is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at U.S. Tri-Mission in Brussels. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Belgium.
For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Belgium country page for
original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of
which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Belgium at Level
2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to terrorism. Review
OSAC’s report, Understanding the
Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and
U.S. Department of State has assessed Brussels as being a MEDIUM-threat
location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Pickpocketing, purse snatching, and theft of light luggage, small electronics,
and laptops are prevalent at the three major train stations: the North Station
(Noord Station or Gare du Nord); the Central Station (Centraal Station or Gare
Centrale); and the South Station (Zuid Station or Gare du Midi, the primary
international train hub). Criminals frequently work in pairs or as part of an
organized gang, often with a high degree of skill and sophistication in
selecting victims and places to commit crime. One common trick is for the thief
to ask you for directions or distract you while an accomplice steals your
luggage or electronics. Thieves often steal carry-ons placed above seats when
large crowds of people exit at a train stop. Theft of bags on trains has
increased, particularly the Brussels-Amsterdam route. Do not store any
electronics or your identity documents above your seat; carry them on your
person or in a bag on your lap or secured at your feet. Small groups of young men sometimes prey on
unwary tourists, usually late at night and often in Metro (subway) stations or
in tourist areas. Thieves typically seek small, high-value items such as smart
phones and watches. Review OSAC’s reports, All
That You Should Leave Behind.
crime remains unusual, but low-level street crime is common. Muggings, purse
snatchings, and pickpocketing occur frequently, particularly in the major
cities. Thieves often loiter in transportation hubs like the Metro, trams,
train stations, and airports to take advantage of disoriented or distracted
growing problem, especially in Brussels, is theft from vehicles, both moving
and parked. Police continue to report on “smash and grab” incidents. Do not
leave any valuable items in plain sight inside a vehicle. Make certain your
vehicle is locked, as some thieves are using key fob intercepters to block locking
mechanisms. Home burglaries and residential property theft remain a concern. If
residing in Belgium, using a home alarm system is extremely beneficial,
especially if you travel frequently. Lock your windows and doors while not at
home, even if you are just going out for ten minutes. While staying at hotels
or small inns, use the in-room safe for your valuables. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels:
The Inns and Outs and Considerations
for Hotel Security.
most monetary transactions are available (e.g. cash, credit cards); U.S. money
orders are not negotiable in Belgium. Personal checks will only clear through a
bank at which a person holds an account, and can take two to four weeks. Banks
and exchange facilities not equipped with devices to identify counterfeit
currency may refuse U.S. dollar denominations of $50 and $100. Check ATMs or other
machines for skimmers or removeable readers. When possible utilize bank ATMs.
In bars and restaurants, have the card swiped in front of you; do not let servers
or merchants take your card out of sight. Review OSAC’s reports, The
Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking
have victimized U.S. nationals in Belgium. A common scam involves an Internet
friend or partner reportedly detained by immigration authorities in Belgium en
route to the U.S., who will not be released unless funds are paid for customs
fees. In every case, these reports have been confidence schemes. Several U.S. nationals
have lost thousands of dollars in such scams. Funds transferred in response to
such offers are rarely recovered. The point of the scam is to make the target
believe that the message is coming from Belgium when it is really coming from
another country. Find information on fraud schemes on the Department of State's
Financial Scams website. U.S. nationals in the U.S. who have been victims of
Internet crime should report it to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.
U.S. nationals in Belgium who have been victims should contact the Regional
Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels (Tel +32-2-811-4057). Depending
on the circumstances, the Regional Security Office can then direct you to the
appropriate Belgian, U.S., or international law enforcement agency.
has good Internet services, which makes using social media very easy and
convenient. As with any Internet use, practice good cybersecurity measures. While
using public WIFI, protect passwords and be cognizant of people who may be
“shoulder-surfing” or trying to obtain personal information. Review OSAC’s
Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, and Traveling
with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United
States. Belgium's road network is generally well-built and maintained, but there
may be potholes even on principal roads. Sufficient lighting exists on major
highways and cities, but on rural roads, it is often insufficient or
nonexistent. Road signs are not as frequent and may not be as informative as in
the United States.
right-of-way rules differ from those in the U.S.; understand these rules thoroughly
before driving. Traffic coming from the right generally has priority at
uncontrolled intersections and roundabouts, even if coming from a smaller
street. Always slow down and yield to those coming from the right. The maximum
speed limit on highways is 120 km/hr (72 mph) but is not always posted. The
maximum speed in urban areas is normally between 50 km/hr and 70 km/hr (30-52
mph); however, in the Brussels city limits, many speed limits are only 30 km/hour.
