Official advice:
High degree of caution

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Belgium overall, exercise a high degree of caution ↓

Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media about possible new safety or security risks.

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Latest advice, 30 Mar 2016

On 22 March, terrorist attacks at Brussels airport and at Maalbeek metro station in the EU district of central Brussels killed 32 people and injured more than 300. Operations at Brussels airport remain severely disrupted and authorities have indicated they will remain so for some time. If you are scheduled to fly in or out of Brussels, you should contact your airline or travel agent for latest information on disruptions. Belgium's current National Terrorism Threat Level is Level 3 of 4, indicating that a serious and credible threat exists. Australians in Belgium should remain attentive to their surroundings, avoid affected areas and follow the instructions of local authorities. The level of advice has been lowered. We now advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Belgium.

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Belgium due to the high threat of terrorist attack.
  • On 22 March, terrorist attacks at Brussels National airport (Zaventem) and at Maalbeek metro station in the EU district of central Brussels killed 32 people and injured more than 300.
  • Operations at Brussels airport remain severely disrupted and authorities have indicated they will remain so for some time. If you are scheduled to fly in or out of Brussels, you should contact your airline or travel agent for latest information on disruptions (see Local travel).
  • Belgium’s current National Terrorism Threat Level is Level 3 of 4, indicating that a serious and credible threat exists. Australians in Belgium should remain attentive to their surroundings, avoid affected areas and follow the instructions of local authorities. See Safety & security.
  • Public transport in Brussels also remains disrupted, particularly after hours. Expect enhanced security measures as well as an increased police and military presence, including at airports and international railway stations across Belgium.
  • We advise you to keep an increased level of vigilance in places with high concentrations of people including concerts, major events, train stations and airports, public transport, and shopping districts.
  • Follow the media for information regarding your safety, follow the instructions of local authorities and report any suspicious activities to police.
  • Enhanced security is in place at the Australian Embassy in Brussels. You should not bring luggage to the Embassy and all visitors to the Embassy are subject to increased security screening.

* Belgian authorities have increased security checks at land borders, international airports and train stations. You should carry your passport with you when entering or leaving Belgium.

  • There has been a significant influx of asylum seekers into Europe, causing localised disruption to cross-border road and train transport services. Travellers should be aware of the possibility of further disruptions, make appropriate contingency plans and follow the instructions of local authorities. See Local travel.
  • Travellers should be alert to crime in Belgium, particularly in Brussels, Antwerp and other urban areas. Theft, muggings, bag snatching and pickpocketing are common in Brussels, particularly around major train stations. More serious robberies and assaults can also occur.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:

Entry and exit

Belgium is a party to the Schengen Convention, along with a number of other European countries, which allows Australians to enter Belgium without a visa in some circumstances. See our travel bulletin on the Schengen Convention for further information.

Since the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, Belgian authorities have increased security checks at land borders, international airports and train stations. You should carry your passport with you when entering or leaving Belgium.

As visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Belgium for the most up to date information.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Safety and Security

Terrorism

Brussels attacks: On 22 March 2016, terrorist attacks at Brussels National airport (Zaventem) and at Maalbeek metro station in the EU district of central Brussels killed 32 people and injured more than 300. Belgium’s current National Terrorism Threat Level is Level 3 of 4, indicating that a serious and credible threat exists. We advise you to keep an increased level of vigilance in places with high concentrations of people including concerts, major events, train stations and airports, public transport, and shopping districts. Belgian authorities have increased security checks at land borders, international airports and train stations. You should carry your passport with you when entering or leaving Belgium.

Belgian police have conducted a number of anti-terror raids and have arrested several suspected militants.

Travellers are reminded that there is a heightened potential for police raids to take place with little or no warning in response to the raised terrorism threat. If you are in an area where a police raid is being conducted, remain indoors and close all windows and blinds. Monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities.

Since the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, Belgian authorities have increased security checks at land borders, international airports and train stations. You should carry your passport with you when travelling and follow the instructions of local authorities.

