Looking for important travel information while backpacking in Belgium? Here you will find information on working in Belgium, entry visas, Belgium hostels, and much more.
Table of Contents
- Facts About Belgium
- Entry Visa Requirements
- Work Permits and Backpacker Jobs in Belgium
- Belgium Hostels & Budget Accommodation
Facts About Belgium
Belgium is often overlooked by travellers as being dull and bureaucratic partly a reputation gained by being the home of the European Union and a myriad of red tape jockeys that surround it. In truth, Belgium is a somewhat under-rated country to travel in. It has some excellent beers including the smooth but powerful Duvel and some incredible cuisine not least of which are the famous Belgian truffles and Belgian chocolates.
Belgium, as it is quite a small country, is probably unsuitable for a full backpacking tour on its own but can easily provide enough to do for those wanting to stay a few days in the heart of the EU or those just travelling through to other areas of Europe.
- Currency: Euro (€) 1 euro = 100 cents
- Time Zone: GMT + 1
- Language: French and Dutch
- Telephone Services: County code +32, International access code 00
- Emergency Numbers: 112 for all services
Climate in Belgium
When deciding the best time to go to Belgium, weather certainly plays a role. Belgium’s climate is seasonal and reasonably similar to its neighbouring countries, snow is likely in the winter months although the summers can be quite temperate. There is a small amount of precipitation all year round so it is advisable to pack at least a waterproof no matter when you are coming to Belgium.
Top Things to do in Belgium
Brussels is home to the EU, NATO and many other international institutions and many backpackers and travellers like to take a peek at the EU’s headquarters despite it for the most part just being a very expensively decorated office building. However there is plenty of other things to do in Brussels, a “Brussels Card” costs about €20 and gives access to over 30 museums and access to public transport for 3 days. This should give you enough time to cover most of what the city has to offer.
Sites of particular interest are the Church of Our Lady of Sablon, the Sunday antique market in the Atomium, a retro-futuristic atom shaped tower originally built for the 1958 world trade fair. Europe’s second largest port Antwerp is a city of high fashion with hundreds of exclusive boutiques and outlets spread throughout the city.
Antwerp is also known for its nightlife and boast an array of modern trendy bars and night clubs which might be needed to liven things up after some of the more historic aspects of Antwerp. Such historic landmarks include the Royal Museum of fine arts, the National Maritime Museum and the 17th-century house which was home to famous Belgian painter Ruben.
For those wanting to avoid the crowds and travel a little off the beaten track one overlooked destination is Ghent. Ghent was formerly a centre for the cloth trade and at one point was the second largest medieval city in Europe after Paris. Key attractions include the foreboding Castle of the Counts, surrounded by the Lieve canal, and St Bavo’s Cathedral where Charles V was baptised.
Unique Activities in Belgium
Since popular places in Belgium can get crowded during tourist season, it is wise to reserve tickets and activities ahead of time. GetYourGuide sells entrance tickets to museums and landmarks at face value so you can avoid the lines and save that precious time for more exploring.
Viator is another popular travel website that helps you book things to do in Belgium. They work directly with local tour operators in Belgium, so you won’t have to scour the internet or roam around town trying to find the best deal.
If you know your schedule ahead of time, a great insider tip is to buy tickets for major tourist attractions ahead of time. Tiqets has entrance tickets and skip-the-line passes for major attractions in Belgium which can be a worthwhile cost for mega attractions during peak tourist season.
How to Get Cheap Flights to Belgium
If you’re flying to Belgium or plan to take short flights within the country, we recommend using a few different flight comparison search engines. Kiwi is a new favourite among travellers. On average, we have found the cheapest flights to Belgium with them compared to the other websites out there.
Of course, it is always worth checking Skyscanner to guarantee you’re getting the best deal. Both websites offer great flexible search options, allowing you to search the whole country of Belgium to find the cheapest airport to fly into, and also see prices for a full month if you’re flexible on travel dates.
How to Travel Around Belgium on a Budget
Train and long-distance bus are the standard modes of transport for getting around the country. Buses are the more economical option, nevertheless, they are well-equipped with the usual modern conveniences that expect when travelling in Europe. Train travel, on the other hand, is the fastest way between two cities and the train stations are conveniently located right in the centre of town.
Certain routes are better suited to one mode of transport than the other. To compare your options for journeys from A to B, you can try Omio. They compare trains, buses (and even flights) so you can decide for yourself the tradeoff between cost and travel time.
