescriptions will attach a fee which may be recovered through your insurance/medical assistance.

The currency of Belgium is the Euro.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.