Belgium

 

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General Information

Airport & Transportation Climate Currency Eating & Drinking Electricity
Language Mobile Phones Registration Safety & Security Shopping

AIRPORT AND TRANSPORTATION

Brussels International Airport
Belgium’s main airport is located in Zaventem, 12 km north of Brussels.  From this airport, you can reach Brussels by train or bus. Taxis are also readily available. An average taxi ride to the centre of Brussels costs €40.

Brussels Charleroi-Sud Airport
This subsidiary airport is located 46 km South of Brussels and is similarly accessible by train, bus and taxi. An airpo¬rt shuttle departs every 30 minutes from the airport to take passengers to the Brussels South railway station. The shuttle is a convenient to reach Brussels and cheaper than taking a taxi.

Train
To plan a train trip inside Belgium, visit www.b-rail.be. Although train travel within Brussels is possible, the city’s bus, metro and tram service is more extensive and a better way to get around.

Train trips to cities in neighbouring countries are possible with the Thalys, the TGV or the Eurostar. Popular destinations from Brussels include:

•    Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2h40 - Thalys)
•    Bordeaux, France (5h41 - TGV)
•    Cologne, Germany (2h20 - TGV)
•    Lille, France (0h35 - Eurostar)
•    London, United Kingdom (1h50 - Eurostar)
•    Lyon, France (3h51 - TGV)
•    Marseille, France (5h27 - TGV)

Bus, metro & tram
Inside Brussels, the bus, tram and metro services are the most convenient way to get around. These are operated by a single company, STIB/MIVB, and all three services are accessible with a single ticket – you can combine the bus, tram and metro to reach your destination. Use their journey planner to plan your trips within Brussels.

Please note the journey planner only works if you enter the French versions of street names, stops and public places.
To travel by bus outside Brussels, use De Lijn for bus trips within Flanders and TEC for bus trips within Wallonia.

Taxi
If you want to take a taxi in Brussels there are several companies to choose from:

Autolux: + 32 (0)2 411 12 21
Taxis Bleus: + 32 (0)2 268 00 00
Taxis Orange: + 32 ((0)2 349 43 43
Taxis Verts: +32 (0)2 349 49 49

Tipping and service fees are included in the price of the journey as shown on the meter, but a small extra gratuity is always well-received. 
Please note: Certain taxi companies accept credit cards, but not all. Check with the driver whether you can pay by credit card before starting your journey.

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CLIMATE

Click for Brussels, Belgium ForecastBelgium has a temperate climate noted for its damp summers and relatively mild and rainy winters.

In June, you can expect an average low of 11 C, and an average high of 20 C.
Bring your umbrella!

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CURRENCY, EXCHANGE & CREDIT CARDS

Belgium’s currency is the Euro.  You can withdraw Euros from ATMs using your credit card or exchange currency at a money exchange or bank branch.

Banks are usually open from 9 am to 3.30 pm, Monday to Friday.  Some are also open on Saturday mornings. 

ATMs can be found throughout Brussels. The logos of the cards accepted are shown beside the machine.
Most credit cards, including American Express and Diners Club, are accepted in numerous stores, boutiques, restaurants, car hire firms, etc. 

If your credit card is lost or stolen while you’re in Belgium, call:

American Express    + 32 (0)2 676 21 21,  24h/24 : (0)2 676 26 26
Diners Club    + 32 (0)2 626 50 24,  24h/24 : (0)2 626 50 04
Mastercard    + 32 (0)2 205 85 85,   24h/24 : (070) 344 344
Japanese Credit card    Visa International,  0800 18 756
Visa    +32 (0)2 205 85 85,  24h/24 : (070) 344 344

Currency Converter:    UCC

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EATING & DRINKING

Brussels offers a wide range of international cuisines, so you are sure to find something to suit your palate.  Be aware that several kitchens close at around 10:30 pm, and therefore restaurants may not serve in the late hours.

VAT and service charges are included in the bill so it is not necessary to tip your waiter, unless you feel inclined to reward exceptional service.

Smoking is not permitted inside restaurants and bars, but is allowed on outside terraces.

Alcohol and tobacco
The minimum drinking age in Belgium is 16 for beer and wine, and 18 for other alcohols.  Alcohol can be purchased from supermarkets.

Cigarettes can be purchased at supermarkets and convenience stores by individuals aged 16 or over.