For finding a carpool option between cities in Belgium, you can use BlaBlaCar, which is a favorite mode of transport among budget-savvy locals. Just search for your destination, pick the date you want to travel and you’ll see different carpool options. Some rides allow you to book instantly, while others require the driver to approve manually. The BlaBlaCar site defaults to German but you can change the language at the bottom of the page.
Train travel in Belgium
Belgium is a part of the Eurail network, which is a good choice if you plan to take multiple train journeys in a short period of time. If you plan on doing lots of train travel in a short amount of time, a Rail Pass from Eurail might be the right choice for you.
To decide whether you should buy individual tickets from A to B, or whether you should purchase a Eurail pass, read our Travelling Europe by Train guide. The train network is operated by SNCB, which also connects Belgium with the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and France.
Bus travel in Belgium
Domestic bus services are operated by TEC and De Lijn which serve the French-speaking south and the Flemish north respectively. These companies also between them operate most public transport systems in the bigger cities of Belgium. The buses are quite modern and well equipped but in reality the train is a much better way to get around Belgium especially if you have a Eurail or Interail pass.
Driving in Belgium
You may also want the flexibility to stop in smaller towns between the major cities. If you decide you want to rent a car, you can use DiscoverCars to compare offers from the major car rental agencies in the region.
Backpacking Tours in Belgium
Though part of the fun of backpacking Belgium is exploring on your own, there are situations, especially when venturing off the tourist trail, when it does make sense to go with a guide or a small group.
The most popular option for a social travel experience is Contiki tours. Contiki trips offer more than just transportation, they are organized social group travel for travelers aged 18-35. Whether you’re traveling by yourself or going with a group of friends, Contiki tours are perfect for people looking to have a blast, meet new friends, and form lifelong memories. They offer tours that travel primarily in Belgium or longer tours that cover other nearby places.
G Adventures is another great option for organized travel, but with a smaller group. It’s a great choice for anyone backpacking Belgium alone who would like to meet up with like-minded travellers. It’s also a practical option for exploring places where you need an experienced guide, like a long hiking adventure or visiting a place well off the beaten path. You can choose from different styles of small group tours like active, wellness, hiking trips, 18-30somethings, and more.
Entry visa requirements for Belgium
A valid passport is required for all apart from members of the EU carrying an official ID card. A visa is not required by EU or US nationals for a stay of up to 3 months. The Belgian Embassy should be contacted for information regarding longer stays or for work permits.
Visa requirements for Belgium can vary widely depending on your country of origin and can change over time. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, be sure to check the latest visa requirements while you’re still planning your trip.
Health and Safety in Belgium
The standard of healthcare in Belgium is high and travellers carrying an E111 and adequate insurance should have no problems getting high-quality medical care. The tap water is safe to drink and there are no vaccinations recommended for those travelling to Belgium.
As with travel to all other countries abroad, it is vital that you get travel insurance before you leave. Even for short trips, our go-to travel insurance provider is World Nomads, which is also recommended by Lonely Planet, HostelWorld, and other major travel companies.
Work permits and backpacker jobs in Belgium
As with other EU countries, EU nationals may enter Belgium for up to three months without a permit. If you intend to stay for longer than three months you should apply to the Town Hall within eight days of your arrival for a certificate d’inscription au register des étrangers (CIRE), which will permit you to stay in the country for a year, or a certificate d’immatriculation, allowing you to look for work for three months.
Seasonal work in Belgium
Belgium’s busiest tourist industry lies in Bruges. Here you are likely to find work in bars and restaurants, earning around €5 (approx. €3.50) an hour or more. The best way to find out about casual work is to travel from place to place and enquire in person.
Some hostels even employ workers in exchange for accommodation. Other than the usual jobs in hotels, bars, and pubs etc. it might also be worth contacting Venture Abroad, a company who organise tours of Belgium and employ guides during peak tourist months. This kind of job will provide you with a bit of money whilst learning and seeing more of the culture of Belgium.
Working at campsites in Belgium
Several British and European camping agencies operate throughout Belgium, and again most jobs can be found during the peak tourist times in the summer. Eurocamp arranges work for couriers on Belgian as well as other European campsites. It is preferred that you can speak another European language well because the job involves welcoming and interacting with a range of visiting nationalities. Employees must be over 18, and can anticipate earning approximately €95 per week.
Au Pairing in Belgium
Au pairs in Belgium can earn up to €347 per month for performing typical au pair duties, which include looking after children and general domestic duties. Childcare International Ltd is an agency that can place au pairs with Belgian families, provided with accommodation, meals, time off, and about €40 weekly pocket money. Au pairs must be aged between 18 and 27.
