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Exercise a high degree of caution in Belgium due to the threat of terrorism.
Exercise a high degree of caution in Belgium due to the threat of terrorism.
Full travel advice: Safety
Full travel advice: Health
Full travel advice: Local laws
Full travel advice: Travel
Following a terrorist attack, the threat level for Belgium, including Brussels, is now level 3 of 4, meaning there's a possible and imminent threat. (A threat level of 3 is identified as serious by the Belgian Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis.)
Brussels hosts several international institutions (EU and NATO) and government and foreign embassy buildings, which are sensitive locations.
There have been many high-profile terrorist attacks across Belgium. Previous incidents include attacks against civilians and security forces:
More attacks may happen at any time.
In 2019, the Belgian authorities successfully disrupted various attack plans, making a number of arrests. Anti-terrorism operations continue.
Crowded places may be the target of an attack, such as:
Belgian police continue to conduct anti-terror operations. These may occur with little or no warning.
If you're in the area of a police operation:
Enhanced security arrangements are in place at the Australian Embassy in Brussels. Visitors must pass a security screening. Don't bring your luggage with you.
To protect yourself from terrorism:
Terrorism is a threat worldwide.
Public Alert System
The Belgian Government provides information in the case of emergencies through the Belgian Crisis Centre (available in French, Dutch or German) and social media (Facebook and Twitter). You can also register to be notified in an emergency through the Belgian Public Alert System (Be-Alert).
Crimes such as theft, mugging, pickpocketing, and bag snatching are common in urban and tourist areas. Theft on board intercity and international trains is also common.
Hotspots for crime include the popular tourist spots in:
Pickpockets also target passengers in transportation hubs such as the Metro, train stations and airports.
Incidents of petty crime on trains along the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam and Brussels-London routes are frequent.
Thieves often work in teams of 2 or 3. They distract victims by:
To stay safe from crime:
In the event of theft, contact the nearest police station and get a police report.
Incidents of violent crime among organised criminal gangs involved in drug trafficking have increased recently, particularly in Antwerp. The risk primarily concerns those involved in drug crime. Be vigilant if you suspect illegal activity is underway. In the event of any incident involving violent or serious crime, follow the advice of local authorities.
You may be at risk of cyber-based threats during overseas travel to any country. Digital identity theft is a growing concern. Your devices and personal data can be compromised, especially if you're connecting to Wi-Fi, using or connecting to shared or public computers, or to Bluetooth.
Social media can also be risky in destinations where there are social or political tensions or laws that may seem unreasonable by Australian standards. Travellers have been arrested for things they have said on social media. Don't comment on local or political events on your social media.
Demonstrations and strike action often occur in transport hubs, cities, and the Schuman area in Brussels. While most demonstrations are peaceful, there is a risk of isolated incidents of unrest or violence.
Demonstrations are common, often directed at:
Belgium often hosts large international meetings. Heads of state, senior government and business figures may attend.
Before and during these meetings, authorities often increase security measures around Brussels or other parts of Belgium. This may disrupt travel.
To avoid issues:
Severe weather can affect your travel. Monitor local media for updates.
If you plan to visit an affected area:
Register with the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System to receive alerts on major disasters.
Get comprehensive travel insurance before you leave.
Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won't pay for these costs.
If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many thousands of dollars up-front for medical care.
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.
If you have immediate concerns for your welfare or the welfare of another Australian call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or contact your nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate to discuss counselling hotlines and services available in your location.
Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
If you plan to bring medication, check if it's legal in Belgium. Take enough legal medication for your trip.
Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:
There have been outbreaks of measles in Belgium. Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date before you travel.
Other health risks
Other health risks in Belgium are broadly similar to those in Australia.
The standard of medical facilities is high.
Belgium and Australia have a reciprocal healthcare agreement. You can get subsidised treatment in the Belgian public health system, including:
To access the reciprocal health care agreement, you must present your:
You may need to pay at the time of treatment and get reimbursed from a Belgian health insurance fund ('mutuelle').
The reciprocal health care agreement does not cover treatment in:
If you're a private patient, you must pay for any treatment, services or medicine you receive.
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.
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.
Laws relating to drugs are similar to those of Australia. Possession of drugs and trafficking of drugs are serious offences.
You must carry your passport or a Belgian government-issued ID at all times.
It's illegal to wear clothing that largely or completely hides your face in public places (parks, buildings, public transport, on the street). Wearing such clothing risks a fine and/or detention for up to 7 days. There's no exemption for tourists.
Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you're overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.
Every country or territory decides who can enter or leave through its borders. For specific information about the evidence you'll need to enter a foreign destination, check with the nearest embassy, consulate or immigration department of the destination you're entering.
Belgium is a part of the Schengen area, along with many other European countries. This means you can enter Belgium without a visa in some cases.
In other situations, get a visa before you travel.
Always carry your passport when you cross borders, even in the Schengen area.
Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. Contact the nearest embassy or consulate for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.
Increased security measures are in force at international airports and train stations.
Carry your passport when you enter or exit Belgium, even by road or rail.
Contact your airline or travel agent for updates or check-in requirements.
Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you're just transiting or stopping over.
Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.
You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.
The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport's expiry date before you travel. If you're not sure it'll be valid long enough, consider getting a new passport.
Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.
Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.
If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:
Also, go to the nearest police station to:
This may be useful for any insurance claims.
Although Australian passports comply with international standards for sex and gender, we can't guarantee that a passport showing an 'X' in the sex field will be accepted for entry or transit by another country. Contact the nearest embassy, high commission or consulate of your destination before you arrive at the border to confirm if authorities will accept passports with 'X' gender markers.
Belgium's currency is the Euro.
ATMs are widely available.
If you're travelling between Belgium and a non-EU country, declare currency of 10,000 euros or more or equivalent. This covers all forms of currency, not only cash.
You'll be fined if you don't declare currency or give incorrect information on entry or exit.
You don't need to declare currency if you're travelling to or from another EU country.
For short visits, you'll need both:
Car rental companies may require both documents.
You must be at least 18 years old to drive in Belgium.
If you register as a resident with a local commune, you'll need to change your Australian driver's licence for a Belgian licence.
Communes usually require the date of issue of your Australian licence. If your licence doesn't show this, contact your state or territory licensing authority for official notice that states the date of issue.
Road conditions and road safety are very good throughout the country. The 'priority to the right' system is in effect in Belgium.
Drivers must give way to vehicles approaching from the right at intersections. This is often a surprise to foreign drivers and results in accidents.
Check that your travel insurance policy covers you when riding a motorbike.
Always wear a helmet.
Targets for unlicensed taxis include high-traffic destinations, such as:
Rideshare options are available. Taxis can be booked via the Uber app.
Pickpockets operate on intercity and international trains.
Pay close attention to valuables and your passport on trains and other forms of public transport.
Check Belgian Rail for bookings and any service interruptions.
DFAT doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
See Belgium's air safety profile with the Aviation Safety Network.
Depending on what you need, contact your:
Contact the nearest police station if it isn't an emergency.
Always get a police report when you report a crime.
Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
Level 7, Avenue des Arts/Kunstlaan 56
1000 Brussels, Belgium
Phone: (+32 2) 286 0500
Facebook: Australian Embassy, Brussels
Check the Embassy website for details about opening hours and any temporary closures.
Visitors must pass a security screening. Don't bring luggage with you.
In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:
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