While Belgian authorities enforce speed limits strictly, many Belgians still
drive significantly faster than the posted limit. Claiming ignorance may not
prevent a significant fine for speeding; authorities may impound vehicles if
the driver cannot pay the fine on the spot. Belgian authorities have placed
numerous fixed photo-speeding cameras around the city, and use mobile
photo-speed camera systems throughout the city and on highways.
police conduct breath analysis checks for alcohol use, particularly at night
and during major holidays. The legal limit for operating a motor vehicle is .05%
blood alcohol content. A breath analysis
is also standard after an accident (even if you are the one hit), to include
bicycles or other small motorized transports.
assistance and information on road conditions are available in English from
Touring Mobilis, Tel: 02 286-3040. Belgian police will also provide information
on road conditions, Tel: 02-642-6666. Emergency services are efficient and
responsive. For police emergencies, dial 101.
For all other emergencies, dial 112.
OSAC’s reports, Road
Safety Abroad, Driving
Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive
Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
transportation is excellent in most parts of Belgium, and used by much of the
population. Inter-city trains, metro trains, trams, buses, and taxis make
moving around the country very easy. The one issue that occurs with some
frequency is labor strikes or unrest. These actions can cause delays or service
cancelations for several days at a time. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit:
Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
airports are excellent and provide departure points to all over Europe. Airline
travel to and from Belgium is safe and reliable. Given the large volume of
travelers, provide yourself ample time to process through the layers of
security at the airport.
U.S. Department of State has assessed Brussels as being a HIGH-threat
location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government
In November 2018,
an attacker seriously wounded a police officer with two kitchen knives at the
entrance of the main police precinct just steps from the Brussels Grand-Place (Grote
Markt). At the time of this report, the suspect remained in police custody for
“murder and acts of terrorism”.
May 2018, a prisoner on furlough fatally attacked two police officers in Liège.
While fleeing the scene, he shot and killed one more victim. Police killed the
assailant following a hostage situation at a nearby high school. Four police
officers were wounded, and the attacker died at the scene. Police suspected the
assailant of the murder of a former associate found dead at his home the day
before. Authorities note the assailant had radicalized in prison; ISIS claimed
credit for the lone wolf attack.
March 2016, terrorists detonated bombs at the Brussels airport (BRU, a.k.a. Zaventem)
and in a train at the Maalbeek Metro station. Thirty-five people (including the
three perpetrators) died and more than 300 people were injured.
authorities have arrested dozens in various counterterrorism sweeps over the
past three years, and have disrupted planned terrorist attacks on at least four
occasions. As with other countries in the Schengen area, Belgium maintains open
borders with its neighbors. Belgian law enforcement and security officials
cooperate with neighboring countries to maintain an effective anti-terrorism
effort while preserving a welcoming environment for tourism and business.
2019, there were occasional instances of anti-U.S. sentiment displayed by large
groups and organizations, as well as those protesting U.S. foreign policy
Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed Brussels as being a MEDIUM-threat
location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S.
frequently. All public demonstrations require prior police approval and presence
to ensure adequate security for participants and passers-by. Spontaneous
demonstrations can take place in response to political or economic issues, on
politically significant holidays, during international events, or following local
developments. Even demonstrations meant to be peaceful can become violent and
unpredictable; avoid them if at all possible. the U.S. Embassy Brussels website
generally announces larger public demonstrations, which OSAC reposts on its Belgium-specific page. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving
not widespread or frequent, there have been incidents of religious violence in
Belgium. There has been an increase in anti-Semitic acts and threats in the
last several years. There has also been increased reporting of hate speech and
anti-Muslim graffiti, as well as acts of violence.