Agricultural work in Belgium
One of Belgium’s main harvests is hops. Often the best way to find jobs on farms is to visit in person and ask if there are any opportunities. Fruit and crop picking is not a particularly productive money-earner but it can tide you over for the time being.
Payment depends on the employer. You may be paid depending on how much you can pick, how long it takes, or on the quality of the produce. The Young Farmers’ Clubs International Farm Experience Programme places volunteers in three to twelve-month projects working on international farms. You are required to pay your own fares, insurance, and registration, and experience in the farming industry is needed.
Volunteering in Belgium
The International Voluntary Service (IVS) offers a range of opportunities for volunteering abroad. Short-term ‘workcamps’ are set up to focus on a community issue, which may include work with those with special needs, the elderly, or environmental conservation projects. Most workcamps are organised for summer months and last only a few weeks, during which time you will be provided with food and accommodation. You must pay a membership fee of €15 to IVS.
Links and Organizations for finding jobs in Belgium
- National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs
- The International Farm Experience Programme
- YFC Centre
- National Agricultural Centre
- Stoneleigh Park
- Warwickshire CV8 2LG
- Venture Abroad can help to find seasonal placements.
- Eurocamp often have vacancies for employment at their campsites.
- Sci-ivs.org provides information about the International Voluntary Service.
Belgium Hostels & Budget Accommodation
Belgium boasts an extensive range of accommodation from luxury 5-star hotels to small family pensions and inns. You should have no trouble finding accommodation in Belgium and you shouldn’t need to book in advance as long as you don’t have your heart set on a particular hotel.
We have had good experiences finding hostels in Belgium on HostelWorld. They have the largest inventory of hostels worldwide, and with over 10 million reviews and ratings from other travellers, you know exactly what to expect.
Another good way to find accommodation in Belgium is by checking booking.com. You’ll find hotels, homestays, hostels, and other unique accommodations. They have the most reviews and advanced filtering of any accommodation-booking site, so you’ll be sure to find a great place in your budget. Many of the places on booking.com also offer free cancellation, which takes the pressure off the planning phase of your trip to Belgium.
If you are backpacking with another travel companion, we highly recommend booking a rental via VRBO. With a vacation rental in Belgium, you’ll have more space, your own kitchen, and you’ll get a better feel for how the locals live. Plus, the cost of a vacation rental can be split among your group, oftentimes making it cheaper than doing individual hotel rooms.
If you’re looking to save even more money while backpacking in Belgium, there are plenty of creative ways to get free accommodation in exchange for work. For example, one of our favorite ways to stay in amazing locations for free is by signing up as a petsitter with Trusted Housesitters. The site connects responsible animal lovers with petsitting opportunities in Belgium and all over the world. It’s a win-win for both sides – travellers can stay in amazing locations for free, and homeowners can rest easy knowing that someone is watching over their place.
And lastly, CouchSurfing is a great community that connects travellers with local hosts in Belgium. You can stay for free with verified hosts, who will usually take some time to show you around the local spots.
Useful links for Backpacking in Belgium
- De Lijn runs the bus network in the Flemish north of the country.
- Eurail – Rail Passes for travellers who plan on doing lots of train travel in a short period of time. Single-Country passes for Belgium as well as Multi-Country passes available
- Omio – Train, bus, and flight search for Belgium and all of Europe. Offers online booking and mobile tickets
- DiscoverCars – The world’s leading rental car search engines to rent a car in Belgium
- Kiwi and Skyscanner – Flight comparison search engines to find the cheapest flights to Belgium and within the country
- GetYourGuide and Viator – a collection of local tours and activities in Belgium . Also offers Skip the Line tickets for crowded attractions
- Tiqets – Website selling entrance tickets and skip the line tickets for major tourist attractions in Belgium
- GAdventures – guided small group tours in Belgium, great for solo travellers or for those interested in a more adventurous trip which would require a guide
- HostelWorld – #1 hostel search website to find accommodation while backpacking Belgium. Thousands of hostels and millions of reviews from fellow travellers
- Booking.com – commonly used booking site for accommodation in Belgium. Find hostels, hotels, and other unique accommodation in Belgium with advanced filtering and millions of reviews
- World Nomads Travel Insurance – Comprehensive travel insurance for long and short trips when backpacking Belgium
There you have it, the ultimate Belgium backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around Belgium.
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