Belgium Travel Tips

Belgium Travel Tips 2014-10-29T13:20:28+00:00

Belgium is one of the countries that you don’t really hear much about but you know it’s a place that you need to travel to. What did I know about Belgium before arriving? I watch a lot of tennis so I know a couple of great tennis players from Belgium. I also know that Belgium is famous for waffles, chocolate for some weird reason and of course beer. And what did I spend most of my time doing while in Belgium… exploring those three things that are stereotypical Belgian and actually a big part of Belgian identity. I only stayed in Bruges, Belgium but felt I accomplished much of Belgium, really saw the more traditional side of it. This is one country where you should spend your time away from the bigger cities like Brussels and focus on cities that have the architectural charm even if they are some what touristy. Belgium is full of wonderful food, beer, landscapes, and people. It is a surprisingly interesting and unique country to visit.

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Noteworthy Places
Getting to/around Belgium
Breakdown of Costs
Belgian People
Belgian Language
Definitely Do’s and Don’ts
From Splurging to Saving
Good for Gay Lifestyle?
Random Advice

Noteworthy Places I’ve Been To

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Bruges – This historical city is so picturesque it will make you weep or barf, or both. It’s hard to describe an European city that is so beautiful and has been kept relatively intact from both wars. It is a little touristy but that is easily overlooked because it still feel genuinely Belgian. The great thing about this city is that it’s so walk-able and there many restaurants, bars, sites and activities to do that you could easily be here for 3 days. Also less than a 2 hour train ride from Brussels airport.

Getting to/around Belgium

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By Plane – For most tourists plane is the best option and you would probably fly into Brussels International Airport in the middle of the country. I  love Brussels Airport because it’s convenient and connects the rest of the country. From Brussels you can take a train to almost anywhere in Belgium and to other countries like Netherlands, Germany, France and beyond.

By Train – Belgium is well-connected to the rest of Europe and it’s pretty easy to get to Belgium from most other countries in Europe. Depending on where you’re leaving from it could cost you but usually trains are efficient, on-time and will get you where you need to go.

By Car – Belgium is also well-connected by road and driving is very easy. If you’re renting it will probably be more expensive than just taking a train and probably more of a hassle. I would only do this if you’re planning to travel to many European cities and want to have your own personal transportation.

By Cruise – Cruises actually come to ports like Bruges so this may be a great option for travelers looking to come to Belgium by the sea.

By Bus – There are bus options, like Eurolines or Megabus. These may be less expensive options compared to rail but my personal pick would still to travel by train since it’s efficient and relatively inexpensive.

Flying into Brussels was a breeze and it was one of the better airports to connect through and to fly into. Brussels is very international and it is easy to connect to the rest of Europe, Asia, North American and Africa. Also it may be a cheaper option compared to airports like Paris or Amsterdam and each of those cities is around an hour and half away by train. Most cities in Belgium are very easy to get to by car, train or bus and for the majority of travelers you’ll have no problems. Once you get to a city, walking is preferred.

Breakdown of Costs

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Hotels – Like most of Europe, Belgium I did not find cheap or really budget friendly, especially in the summer. It is recommended that you go on websites like TripAdvisor to get an idea of the hotels. Expect to pay around 100 – 200 euros per night although you can go cheaper, it will just not be very nice. If you’re a hostel type of traveler than you need to book way in advance during the summer since this is when most tourists travel. We found hotels to be relatively small compared to the United States but it was sufficient enough to feel comfortable.

Food – Eating in Belgium is relatively more expensive than eating out in the United States. That has to do with that fact that most Europeans only eat out on special occasions and the dollar is weaker compared to the Euro. During the afternoon we found that most meals weren’t really that bad, especially if you’re ordering street food like waffles, crepes or sandwiches. The dinner prices rise a bit especially if you’re looking for something authentic. My advice is to splurge on the food since Belgium is known for the food and alcohol. Cheap is around 0 – 10 euros. Medium price is around 10 – 30 euros. Anything over 30 euros is fairly expensive.

Other Activities – Nothing is very cheap in Belgian according to American dollars. Even if an activity is under 10 euros that is still close or over 10 dollars for Americans. It’s just the nature of Belgium and Europe and something that you have to consider when traveling. My advice is to splurge on the activities that you truly want to do and hit up free activities like parks, architecture, and café sitting. In fact this is what we need the majority of our time in Belgium. Truly the activities that set Belgium apart are its food, beer, and the general beauty of its charming cities. Everything else is just extra!

