Traveling to Belgium

Updated 2023-10-11 09:48

Expatriation usually means having to deal with administration. tells you which travel documents you need to cross Belgium's borders.

Every year, over 8 million people visit Bruges, a city in the Flemish region of Belgium. Many others travel to other parts of the country, too, and some love it so much that they decide to settle down in Belgium.

No matter which category you fall under, there are certain things you have to do to make sure your visit to Belgium is entirely legal. As in any country, Belgium requires its visitors to comply with local laws. Therefore, we advise researching before your trip to avoid unpleasant surprises. We also advise that you have an up-to-date travel insurance policy.

Do I need a visa to enter Belgium?

You might think you can pack up and fly over to Belgium on a whim, especially if you have a strong passport, but this common misconception catches people out when they arrive in Belgium. Depending on where you're originally from, some paperwork will probably be involved. More specifically, it'll depend on whether you're a European Union (EU) or third-party national.

European Union nationals

As with every member state of the EU, citizens don't need a visa to cross Belgium's borders. Only identity papers or a valid passport are required. This rule applies to anyone accompanying you if they stay no longer than 90 days.

However, specific rules may apply depending on the duration of the stay (short or long term) and the purpose (tourism, work, study, etc.).

Third-country nationals

Nationals of non-EU countries (third countries) may need a visa to enter Belgium, depending on their nationality and the intended length of their stay. Nationals of certain non-EU countries are exempt from visa requirements for short stays (less than 90 days within 180 days) for tourism purposes, but a visa may be required for longer stays or other purposes such as work or study.
It is important to note that visa rules and requirements may vary according to nationality, purpose of travel, and bilateral agreements between Belgium and third countries. We recommend you check the exact requirements on the official website of the Belgian embassy in your country or consult the relevant immigration authorities.

How to get to Belgium

Now that we've gotten the formalities out of the way, you might wonder how to get to Belgium after you've sorted your paperwork. Thankfully, you can get to this country in several ways: driving, flying, or taking the train or ferry.

Driving to Belgium

If you're driving to Belgium, then you'll need to make sure you have the proper travel documents in order. In addition to your driver's license, you'll also need insurance and vehicle documents. If you don't own the vehicle you're driving, you'll need to bring written proof of permission from the registered owner.

For those of you coming from the UK, note that, like in most continental European countries, you'll have to drive on the right side of the road. To get from the UK to Belgium, you can drive to the Eurotunnel Folkstone Terminal in London by taking the M20 and exit 11A. On the other side of the tunnel is Calais, France.

You can then drive on the E40, which will take you up the coast of Northern France and cross into Belgium. If you stay on this route, you'll end up in Bruges in about 1.5 hours. Otherwise, you can drive two hours to get to Antwerp.

Here are the routes to take coming from the other surrounding countries:

  • Germany: take either the A44 or the A4 and A4;
  • Luxembourg: take either the E411 and/or the E25;
  • Netherlands: take the A27 and E19 or the A2.

Taking the train to Belgium

What's excellent about Belgium is it's surrounded by a few countries, which means there will be trains to take from every direction.

For example, the Netherlands has convenient trains leaving from the Randstad area, which include the country's four largest cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht). You have two options here: the Intercity Brussels or the Thalys.

The Intercity Brussels leaves 16 times daily and can get you from Amsterdam to Antwerp within 1.5 hours. This train passes through The Hague HS (there are four departures per day here), Rotterdam Central, Breda, and Noorderkempen so you can also leave from those stations. All you need to do is buy a ticket, and you can choose any departure on the day of your trip. We suggest booking your ticket at least 7 days to get the lowest prices possible.

The other choice is the Thalys, which takes you to Belgium and France. It's a high-speed train that has 14 connections available to Brussels and 10 to Paris. To get to Brussels, you must depart from the Schiphol Airport station in Amsterdam or Rotterdam. It'll take just 1.5 hours, like with the Intercity Brussels!

To get from Germany to Belgium, you can take the ICE trains. You can get from Cologne to Brussels in 1.75 hours or from Frankfurt to Brussels in under three hours.

If you're leaving from France, you must catch your train at Paris Gare de Nord station. There are 21 daily trains going from Paris to Brussels, and you'll arrive at Brussels Midi station. The journey will take 1.5 hours, so you'll be there in no time. The TGV InOui train is a high-speed rail service that's been around since 27 May 2017. This train service connects you to over 30 cities in France and has compulsory seat reservations, so you won't have to worry about standing up for your trip.

Taking the ferry to Belgium

There's no direct ferry to Belgium, but you can take the ferry to Calais from Dover, England, as a foot passenger or by car. This service is offered by DFDS Seaways 15 times per day, and the trip takes around 1.5 hours. It's also provided by P&O Ferries, with the same travel time but up to 23 times per day.

You can also take the ferry from Hull, England, to Rotterdam. This journey is only offered by P&O Ferries, and it operates up to 7 times a week, with trips lasting 11 hours. This is usually done overnight so that you can sleep on the way there. There's also plenty of entertainment onboard, such as a movie theatre, arcade, dancefloor, shops, and some tables to gamble at.

You have your choices regarding ferries, with the overnight ferry being more time-consuming and expensive since you have to pay for accommodations. Either way, you can disembark at Calais or Rotterdam and then take a train or drive to Belgium.

Flying to Belgium

The main international airport is Brussels Airport (BRU). The other international airport is Brussels Charleroi Airport (CRL). In most cases, you'll be flying into Brussels Airport since it's the central hub for travel.

Brussels Airport serves several airlines and countries. For instance, there's British Airways for London, UK, Aer Lingus for Dublin, Ireland, Aeroflot for Moscow, Russia, Air Canada for Montreal, Canada, Air Malta for Malta, and Icelandair for Reykjavik, Iceland, to name a few. Wherever you want to fly from in the world, there's bound to be a direct flight to Brussels Airport, considering it's the 24th busiest airport in Europe.

Once you land, you'll be just 12 kilometers away from Brussels, which makes it quick and easy to get to the city. You can get to the Airport Railway Station by going down to level -1 of the airport or reach Brussels by driving on the A201. There's also a tram (the Ringtrambus), which is new as of 28 July 2020, although the entire tram line is yet to be finished (end of 2024).

The most interesting is that you can bike to and from the airport! Brussels Airport has a dedicated road for bikers and pedestrians and a designated area for bike parking.

Brussels Charleroi Airport is better if your destination is Charleroi or another southern-located city. However, its direct flights are a lot more limited. This airport mainly serves Algiers, France, Istanbul, Hungary, and several destinations Ryanair serves. The other airlines that fly in and out of Brussels Charleroi Airport are Air Algérie, Air Belgium, Air Corsica, Eurowings, Pegasus Airlines, TUI Fly Belgium, and Wizz Air. Like Brussels Airport, Brussels Charleroi Airport is very close to the city it's named after; it's just 7.4 kilometers away, so again, traveling to Charleroi will be quick and easy.

You can get to and from the airport by either shuttle, coach, or car (A54/E420 highway). The shuttles can take you to neighboring countries, and a special bus can take you to the Charleroi-South railway station.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.