Getting Around in Belgium

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Belgium is a relatively small country; so flying around is not really an option to get around. There are some private charters from small local airports though and a tour over the country can also be arranged.

By Car

The most comfortable way to travel is by car. This does not only give you freedom to move without having to meet schedules. Furthermore there are a lot of sights in-between the cities that are hard to visit without your own means of transport. A dense network of highways connects all of Belgium. It’s probably the country that has the highest highway per square kilometer rate in Europe. The Belgian highways are renowned for their illumination, so try to do at least some nocturnal driving. On satelite photo's of Europe taken during the night time you can actually see where Belgium is situated as it is one lighted spot (Recently the government decided to shut all freeway lights between 1am and 6am to save power. Except on the R0 around Brussels).

Driving Rules

Belgians and the law don't go along very well. Speeding limits are 120km/h on freeways, 90km/h outside residential/build-up areas (in Flanders, however, more and more roads have a speed limit of 70km/h), 50km/h in towns and cities, 30km/h in schoolzones. Driving is on the right hand side of the road. On freeways this means you always have to drive on the right lane, and use the middle or left lane only to pass. Passing someone on the right is forbidden (even on the freeway). Since many Belgians and foreigners like driving in the middle lane, this may cause some problems. When driving somewhere, make sure you have prepared your trip. Not only will you need to totally focus on hectic driving, but there are also a lot of intersections you'll have to take and cities are not US-like. Bear in mind when driving you won't see any signs like "I-5 north", but you'll rather see "E19 towards Antwerpen". Here we have another difficult thing: Language. When driving in Flanders, every sign is in Dutch, in Wallonia everything is in French and in Brussels everything is in both the languages. For example, you're somewhere in Flanders near the state border. You want to go to Mons in Wallonia. But there aren't any signs! At that point you should know that Mons is translated "Bergen" in Dutch, so follow these signs... So when buying a map, be sure to buy one with both versions of cities on it... Interesting to know is that highways are depicted using green arrows or signs (for instance the sign "E19" will always be in green), and major roads (like "N1") are in blue.

There are also important rules of primacy who can be read here(translated by babelfish)(i'm from belgium myself and if you don't apply these rules you WILL get accidents):

http://babelfish.altavista.com/babelfish/trurl_pagecontent?lp=nl_en&trurl=http://www.soundandvision.be/rijbewijs/voorrangwet.htm

By Train

If you don’t want to rent a car, or don’t want the hassle of finding an affordable parking place, traveling by train is very convenient. Belgium has four levels of train service, L and P (which are slow), IR (semi-fast) and IC (faster InterCity trains), as well as the international Thalys and ICE services.

National and international passes like the Benelux Tourrail Pass, which can be used to travel between Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, are available at all major train stations.

Seat reservations are not available on national trains (except for groups over 15 persons). The main international train station is "Brussel-Zuid / Bruxelles-Midi". There you can connect to the Eurostar (reservations required) towards London, Paris and Lille (France); the Thalys (reservations required) to Paris, Amsterdam, Köln (Germany) and special Summer/Winter locations; normal IC (intercity) trains towards Amsterdam and Luxembourg; ICE trains (reservations required) towards Köln and Frankfurt am Main (Germany) as well as a lot of national destinations.

For more info on rail services check the official railroad sites for national and international travel. http://www.b-rail.be

By Bus

For local journeys buses and trams provide excellent and cheap travel; in Flanders the bus operator, De Lijn http://www.delijn.be, offers extremely cheap tickets covering all of Flanders - a day ticket ('dagpas net') costs just EUR 5 (as at June 2005) and a week's travel ('7-dagenpas net) only EUR 10. These tickets are sold at the multi-lingual ticket machines as well as by drivers and at DeLijn information offices.

In Wallonia bus services are provided by TEC http://www.tec-wl.be, who offer a network-wide day ticket ('libre parcours', EUR 5,80 in June 2005) but don't seem to have longer period tickets for tourists.

Hitch hiking

Hitch hiking is forbidden on the highways. You better use the beginning of the ramps towards the highways. Not many Belgians are willing to take hitch hikers though.

Hiking

Actually it’s not uncommon to walk or bike through some parts of Belgium. Especially the Southeast is well known hiking territory.

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