Belgium

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 24 October 2014.   This advice contains updated information in the Summary and under Safety and security (heightened terrorism threat in Belgium due to those motivated by the Iraq and Syria conflict). We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Belgium.

Belgium overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions. Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
  • Travellers should be very alert to minor crime. While the incidence of serious crime is low in Belgium, theft, muggings, bag snatching and pickpocketing are common in Brussels, particularly around major train stations.
  • Demonstrations frequently occur in Belgium. You should monitor the media and other local information sources for information about possible demonstrations and avoid relevant areas. These protests can be large and can occasionally turn violent.
  • We assess that there is a heightened risk of terrorist attack in a number of European countries, including Belgium. This threat is posed by those motivated by the current conflict in Iraq and Syria. Brussels hosts a number of international institutions, including the European Union and NATO. Australians should remain vigilant in public places and report any suspicious activites to police.
  • See also our general advice for business travellers and backpacking.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

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.

Belgium is a party to the Schengen Convention, along with a number of other European countries, which allows you to enter Belgium for tourist or business purposes without a visa. See our travel bulletin on the Schengen Convention for further information.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and Security

We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Belgium. Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.

Terrorism

We assess there is a heightened threat of terrorist attack in a number of European countries, including Belgium. This threat is posed by those motivated by the current conflict in Iraq and Syria. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities, including Brussels, Glasgow, London, Madrid, Moscow, Oslo and Volgograd. Targets have included public transport and transport hubs, and public places frequented by foreigners. In addition, a number of planned attacks have been disrupted by European security services in recent years. Brussels hosts a number of international institutions, including the European Union and NATO. Australians should remain vigilant in public places and report any suspicious activity to police.

Belgian police and judicial authorities are treating as a terrorist incident a shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on 24 May 2014, in which four people were killed. In addition, a large trial is undeway in Antwerp involving the prosecution of 46 defendants on terror-related charges. Belgian courts have convicted a number of individuals of terrorist–related offences, notably in 2012.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Civil unrest/political tension

Demonstrations frequently occur in Belgium, often aimed at Embassies, the European Union and NATO. You should monitor the media and other local information sources for information about possible demonstrations and avoid relevant areas. These protests can be large and can occasionally turn violent.

Crime

The incidence of serious crime is low, however, petty crimes such as theft, muggings, bag snatching, and pickpocketing are common. Travellers should pay very close attention to their personal belongings at major train stations, particularly at Gare du Midi/Zuidstation (South Station). You should not leave your luggage unattended. On trains, you should keep your luggage in sight at all times, particularly when the train is stationary. Petty crime is also common around the Grand Place and in the Metro. Thieves also operate at Brussels national airport, and on buses, trams and in shops. 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.

It is increasingly common for thieves, usually on motorbikes, to break a window and snatch valuables from the front or back passenger seat of cars when the vehicle is waiting at traffic lights. Do not place valuables and attractive items where thieves might see them.

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. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

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

See 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

When you are in Belgium, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

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.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Our Dual nationals page provides information for dual nationals.

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 the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

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.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly. If you are not satisfied, tell your tour organiser and travel agent.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and cannot 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.

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.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.