Belgium

By car

By car
By car

Some hire cars come equipped with sat nav but it's a good idea to request this when you book your car. It's probably the most reliable way to get from A to B in Belgium. This way you will get to see some of the sites of Belgium, as flat as it may be, but architecture in the towns is something to be admired. You will be pleasantly surprised at just how clean the towns and villages of Belgium are. Drive through on any afternoon and you will see people caring for the street in front of their homes - a real, backdated village community feel.

By car
By car

Belgium has a dense network of modern toll-free motorways, but some secondary roads in Wallonia are poorly maintained. The only place where you have to pay toll is the Liefkenshoektunnel in Antwerp. This tunnel is a good alternative to circumvent the often congested Kennedytunnel. Signs are always in the local language only, except in Brussels, where they're bilingual. As many cities in Belgium have quite different names in Dutch and French, this can cause confusion. For example, Mons in French is Bergen in Dutch; Antwerp is called Antwerpen in Dutch and Anvers in French; Liège in French is Luik in Dutch and Lüttich in German, and so on. This even applies to cities outside Belgium; driving along a Flemish motorway, you may see signs for Rijsel, which is the French city of Lille or Aken, which is the German city of Aachen. Exits will be marked with the word 'Uit' out in Flemish areas, 'Sortie' in French areas and 'Ausfahrt' in German-speaking ones.

Drivers in Belgium should also be aware of the "priority from the right" rule. At road crossings, traffic coming from the right has the right of way unless otherwise indicated by signs or pavement markings. You're most likely to encounter such crossings in urban and suburban areas.

In Belgium the motorway signs are notoriously inconvenient, especially on secondary roads. There is no uniformity in layout and color, many are in bad state, placed in an awkward position or simply missing. A good roadmap Michelin, De Rouck, Falk or a GPS system is recommended.Also Belgian roads are always in a state of disrepair. They are however VERY WELL LIT, as this is a remainder of the 80's. Expect good lighting and bad driving. Belgium traffic is extremely congested, with Brussels and Antwerp ranking number one and two on the list of most congested cities in the world. Also smaller cities and even rural areas, especially in Flanders, may have a surprising congestion rate. Belgian traffic is notorious hectic.

Speed traps are positioned along roads frequently, including highways speed traps and SPECS cameras. When stopped by the police you can be obliged to pay the fine immediately, and failing so will result in the impoundment of your car.Drink driving of only small amounts comes with serious penalties, such as 125 Euros on the spot fine for 0.05 per cent and 0.08 per cent. Over that amount of alcohol in your system and you face anything up to 6 months imprisonment and loss of driving licence for 5 years. Speeding

Being such a small country 300 km as its maximum distance, you can get anywhere in a couple of hours. Public transport is fast and comfortable, and not too expensive. Between larger cities, there are frequent train connections, with buses covering smaller distances. A useful site is InfoTEC (http://www.infotec.be/ind...), which has a door-to-door routeplanner for the whole country, covering all forms of public transport including train, bus, subway and tram.

A look on the map may suggest that Brussels is a good starting point to explore Antwerp, Ghent, Brugge, Namur and Leuven on day trips. Antwerp is popular among those who want to be in a cosmopolitan place, and Ghent is tops with those who like a good mix of open-minded provincialism. Antwerp, Brussels and Bruges are located at 20-40 min train ride from Ghent, with several trains each hour until late. Liège is beautiful, but too close to Germany to be a good base for day trips. Mechelen is considered boring by tourists, but has a very good brand new youth hostel next to a train station with trains to everywhere else every 30 mins.

To do some local sightseeing, especially in Flanders, a lot of infrastructure is available for cycling. Bikes can be rented virtually everywhere. In the country side of Wallonia, mountainbikes are available, and rafting is popular along the border with Luxembourg.

By Bus/Tram

Buses cover the whole country, along with trams and metro in the big cities. Most routes cover short distances, but it is possible to go from city to city by bus. However, this is much slower and only slightly cheaper than taking a train.

There is also the Kusttram Coast Tram (http://www.dekusttram.be/), which runs for 68 km along almost the whole Flemish seaside from Adinkerke, near the French border, to Knokke-Heist, near the Dutch border. As such, it is the most convenient way to travel from Oostende to Zeebrugge. A full end-to-end trip takes approximately 2½ hours. Trams run every 10 minutes during the summer and every 20 minutes during the winter.

Within cities, a normal ticket for one zone never costs more than €2.00, and there are various travelcards available. Note that local transport is provided by different companies: STIB/MIVB in Brussels (http://www.stib.be/), De Lijn (http://delijn.be/) in Flanders and TEC (http://www.infotec.be/) in Wallonia, and, outside Brussels, they don't accept each others' tickets. Tickets are cheaper when bought at ticket machines.

Most tourists will not need the bus companies, as it is much more user-friendly to take trains between cities and go on foot inside them. Only Brussels and Antwerp have a subway, but, even there, you can make your way around on foot. The historic centre of Brussels is only about 300 by 400 m long. Antwerp is much bigger, but a ride on a horse-pulled coach gives a better view than the subway.

