Electricity

The electrical current in Belgium is 230 volts, 50Hz. Standard European-style two-pin plugs will work. Three pin plugs, with a male grounding pin, can also be used.

Language

The Flemish, in the north, speak Dutch; the Walloons in the south speak French. Brussels is bilingual, the majority of citizens speaking French. In the east, there is a small German-speaking community. English is also spoken.

Money

The Belgian currency is the Euro (EUR). International credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are available in all towns and cities. Banks are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5:30pm, and are closed on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Some banks close for an hour during lunch. There are, however, some foreign exchange offices that trade on Sundays.

Tipping

Service charges are included in bills in Belgium and tipping is not necessary, unless for exceptional service.

Health

No vaccinations are required for travel to Belgium. Medical facilities and care in Belgium are excellent but expensive, so travellers are advised to take out medical insurance. UK citizens should have a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for UK citizens. The GHIC allows UK citizens access to state healthcare during visits to the EU. The GHIC is not valid in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, nor is it an alternative to travel insurance.

Safety

Most visits to Belgium are trouble-free. But travellers should be wary of street crime in the cities, such as mugging and pickpocketing, particularly in Brussels at major railway stations and on public transport. Brussels is home to a number of international organisations, including EU and NATO, which could become the target of indiscriminate terrorist attacks.

Local customs

Belgium law requires everyone to carry some form of official identification at all times.

Doing business

Belgians are very formal in business, enjoy a great deal of personal space, and are generally reserved and extremely private. Dress should be conservative: dark suits are acceptable, with a high importance placed on neatness.

Punctuality is extremely important at meetings, which will begin and end with a quick, light handshake with all involved and exchanging business cards is standard practice. It is recommended that cards are printed in English, with the other side translated in either French or Dutch, depending on the main language of the region where business is to take place.

It is a good idea to research beforehand whether a business is French or Dutch-speaking. Compromise is very important in Belgian business culture and may be required as a show of friendship. Business hours are generally 9am to 5pm.

Duty free

Travellers to Belgium arriving from non-EU countries are allowed to enter the country with the following items without incurring customs duty: 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; 1 litre spirits over 22 percent in alcohol or 2 litres of dessert wine 22 percent in alcohol and sparkling wine, as well as 4 litres wine and 16 litres of beer; and other goods such as souvenirs to the value of €430. Prohibited items include unpreserved meat products.

Communications

The international access code for Belgium is +32. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.

Passport & Visa

The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option that allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all. Nationals of non-EU countries are recommended to hold return or onward tickets, sufficient funds and documents for their next destination. It is recommended that passports are valid for six months after departure from any holiday destination.

Entry requirements

US nationals must have a passport valid for three months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days.

British passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar, only need to be valid for period of intended stay in Belgium. All other endorsements require at least three months validity beyond the period of intended stay in Belgium.

A visa is not required for passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days in a half-year period for holders of passports with any other endorsement. Holders of identity cards issued by Gibraltar authories, and endorsed 'Validated for EU travel purposes under the authority of the United Kingdom', do not require a visa to visit Belgium.

Canadians must have a passport valid for three months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days.

Australian nationals must have a passport valid for at least three months beyond period of stay. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days.

South African nationals require a passport valid for at least three months beyond intended period of stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Irish nationals require a valid passport. No visa is required.

New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for at least three months beyond intended period of stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Useful contacts

Belgian Tourist and Information Office, Brussels: www.visitbelgium.com/

100 for medical or fire emergencies, 101 for the police, 112 is the pan-European emergency number

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Embassy of Belgium, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 333 6900.

Embassy of Belgium, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7470 3700.

Embassy of Belgium, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 7267.

Embassy of Belgium, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6273 2501.

Belgium Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 440 3201.

Embassy of Belgium, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 631 5284.

Consulate of Belgium, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 974 9080.

Embassies / consulates in Belgium

Embassy of the United States, Brussels: +32 (0)2 811 4000.

British Embassy, Brussels: +32 (0)2 287 6211.

Canadian Embassy, Brussels: +32 (0)2 741 0611.

Australian Embassy, Brussels: +32 (0)2 286 0500.

South African Embassy, Brussels: +32 (0)2 285 4400.

Embassy of Ireland, Brussels: +32 (0)2 282 3400.

New Zealand Embassy, Brussels: +32 (0)2 512 1040.

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