What to know before traveling to Brussels

(and Belgium in general)

Well, autumn weather can be pretty dank. You never know what to expect. And because I’ve got some experiences with the “Nordic” weather, especially in the colder months, I decided to try kinda different sort of topic (usually I do only guides) and make a list about a couple of things I suppose everyone should know before travelling to Brussels…and basically Belgium in general. I hope you’ll find this helpful, let me know if you liked it please!

 

1. A bit about the Brussels Airport

The first thing you’ll notice in the arrivals hall right after collecting your luggage is the Hi! Brussels waffle factory. They do pretty great waffles, but they’re also pretty damn pricey, so I recommend you to wait a little until you get to the city centre.

You’ll also notice the moving walkways and great markind all around the hallways, but downloading Brussels Airport mobile app can be really useful, too. It can help you find your luggage, map out your route to the exit, find food and drink discounts, check live security times or find out about the possible gate changes.

To get to the city centre, head downstairs to the train station; a single journey takes about 20 minutes. Taxis are available as well, but can be pricey, basing around €45 for one ride.

 

2. Technology needs

Belgian electrical network operates on 230 volts, 50 Hz, using standard European two-pin round-prong plugs that fit into recessed wall sockets. You can buy the adaptors in the airport, too, but buying it in your homeland will save you a couple of euros which you can spend later on food (or basically anything else. Only I, personally, would definitely spend any spare money on the local cuisine).

There’s a Wi-Fi connection on many public places and certain cafés provide it to customers, too. But now that at least us, Europeans, have free roaming, this is not a really useful information, huh? But for everyone outside European union I highly recommend you to buy a SIM card in one of the newsstands or in a supermarket.

 

3. Getting around Brussels

Getting around Brussels is easy, with several available options for transport. To avoid having to get a ticket for every single ride, definitely gor for a twenty-four-hour travel pass (a Jump ticket). It costs €7.50 and gives you unlimited use of trams, buses and the metro. You can buy them from machines at most transit stops or from kiosks at the bigger interchanges. Simply swipe it on the red box every time you get on a bus or tram, or at the gates to underground stations. It’ll save you a nice amount of money, too.

Alternately, try Villo!, the Brussels bike sharing system, to get an up-close view of the city as you travel. Simply rent a bike from one of 180 stations, ride it to your destination and return it to a nearby station. It’s free of charge, and if it’s not raining it’s certainly the best way of getting around the city.

 

4. Belgian weather and what to pack

In Belgium, you’ll never regret stashing an umbrella and a raincoat in your bag before you go out. The weather, while never extreme, is changeable, and you can expect rain showers all year round. (However, the downpours are more likely to take action in autumn than during other seasons).

And while the city’s cobblestoned streets might be picturesque, walking in higher heels is not such a good idea in general, and during this time of the year is taking a pair of warm boots a priceless decision.

 

5. Learning the languages

Belgium is multilingual – but that doesn’t mean you have to be. In the north of Belgium  they speak Dutch; in the south, it’s French. There’s even an area where the official language is German. And in Brussels, they speak a bit of everything.

Though the city is mostly French-speaking, you’ll get by just fine in English. A French phrasebook is handy, but the city’s international flavour means you won’t struggle to find someone who speaks your language at hotels, tourist offices, bigger restaurants and stations.

 

6. Discount attractions

To get the most out of your Brussels experience without breaking your travel budget, consider investing into a Brussels Card, which can be valid for twenty-four, forty-eight or seventy-two hours. With this you’ll get free entry to many attractions all around the town. It even entitles you to get discounts in selected shops, restaurants and bars.

It’s also easy to get: either you can buy it online before travelling and store it on your phone (it doesn’t kick in until the first time you use it), or buy it in the airport or the main train station.

 

7. The culture

Visitors are sometimes surprised when they see the amount of kissing going on in Brussels cafés, bars and streets. The Belgians greet each other with cheek kisses that vary according to the occasion. A simple “hello” is worth one; a birthday or other celebration merits three. You’ll see everyone from surly teenage boys to elderly ladies doing it. As a visitor, there’s no pressure on you to do it, too , but there’s also no need to stare. It’s all a part of the local culture. You’ll find very similar customs in the Netherlands, too (“drie zusjes”).

 

8. Souvenir secrets

Leave some space in your suitcase for the souvenirs you’re going to end up taking back home. Sure, beer and chocolate are the obvious Belgium choices, but don’t stop there. Try dropping into one of the ubiquitous pharmacies – look out for the green cross signs – for some interesting souvenir options. These seemingly ordinary shops are a treasure trove of top European skincare and cosmetics brands that make perfect gifts for your loved ones. And also, don’t try to buy everything on the main street! The smaller shops in the lateral streets are way more cheap, and products are basically the same.

 

9. Proper tipping

Tipping isn’t expected in bars, cafés or taxis in Brussels. In restaurants, you might round up the bill by a couple of cents to be polite, but service charges are already included.

 

10. Timing excursions

When planning your trip and itinerary, keep an eye on the calendar. With a few exceptions, museums are closed on Mondays, as well as many restaurants. On the other hand, most shops, other than souvenir outlets and mini-markets, close on Sundays. Expect widespread closures on public holidays and the public transport running only in the particular times as well.

 

Belgium is a really interesting country, and it’s not only the Brussels that should be on your must-see list. I, unfortunately, didn’t have much time for anything this time, but I’m already planning something!

Not gonna lie you, I’ve even got a pretty precise plan and schedule, so expect another Belgian articles soon…

Have a great day!

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