Personal Identify Concerns
are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of
LGBTI+ events in Belgium. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for
with physical disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very
different from conditions in the United States. Although Belgian law requires
that any new building with public or community space must be accessible for
persons with disabilities, many existing buildings and the public
transportation systems are less adapted. Find general information on the
accessibility of tourist accommodations, public transportation, museums, etc.,
on the Belgian Tourist Office's website. Review
the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers
is a known transit point for drug smuggling, and drugs are commonly available. The
possession of drugs is illegal throughout Belgium, and unlike some cities in
the Netherlands, the police will enforce anti-drug laws. Penalties for possessing, using, or
trafficking in illegal drugs in Belgium are severe; convicted offenders can
expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
aware of the risk of being drugged at nightclubs. Review OSAC’s Report Shaken: The Don’ts of
emergency line requesting police assistance in Belgium is 101. Belgian police agencies are very good and
responsive. Local police take all reports of crime seriously and do their best
to investigate and resolve criminal cases. Report incidents to the police in
the event of a crime. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
may expel, arrest, or imprison those violating Belgian laws, even unknowingly. Belgian
law requires that everyone carry official identification at all times, and
display their ID request to any Belgian police official. U.S. nationals who are
not residents will need to present their U.S. passport or valid driver’s
on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements, and
customary international law, a U.S. national arrested in Belgium has the right
to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the
U.S. Embassy of the arrest and to have communications forwarded to the Embassy.
Request that the police and prison officials notify the U.S. Embassy in the
event of an arrest or detention.
local first responders, refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.
Belgian "Commission for financial assistance to victims of intentional
acts of violence" provides financial compensation, under specific
circumstances, for victims of crime and for those who have suffered injuries
and consequent loss caused by such incidents. The Commission also provides for
dependents or immediate family members of homicide victims. For more
information, contact the Commission at +3225427208, +3225427218, +3225427224, +3225427229,
or +3225427244; or by e-mail at email@example.com
medical emergencies, dial 112. High-quality
medical facilities are widely available. The large university hospitals can
handle almost every medical problem. Hospitals may not necessarily have staff
members fluent in English. Find contact information for available medical
services and available air ambulance services on the U.S.
not assume insurance will carry over during travel. In many places, doctors and
hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Regular U.S.
health insurance may not cover doctor and/or hospital visits in other
countries. If the policy does not have international coverage, it is a very
good idea to take out another one for the trip. The U.S. Department of State
strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling
internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance
OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way,
Medication, I’m Drinking What in My
Water?,Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad. The
CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Belgium.
OSAC Country Council
Belgium Country Council is active, meeting twice per year. For more information
on the times and locations of OSAC Country Council meetings, call +32 2
811-4776 (from the U.S., dial 011-32-2-811-4776), or contact OSAC’s Europe team.
U.S. Embassy Contact
25 Boulevard du Régent, B-1000 Brussels
hours: 0800 – 1000, Monday – Friday
+32-2-811-4000; Fax: +32-2-811-4546; USCitizenBrussels@state.gov
citizens staying in a private residence must register with local commune
authorities within three days of arrival. Requests for any change in visa or
resident status should be completed through commune authorities. Complete any
such request prior to the expiration of the current status. Note that given the
substantial requirements to change status, it is nearly impossible to do so
within the 90 days permitted to remain in Belgium without a visa under the Visa
employees and self-employed persons or their employees who carry out short-term
assignments in Belgium must declare these activities in advance. This mandatory
"Limosa" declaration applies to: (1) Employees and apprentices who
come to Belgium to execute certain temporary work and who, because of the
nature of their short term assignment, are not subject to the Belgian social
security system; (2) Self-employed individuals and self-employed apprentices
who come to work in Belgium temporarily, irrespective of whether they are
subject to the Belgian social security system.
you travel, consider the following resources: