By The Non Fiction Author
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You are going to love Belgium! It is not the first choice by many as a tourist or vacation destination, but little do people know what a hidden gem it is. It is one of the smallest countries in Europe but the size of its culture and the hearts of its people more than make up for it.
Travel from city to city and you will find plenty to entertain both your days and nights. It can be visited during anytime of the year and if you happen to be travelling during the cooler months, there is nothing better than a good sweater and a beer at a local pub to warm you up.
You can spend a few days in Belgium or a few weeks, it doesn’t matter. You will be happily welcomed anywhere you go. The people are friendly, down-to-earth and they’ve got a good sense of humor. The culture is progressive and youthful and you can see it in their artsy city centers, yet they are all about showing off their colorful past and history, even dating back to medieval times.
Come to Belgium and experience all that you want and wish to, eat, have a beer or two and come and make some new friends.
This guide is about to show you how you can go to Belgium. How you may enjoy it, where you can go, what you can see and most importantly what you can truly experience, on more than one level. Utilize each of the chapters to guide your trip from beginning to end. Plan a trip suiting only your dreams and imagination. There is plenty to see and do for all, both near and far. Belgium is truly for everyone. There is a past, there is a present and there is a future and you can see it in their modern cities with many proud remnants from their past. Belgium is a culture about living in harmony with its surroundings and making the world a better place.
Part of enjoying Belgium on your visit will simply be about enjoying the present, your surroundings and the fortunate opportunity you have been given to travel to this distant land.
Are you ready to start the journey?
Welcome to Belgium! This is a country for everyone who wish to explore another country, its history, innovation, culture and more. There is plenty to see and do and the best thing about a vacation in Belgium is as the country is relatively small, you can see almost everything! So how are you going to pack it all into your adventure? This guide will tell you how. We will tell you where to go, what to see, what to eat, and as you are in Belgium, the official world capital of beer, we will tell you what to drink. In fact, there is a chapter on the beer of Belgium all on its own for your enjoyment!
See the major tourist sights of Belgium and then see a little bit more, a little of the beaten path. It is a country for all ages and many interests. Belgium, though it may be small, is home to many innovators, entrepreneurs, movers and shakers. The mindset is progressive and the attitude of the locals is young and free and they enjoy getting out. The Belgians are friendly people and down to earth, easy to pick up a conversation with and if you enjoy just simple, straightforward attitudes, then you are sure to enjoy your stay and even make a few friends. Just head to the nearest pub.
Highlights for Your Trip to Belgium
Before delving into this guide completely, let us begin with just a taste of things you can experience and enjoy in Belgium.
• Beer! If you’ve come to Belgium, then you better be thirsty. The country is home to over 1,200 different styles of beer. That’s right styles, not brands! Though there are plenty of those as well. As you go from city to city, try the local brews which are sometimes on tap. Be sure to see the final chapter in this guide where we give you a little run-down on what you should try.
• Medieval Belgium – The country of Belgium has a very ancient past and is one of the oldest settlements in Europe. There is evidence of the Medieval Times checkered all about the country in immense castles and small villages.
• Artistic Belgium – You don’t have to be an art buff to appreciate the vast culture and collections found about the country. Be sure to visit the many art museums especially in Antwerp and Brussels. The Royal Art Collection Museum in Antwerp has been rated in the top ten art museums in all of Europe!
• Belgium’s sense of humor – The Belgian people are a canny bunch. Maybe it’s the beer running through their veins. If you meet the people, which you will, you will find them intelligently entertaining and you can see it in their art forms in many city centers.
• Comics! Comic books were invented in Belgium and they are proud of it. It may not be much your own culture, but a visit to a comic book museum in Brussels is a must-see. For them it is an art form and the country is home to many internationally celebrated comics such as Tintin and the Smurfs.
• Belgian Fries. Belgian Mussels. Belgian Waffles. Belgian Chocolate. Belgian Beer (Was that already mentioned?). Do they need much more of an explanation?
• Take a beer tour at one of the many breweries. There are plenty found all over the country. For some details on booking a tour and where to go, see Chapter 11!
• Go hiking in Belgium! If you need a little time away from the city, there are some nice hikes and walks in nature in a few parts. Many think Belgium is a flat country, but there are plenty of hills to give you a workout in the south.
