Country guides Europe
The electrical current in Belgium is 230 volts, 50Hz. Types C and E plugs are the official standards, though Type F plugs can also be used.
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.
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.
Service charges are included in bills and tips are only left for exceptional service.
All eligible travellers should be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, and it's recommended that they're up to date with routine vaccines as well. 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.
Most visits to Belgium are trouble-free, but travellers should be wary of street crimes such as mugging and pickpocketing in the cities, 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.
Among young locals, especially Francophones, girls rarely shake hands but kiss other girls and boys. The number of kisses varies depending on the region of Belgium, foreigners often have a hard time determining which side to kiss first and how many kisses to give. It's best to follow the Belgian's lead. The law requires everyone to carry some form of official identification at all times; possession of drugs and trafficking in drugs are serious offences.
Belgians are very formal in business and have a keen sense of style. dress should be conservative. Conservative yet stylish suits are recommended for men; women should opt for stylish business suits, or dresses and blouses.
Punctuality is extremely important at meetings, which will begin and end with a quick, light handshake. It is standard practice that all involved exchange business cards, and 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.
Visiting business people should 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.
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.
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.
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 should be valid for the period of intended stay in Belgium. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days in a half-year period.
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. A visa is required.
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.
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.