Getting here and advice about your stay
If you are a UK citizen your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
Holders of British passports endorsed ‘British Citizen’ do not need a visa to enter Belgium. If you intend to work or remain in Belgium for more than three months you must apply to the local communal authorities for a residence permit.
Those with other types of British nationality should check entry requirements with the Embassy of Belgium in the United Kingdom. See: http://unitedkingdom.diplomatie.belgium.be/en
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Belgium.
Travel advice for Belgium
If you are travelling to Belgium for business, check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice first, at: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/belgium.
Local laws and customs
According to Belgian law, you must have some form of identification with you at all times.
Possession of drugs and trafficking in drugs are serious offences.
It is illegal to wear in public places (parks, buildings, public transport, on the street etc.) clothing that hides a person’s face largely or completely. People wearing such clothing (e.g. the burka and nikab) risk a fine of up to €137.50 and/or detention for up to seven days. There is no exemption for tourists.
[Source – FCO Travel Advice/gov.uk]
Safety and security
Petty crime rates are similar to the UK, but on the increase. You should take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.
Take only the minimum amount of cash, credit cards and personal ID necessary when you go out. As far as possible leave jewellery, other valuables and documents in a secure place like a hotel safe. Avoid carrying money, bank/credit cards and your passport in the same bag or pocket. Leave a photocopy of your passport and itinerary with a contact in the UK. Enter next-of-kin details into the back of your passport.
In the event of theft, contact the nearest police station and get a police report. If you lose your passport, you should also contact the British Embassy in Brussels, see: https://www.gov.uk/government/world/organisations/british-embassy-brussels. If you have difficulty reporting the theft of your cards to your UK card issuer, you can ask the Belgian group ‘Card Stop’ (telephone: +32 (0) 70 344 344) to send a fax to your UK card company to block your card. Alternatively, if you have Belgian issued bank/credit cards, Card Stop will be able to block them.
Be vigilant and take extra care in major railway stations, and on public transport, particularly late at night. Thieves and muggers operate around the Brussels Gare du Midi/Zuidstation (Eurostar terminal), Gare du Nord and Schuman (the EU quarter). Pickpockets also operate on international trains, mainly Paris-Brussels and Amsterdam-Brussels.
Never leave luggage unattended. There have been reports of luggage being stolen from the racks at the end of carriages in high-speed trains (TGV and Thalys), usually just before the doors close.
Do not leave valuable items visible in your car, even when you are in it. Keep car doors locked and windows secure at all times. It is increasingly common for thieves, usually on motorbikes, to break a window and snatch valuables from the front or back passenger seat when the vehicle is stationary at traffic lights. Car-jacking, especially of up-market vehicles, remains a risk.
If you wish to drive in Belgium you must have a valid UK driving licence, insurance and vehicle documents. If you are driving a vehicle that does not belong to you then written permission from the registered owner may also be required.
Traffic is fast and Belgium’s accident rate is high mainly due to speeding. In 2016 there were 637 road deaths in Belgium.
[Source: UK Department for Transport: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/ras52-international-comparisons]
This equates to 56 road deaths per million of population, double in comparison to the UK average of 28 road deaths per million of population in the same year.
Speed traps, cameras and unmarked vehicles are in operation throughout the country.
Drivers must give absolute priority to vehicles joining a road from the right, even if they have stopped at a road junction or stopped for pedestrians or cyclists. Exemptions to this rule include motorways, roundabouts, roads sign-posted with an orange diamond within a white background, and drivers who are attempting to join a road after having driven down a street in the wrong direction.
Trams have priority over other traffic. If a tram or bus stops in the middle of the road to allow passengers on or off, you must stop.
There is a speed restriction of 30kph in school areas, which is valid 24 hours (even when schools are closed) unless indicated otherwise. The start and finish of these zones are not always clearly marked.
Fines have increased dramatically (up to €2,750 for exceeding the speed limit by 40kph and a possible court appearance for exceeding the speed limit by more than 40kph). If you are unable to pay an on-the-spot fine your vehicle may be impounded. More detailed information is available on the British Embassy website: https://www.gov.uk/government/world/belgium.
Do not drink and drive; frequent alcohol checks are made. Less than 0.05% alcohol in the bloodstream is allowed (a lower level than in the UK). A blood sample will be taken if you refuse to be breathalysed. Fines are heavy depending on the degree of intoxication, and can range from €1,100 to €11,000. In certain cases driving licences have been confiscated immediately.
Using a mobile phone while driving is not allowed; the use of ‘hands free’ equipment is allowed.
Information on road travel (in French) can be found on the website of Le Soir, at: http://www.lesoir.be/trafic.
See also the European Commission, AA and RAC guides on driving in Belgium, at: http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/going_abroad/belgium/index_en.htm, https://www.theaa.com/european-breakdown-cover/driving-in-europe/country-by-country; and https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/travel/country/belgium/.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Belgium. Attacks could happen anywhere, including on public transport and transport hubs and in other places visited by foreigners. You should be vigilant in public places and follow the advice of local Belgian authorities.
There have been a number of high-profile terrorist attacks across Belgium. On 25th August 2017, a man attacked two soldiers with a knife in Brussels. On 20th June 2017, Belgian security forces helped prevent a suspected terrorist attack at Brussels central station. On 6th August 2016, two police officers were attacked with a machete in the city of Charleroi. On 22nd March 2016 co-ordinated terrorist attacks killed 32 and injured hundreds more at Brussels Airport and on the metro system.
The main threat is from extremists linked to Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL). Daesh has claimed responsibility for attacks in Belgium.
Brussels hosts a number of international institutions (EU and NATO) and government and foreign embassy buildings which are sensitive locations.
There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack, at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/reduce-your-risk-from-terrorism-while-abroad.
[Source – FCO Travel Advice/gov.uk]
Protective security advice
The UK Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) provides protective security advice to businesses. See: http://www.cpni.gov.uk/.
[Source – FCO Overseas Business Risk/gov.uk]
Visit your health professional at least four-to-six weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.
Country-specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website: http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/country-information/ and by NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website: http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx.
Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/Pages/Healthcareabroad.aspx.
If you are visiting Belgium you should get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. See: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/Pages/about-the-ehic.aspx. The EHIC is not a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but it entitles you to state-provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as for Belgian nationals.
If you do not have your EHIC with you or you have lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate. The EHIC will not cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment, so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
[Source – FCO Travel Advice/gov.uk]
FCO travel advice
If you are travelling to Belgium for business, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) pages on gov.uk have up-to-date travel advice to help you prepare for your visit overseas and to stay safe and secure while you are there.
For advice please visit the FCO Travel section pages on the gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/belgium
Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel. See the FCO Foreign Travel Insurance guidance at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/foreign-travel-insurance.
Contact FCO travel advice team
This email service only offers information and advice for British nationals planning to travel abroad firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the consular assistance team on +44 (0)20 7008 1500 (24 hours).
If you are abroad and need emergency help from the UK Government, contact the nearest British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission.
[Source – FCO Travel Advice/gov.uk]
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