In August 2015 a terrorist boarded the Thalys Brussels-Paris train and then conducted an attack that injured three people while the train was travelling in northern France. In May 2014, a terrorist killed four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Belgian authorities have also arrested and convicted a number of individuals on terrorism-related offences in recent years.

You should remain vigilant in public places, follow the media for information regarding your safety, follow the instructions of local authorities and report any suspicious activities to police.

Security at the Australian Embassy in Brussels: Enhanced security arrangements are in place at the Australian Embassy in Brussels, in line with the high threat of terrorist attack. All visitors to the Embassy are subject to security screening. You should not seek to bring luggage to the Embassy.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.

Crime

Crimes such as theft, muggings, bag snatching and pickpocketing are common in Brussels, Antwerp and other urban areas. Be aware of your surroundings and take additional care around transport hubs, tourist areas and in some neighbourhoods, particularly at night. It is best to seek local advice, for example from your hotel, about the safety of particular neighbourhoods.

Women should be particularly careful, especially at night. See our Female travellers page.

Pay very close attention to your personal belongings at major train stations, particularly at Gare du Midi/Zuidstation (South Station). You should not leave your luggage unattended. Petty crime, especially pickpocketing, is also common in urban and tourist areas such as Brussels, Antwerp, Brugge and Gent, particularly on public transport, but it can happen anywhere. Thieves are often professional and work in teams of two or three. Techniques used to distract victims include asking questions, spilling food or drink, or telling travellers someone has spilled something on their clothes.

Civil unrest/political tension

Demonstrations are common in Belgium and are sometimes directed at Embassies, the European Union institutions and NATO. Protests can be large and occasionally turn violent. Monitor the media and other local information sources about possible demonstrations and avoid affected areas.

Money and valuables

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Local travel

Disruptions at Brussels airport: Operations at Brussels airport remain severely disrupted and authorities have indicated they will remain so for some time. If you are scheduled to fly in or out of Brussels, you should contact your airline or travel agent for latest information on disruptions.

There has been a significant influx of asylum seekers into Europe. In some cases, police have been deployed to prevent asylum seekers from crossing borders and accessing transport. As a result, there has been localised disruption to some cross-border road and rail transport services. You should be aware of the possibility of further disruption to transport services and monitor the local media and other information from transport providers for up to date information. If travelling by road or train, you should allow additional time to cover any disruption, remain vigilant and follow the instructions of local authorities. Australians travelling across affected borders, either by road or rail, should make appropriate contingency plans to cover any disruption to travel plans.

Belgium frequently hosts large international meetings attended by visiting heads of state and other senior government and business figures. Before and during these meetings, authorities often increase security measures at various locations around Brussels or other parts of Belgium. You should cooperate with security personnel during these events and be aware of the possibility for some disruption to travel, especially in and around Brussels.

See also our road travel page.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Belgium.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Belgium, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Under Belgian law you are required to carry your passport at all times.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Information for dual nationals

See our Dual nationals page.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities in Belgium is high.

Belgium and Australia have a reciprocal health care agreement. The agreement ensures that Australians who visit Belgium are covered for subsidised treatment in the public health system, including hospital, medical care and prescription drugs. Travellers will be liable to pay any charges if treatment is provided to you as a private patient, including for medication. This agreement does not replace the need for travel insurance. For more information, see Medicare Australia’s website.

If you wish to be treated under the reciprocal health agreement you must advise the local medical staff and show your current Australian passport or evidence of Australian permanent residency and a valid Medicare card.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.

If the matter relates to a criminal issue, report it to the nearest police station or contact them on the police emergency number 101. The national emergency number is 112.

To complain about tourism services, contact the service provider directly.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:

Australian Embassy, Brussels

Level 7, Avenue des Arts/Kunstlaan 56
1000 Brussels,
BELGIUM
Telephone: +32 2 286 0500
Fax: +32 2 286 0576
Email: austemb.brussels@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.belgium.embassy.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

Enhanced security is in place at the Australian Embassy in Brussels. You should not bring luggage to the Embassy and all visitors to the Embassy are subject to increased security screening.

If you are travelling to Belgium, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the above mission, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources

Warnings by area

Map of Belgium