Every part it’s essential to learn about Belgium for an ideal journey

Regardless of being one of many smallest international locations in Europe, Belgium has lots to supply vacationers – medieval castles, trendy structure, a world-renowned trend scene, nice meals, and greater than 1000 manufacturers of beer – actually!

Belgium additionally has not one, however three official languages. Fortunately, greater than half of Belgians converse English, so it’s straightforward to get round – simply pay attention to the monolingual street signage (the language will depend upon the place in Belgium you might be). Listed here are our prime suggestions that will help you take advantage of a visit to Belgium.

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Planning your journey to Belgium

Pack a raincoat

Influenced by the climate techniques of the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, Belgium has a temperate maritime local weather, characterised by frequent precipitation and heavy cloud cowl. The temperature hardly ever climbs above 22°C (72°F) in the summertime, and thunderstorms are frequent – so that you’ll wish to pack rain gear, no matter what time of 12 months you go to.  

Profit from your journey by touring round

There’s a lot to see in Belgium and it’s straightforward to journey from one place to the following by automobile or prepare, so we advocate splitting your time between a number of locations. Get misplaced within the atmospheric streets of Bruges, hit the museums and trend boutiques in Antwerp, lace up your mountain climbing boots in Hoge Kempen National Park – the nation’s solely nationwide park – and go to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Grand Place in Brussels. Most cities are inside just a few hours of each other, making it straightforward to cowl a whole lot of floor in a brief time frame.

Convey pocket change in case it’s essential to spend a penny

In Belgium, free public restrooms are nearly non-existent. Most public services cost and few settle for bank cards, so that you’ll wish to carry free some euros and cents in change. Anticipate to pay round €0.50 (US$0.54) per go to – get into the behavior of utilizing the washroom earlier than leaving the resort or restaurant.  

Use public transport to get the most effective out of Brussels, Belgium’s historic capital © sashk0 / Shutterstock

Swap taxis for public transport once you arrive in Brussels

Taxis in Brussels are among the many most costly in Europe – a cab trip between Brussels Airport and the town heart will price at the very least €3 (US$3.30) per km. Whereas we gained’t choose for splurging after a long-haul flight, the town’s glorious bus, tram and metro system will take you virtually wherever it’s essential to go from 6am to midnight, seven days every week, together with into city from the airport (for as little as €7/US$7.35 in whole). For reasonable, low-carbon transport, take into account renting a motorbike by one of many many native bike-sharing platforms, resembling Villo! and Billy Bike

Do not rush to hire a automobile

Belgium is car-friendly in a whole lot of methods – you possibly can drive from one finish of the nation to the opposite in a matter of hours, and practically all of the nation’s motorways are totally lit at night time. It’s additionally tremendous straightforward to hire a automobile on the fly, due to car-sharing apps resembling Poppy and Cambio.

On the identical time, driving in Belgium might be fairly an enterprise. Signage is usually monolingual, and the names of locations depend upon which language is being spoken. For instance, the German border metropolis of Aachen would possibly seem on Belgian indicators as Aix-la-Chapelle, the Flemish metropolis of Ghent can also be Gand, and Liège can also be Lîdje, Luik and Lüttich.

When doubtful, converse English

Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French and German. Dutch (particularly, the Flemish dialect) is primarily spoken in Flanders within the north, whereas French is usually spoken within the southern area of Wallonia, and German is the default in jap areas of the province of Liège. Brussels (often known as Brussel and Bruxelles) is formally bilingual, talking Dutch and French.

With language on the heart of Belgium’s knotty cultural id debate, it is best to talk English for those who’re not sure of the dominant tongue wherever you occur to be. You’ll doubtless discover that most individuals, particularly in massive cities resembling Antwerp and Brussels, converse flawless English anyway.

A woman standing in sun by a canal in Ghent
One of many first belongings you’ll discover is how clear Belgium is, due to the native enthusiasm for recycling © RossHelen / Getty Photographs

Etiquette in Belgium

Recycle like a Belgian

Belgians take recycling very critically. In actual fact, the nation boasts the best recycling charge for family packaging in all of Europe (a formidable 94.9%). When you ought to at all times take care to recycle and cut back once you’re on the street away from residence, you’ll wish to be particularly aware of this once you’re touring by Belgium.

There’s no have to tip in Belgium

Tipping in Belgium isn’t a typical follow, neither is it anticipated, as most service employees are paid a good residing wage. Moreover, a ten–15% tip is robotically included within the invoice at most eating places. In case you assume the service was nice and also you wish to depart extra, you possibly can at all times depart just a few euros on the desk after your meal.

Prolong a hand in greeting

How do you greet folks in Belgium? It relies upon the place you might be. Most individuals in Brussels favor a handshake, whereas nearly all of people in French-speaking Wallonia will flip a cheek for a kiss. To play it protected in these Covid-aware occasions, we advocate extending a hand to check the waters.

Don’t depart your searching for Sunday

If it’s essential to fill up on the grocery store or purchase souvenirs, don’t plan on doing it on a Sunday. As most Belgians are Roman Catholic, many outlets are closed on Sundays, together with main grocery shops and banks. 

Two glasses of Belgian beer La Chouffe in a bar in Brussels, Belgium
Belgian beer is available in a staggering number of flavors, and glasses! © Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock

Drink beer, a number of pretty beer

Belgium is residence to over 300 breweries and there are greater than 1000 varieties of Belgian beer. So, it’s virtually a requirement to imbibe when you’re there (and actually, you may be judged for those who order a glass of vino as an alternative of a homegrown brew on the native pub). Attempt the whole lot from pilsners and witbier to Trappist ales and naturally fermented lambics.

Oh, and don’t anticipate to chug your Duvel out of any outdated glass. Belgians love their glassware, and you will find a dizzying array of choices, from tulips and flutes to goblets and tankards. 

Smoke pot for those who like (however be good about it)

In Belgium, adults 18 and older can get pleasure from hashish for leisure functions. Possession is decriminalized and it’s authorized to own as much as 3 grams of hashish, as long as no “public nuisance” is induced. Nevertheless, don’t anticipate finding cannabis-serving ‘espresso outlets’ of the sort discovered within the Netherlands; Belgium shouldn’t be practically as pot-friendly as its northern neighbor, so puff discretely.

Old buildings of Bruges reflected in a canal
Most locations in Belgium are protected to stroll round even after darkish © RudyBalasko / Getty Photographs

Well being and security in Belgium

Are you able to drink the faucet water in Belgium?

Sure, you definitely can. Some even say the faucet water is even higher than the bottled mineral type you get within the grocery store (convey a water bottle to save lots of on plastic).

You possibly can really feel protected about being your self

In 2003, Belgium grew to become the second nation on this planet to legalize same-sex marriage, and the nation’s long-held progressive values and vibrant nightlife make it a prime vacation spot for LGBTIQ+ vacationers. Brussels has lengthy been the middle of the scene – the town’s La Demence event attracts partiers from all around the world, 12 occasions a 12 months – however even smaller cities resembling Bruges and Ghent are getting in on the motion.

Have enjoyable – however be cautious of petty crime

Usually talking, Belgium is a protected nation, with comparatively low charges of crime. For many vacationers, the largest threat is pickpocketing and bag-snatching in crowded areas. Nevertheless, lately, there was an increase in terrorist assaults throughout Belgium – vacationers ought to train vigilance, significantly in Brussels, the place worldwide organizations together with NATO and the EU are headquartered.