Being only a small country, Belgium far exceeds its size in its fame for its chocolate, beer, waffles and diamonds, and of course, Tintin. Sitting between France and the Netherlands, Belgium shares languages and a history with its two neighbours. The Grand Place in Brussels, the capital city, is one of Europe’s most iconic squares. Home to the European Union and NATO, you will find many people from all corners of the globe in this multicultural city. The Flemish Dutch-speaking north of the country is home to many historic cities, including Antwerp, Ghent and romantic Bruges with its canals. Whereas in Wallonia, the French speaking south you will find many picturesque chateaux, gardens and the Ardennes hills. And on the borders with France, around Ypres, you will find the sombre WW1 Battlefields.
Your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. Please be sure to fill out the "Emergency Next of Kin" section in your passport.
Belgium is a party to the Schengen Agreement. This means that U.S., Canadian, Australian and European citizens may enter Belgium for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. All other nationalities must check the visa entry requirements before your departure. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket.
• Consular info
There are a number of major international embassies located in Brussels, including those for the US, Canada, UK Australia and New Zealand. Please check with your relevant government for the relevant contact details.
N.B. Please note, visa and entry requirements, regulations and restrictions can vary on a regular basis. Please ensure you check in good time prior to travel the current requirements applicable to you.
HEALTH, INSURANCE AND SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
• Travel Insurance
It is company policy that all passengers must have valid travel insurance prior to travelling, to include but not limited to health insurance and cancellation insurance. It is vital that ALL members of the travelling party are fully insured for the dates of travel. All pre-existing medical conditions must be declared to the insurer and the correct cover must be taken in regard to the specific type of holiday you are taking.
The details of your insurance must be advised to The Big Journey Company at least 6 weeks before your departure date. Please make sure to write down important information from your insurance policy, such as the company’s 24hr emergency telephone number (including dial code from abroad) and your policy number and take these with you on tour.
• General Health
Please talk to your doctor or travel health clinic in person at least eight weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information for your personal needs.
Wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour.
We recommend you carry a simple travellers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be required, including remedies for minor stomach complaints.
If you do need to see a doctor during the tour, please speak to your Big Journey Company tour escort.
• Passengers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility
Our tours in Belgium are rated an Activity Level 2 tour and will require moderate physical activity and include various forms of transport. Please check our Activity Levels description page to see if this level is suitable to you or contact us if you require further information on the activities involved in the tour.
If you or any member of your party has any medical problem or disability which may affect your holiday, please provide us with full details before we confirm your booking, or as soon as possible at the time they occur, so that we can try to advise on the suitability of your chosen arrangements. Please note, we may require you to produce a doctor’s certificate certifying that you are fit to participate in the tour.
• Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us prior to travel if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. If you have a specific medical condition, it is wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you.
- Pack a sufficient supply of any medications you are taking, copies of the prescriptions and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor.
- Please note, some countries require that prescription drugs be carried in their original container, with the label clearly visible. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement.
There are currently no vaccination requirements for international travellers, but please consult your doctor before travelling for the latest immunisation information as well as advice according to your unique medical needs.
• Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Please inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible, and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on safari or smaller cruise ships. Also,
- Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
- Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
- Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
- Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
- Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel, so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
• Special Dietary Requirements
Please let us know in good time prior to travel if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
• What to Pack and Wear
We would recommend comfortable clothes and shoes for this tour. Feel free to include a smart-casual outfit for dinner if you wish, however there is no pressure to follow a dress code.
The weather should largely be warm and sunny throughout the journey, however it is always good to be prepared for every eventuality, so make sure you pack a light jacket in case of rain and the fact that it may be cooler in the evening.
Insect repellent and sun cream are also essential items. Don't forget your camera, with charger/spare batteries and memory cards.
• Luggage Allowances
International airlines are often strict about the size and weight of checked in baggage and carry-on luggage. Prior to your departure, please contact your airline or visit their website for specific luggage requirements, as size and weight limitations may vary according to the airline and destination.
Luggage handling is not included in our tours in Belgium. It may be available at the hotel for a local charge.
Laundry services are available in some hotels on the tour.
Belgium has a number of official languages – Dutch, French and German. Dutch in mainly spoken in Flanders, covering the north and west of the country. French is spoken in Wallonia, to the south and east of the country and to the Eastern border, German is also spoken. In Brussels, you will find both French and Dutch spoken in equal measure and English is widely spoken due to the number of international organisations.
The time zone in Belgium is GMT+1, 1 hour ahead of London GMT.
The weather in Belgium is generally pleasant and warm over the summer months. Spring and Autumn often have good weather but can have some wet spells. Winters however can be quite cold, with cold winds coming down from the Arctic.
