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Belgium - Exercise normal security precautions
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Belgium. Exercise normal security precautions.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.
Violent crime is uncommon. However, petty crimes (pickpocketing, purse snatching and mugging) occur at major transportation hubs and tourist sites. Small groups of criminals have been known to target areas near the Grand Place, as well as public transportation, airports, and the main railway stations in Brussels and Antwerp. Pickpockets often target passengers boarding or disembarking from public transportation. Do not leave luggage unattended for even a moment.
Be particularly cautious when approached by anyone asking odd questions, spilling food or drink, or telling you someone else has spilled something on your clothes. Carry only a minimal amount of cash and never leave your bags unattended.
The Government of Belgium maintains a public alert system on terrorism. On January 15, 2015, the level was increased from 2 to 3 (on a scale of 1 to 4).] Visit the website of the Belgium Federal Interior Ministry's crisis centre (in French) for more information. Continue to exercise caution and vigilance.
The train stations Gare du Midi and Gare du Nord in Brussels are major targets for organized gangs. Pickpockets operate on international train lines, such as Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam and Brussels-London.
Organized gangs target people travelling by train or by subway after office hours.
Ensure that valuables in vehicles are kept out of sight at all times. Thieves, often on motorbikes, have been known to break a car window while the car is stopped at a traffic light and snatch valuables from the front or back seat. Carjackings occur in Brussels and the Brabant area.
Always be suspicious if someone offers to help you with a flat tire. These individuals may have punctured the tire themselves and seize the opportunity to steal a bag or other valuable objects while you are distracted.
Do not expect safety standards to be the same as in Canada.
As the capital of the European Union and location of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters, Brussels frequently experiences large-scale protests and widespread demonstrations by various interest groups. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings as they have the potential to suddenly turn violent, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
General safety measures
Exercise normal safety precautions. Ensure personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times, especially on public transportation.
Dial the toll free number 112 (also valid for mobiles).
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry requirements. The following information on entry and exit requirements has been obtained from the Belgian authorities. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium or one of its consulates for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Belgium, which must be valid for at least three months beyond the date of expected departure from that country. Prior to travelling, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules.
Customs officials may ask you to show them a return ticket, proof of the purpose of your visit or proof of sufficient funds for your stay. If you are planning to stay in private accommodations, you must report your intentions to the municipal authorities (commune or gemeente) upon arrival in Belgium.
Tourist visa: Not required for stays up to 90 days*
Business visa: Not required for stays up to 90 days*
Student visa: Not required for stays up to 90 days
Work visa: Required
* The 90 days begin upon initial entry into any country of the Schengen area.
Canadians must obtain a resident visa for stays more than 90 days.
The following 26 countries comprise the Schengen area: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
The Schengen area has common rules regarding visas and controls at external borders.
You do not need visas for short-term visits of up to 90 days within a six-month period. Your stays are cumulative, and include visits to any country within the Schengen area. Some countries require that you register with local authorities within three working days of your arrival.
It is important to get your passport stamped when entering the Schengen area. The absence of an entry stamp from the initial Schengen port of entry could create difficulties during subsequent encounters with local police or other authorities throughout the Schengen area.
After 90 days of stay in the Schengen area, you must leave for another 90 days before you can re-enter.
If you overstay the permitted 90 days in the Schengen area, you may be fined or deported. To visit for longer than 90 days, you must obtain a long-stay national visa.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. See Children for more information.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
- Measles: Global Update - July 16, 2015 09:48 EDT
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world. Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Yellow Fever Vaccination
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
|* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.|
|Country Entry Requirement*|
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Western Europe. When in doubt, remember…boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Insects and Illness
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is no risk of malaria in this country.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in Western Europe, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Medical services and facilities
Excellent healthcare facilities are widely available in Belgium.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws & culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention for more information.
Canada and Belgium are signatories to the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. This enables a Canadian imprisoned in Belgium to request a transfer to a Canadian prison to complete a sentence. The transfer requires the agreement of both Canadian and Belgian authorities.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Belgium. However, Canadian officials may be limited in their ability to provide you with consular services if local authorities consider you a Belgian citizen. You should travel using your Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. Citizenship is determined solely by national laws, and the decision to recognize dual citizenship rests completely with the country in which you are located when seeking consular assistance. See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
Carry adequate identification at all times. Keep a photocopy of your passport in case of loss or seizure.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
You must be at least 18 years of age to drive a car in Belgium. An International Driver Permit (IDP) is recommended for visitors.
A Canadian driver's licence and an IDP are no longer valid once you have obtained residence status in Belgium. Before it expires, you may exchange your driver's licence from the provinces of Alberta, New Brunswick, Ontario or Quebec for a Belgian driver's licence in the Belgian municipality where you reside.
If you hold a driver's licence from another province, you should check with provincial licence authorities whether reciprocal recognition with Belgium has been established. To obtain a Belgian driver's licence, you must pass courses and tests, and expect to wait six months to a year to be able to drive legally and unaccompanied.
Speeding causes many accidents. Strict laws are in place to improve traffic safety. Speed traps, cameras and unmarked vehicles are in operation throughout the country. Fines for exceeding the speed limit are very high and police can collect them on the spot. Vehicles may be impounded for failure to pay.
Penalties for drinking and driving are strict. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.05 percent. Convicted offenders can expect heavy fines, and driver's licences may be confiscated immediately.
The use of a cellular telephone while driving is prohibited, unless fitted with a hands-free device.
Be aware of the "priority to the right" system, whereby drivers must give way to vehicles approaching from the right at intersections.
Visibility is frequently obscured by rain and fog.
The currency of Belgium is the euro (EUR).
Credit cards are widely accepted and automated banking machines (ABMs) widely available.
When crossing one of the external border control points of the European Union (EU), you must make a declaration to customs upon entry or exit if you have at least €10,000, or the equivalent in other currencies. The sum can be in cash, cheques, money orders, traveller’s cheques or any other convertible assets. This does not apply if you are travelling within the EU or in transit to a non-EU country. For more information on the EU legislation and links to EU countries’ sites, visit the web page of the European Commission on cash controls.
Natural disasters & climate
Natural disasters & climate
Flooding is a threat on reclaimed coastal lands protected from the sea by dikes.
You can obtain consular assistance and further consular information at the following address:
Brussels - Embassy of Canada
Flanders - Consulate of Canada
For emergency assistance, call the Canadian embassy in Brussels and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre located in Ottawa.
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