Belgium

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 13 March 2015.   Belgium's general domestic threat level is at 'Medium' and at the higher level of 'Serious' for some institutions and sites. The level of this advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Belgium.

Belgium overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Belgium. You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions.
  • 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 Safety and security.
  • 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 activities to police.
  • Belgium's general domestic threat level is at 'Medium' and at the higher level of 'Serious' for some institutions and sites, including Embassies. Authorities maintain heightened security measures at these institutions and sites.
  • Demonstrations are common in Belgium and can occasionally turn violent. Monitor the media and other local information sources about possible demonstrations and avoid affected areas.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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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.

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

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 Copenhagen, Paris, 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 prominent international institutions, including the European Union and NATO. Australians should remain vigilant in public places and report any suspicious activity to police.

Belgium's general domestic threat level is at 'Medium' and at the higher level of 'Serious' for some institutions and sites, including Embassies. Authorities maintain heightened security measures at these institutions and sites.

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.

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 Women 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 is also common around the Grand Place and in the Metro. Thieves 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.

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. 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 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.

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

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 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.

Additional resources



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.