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Safety and security
Safety and security
Violent crime is uncommon; however, petty crimes (for example, pickpocketing and purse snatching) occur at major transportation hubs and tourist sites. Organized gangs have been known to target areas near the Grand Place/Grote Markt in Brussels, on public transportation and at airports, and the main railway stations in Brussels (Gare du Midi/Zuidstation and Gare du Nord/Noordstation), and Antwerp. Pickpockets often target passengers boarding or disembarking from public transportation or international train lines, such as Paris–Brussels–Amsterdam and Brussels–London. Never leave your luggage unattended.
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 because these are distraction tactics used by thieves. Carry only a minimal amount of cash when you go out.
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.
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.
There is a threat of terrorism in Europe. On March 22, 2016, attacks occurred at the airport and the Maalbeek/Maelbeek metro station in Brussels. Further terrorist attacks could occur at any time and could target areas frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers, such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels, schools, places of worship and airports and other transportation hubs. Exercise caution if attending sporting events, religious holiday celebrations and other public festivities. Remain vigilant at all times.
The Government of Belgium maintains a public alert system on terrorism. The threat level for the country is currently at Level 3, on a scale from 1 to 4 (4 being the most serious). Enhanced security measures as well as increased police presence remains. Events may be cancelled and places such as shopping centres, markets, and sport arenas may close without notice. There is also a heightened potential for police raids to take place with little to no warning. If you are in an area where a police raid is being conducted, remain indoors and close all windows and blinds. Monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities.
Roads are in reasonable condition and roadside assistance is available.
Be aware of the “priority to the right” system, whereby drivers must give way to vehicles approaching from the right at intersections. This is often a surprise to foreign drivers and results in accidents.
Visibility is frequently obscured by rain and fog.
All major cities have metered taxis. Public transportation is widely available.
The Government of Canada does not assess foreign domestic airlines’ compliance with international aviation safety standards. See Foreign domestic airlines for more information.
Brussels airport is operating with increased security measures due to the March 22, 2016 attacks. Consult Brussels airport for the latest information, including on additional security checks, which could cause delays for departing passengers. Contact your transportation carrier to find out how the situation could affect your travel plans.
As the capital of the European Union and headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Brussels frequently experiences large-scale protests and widespread demonstrations by various interest groups. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, which have the potential to suddenly turn violent, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
General safety information
Exercise normal safety precautions. Ensure your personal belongings and passports and other travel documents are secure at all times, especially on public transportation.
There has been a significant increase in the number of migrants and refugees entering Europe. Some countries have already experienced disruptions to transportation services, including at ferry ports and railway stations, and have seen major delays at border crossings. The situation also heightens the potential for demonstrations that could turn violent without warning, particularly at railway stations and other transportation hubs. If you are travelling in the region, monitor local news and follow the advice of local authorities, and contact your transport carrier to determine whether the situation could disrupt your travel.
It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements. The following information has been obtained from Belgian authorities and is subject to change at any time. The country- or territory-specific entry/exit requirements are provided on this page for information purposes only. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, information contained here is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium or one of its consulates for up-to-date information.
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/gemeente) upon arrival in Belgium.
Belgium is a Schengen area country. Upon arrival, Canadians are required to present a passport that must be valid for at least three months beyond the date of expected departure from the Schengen area. 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.
Temporary passport holders may be subject to different entry requirements. Check with diplomatic representatives 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.
Temporary border controls
The Belgian government has reintroduced internal border controls at certain border crossings. Canadians may be required to pass through immigration controls when entering Belgium, even if arriving from another Schengen area country.
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-day period begins upon initial entry into any country of the Schengen area. Stays are cumulative and include visits to any Schengen area country within any 180-day period.
Canadians must obtain a resident visa for stays exceeding 90 days.
Canadians do not need a visa for travel to countries within the Schengen area for stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Stays are cumulative and include visits to any country within the Schengen area. If you plan to stay in the Schengen area for longer than the 90 days in any 180-day period, you must contact the high commission or embassy of the country or countries you are travelling to and obtain the appropriate visa prior to travel. For more information, see Schengen area.
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 - May 2, 2017 00:00 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 - Country Entry Requirements
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.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
* 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.
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. Make sure you have travel insurance that covers all medical expenses, including hospitalization abroad and medical evacuation, in case of illness or injury.
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 and culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention for more information.
Canada and Belgium are signatories to the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons (Council of Europe). 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 always travel using your valid Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. You may also need to carry and present a Belgian passport for legal reasons, for example to enter and exit the country (see Entry/exit requirements to determine passport requirements). 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, such as a passport or a residence permit, at all times. Keep a photocopy of your passport in case it is lost or seized.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
An International Driving Permit (IDP) is recommended for visitors. You must be at least 18 years of age to drive a car in Belgium.
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 issued by 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, check with that province’s licence authority whether reciprocal recognition with Belgium has been established. To obtain a Belgian driver’s licence, you must pass courses and tests, and you can 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. Belgian police use speed traps, cameras and unmarked vehicles 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 to pay heavy fines and their driver’s licence may be confiscated immediately.
The use of a cellphone while driving is prohibited, unless fitted with a hands-free device.
See the European Commission’s Road Safety for more information.
The currency of Belgium is the euro (EUR).
Credit cards are widely accepted and automated banking machines are 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 country sites, visit the European Commission’s cash controls website.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
Belgium has a temperate climate with little variation from one region to another.
Dial 112 for emergency assistance.
Brussels - Embassy of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada in Brussels and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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