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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > Belgium

Belgium travel guide

About Belgium

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.

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.

Travel Advice

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Belgium set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Belgian Embassy in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Belgium. 

Travelling through Calais

If you’re travelling through Calais, check the travel advice for France.

Passport validity requirements

Belgium follows Schengen area rules. Your passport must:

  • have a ‘date of issue’ less than 10 years before the date you arrive – if you renewed your passport before 1 October 2018, it may have a date of issue that is more than 10 years ago
  • have an ‘expiry date’ at least 3 months after the date you plan to leave the Schengen area

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Visa requirements

You can travel without a visa to the Schengen area, which includes Belgium, for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. This applies if you travel:

  • as a tourist
  • to visit family or friends
  • to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events
  • for short-term studies or training

The requirements for working in Belgium are different.

If you’re travelling to other Schengen countries as well, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day visa-free limit. Visits to Schengen countries in the 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.

Make sure you get your passport stamped on entry and exit. 

If you’re a visitor, border guards will look at your entry and exit stamps to check you have not overstayed the 90-day visa-free limit for the Schengen area.

If your passport is missing a stamp, show evidence of when and where you entered or left the Schengen area (for example, boarding passes or tickets) and ask the border guards to add the date and location in your passport.

At Belgian border control, you may also need to:

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

Staying longer than 90 days in a 180-day period

To stay longer, you must meet the Belgian government’s entry requirements. Check which type of visa or work permit you need with the Belgian Embassy in the UK.

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

Read about passport stamping if you live in Belgium.

Children aged 17 and under

Adults, including parents and guardians, who are travelling to or from Belgium with children aged 17 or under may have to provide proof of their relationship to the children they are accompanying. Carry a birth certificate or court order, particularly if you have a different surname to the children.

Vaccine requirements

For details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Belgium guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods that can be brought into and taken out of Belgium. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Taking food into Belgium

You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions such as powdered baby milk, baby food and special foods or pet feed required for medical reasons.

Taking money into or out of Belgium

You must complete a disclosure form at customs if you’re carrying currency worth 10,000 euros or more.

Terrorism 

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.      

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 how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Belgium

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

Terrorism attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreign nationals such as:

  • public transport
  • national and international transport hubs
  • music, sporting and cultural events
  • government buildings and international institutions
  • places of worship and religious sites

You should be vigilant in public places and follow the advice of local authorities.

There have been some high-profile terrorist attacks across Belgium. The main threat is from extremists linked to Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL). Previous incidents have included fatal attacks against civilians and law enforcement:

  • on 16 October 2023, 2 people were killed and one seriously injured in a terrorism-related shooting incident in Brussels
  • in 2022, a police officer was killed and another injured in a suspected terrorist incident in Brussels

The Belgian authorities have successfully disrupted various attack plans, making a number of arrests in recent years. The Belgian government has set the national threat level at 3 ‘Serious’. You can expect to see an increased police presence, and additional safety measures may be in place. Be aware of your surroundings and follow the advice of local authorities.  

Demonstrations and strikes

Demonstrations and strikes often take place in major cities, particularly in transport hubs and around the Schuman area (EU quarter) in Brussels.

Most demonstrations are peaceful, but there is a risk of unrest or violence. There has also been violence following major sporting fixtures. If you’re in areas where demonstrations or large gatherings are taking place, remain vigilant and move away quickly if there are signs of disorder.

Demonstrations in the Schuman area of Brussels can affect access to the British Embassy and the British Consulate General.

Strike action can cause travel disruption across the country and affect international travel. For regular updates on any disruption, check local news and follow advice given by your travel provider.

Demonstrations and protests by farmers can block major roads and delay traffic. Avoid protests, expect delays on some major roads and follow the advice of the authorities.

For information on travel in Belgium, visit:

For international travel, visit:

Security awareness

In the event of a security incident or any emergency, or if police carry out security operations at short notice, follow the instructions of the Belgian authorities.

You can:

  • find information on the Belgian Crisis Centre website
  • follow the Crisis Centre accounts on Twitter or Facebook to follow official information in the event of a major national incident
  • sign up to BE-Alert to receive emergency alerts on SMS
  • look for the official communication and social media channels of local police for the area you are in

Crime

Protecting yourself and your belongings

Theft and pickpocketing is common in crowded areas. Take care of your baggage and passports and beware of any attempts to distract you.

