Belgium Country Profile - Travel

     
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Driving

Belgium has an extensive road network comprising toll-free motorways and dual carriageways. Speed limits on motorways are 120km/h (70mph) and 50km/h (30mph) in residential areas. Although roads are well-maintained, Belgians have a reputation for their fast and aggressive driving style so new expats should take extra care, particularly in Brussels. Signage can also be a problem – in the Brussels region signs are bilingual but in the different regions, they are in either Dutch or French. So it’s a good idea to be aware of place names and other driving rules in both languages before setting out.

Drivers with a valid European Union licence are permitted to drive in Belgium without exchanging their licence for a Belgian one. If your licence was issued in a non-EU country, you must apply for a local licence after six months driving in the country. The minimum driving age is 18.

Taxis

All Belgian taxis are metered by law and can be recognised by their roof signs (they come in many different colours according to the city or company). It is not common to hail a taxi from the street and drivers are not permitted to pick up passengers within 100 metres of a designated taxi rank.

Buses and coaches

Belgium has an excellent rail network, therefore buses are only generally used for short distances in urban areas. Bus routes are managed by three companies: De Lijn (Flanders), TEC (Wallonia) and STIB (Brussels). Single tickets or discounted travel cards (see MOBIB smartcard below) for use on all public transport can be purchased from any rail or bus station.

For longer distances, Belgium has a number of privately-operated coach companies which connect towns and cities as well as travelling to neighbouring countries. See the Eurolines website for more information.

Trains

Despite its compact size, Belgium has one of the most extensive rail networks in Europe. Trains are fast, frequent and punctual. The network is operated by Belgian Rail (NMBS/SNCB) and comprises high speed InterRegio/Intercity trains and efficient local trains. High speed trains also link Belgium with France, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, with the Eurostar connecting Brussels with the UK and France.

You can purchase an electronic MOBIB smartcard which can be used for multiple journeys on the entire public transport network.

Trams and light rail

The cities of Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Charleroi all have efficient and cheap tram/light rail systems. You can also take the scenic Coastal Tram along the entire length of the Flemish coast (42 miles). Brussels is the only city to have a metro system (Brusselse metro/Métro de Bruxelles), consisting of four lines which connect central Brussels with the outer suburbs. The metro is operated by the Brussels Intercommunal Transport Company (STIB) which also runs the city’s buses and trams.

Air travel

Belgium has five international airports, the busiest being Brussels Zaventem Airport, eight miles north of the city. Being at the centre of Europe means that the country is well connected to almost all major world destinations. You can also take short hop flights across Europe. Brussels Airlines (a subsidiary of Lufthansa) is the largest national carrier yet most budget and national airlines fly to and from the capital. Belgium is a very small country so there are no domestic flights, unless you choose to travel by private plane or helicopter. For journeys across Belgium – take the train.

Other ways to get around

Like their Dutch neighbours, Belgians are passionate about cycling. Flanders in particular is considered a bicycle lover’s dream, with flat terrain and hundreds of national cycling routes and paths. Many railway stations have bicycles for rent and you can also reserve one to be waiting for you at the end of your train journey. Care should be taken when cycling around Brussels, where cars rule the roads.  

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