- Greetings Greet people in shops, restaurants and bars with a ‘buongiorno’ (good morning) or ‘buonasera’ (good evening); kiss both cheeks and say ‘come stai’ (how are you) to friends.
- Asking for help Say ‘mi scusi’ (excuse me) to attract attention; use ‘permesso’ (permission) to pass someone in a crowded space.
- Dress Cover shoulders, torso and thighs when visiting churches and dress smartly when eating out.
- At the table Eat pasta with a fork, not a spoon; it’s OK to eat pizza with your hands.
- Gifts If invited to someone’s home, traditional gifts are a tray of dolci (sweets) from a pasticceria (pastry shop), a bottle of wine or flowers.
Car & Motorcycle
For visiting rural Belgium, especially in the hills of Wallonia, having your own wheels will transform your experience, as many attractions are awkward to reach by public transport. However, in Bruges, Ghent, Brussels and Antwerp (which requires LEZ registration), a car will generally prove an encumbrance: you’ll spend more time finding parking than actually driving anywhere.
Longer-distance bus journeys tend to be slow and circuitous. Where bus and train options link the same two cities, the bus is usually far slower but cheaper.
The MOBIB card is an electronic purse akin to the OysterCard in London or the OV-Chipkaart in the Netherlands, allowing contactless payment for public transport. There are two types.
- A personalised MOBIB is valid on all three of Belgium’s bus-tram networks and on Belgian Railways.
- Anonymous MOBIB Basic cards are easy to buy without ID.
Belgium’s trains are run by NMBS/SNCB.
- Tickets should be pre-purchased at ticket offices or ticket machines, or online (website or app). Buying once aboard will incur a €7 surcharge.
- Check online first for advance-purchase specials.
- Single tickets are priced by kilometre, but there’s a higher fee for Thalys trains, which must be pre-reserved.
- For under-26s, a Go-Pass 1 costs €6.40 and allows any one-way trip within Belgium. Pay €52 for 10 tickets or €8.20 for one that adds Roosendaal or Maastricht in the Netherlands.