• Visit the villages. Many come to Belgium for Antwerp, Bruges and Brussels, but make time to visit at least one of the villages in the Ardennes. They are quiet, peaceful and can make for a romantic getaway. Go where time has almost stood still.
• Treat yourself to a private sauna. In the major cities you can find a number of posh saunas that make for a relaxing and intimate atmosphere where you can get away from everyone just for a couple of hours, enjoy a private pool, wet and dry sauna rooms, a hot tub and some snacks and Champagne.
How to Use This Guide
This guide is broken up into a four main parts. The first chapter as you can see is just a brief introduction of Belgium to capture your interest and get you thinking and dreaming about your trip.
In the following chapters of 2 and 3, this guide will get into the details of planning your travel from the very minute points of visa requirements and how to get to Belgium. From there, there is information that can help you with organizing your chosen destinations during your visit to the country, and making a semi-detailed itinerary. From there it will make booking your accommodations and making a ‘To-Do List’ much easier. Chapters 2 and 3 will also go into how you can organize your money and save money during your visit as well, so that you can enjoy and experience as much as possible.
Chapter 4 will introduce you to the culture and people of Belgium, their national pride, mannerisms and so on. It helps to know a little about the culture where you are travelling to, no matter the place in the world.
Chapter 5 through Chapter 9 will take you through the regions and cities of Belgium. Each of these sections will explain how to plan your travel to these destinations and how you can get about each one once you arrive. There are points on what to see, what to do, where to dine, where to stay and where you can party and have a great time in the evenings.
Chapter 10 and 11 are more of a bonus for this guide. Belgium is known worldwide for its love of music festivals and there are annual festivals you might not want to miss. At the very least, they make for a great excuse to visit this entertaining country. Chapter 11 is solely dedicated to Belgian beer; its history, what to drink and more.
We hope you enjoy this guide. Its intention is to help you plan your travels and get you excited about all that Belgium has to offer. Use it to sort out minute details from travel and transport tickets to accommodations. As you read, you will notice suggested websites to help with this type of information and booking. When you travel, take this guide with you and use it for reference and a reminder of how you can enjoy your trip. The chapters are easily organized and easy to reference for quick reading and ideas.
Before you travel anywhere there are a few things you must check off the list, so-to-speak. Before you even purchase your ticket, it is wise to check for any needed visas or other paperwork you might need with you while travelling. This part in the guide will help you with all the right information you might need to organize your travel details. After the paperwork aspect is checked off, there will be information on travelling to and around Belgium, some suggested travel itineraries to see all you can see and there will be themed itineraries focused on various types of visits you could plan.
Basic Travel Requirements
If you are from the United States or the UK, a tourist visa is not needed if you are only staying for up to 90 days. Your passport should be valid for another 6 months at the time of your travel and make sure you have blank pages for stamps upon arrival and departure.
Getting to Belgium
If you are travelling to Belgium from the United States, you will want to fly into Brussels. Many major cities in the US will have direct flights to Brussels and if not, it will just be a short layover from Frankfurt or Paris. If you can spare the time for a layover, these tickets are often a little cheaper. Depending on the time of year, you can get a ticket from New York to Brussels for around $US800, but the average ticket will run around $US1200 to 1500. If you are from the UK or Ireland, then you are quite in luck, as there are a few options, even affordable ones to get into Belgium. There are direct flights from London or you can travel the Eurostar trains directly into Brussels.
If you do not wish to travel via train, there are ferries that can take you from Hull and Rosyth to the port of Zeebrugge next to Bruges or from Ramsgate to Ostend. The Eurotunnel also has services from Folkestone to Calais, only a short drive from the coast of Belgium. If you want to take a more scenic route, you can catch an international bus from London to either Antwerp or Brussels. The bus will be the most inexpensive means of travel, however the train is not much more and will be much faster.
If you are driving yourself from the UK, you can take a car ferry or travel via the Eurotunnel shuttle train through the Channel Tunnel. From here you exit in Calais and it is 120 kilometers to Bruges, 50 kilometers to De Panne and 200 kilometers to Brussels. It pays to shop around for options, as certain times of year, you might just get a good deal on a flight that will be well worth your time and value for your money.
