Beligum

Belgium (België) is for those who want the very best of what Europe has to offer, but without the crush of tourism its more famous neighbors generate. There’s the exquisite food and sophisticated beverages, spectacular scenery, rich history—all at your fingertips (or no more than a couple hours drive).  And though Belgium is not the most nomad-friendly destination with its few Internet cafes and limited short-term Internet access options, you’ll be able to get online with just a little effort. Moreover, staying in Belgium is more affordable compared to many other European destinations, such as France and Germany. And since the Euro is rather weak at the moment, your currency may get you more than in it has in a decade.

Belgium is one of the smallest countries of Europe, but it offers so much. English and French are widely spoken, transportation is abundant and easy (buses, trains, trams and bicycles) and nightlife is pretty nice—if not innovative. The food reflects a myriad of world class options (French, German, Dutch, to name a few), some 700+ crafted beers that are renowned world-wide, chocolate that is the standard of the world (sorry Switzerland), fashion, history—and, of course, there’s the scenery. There’s Antwerp in the north, the Ardennes in the east and south whose nature is second-to-none, Bruges and Ghent in the west with their medieval towns, and Brussels in the center—the hub of Belgium cosmopolitan living and the capital of the E.U.

If you’re planning a trip to Europe, don’t miss out on the jewel of this part of the world. And try to time your visit during any number of local festivals (such as Independence Day in Ghent) which are generally innovative, artistic and less commercial (crass) than in many other very developed places on earth.

Nomadic rating

A

: Very Good / B

: Good / C

: Just Okay / D

: Poor / E

: Very Poor

  • Internet Access for the Nomad (ease in accessing it): C
  • Internet Cost (from public to private service): C
  • Accommodation Cost: C
  • Eating Cost (restaurants and groceries): C
  • Country’s Overall Affordability for the Nomad: C
  • Transportation Access: A
  • Transportation Cost: B

Basic Facts about Belgium

  • Language:

    Flemish (Dutch), French, German (with a high percentage of people speaking English as well).

  • Government:

    Parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch.

  • Population:

    10,666,866 (about the population of Paris alone).

  • Climate:

    Temperate climate from the coastal regions inland to about Brussels. Towards the ardennes look for colder winters and warm summers. Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year. Snowfalls are also frequent. The average daily temperatures range between 4 degrees (Celsius) in winter and 22 degrees in the summer.

  • Geography:

    32,547 square kilometers (12,566 sq. mi.), about the size of Maryland, USA.

  • Neighboring Countries:

    Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany and France.See map.

  • Money:

    The Euro (click here to convert your currency).

  • Mobile Phone Frequencies:

    GSM 900/1800 | 3G 2100.

  • Electricity:

    230v (50 cycles) See plug type here.

  • Daylight Savings:

    Begin last Sunday in March, end last Sunday in October.

  • Time Zone:

    GMT/UTC +1(Current time.)

  • Country Code:

    32

    City Codes:

    3 Antwerp, 2 Brussels, 71 Charleroi, 56 Courtrai (Kortrijk), 69 Ere, 9 Ghent (Gand), 11 Hasselt, 64 La Louviere, 16 Leuven (Louvain), 61 Libramont, 4 Liege, 12 Mal, 15 Malines (Mechelen), 59 Ostend, Oostende), 81 Namur, 51 Roeselare.

General Travel Information on Belgium

Visa

Visa on Arrival: Bona fide tourists from the USA and other western countries are permitted entry upon arrival in Europe for 90 days stay. Longer term stays require special visa.

Note: The Schengen Agreement establishes a unified type of visa for short stays (up to 90 days) for the participant European countries (GERMANY, AUSTRIA, BELGIUM, DENMARK, SPAIN, FINLAND, FRANCE, GREECE, THE NETHERLANDS, ICELAND, ITALY, LUXEMBOURG, NORWAY, PORTUGAL AND SWEDEN).

Getting Around:

 

Trains

: Eurail passes are available on-line or through your travel agent. For

rail service within Belgium

, visit SNCB.

Buses

: Eurolines connects much of Europe cheaply and easily.

 

Planes

: STA Travel has some good bargains.

Where to Stay:

For NuNomad Guidelines on how to choose your nest, visit the NuNomadBlog. However, avoid hotels and look into Belgium’s hostels and bed & breakfast options. B&Bs are limited to only 3 rooms per business, so you’ll usually get something simple and cheap. For those who will stay for six-months or longer, check with Living Abroad for housing assistance. Otherwise, check the Belgium expat sites (classifieds) such as XPats.comand Xpatica.com for short-term and monthly rentals and house-shares.

Travel Insurance:

Don’t let your European adventure be spoiled. Get Travel Insurance. See our article Coverage Comparison of Travel Insurance. WorldNomads has great rates and coverage.

Mailing in Belgium:

Mail boxes are in red. Stamps may be purchased at post offices or tobacconists. Postal rates can be found at www.post.be. You can expect mail delivery to take 1-2 days for mail within Belgium and 3-7 days for international mail depending on distance.

Internet and Telephone Communication

Many city cafés will have free wi-fi for their customers, as well as hostels and hotels. The public libraries (bibliotheek) is a fine option in a pinch.

  • Internet Access via Mobile Phone

    : See NuNo Geek for GPRS info, or the Geekzone.com’s GPRS article, or Ross Barkman’s GPRS info page. Because Belgium’s cable Internet access companies require extended contracts and a local home address, you may be limited to mobile access via a USB “stick” modem. You’ll get up to 3G speed throughout most of the country. The companies to look for are:Proximus (Mobile Internet & Surf) and Mobistar (Internet Everywhere).

  • Dial-up Service:

    EDNET (Telessa.com) provides Internet service for Belgium, Netherlands, United Kingdom and France. Although they offer traditional ADSL home and business access (for a contracted time of 1 year) they do have Free dial-up service(though you pay for the telephone zone charges). The current access number is: 022750640; login:free.edpnet; password: free.

  • SIM Cards (pre-paid):

    Ortel Mobil.

International Cell Phones

: While in Belgium the most economical way to place a call is to do so with your unlocked international cell phone, using a Belgium SIM card. SIM cards can be purchased at convenience stores, mobile phone shops, tobacconists and tourist shops. If you don’t want to spend your travel time searching for a SIM card and don’t mind paying a little more for convenience, we recommend buying one before you go. Telestial is a great source to get your prepaid SIM card delivered to your door before your departure. One of the more common SIM cards is the Belgium Ortel Mobile. They have a good start-up, pre-paid, plan for only 10 euros. Proximus and Mobistar have more elaborate plans for you to consider.

  • For more information on International Cell Phone basics, read our article on Cell Phone Basics.
  • For more information on the various methods of connecting to the Internet, visit our Connecting to WWW page.

International Calling Cards:

If you don’t have aSkype account yet, get one. You can use “telephony” service with any hi-speed Internet connection, which most Internet Cafés will have. Otherwise, you’ll have to use land-line systems. If you’re staying at a location where you want to use a land line, it may be most economical to purchase an international calling card. These can be purchased at many common locations throughout Belgium such as grocery stores.