Belgian People

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Belgian people are welcoming but of course in a typical cold European way. I wouldn’t say that Belgians go out of their way to make you feel welcome but if you strike up a conversation, they will be sure to talk back. Everywhere we went we found Belgians are happy to answer any questions we had and help us when we needed help. They are also direct and get right to the point. And can we talk about how attractive the men (and women) are! Belgium definitely didn’t let us down in the looks department and we were turning our heads every step we took. Belgians are easy to get along with but as Americans don’t expect them to be overly talkative or affectionate right off the bat.

Belgian Language

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Belgium is one of those confusing countries where they have multiple languages depending on what part of the country you’re in. However most of the population is well-educated and can speak English which is huge relief since their native languages consist of Flemish (essentially Dutch), Dutch, French and German. They take learning language seriously and are proud that most can speak both a variety of languages, especially English. However that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn some phrases just to be polite. Nobody Belgian person speaks English on a daily basis, only when dealing with tourists so respect Belgium s national languages.

Definitely Do’s and Don’ts

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Do go to Bruges, Belgium. It’s touristy but it has to be one of the most charming and scenic European cities.

Don’t leave without trying waffles, chocolate and Belgian beer, specifically Duvel.

Do fly into Brussels. It’s great if you’re heading on to other European cities like Paris and Amsterdam since they are connected by hi-speed rail.

Don’t buy train tickets in advance if you’re traveling between cities in Belgium. Tickets can always be purchased the day off, making it more flexible for you.

Do learn some of the local language although most Belgians will be happy to speak to you in English.

Don’t forget to bring an umbrella or jackets, especially if you’re traveling by the coast. Even in Summer Belgium can be particularly cold and cloudy.

Do try some local Belgian dishes that usually consist of some type of meat and potatoes.

From Splurging to Saving

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Like most of Europe it’s pretty easy to splurge in Belgium. Even a moderate budget will bring you well over 1,000 dollars for two people in just one week. However, if you have the money and really want to let loose, there are many well established boutique hotels in the major tourists cities. If you’re on the budget end of things, then each major city does have a hostel of some sorts that will usually be well booked in advanced. In typical high season hotels can run anywhere between $150 to $300 dollars easily and there isn’t many hotels that are priced lower than that. During off-season it’s easier to travel and hotels are priced lower.

Saving in Europe is hard and it’s the same for Belgium. Eating out is expensive, taking the train is expensive and the hotels are expensive; never mind buying souvenirs. There are ways to be a budget traveler and travel under $100 dollars a day but it’s not really how I would want to experience Europe. The cheaper you decide to go the less quality the hotels, service, and food will be and that’s just the truth. Some people don’t have another option or love this type of travel and I’ve done it and will not be doing it again. To experience Europe as a whole, sometimes you need to pay the price.

Good for Gay Lifestyle?

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Yes Belgium is great for the gay lifestyle and it was one of the first countries in the world to accept gay marriage and full equal same-sex rights. Like the Netherlands, people have a very progressive and relaxed attitude towards gays and while I traveled with my boyfriend there I never felt in danger. In smaller cities there isn’t much gay clubs but there are still options and that is great to see. Belgium also has many gay people in their government, still unheard of in many western gay friendly countries. Overall Belgium is one of the most gay friendly countries to visit and should be a country to consider just for that reason. Also can I say that the men are gorgeous as well!

Random Advice

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Changing trains in Brussels is kind of confusing as there are at least 3 major train stations. I found the platforms to be confusing and didn’t know where to be at what time. Ask for help and most likely someone will speak English and guide you.

Bruges is the most touristy city but SHOULD be considered as its charming and one of the most unusual cities I’ve visited. Just because many tourists visit doesn’t mean it’s not a great city.

Sit at a café and relax! Cafe culture is strong in Belgium and one of the best activities we did while in Bruges was to sit in the downtown square and watch passerby’s

It can be surprisingly cold in the summer with highs sometimes only in 60’s! Oh and it can be rainy; dress accordingly!

Trains are the best way to get around and are on-time, reasonably priced, and can be bought the day of.

 

 

 

 

images by: shawnvoyage