What you need to know before traveling to Belgium

Officially known as the Kingdom of Belgium, this federal monarchy located in Western Europe serves as the EU's headquarters and has a population of more than 11 million people. Dubbed as the "Battlefield of Europe," Belgium is host to a rich history of serving as the battleground for numerous European powers. Belgium offers many wonderful attractions that ranges from famous Belgian beers, fabulous food, vibrant art, theatrical lifestyles and imaginative museums to liberal attitudes and a strong social support system. With bizarre carnivals and over 60 Unesco sites, there is never a dull moment in this vibrant country.

  • Key facts
    Located in Western Europe, Belgium is bordered by the North Sea between the Netherlands and France. This little kingdom is roughly the same size as Maryland with the northwest being comprised of coastal plains, the southeast being comprised of the rugged mountains of the Ardennes Forest and central lands consisting of rolling hills.
    If you are planning to visit Belgium it is important to know that there are 3 official languages: Dutch, French and German. With a technologically advanced and highly developed communication system, the country code is #32 and features completely automated international and domestic telegraph and telephone facilities. Most websites in Belgium also feature the country code .be at the end.
    Like most European countries, Belgium's primary currency is the euro. With a private enterprise-based economy that is both modern and open, Belgium has capitalized on its geographic location. Ethnically speaking, the country is comprised of over 58% Fleming and 31% Walloon groups. The interesting fact is that more than 75% of the country is Roman Catholic. With consideration to age, 40% of the population is between 25 and 54 years old, and 19% are 65 years and over. All of these factors make for an incredibly unique melting pot of economics, cultures and age.
  • Weather & when to go
    Belgium is comprised of 3 main geographical regions:

    - Southeast – the Ardennes uplands (a piece of the Hercynian orogenic belt)

    - Northwest – coastal plains belonging to the Anglo-Belgian Basin

    - Central Plateau - belonging to the Anglo-Belgian Basin

    Those who visit Belgium will find that temperatures remain oceanic and feature typical west coast characteristics. The climate is strongly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. Due to the small size of the country, the climate does not vary much from region to region.
    Summers are rarely hot, but instead remain temperately warm. Winters also remain fairly cool, instead of cold. They do not have any dry seasons, since precipitation falls more evenly throughout the year. However, there is a period that is dryer between April and September.
    If you travel to Belgium during the winter, you should know that low-pressure systems from the Atlantic often bring uncomfortable and windy weather. From time to time, easterly winds can cause the winters to be clear and cold, often with temperatures dipping far below zero. Since the weather is often breezy, the hills of the eastern regions can sometimes have a wetter and cooler climate with heavy snowfall.
  • Getting around
    Belgium's small size makes it one of the easiest countries to navigate. Featuring one of the most comprehensive rail systems in Europe, Belgium offers a kingdom that can be seen by staying in Brussels and taking daily train trips to any attraction. Chances are, if you visit Belgium, the majority of your travel will be done by train. The railways even offer weekend discount passes and holiday passes.
    Most major cities have excellent local bus service, however, traveling between cities is often tedious. In fact, there is only one place in Belgium where it is more useful to go by bus instead of train, and that is Ardennes where there are not that many railways.
    Unfortunately, even though Belgium has excellent driving conditions that includes lighted highways at night, Belgian drivers have some of the worst road accident statistics throughout Europe. With drivers being known for aggressive and fast behavior, it is best if you drive carefully in this country.
    A valid driver's license and passport is all you need to be able to drive in Belgium. While Belgian tourism mostly depends on railways, there are rental services that can provide a car in most major cities.
  • Know before you go
    Unless you are visiting Belgium for work, and there are no visas required. However, customs officials may request that you provide proof of sufficient funds, the purpose of your visit and your return ticket. If you have private accommodations available to stay in, then this must be reported to the municipal authorities.
    Belgium has notably good health facilities available, however, it is advisable to ensure that all routine vaccinations are up-to-date. For anyone planning to visit Belgium, you may wish to consider vaccinations for hepatitis B, influenza and the measles.
    As with any country you may visit, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local laws and customs. As most countries, Belgium has outlawed the use and possession of illegal drugs. There are also many laws surrounding the use of roadways and drivers. However, by using common sense and a little research you can have a worry free trip to Belgium without fear of authorities.
  • Travel tips & recommendations

    • With their fair and temperate climate, even though rain is possible, the further south you go the warmer it is.

    • You may not want to visit Bruges during their most crowded season of August.

    • Between early spring and late autumn is the perfect time to visit Flanders, yet many people also love the majestic beauty of its winters. It is much more seasonal in the Ardennes, and is best to visit between April and October.

    • Wherever you visit, make sure that you mosey through some of Belgium's most famous beer menus.

    • Even though the climate is temperate, don't forget that Belgium is home to many miles of beautiful beach.

    • For an outdoor adventure, check out the hiking and backpacking options available in the Ardennes.

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