The great thing about travelling around Belgium is that it is so easy. One of the most efficient ways to get about is by the train. The system in Belgium is one of the best in all of Europe. They run often, are on time and fast. It is run by the Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Belges/Belgische Spoorwegen. to give you an idea of the cost of tickets, one of the longest trains you can take runs from Bruges to Arlon and it is just under 20 Euros. A ticket from Brussels to Ghent one-way will run about 8 Euros. Round-trip tickets on the train are double the cost of a single, unless you are returning in the same day. In this case the cost will be 10% cheaper. If you are travelling with children or are a senior do check for any discounts. For more information check .
As the country’s distances are covered by the train, the buses are mainly only used for short distances. The trains are always the first option and not that much more than the bus. If you need a bus, it may simply just be to catch one near the train stop to get you closer to your final destination. If you are going to the more rural parts, like the Ardennes or Botte de Hainaut, the buses may come in handy. Check out these websites for bus info; , and .
Travelling by Car & Renting a Car
If you wish to go completely at your own pace, then travelling by your own car, might be the best options. The roads are in good condition and there are are highways that can link you to the major cities of the country. However, if you are not familiar with either Flemish and French, it could get a little challenging. Some signage might have the French or Flemish name of the town, depending what side you are on. In this case, following a map might be confusing as the name might seem completely different.
If you are looking to rent a car, you will be able to find all the major international companies here. They will ask for a credit card for a deposit, though some might ask for one in cash. The rentals start around 300Euros per week for a compact vehicle including the insurance fee and damage waiver. To save some money, booking in advance might help. If you are from outside of Europe, it might help to have an international driver’s permit.
It should be said, however, that highway and inter-city congestion is some of the worst in Europe. Fuel is pricey and not to mention, you cannot really enjoy any of the delicious frothy Belgian brew if you have to drive. If you are looking to really enjoy your trip, if might be better to take the train.
Once you reach your destination, whether it be a city or town, one of the best ways to get about and see the sights or head to the local pubs is on bike. The country is relatively flat, so the effort is little and there are bike lanes almost everywhere! It is a very bike-friendly country and drivers are courteous. You do have to know where you are going however, or at least be open to getting lost or turned about now and then. In the countrysides there are cycle routes and the local tourist office can give you a map of the routes with their descriptions as well. If you have your own bike, you can even have it transported on the train. If not, no worries, once you get off the train, you can find a number of places where you can rent one starting just over 10 Euros per day. If you do travel by train however, do check their website () as some stations even offer bike rentals for day-long excursions included in a return ticket. It is perfect if you are in Belgium for just a short time, especially during the summer months.
Travel Routes and Itineraries
One of the advantages when you are travelling in Belgium is that you can see almost everything due to the small amount of land it covers. Luckily what it lacks in size has nothing to do with the amount of attractions and culture to be discovered.
A Few Days: If you are only in Belgium for a few days, you must make it to Antwerp. It is not to say that it is better than Brussels, but if you are looking for a bit of everything regarding the culture of Belgium in all manners from history, to art and a good time, then Antwerp is the place to go and experience.
Up to a Week: In about a week you can easily visit Antwerp, Brussels and have the opportunity to do a day-trip or two to Bruges or Ghent. You might be able to see them all if your itinerary is well-planned. But make sure the details are sorted and you have your to-do lists ready. If you wish to go at a more relaxed place, choosing to stay in Antwerp followed by a visit to Bruges is ideal and easy or Brussels to Ghent.
Up to Two Weeks: It is more than easy enough to fit in all the main cities of Belgium into your visit. Start in Brussels and then go to Antwerp and Bruges. Then head down to Brussels again where you can take a train to Ghent, spend a night or two and head off to the historical village of Rochefort or Bouillon.
Up to Three Weeks: If you are in Belgium for up to three weeks, you can see it all! There is time to enjoy a music festival if you go during the summer months, and you have time to see all the sights of all the major cities. Your trip would not be complete without visiting the romantic medieval city of Ghent. After you have had all the nights out you can stand heavily soaked with the local beer, get a little R&R at a cozy B&B in the villages of the Ardennes in the southwest before you have to get back to reality.