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ELECTRICITY & ELECTRONICS

Voltage
In Belgium, the standard voltage is 220V 50Hz.  If you have equipment that runs on a lower voltage, you should not connect it to the Belgian power net unless you have the correct transformer (voltage adaptor).
 
Power plugs
The Belgian power plug is the Western-European type, with two round pin-holes.  Plugs from the UK, North and South America, and Asia will not fit into a Belgian electrical socket.

If you need a plug adaptor or transformer, we advise buying one before your arrival. Some hotels will be able to lend you an adaptor, but not all.

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LANGUAGE

Brussels is officially bilingual, so most signs are in French and Dutch, but French is by far the most spoken language.

English is also widely spoken. Most restaurants will have English menus available.

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MOBILE PHONES IN EUROPE

In Europe, mobile phones operate on frequencies of 900 MHz or 1800 MHz (1800 MHz in Belgium).  If you’re not sure whether your phone operates on these bands, check with your provider before bringing it along.

To avoid high roaming fees, you can buy a local SIM card once you’re in Belgium. Before doing this however, please check with your provider that your phone has not been locked for use on a particular network. If it has, a local SIM card will not work.

You can also rent a phone during your stay. See www.callineurope.com for more information.

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REGISTRATION FEES

Registration and attendance at the meeting is free. You are required to pay for your accommodations and meals. Coffee breaks are provided during the meeting.

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SAFETY & SECURITY

Brussels is a relatively safe destination for business travelers; the crime rate is relatively low compared with other European cities.

As in any other big city, it is important to take responsibility for your personal safety and exercise precaution.

BEFORE YOU GO

Think preventively when packing for your trip; consider leaving behind expensive jewelry, watches, and items of sentimental value. A smaller, inexpensive camera may be a better choice than larger, expensive models. You may not need to take an ATM card if your credit card and a limited amount of cash will suffice.

Make a Xerox copy of your passport
to carry in your luggage separately from your actual passport. Consider storing a digital scan of your passport (and/or other critical documents) with family, friends, or your employer so that it could be emailed to you in an emergency.

Crime
Brussels is relatively free of violent crime, but low-level street crime is common. Meetings delegates should always be watchful and aware of their surroundings. Muggings, purse snatchings, pick-pocketing and theft of light luggage or laptops are common in transportation hubs like the Metro (subway) and at the three major train stations -- the North Station (Noordstation or Gare du Nord), the Central Station (Centraal Station or Gare Central) and particularly at the South Station (Zuidstation or Gare du Midi). The latter is the primary international train hub; travelers are advised to pay very close attention to their personal belongings when in the station. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry or watches.

The areas of Saint Josse, Schaerbeek, Simonis, Place Sainte-Catherine and Place Fontainas also have high crime rates. Molenbeek is known for gambling, money-laundering and drug-dealing. Caution should be exercised after dark at Rogier and de Brouckere metro (subway) stations.

Beware of common ploys designed to distract a victim, such as spraying shaving cream or another substance on his or her back or asking for directions while an accomplice steals the luggage. It is a good idea to remain in physical contact with hand luggage at all times, and not to place carry-on luggage on overhead racks in trains.

Public demonstrations are rare and usually peaceful, however delegates are cautioned to avoid the areas of such gatherings if possible, and exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.

As in many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.

A recent change in Belgian law may result in a ban on full-face headscarf coverings. Meetings delegates should check with their local Embassies or Consulates for an update regarding changes to local laws.

Emergency Numbers
Fire brigade and emergency medical care  100
Police  101
European Emergency call  112
Anti-poison Centre  070 245 245
Red Cross  105
Directory Enquiries/Information  1405 (English), 1207 (Dutch), 1307 (French)

Pharmacy
Pharmacies are identified by a green cross.  Most medications, even those available without prescription, need to be requested at the counter.

In Belgium, medication is only available at pharmacies (drugstores) and cannot be purchased in supermarkets, gas stations, etc.

Most pharmacies are open six days a week - until 7 pm on weekdays and noon on Saturdays.

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TAX-FREE SHOPPING

If you are a non-European resident, you can get a VAT refund (the standard VAT rate is 21%) on any invoices over €125.01.

Stores displaying a Tax-Free Shopping logo will issue you with a cheque for the refund amount you are entitled to if you show them your passport.

When you leave Belgium, customs officials will stamp your cheques and invoices. You can then claim your refund from the Europe Tax-Free Shopping Desk (in the departure hall at Brussels International Airport) or have it sent to you.

For more information, visit www.globalrefund.com.