In Belgium, the standard voltage is 230V and the frequency is 50Hz. You will need a European plug adapter, and/or converter depending on which electrical appliances you bring with you.
MOBILES & INTERNET COMMUNICATION
Belgium has a well-developed communications infrastructure. A number of cellphone/mobile phone providers offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. In populated urban areas, there should be good mobile signal but as we head into rural areas, signal may fluctuate. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas and most hotels and restaurants provide free Wi-Fi. Please check data roaming charges for Belgium with your service provider before leaving home as these can quickly become very expensive.
The currency of Belgium is the Euro € (EUR). Credit cards are widely accepted, but it is advisable to carry money in cash with you as well. ATMs are widely available in cities, but not so in smaller villages.
Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards however many places do not accept cards such as Diners Club or American Express. If you intend to use any of your debit or credit cards whilst away, please make sure that you contact your bank before you leave to inform them that you will be travelling in order not to cause any problems using your cards or whilst on the trip.
Important Note - European countries use chip-and-pin credit cards, so cards with magnetic strips on the back (commonly used in North America) may not work with certain automated machines. You might want to carry some extra cash in your wallet to use in these situations just in case. You may be asked to provide ID if you cannot pay by chip and PIN.
Although some of the daily essentials in Belgium can be quite cheap, museum entrances and eating out can be quite pricy, especially in tourist hotspots. Costs in Belgium are comparable with other western European countries.
• Bank Opening
Bank opening hours are usually 9am – 4pm Monday to Friday. Bureau de Changes are rare.
After feedback from previous guests, we offer a group tipping package for this tour. Look out for more information in your pre-tour emails.
Traditional Belgian food is often based around homely and filling meat stews. Carbonnade, the thick beef and beer stew, is one of the most famous dishes. Moules frites is also a well-known favourite! Along the coast and in Brussels, you will find lots of local seafood and shellfish including oysters and shrimp. And who can forget the waffles, the chocolate and the beer, of which there are numerous varieties to try!
Some meals are included as part of your tour – please check your individual departure for the relevant meal inclusions.
The tap water in Belgium is generally of excellent quality. Unless otherwise advised, you can drink the local tap water. Bottled water can be bought at supermarkets, kiosks and many shops.
Chocolate and beer will no doubt be top of the list of things to bring home from Belgium. There are many shops selling these famous goods. Lace is also another traditional Belgian product
• Opening Hours
In the cities and towns, most retail shops are open from 10am – 6pm Monday–Saturday, though may vary locally and may close for lunch in smaller towns. Most shops are closed on Sundays, with the exception of certain grocery shops and souvenir shops.
• VAT/Tax Refund:
Numerous shops in Belgium offer a VAT refund when leaving the country. Please ask the salesperson whether tax-free shopping applies to the shop in question.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Crime levels in Belgium are low. However, there’s a risk of petty theft, particularly in airports, in popular tourist attractions and on public transport. Please take sensible precautions to protect your belongings, particularly your passport, money and credit cards.
Smoking is banned in most indoor public places, but there are usually designated outdoor areas where people can smoke. Smoking is prohibited on all means of public transport.
Belgium is predominantly a Catholic country, with a smaller percentage of Protestantism as well as Muslim populations.
Belgium offers photo opportunities one after another. You will return with many photos that can never be repeated. Remember to pack your camera, along with the charger, spare batteries and a spare memory card!
ARRIVAL IN BELGIUM
Please note, standard hotel check-in is around 3pm, so should you arrive earlier than this, your room may not be available upon arrival. For those arriving early morning, we will do everything we can to work with the hotel to get you an earlier check-in subject to availability.
TOUR HOTEL INFORMATION
Please check your tour paperwork for hotel information attaining to your tour departure.
OTHER COUNTRIES ON TOUR ITINERARY
For those travelling to other European countries as part of their tour, please check the relevant Travel Tip pages for information on these countries.
FLYING & TRAVEL HINTS
- Photocopy the personal information pages of your passport; leave one copy at home with a friend or family member, and take a copy with you, but pack it separately from the passport itself.
- It is advisable to carry all your travel documentation as well as valuables and essential items in your hand luggage, such as camera, toiletries, reading material etc.
- Duty-Free shopping is always tempting, but please check the current Duty-Free limits applicable in the country of your destination.
- Longer flights can be made a little more enjoyable by wearing loose clothing and good, comfortable shoes. Walking in the aisles regularly, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids (not alcohol) is also advised.
- Where possible, try to get some sleep during the flight and upon arrival at your destination, most people adjust better to the local time if they wait until the evening before sleeping – this should relieve some of the effects of jet lag.
If you have any other questions that we have not covered here; then please send us an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, the above information is provided as a guideline only. Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, The Big Journey Company makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of content on this website. The Big Journey Company assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained in the website.
Updated November 2019