BELGIUM

Belgium Flag
Country Description: Belgium is a highly developed and stable democracy with a modern economy. Tourist facilities are widely available.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: A passport is required. A visa is not required of American citizens for business or tourist stays up to 90 days. For further information concerning entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Belgium at 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 333-6900, or the Consulate General in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York. The web site of the Belgian Embassy in the United States is http://www.diplobel.org/usa/default.htm.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Belgium remains a relatively safe country, and anti- American sentiment is rare. Visitors should take reasonable precautions because street thefts purse snatching, and pickpocketing are occurring more frequently. In Brussels, pickpocketing and purse snatching are prevalent in the metro system (subway, bus, and tram), and at Brussels' three major train stations, the North Station (Noordstation or Gare du Nord), the Central Station (Centraal Station or Gare Central) and especially at the South Station (Zuidstation or Gare du Midi).

Travelers should never leave valuables unattended in vehicles, and should keep car doors locked when driving. Leave expensive jewelry, financial records, address books, and other personal effects at home or stored in a safe place during your visit. Travelers should carry only a minimum amount of cash, credit cards and personal identification. Belgian law requires that everyone carry some form of official identification, which must be displayed upon request to any Belgian police official, at all times. A U.S. passport suffices, and police are almost always satisfied if they see a photocopy of the identification page of the passport.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The emergency numbers for the police and medical assistance are 101 and 100, respectively, and for cellular phones (locally) 112. Visitors to Belgium requiring additional information should contact the Brussels Regional Security Office at the American Embassy, (322) 508-2370.

U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet "A Safe Trip Abroad" for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Belgian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. In Belgium, the penalties for possession, use, or dealing in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.

DUAL NATIONALITY: U.S. citizens who are considered to have acquired Belgian citizenship may be subject while in Belgium to certain aspects of Belgian law such as mandatory voting. Those who might be affected can inquire at a Belgian embassy or consulate regarding their status. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities are widely available. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide for payment of medical services outside the United States, and U.S. medical insurance is not always valid in Belgium.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page and autofax service.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international traveler's hotline at tel.: 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or by visiting the CDC Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Belgium's civil aviation authority as Category One - in compliance with international aviation standards for oversight of Belgium's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at (703) 697-7288.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions which differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Belgium is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good

SAFETY AT PUBLIC TRANSPERTATION: As noted in the paragraph above entitled "Information on Crime," pickpocketing and purse snatching are frequent in the metro system in Brussels, as well as in Brussels' three main train stations.

URBAN ROAD CONDITIONS/MAINTENANCE: Belgian highways are generally well built and maintained with extensive lighting systems, but rain and fog often reduce visibility. Belgian rules for right-of-way differ from those in the U.S., and new drivers should thoroughly understand these rules before driving in Belgium. The maximum speed limit on Belgian highways is 120 kilometers (72 miles) per hour but it is posted only at Belgium's borders and on roads leaving major airports. Claims of ignorance may not prevent a significant fine for speeding, which can also lead to the vehicle being impounded if the driver is unable to pay the fine on the spot in Belgian francs. Belgian police also conduct breath analyzer checks for alcohol use, particularly at night and during major holidays. The blood/alcohol criterion in Belgium is lower than that of any state in the United States.

RURAL ROAD CONDITIONS/MAINTENANCE: Rural roads are less likely to be illuminated at night. Otherwise, the information given above in Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance applies.

AVAILABILITY OF ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE: Roadside assistance and information on road conditions is available in English from Touring Assistance at tel. (070) 344-777 (free call within Belgium). Belgian Police also provide information on road conditions at tel. (02) 642-6666.

For specific information Belgian driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance as well as other general tourist information, contact the Belgian National Tourist Office at 212-758-8130, or via the Internet at http://visitbelgium.com. For information about international driving permits, contact AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Belgian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Belgium of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, business equipment, sales samples, and other items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Belgium in Washington or one of its consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. Belgian authorities require an ATA (Air Transport Association) carnet under certain circumstances for the temporary importation of goods into Belgium. The U.S. Council of the International Chamber of Commerce, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues the ATA carnet in the United States. For additional information contact the Council toll-free from within the United States at 1-800-282-2900, or via their web site at http://www.atacarnet.com.

Y2K INFORMATION: U.S. citizens contemplating traveling or residing abroad in late 1999 or early 2000 should be aware of potential difficulties. They may wish to consider taking practical precautions against possible disruptions of services triggered by the Y2K computer phenomenon. Monitor the home page of the Department of State for updates on Y2K issues. See also the Government of Belgium's Internet home page (in Flemish and French) on Y2K issues at: http://y200.fgov.be/.

REGISTRATION AND EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy and obtain updated information on travel and security in Belgium.

The U.S. Embassy in Belgium is located at: 27 Boulevard du Regent, Brussels Telephone from the U.S.: 011(32)(2) 508-2111. In Belgium: (02) 508-2111. Fax: 511-2725 Further information can be obtained at website: http://www.usinfo.be/.

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