Australian Government advice for Belgium
When travelling to Belgium, you should always get travel insurance in case the worst happens. To help you ensure you travel safely, we have included the travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for Belgium.
This Advice was last issued on Tuesday, 03 June 2014. This advice contains new information in the Summary and under Safety and security (following a suspected terrorist incident involving a shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on 24 May 2014, Belgian security authorities have increased, to the highest level, their assessments of security risk to Jewish community institutions across Belgium and have upgraded security measures accordingly at these sites). We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Belgium.
- 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, muggings, bag snatching and pickpocketing are common in Brussels, particularly around major train stations.
- There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities, such as Glasgow, London, Madrid, and Moscow. 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, underscoring the continuing interest of terrorists in attacking European locations.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. 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.
There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities, such as Glasgow, London, Madrid, and Moscow. 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, underscoring the continuing interest of terrorists in attacking European locations. Brussels hosts a number of international institutions, including the European Union and NATO.
Following a suspected terrorist incident involving a shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on 24 May 2014, Belgian security authorities have increased, to the highest level, their assessments of security risks to Jewish community institutions across Belgium and have upgraded security measures accordingly at these sites.
Belgian courts have convicted a number of individuals of terrorist-related offences, including several in 2012. In November and December 2010, 25 people were arrested on terrorist related charges in a series of raids in Antwerp and Brussels.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers .
Civil unrest/political tension
Demonstrations frequently occur in Brussels, 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.
The incidence of serious crime is low, however, petty crimes such as 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
Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out whether your ATM card will work overseas.
Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering and theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority .
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.
You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
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.
Please refer to our air travel page about aviation safety and security.
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.
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.
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
Belgian emergency numbers are: 101 (for the police), 100 (for medical emergencies) and 112 (for distress calls from a mobile phone).
In Belgium, you can obtain consular assistance from the:
Australian Embassy, Brussels
Level 7, Avenue des Arts 56
Telephone: (32) 2 286 0500
Fax: (32) 2 231 0788
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.
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children page.