Take extra care in major railway stations and on public transport, particularly late at night. Thieves, pickpockets and muggers operate in busy areas, particularly:

  • at Brussels Gare du Midi/Zuidstation (Eurostar terminal) and Brussels Gare du Nord
  • on international trains, mainly Paris-Brussels and Amsterdam-Brussels
  • in busy areas of central Brussels, including Schuman (the EU quarter)

There have been cases of violent crime around Brussels Gare du Midi/Zuidstation and Brussels Gare du Nord. Be aware of your surroundings.

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

Thieves, usually on motorbikes, can break a car window and snatch valuables from the front or back passenger seat when a vehicle is stationary at traffic lights. If you see anything suspicious, report it to local police authorities.

Taxis

Only use official, licensed taxis. Do not get into taxis that stop to offer rides.

Organised crime

There are regular incidents of violent crime among organised crime gangs involved in drug trafficking, particularly in Antwerp, Brussels and other large cities. The risk mostly affects those involved in drug crime, but remain vigilant if you suspect illegal activity. Follow the advice of local authorities.

There have been reports of truck and van drivers being approached at parking lots or service stations by organised crime groups and asked to smuggle products to the UK (‘window tapping’). If you see anything suspicious, report it to local police authorities.

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID

You must carry your passport with you at all times.         

Laws on clothing

It is illegal to wear clothing that hides your face partially or completely (for example, the burka and niqab) in public places. You risk a fine of up to 137 euros and detention for up to 7 days. There is no exemption for tourists.

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

Possession of drugs and trafficking in drugs are serious offences and can lead to a minimum 3-month prison sentence or fine.

Visiting battlefields

When visiting WW1 battlefields in north-west Belgium, stay on the footpaths and be cautious if you see anything that looks like shells or munitions. Unexploded shells have recently been uncovered. Move away from the site and report incidents to the police.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Belgium, see information on driving abroad. Read the government information on driving laws in Belgium (in Flemish and French).

When driving in Belgium, always carry:

  • your driving licence
  • your car registration documents
  • your insurance paper
  • your MOT (‘contrôle technique’) certificate
  • your passport and your passengers’ passports

If you live in Belgium, see driving requirements for residents.

Driving regulations

Driving laws differ from those in the UK. Be aware that:

  • police use speed traps, cameras and unmarked vehicles
  • speeding can result in an on-the-spot fine
  • using a mobile phone while driving is illegal, unless you are using hands-free equipment

Belgium’s accident rate is high, mainly due to speeding.

If you get a fine, you can consult the federal justice service for information.

Low emission zones

There are low emission zones in Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp. You need to pre-register foreign vehicles on the Brussels , Ghent or Antwerp websites.

Electric scooter regulations

The maximum speed limit for riding an electric scooter is 25kph and riding with a passenger is illegal. Riding a scooter on the pavement is prohibited with the exception of people with reduced mobility using a mobility scooter.

It is illegal for people aged under 16 to use electric scooters, except in a few designated areas.        

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Dial 112 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance or medical assistance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:

 See what health risks you’ll face in Belgium.

Medication

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, contact the Belgian Embassy in the UK.

Healthcare in Belgium

FCDO has a list of medical providers in Belgium where some staff will speak English.

There is a fee for non-emergency medical consultations and prescriptions. You may be able to recover this money through your travel insurance.

Health insurance cards

To get medically necessary state healthcare in Belgium, you need a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). 

The NHS’s getting healthcare abroad webpage has details about:

  • how to apply for a GHIC
  • how to get temporary cover if you lose your card or it does not arrive in time
  • who qualifies for a new EHIC instead of a GHIC
  • what treatment counts as medically necessary

A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. You may have costs your GHIC or EHIC does not cover, including:

  • changes to travel and accommodation bookings
  • additional standard costs for treatment
  • medical repatriation to the UK
  • treatment that is ruled non-urgent
  • private healthcare
  • private clinics

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Belgium.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Belgium

Telephone: 112 (ambulance, fire, police)

You can also download the 112 Where Are U app, the official European emergency number app, which helps the emergency services identify your location.

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated. when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Belgium and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Brussels.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating in Belgium on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

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