- Say hello, wave goodbye When entering a shop or arriving at a cash desk, it’s polite to offer a cheery greeting to staff. When you leave, say thank you and good day/good evening.
- Giving gifts When visiting someone’s home, it’s appropriate to bring wine, flowers or chocolates – choose the brand carefully!
- The wrong language In Flanders don’t think it’s clever to speak French. English will generally be better understood and better appreciated.
- Liberal or conservative? Local ideas about political correctness might not match your own. Don’t jump too quickly to conclusions. A lighter-hearted approach to serious issues is common, and underneath, many attitudes are very liberal.
- Kissing Traditionally Belgians welcome good friends with three kisses on alternating cheeks. But knowing when that’s appropriate confuses even the locals.
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.