By train
By train

Most of Belgium is well connected by train, run by NMBS SNCB in French (http://www.b-rail.be/) with most of the main routes passing through Brussels and Antwerp. This is where you'll arrive on international trains, and both can be reached by train from Brussels airport or by coach from Antwerp or Charleroi airport. Transfers are very easy. Note that all ICE and some Thalys tickets allow free same-day transfers by domestic trains to any other Belgian station. Also, there are Thalys trains from Paris directly to Ghent, Brugge and Oostende with no need to change in Antwerp or Brussels. From London by Eurostar you need to switch in Brussels for Antwerp, Leuven or Ghent, but for Brugge and Ghent, you can also change at Lille France with no need to make the detour via Brussels. Both in Lille and Brussels the staff are very helpful and willing to smile.

Destinations are listed at stations in the language of the locality. For example, if travelling from somewhere in Flanders to Liège, this will be listed as 'Luik', the Flemish for Liège. If travelling from a French-speaking area to Antwerp, it will be listed as 'Anvers', from a Flemish-speaking area 'Antwerpen'. The exception is Brussels, where destinations are listed in both languages. Only a limited number of international trains and trains to Brussels National Airport are announced in English in the major stations.

Announcements on board trains reflect the official language of the region that the train passes through. In Flanders, all announcements will be in Dutch; similarly in Wallonia, all announcements will be in French. In Brussels, announcements will be in French and Dutch. On personal request, train staff will help you in French or Dutch, and often also in English, regardless of the region.

Brussels has 5 major stations, and three of them have two names in French / Dutch: Bruxelles-Midi = Brussel-Zuid, Bruxelles-Central = Brussel-Centraal and Bruxelles-Nord = Brussel-Noord. Many trains stop at all 3, but some trains Eurostar, Thalys only stop at Bruxelles-Midi / Brussel-Zuid. Lines to the south Namur and Luxembourg also serve the major stations of Brussel/Bruxelles Schuman and Brussel/Bruxelles Luxembourg, both located in the European quarter of the city.

When travelling during rush hour, delays between larger cities are to be expected 5-15 minutes. Nevertheless, delays of more than 30 minutes are extremely rare. Rush hour trains between major cities and around major cities tend to be very crowded, although standing places are normally available.

Normal fares on Belgian trains are cheap compared to Germany or the UK, with no need nor a possibility to pre-book or reserve. Seating places can not be reserved on national trains. 2nd class fares don't go much higher than €20 for the longest domestic trips, and 1st class costs 50% extra. Trains can get very full during the rush hours, so you might need a 1st class ticket to get a seat at those times, although they also don't garantee seating places. You can buy normal tickets online (http://buy.b-rail.be/) or in stations, but not usually in travel agencies. If you want to buy a ticket on the train, you have to warn the train conductor and a supplement will be charged, unless ticket offices in the departure station are closed. In the train station, you can pay with cash or credit card. Not buying a ticket can cost you up to €200. Return tickets are 50% cheaper during the weekend.

Normal tickets are sold for a designated day, so there is no extra validation when you step on a train.

There are several possibilities to keep the ticket price low. First of all, for people younger than 26, one can buy a 'Go-Pass 1' for one trip at a fixed price of €6, no matter the distance. However, this ticket needs to be ordered on the internet and printed beforehand. The cheapest option if you're planning several train trips and are under 26 years old, is a Go Pass (http://www.belgianrail.be...), which gives you 10 single 2nd class trips anywhere in Belgium including train changes if necessary for €51. It's valid for a year and can be shared with or given to other people without any restrictions. A same ticket for people of 26 or older is called the Rail Pass, also allowing 10 trips within a year. This costs €76 for 2nd class or €117 for 1st. Also other discount passes for frequent travellers are available.When using these passes make sure you have filled in the line before you get on the train strictly speaking: before you enter the platform. The train conductor can be very picky when the pass is not correctly filled in. However, if you address train station staff before boarding, they will be glad to help you.

The NMBS website has a searchable timetable (http://www.belgianrail.be/), with real time delay information at (http://www.railtime.be), and a fare calculator (http://www.b-rail.be/cgi-...). You can also find a map of Belgian railways and stations (http://www.loughrigg.org/...).

As in other European countries, timetables usually change on the second Sunday in December. Those changes are usually limited to introducing a few new train stations and adding a few regular lines. Major changes are planned for december 15th 2014, with the new timetable being available at (http://www.belgianrail.be/).

By road
By road

The best place for hitchhikers. Just ask for a lift! Having cardboard signs with towns' names on it can really help to get a quick lift.

Leaving Brussels: Heading South e.g. Namur get to the underground station named 'Delta'.

Next to it you have a huge 'park and ride' and a bus stop. Hitchhiking near the bus stop should get you a ride in less than 5 minutes during traffic hours.

Heading to Ghent/Bruges: Good spot near the Shopping Mall called 'Basilix' in Berchem-ste-Agathe. You can reach this place with the bus N°87.

An alternative spot to go to the north is in Anderlecht, near the Hospital Erasme/Erasmus Metro station Erasme/Erasmus.

Heading to Liège/Hasselt: Take the pre-metro to the station 'Diamant' in Schaarbeek. When leaving the station you should see a lot of outgoing cars just below you. Just walk and follow the roadsigns mentioning 'E40'. You should arrive in a small street giving access to a road joigning the E40 the cars are leaving a tunnel at this point. Just hitchhike on the emergency lane at this point, in the portion near the tunnel. Cars should still be riding slowly at this point and see you are visible to them, so it's not that dangerous.

Leaving Louvain-la-Neuve University to Brussels north or to Namur south, stand at the roundabout next to exit/entrance "8a" near to "Louvain la Neuve-centre" road signs. Quick lift guaranteed. Avoid exit 7 or 9, since they have far less traffic.