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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Belgium due to the high threat of terrorist attack.
  • We continue to receive information that terrorists may be planning further attacks in Belgium. An attack could occur at any time. Exercise particular caution around locations known to be possible terrorist targets. Monitor the news and other sources for changes to local conditions. See Safety and security.
  • Belgium's current National Terrorism Threat Level is Level 3 of 4, indicating that a serious and credible threat exists. On 21 June 2017, there was a failed terrorist attack at Brussels central train station. In March 2016, terrorist attacks at Brussels National Airport (Zaventem) and at Maalbeek/Maelbeek metro station in central Brussels killed 32 people and injured more than 300. See Safety and security.

  • Increased security checks operate at international airports and train stations. Always carry your passport with you when entering or leaving Belgium, even when crossing land borders. See Safety and security.

  • Be particularly alert to potential security threats in places with high concentrations of people, including concerts, major events, train stations and airports, public transport, and shopping districts. See Safety and security.

  • 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, on trains and in the metro. More serious robberies and assaults also occur. See Safety and security.

  • Pickpockets operate on intercity and international trains travelling through Belgium. Pay close attention to valuables and your passport on trains and other forms of public transport. See Safety and security.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Belgium is a party to the Schengen Convention, along with a number of other European countries. This allows you to enter Belgium without a visa in some circumstances. 

In other circumstances, you will need a visa.

More information: Schengen Convention

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.

Other formalities

In the current threat environment, Belgian authorities have increased security measures at international airports and train stations. You should carry your passport with you when entering or leaving Belgium, even if crossing by road or rail. Contact your airline or travel agent for the latest information or check-in requirements.

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception.  If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

By law, you must, as soon as possible report a lost or stolen passport:

Money

Declare cash of 10,000 Euros or more (or the equivalent in another currency) if you are travelling between Belgium and any non-European Union (EU) country. This includes notes and coins, money orders, cheques and travellers cheques. If you fail to declare your cash or you give incorrect information on entry to, or exit from, Belgium, you will be fined. You don't need to declare cash if you are travelling to or from another EU country.

Safety and Security

Terrorism

We continue to receive information that terrorists may be planning further attacks in Belgium. An attack could occur at any time. Exercise particular caution around locations known to be possible terrorist targets. Monitor the news and other sources for changes to local conditions.

Belgium's current National Terrorism Threat Level is Level 3 of 4, indicating that a serious and credible threat exists. Increased security checks are in place at international airports and train stations. Always carry your passport when entering or leaving Belgium.

Belgian police continue to conduct anti-terror raids and have arrested several suspected militants. Police raids may 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, follow the instructions of local authorities.  If possible, remain indoors and close all windows and blinds.

Report any suspicious activities to police. Be particularly alert to potential security risks in places with high concentrations of people, including concerts, major events, train stations, airports, public transport, and shopping districts. Monitor official and media sources for information on security risks. Follow the instructions of local authorities. 

Recent attacks include:

  • On 21 June 2017, there was a failed terrorist attack at Brussels central train station.
  • On 22 March 2016, terrorist attacks at Brussels National Airport (Zaventem) and at Maalbeek/Maelbeek metro station in the EU district of central Brussels killed 32 people and injured more than 300.
  • 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.

Enhanced security arrangements are in place at the Australian Embassy in Brussels. All visitors to the Embassy are subject to security screening. Do not bring luggage to the Embassy.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Crime

Crimes such as theft, muggings, and bag snatching are common in Brussels, Antwerp and other urban areas.

Petty crime, especially pickpocketing, is also common in urban and tourist areas such as Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent, particularly on public transport. Pickpockets also operate on intercity and international trains travelling through Belgium.  Thieves are often professional and work in teams of two or three. They distract victims, including by asking questions, spilling food or drink, or telling travellers someone has spilled something on their clothes. Be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to your personal security in public places, particularly at night.

  • Take additional care around transport hubs, tourist areas and in some inner city neighbourhoods, particularly at night. Seek local advice, for example from your hotel, about the safety of particular neighbourhoods.
  • Pay close attention to your personal belongings at major train stations, particularly at Gare du Midi/Zuidstation (South Station), on trains and in public transport. Do not leave your luggage unattended. Keep travel documents on your person while travelling.
  • Women should be particularly careful, especially at night. More information: Female travellers  

Civil unrest and 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.

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, which can disrupt travel, especially in and around Brussels. Follow the instructions of local authorities and cooperate with security personnel during these events.

Local travel

Monitor travel conditions by checking with local news sources and asking transport providers directly.

  • Carry your passport when crossing borders, even within the Schengen zone. 
  • Keep up-to-date on border conditions by checking local news sources and asking transport providers directly.
  • Make back-up plans in case your travel plans are disrupted.

Road travel

Road accidents sometimes result from foreign drivers' lack of understanding of local road rules, particularly the 'priority of the right' system. Under this system, drivers must give way to the vehicles approaching from the right at intersections and from side roads (unless otherwise signposted).

Familiarise yourself with all local road rules before you drive.  There are severe penalties for traffic infringements. Penalties may include confiscation of your licence and/or vehicle and on-the-spot fines.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is recommended for visitors. You must be at least 18 years of age to drive a car in Belgium. To use an International Driving Permit (IDP), you must obtain one before you depart Australia and hold a valid Australian driver's licence. This may be required by car rental companies.  If you register as a resident with a local commune in Belgium, you are required to obtain a Belgian licence. 

More information: Driving in Belgium (Australian Embassy website)

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when riding a motorcycle. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Only use licensed, official taxis. Assaults and robberies have occurred in unlicensed taxis. Unlicensed taxis often target high-traffic destinations such as airports, train stations and other tourist locations. Rideshare options such as Uber have been subject to legal action but remain available.

Public transport

Be aware of pickpockets operate on intercity and international trains travelling through Belgium. Pay close attention to valuables and your passport on trains and other forms of public transport. See Belgian Rail website for information on bookings and service interruptions.

Sea travel

A number of international cruise ships service ports in Belgium, including international river cruises.  There is also an international passenger service from Zeebrugge.

More information: Cruises

Air travel

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.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

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.

Other laws

Under Belgian law you must carry your passport or a Belgium government issued ID at all times.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Our Dual nationals page provides important information for dual nationals.

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

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 your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Take prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry on your person a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

Before you leave Australia check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Health risks in Belgium are broadly similar to those in Australia.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities in Belgium is high.

Belgium and Australia have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement. Under this agreement, you can get subsidised treatment in the Belgian public health system, including hospital, medical care and prescription drugs. To access the benefits of Reciprocal Health Care Agreement, you'll need to present your valid Medicare card and show your current Australian passport (or evidence of Australian permanent residency) when you present for treatment. You may need to pay for the service at the time of treatment and seek reimbursement from a Belgian health insurance fund ('mutuelle').

Treatment in private medical facilities or in public facilities as a private patient is not covered by the agreement.  You'll need to pay for any treatment, services or medicines you receive as a private patient.

The Reciprocal Health Care Agreement does not replace the need for travel insurance.

More information: Medicare

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer, or airline. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergencies

  • Firefighting and rescue services: 112
  • Medical emergencies: 112
  • Criminal issues, contact police: 101
  • Always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

For non-urgent criminal issues, contact the police at the nearest police station.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

For consular assistance, contact the Australian Embassy in Brussels:

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: belgium.embassy.gov.au

Check 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. Do not bring luggage to the Embassy. All visitors to the Embassy are subject to increased security screening.

If you are unable to contact the Embassy in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

  

Additional information

Additional resources