Detailed & Themed Example Itineraries
When to Go
The best time to visit Belgium starts in mid-April and goes through mid-October. As the country lies next to the sea, however, you can expect some fairly unpredictable patterns. Even in the middle of summer, you might have a change in weather that can go from hot and dry to cold and wet. Bring a good rain jacket with you, a small travel umbrella and good walking shoes if it rains. Because if the rain starts it can be relentless. The winters are snowy and very cold as they are wet winters, so bring your heaviest and best sweaters and good boots, but be prepared if you are to brave it outside the cozy pubs to walk to the museums or see the sights about the city centers. Although winter might not be the most popular for tourists, Bruges and Ghent are the best for skiing as are the Ardennes if you are looking for peace and quiet and enjoy cross-country skiing.
Now that we have gotten some of the details of your trip to Belgium covered regarding your itinerary and some necessary items to check off your list before booking your ticket, it is time to get into another part of your travel organization. Money. This part of the guide is going to give you advice in all things monetary from travel costs, using credit cards and even varying budgets for your travel, whether you are a backpacker or are just looking for the best trip money can buy. Let’s get started.
Travel Costs & Organizing Your Money
Belgium is not a cheap country to travel in. If you are travelling from Europe and even the United States, getting there might be the least of your expenses. Belgium may be a bit more affordable than France or England, but it still takes some careful and oftentimes strict budgeting to enjoy your time. Before you travel to Belgium, no matter the type of budget you are travelling with, it might be a good idea to set some limits, plan ahead and book ahead. Spending money out and having a good time in the the urban centers of the country can add up quickly.
Where to Exchange Your Money
Before you get to Belgium it might help to have a few Euros on hand to pay for your transport from the airport. Rather than ask your personal bank for a few notes, it might be easier to just use your ATM/debit card when you arrive at the airport to extract some Euros. If you are travelling with some of your own currency, many banks can assist you in getting Euros or you can look monetary exchange offices.
Using Credit Cards in Belgium
As always before travel, do contact your bank and credit card companies to inform them of your travels. This might avoid any stop payment or credit card declines when you are paying for anything. If you are from Europe, there is no problem using your card to pay for almost anything and everything. The credit/debit card system in Europe, however is different than that in the United States. The cards are accepted via pin number and not often on signature. Do contact your bank or credit card companies to ask if they have the new ‘chip’ system in place. Without the chip, it may be difficult to even withdraw money from an ATM in many places. The credit card companies and your bank should be able to get you the new card within a week’s time before you travel.
Tipping in Belgium
Tipping in Belgium is not often expected. However, it may help to know that it is more common to leave a tip in the French part of Belgium than the Dutch side. So who to tip and not to tip. Here are some pointers.
• If you are taking a guided tour, it is not expected to tip your guide.
• Do tip your taxi driver.
• If you visit a spa, a tip is not expected, but if you are happy with the service feel free to leave on with the front desk.
• Tipping in restaurants is not expected as the 10 -15% is already applied to your bill. However, if you are going to pubs, do not leave less than one Euro.
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You are going to love Belgium! It is not the first choice by many as a tourist or vacation destination, but little do people know what a hidden gem it is. It is one of the smallest countries in Europe but the size of its culture and the hearts of its people more than make up for it. Travel from city to city and you will find plenty to entertain both your days and nights. It can be visited during anytime of the year and if you happen to be travelling during the cooler months, there is nothing better than a good sweater and a beer at a local pub to warm you up. You can spend a few days in Belgium or a few weeks, it doesn’t matter. You will be happily welcomed anywhere you go. The people are friendly, down-to-earth and they’ve got a good sense of humor. The culture is progressive and youthful and you can see it in their artsy city centers, yet they are all about showing off their colorful past and history, even dating back to medieval times. Come to Belgium and experience all that you want and wish to, eat, have a beer or two and come and make some new friends. This guide is about to show you how you can go to Belgium. How you may enjoy it, where you can go, what you can see and most importantly what you can truly experience, on more than one level. Utilize each of the chapters to guide your trip from beginning to end. Plan a trip suiting only your dreams and imagination. There is plenty to see and do for all, both near and far. Belgium is truly for everyone. There is a past, there is a present and there is a future and you can see it in their modern cities with many proud remnants from their past. Belgium is a culture about living in harmony with its surroundings and making the world a better place.