Belgium Travel Notes

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Australian Embassy in Belgium

Level 7, Avenue des Arts/Kunstlaan 56
1000 Brussels
Tel   +32 (0) 2 286 0500
Fax  +32 (0) 2 286 0576
Email austemb.brussels@dfat.gov.au
www.belgium.embassy.gov.au

Smartraveller

The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers.
www.smartraveller.gov.au

Time Zones

Belguim is on Greenwich Mean Time +1 time making them 10 hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time. When on daylight saving time (GMT +2) they are 8 hours behind Australia. Daylight Saving usually starts on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October.  To obtain the current local time and date in cities and countries in all time zones.
www.worldtimeserver.com

Voltages and Plugs

Belgium uses 220-240 volts. Plugs are of the two-round-pronged European type.
www.korjo.com/Adaptor-Guide

Currency

To obtain the most up-to-date exchange rate you may wish to visit
www.xe.com/currencyconverter

As Belgium is a member of the Euro-zone, their official currency is the Euro (EUR). There are 8 euro coins denominated in 2 and 1 euros, then 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents. Every euro coin carries a common European face. On the reverse, each member state decorates the coins with its own motifs. No matter which motif is on the coins they can be used anywhere inside the 16 countries that are members of the Euro-zone.

There are 7 euro notes. In different colours and sizes they are denominated in 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 euros. The notes are uniform throughout the euro area; unlike coins, they have no national side. The designs depict Europe’s architectural heritage.

Credit Cards and ATM machines

ATMs are the easiest way to access your money. They are common in all tourist towns and cities. Most accept Visa, MasterCard, Electron, Cirrus, Maestro and InterBank cards. ATMs sometimes run dry on weekends in smaller towns.

Please note that using a credit card in a growing number of foreign countries usually requires a new “chip-and-pin” credit card with an embedded microchip and an associated PIN number (the PIN is specific to each credit card). If you have questions about using your credit card in a foreign country, please contact your bank prior to departure from Australia. Check with your credit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.

Cash

Currency can be exchanged at banks, exchange bureaux and larger hotels, though you may get a better exchange rate at the ATMs.
Travelers Cheques are NO longer accepted.

Telephone & Communication

Mobile telephones
Most mobile telephones work in Belgium and coverage is excellent. Check with your local provider that your phone can switch on ‘Global Roaming’ and that your provider has coverage in the places you are visiting. Mobile phones can be very useful for SMSing  (especially if you get lost!). International calls are often expensive, as is checking your message bank as calls have to be routed through Australia.

Should you choose to purchase a local sim card please check with your local provider prior to departure to make sure your phone is unlocked and will accept another sim card.

Internet
Internet access is widespread and available throughout Belgium. Many hotels and cafes now offer access, some you need to pay while others have free Wi-fi zones.

If you have Web access while traveling, you might consider a broadband-based telephone service (in technical terms, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP) such as Skype or Vonage, which allows you to make free international calls between online computers and phones, and cheap international calls if you’re calling a normal phone number. Most cybercafes throughout the country will be using these programs already, complete with headset, microphone, and webcam.
www.skype.com    www.vonage.com

Business Hours in Belgium

Banks  09.00 – 13.00 & 14.00 – 16.30 Monday to Friday
Post Offices   09.00 – 16.00 Monday to Friday; Saturday mornings only.
Shops   09.00 – 18.00 Monday to Saturday. Some stores in tourist centres are usually open later, especially in summer. More and more shops are now open on a Sunday. Many department stores open late on a Friday. The opening hours vary according to the season but these hours are a guide.

Personal Safety
  • We strongly recommend the use of a money belt to keep your cash, cards and travel documents safe. This should be kept under your clothes at all times. This is a precaution that should be taken anywhere due to the difficulties that can be experienced in trying to replace stolen items.
  • Take photocopies of all important documents (passport, credit cards, airline tickets, insurance) and keep one copy securely in your luggage and leave another copy at home.
  • It is generally helpful to take a business card from the hotel you are staying at. This can assist hugely if you get lost. If you also have a key card for your hotel, make sure you keep these two cards separate or you run the risk of allowing a thief access to your room
  • Take extra care in crowded places as there a more pick-pockets around. Try not to ‘advertise’ the fact that you may be carrying valuables by having something like an expensive camera over your shoulder. Put it in your bag or under your coat. And men, try to avoid keeping your wallet in your hip pocket.
  • In Brussels, the Metro is not recommended at night, especially if you are on your own.
What to Pack

Clothing (general)
The time of the year you visit this destination will dictate the type of clothing it is appropriate to bring. It would always be advisable to take a rain coat or a water proof windbreaker. For daytime activities, we suggest a wardrobe that is versatile, casual and comfortable. It is recommended that “layered” clothing might offer the best comfort in a variety of conditions. Always expect the weather to be changeable.

Beyond the normal wardrobe we suggest

  • comfortable walking shoes (very important)
  • sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat
  • folding umbrella and/or light raincoat
  • ladies should have a scarf with them at all times in case it is required to cover shoulders or head when entering religious sites
  • extra prescription eyeglasses (if required)

Travelling with Medication

  • Talk to your doctor or a travel medicine specialist and discuss both the prescription and over the counter medicines that you will need to take with you; take only those for personal use.
  • Contact the embassy of the country you are visiting to ensure the medicine is legal there.
  • Carry a letter from your doctor with your prescription medicines. The letter should include the name of the medicine, how much you are taking or sending, and state that the medicine is for your personal use.
  • All medicines should be kept in their original container displaying your name and dosage requirements, and carried in hand luggage to prevent their loss.

Because a prescription from your doctor here cannot be filled overseas, and familiar over the counter medicines may not be available in foreign countries, it is also important to carry an adequate supply for the entire trip plus some extra in case of travel disruption or delay. Some medications, such as those containing Codeine 30mg or strong painkillers, even when obtained on a legal prescription in Australia, should not be transported across international boundaries unless they are accompanied by a customs clearance from the country concerned. You must apply to the appropriate Consulate or Embassy for this.

Etiquette

No attempt should be made to photograph anything remotely connected with the armed forces or in the vicinity of defense installations. Many people do not like being photographed. Always ask before photographing someone, they may try to obtain money from you.

Clothing (Churches, Mosques and Monasteries)
Although ‘foreigners’ do not have to adhere to a strict dress rules, women should wear a head covering (ie a scarf) in active churches. Men must remember to remove their hats in religious buildings. In churches it is polite to stand around the edges of the building, rather than in the centre. It is acceptable for foreigners to light candles.

Useful websites

Belgium Tourist Board   www.visitbelgium.com
World Airport Guide www.worldairportguides.com
Guide for world airports by car, bus, train and other forms  www.toandfromtheairport.com

Climate

We suggest that prior to departure you check the weather forecast for the most up-to-date information.
www.worldweatheronline.com

Average minimum/ maximum Temperature (°C).

City Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Antwerp 3/7 3/8 5/11 6/14 10/19 13/21 15/23 15/23 12/20 9/15 5/10 3/7
Brussels 2/6 2/8 4/11 6/14 10/19 12/21 14/23 14/23 11/19 8/15 5/9 2/6