Earth > Europe > Western Europe > Belgium
|Language:||Dutch, French, German|
|Hitchability:||<rating country='be' />|
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|<map lat='50.53' lng='4.44' zoom='7' view='0' width='360' height='310' country='Belgium' />|
Belgium is a small country between, clockwise from the North, the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France. It is a member state of the European Union as well as the Schengen Agreement. The country is divided into a Dutch speaking part in the North (Flanders), and a French speaking part in the South (Wallonie) and a tiny German speaking part in the East. Brussels, the country and European capital, has a bilingual status. In Flanders most people will be able to help you out easily in English. In French speaking Belgium English is quite a bit less commonly spoken, but on the whole people will be able to help you out (especially younger people).
Hitch-hiking in the country is in general fairly easy, and, due to the high number of foreigners working in the country, getting a ride out of the country is usually just as easy. The country has one of the most dense road and motorway networks in Europe which can make it slightly complex when trying to find a direct route to a destination. Still, hitching out of a city or moving from on-ramp to on-ramp is usually fairly simple.
Belgium has a very high density of petrol stations and service areas on the motorways. This makes it easier to find one, but also leads to less traffic on a single service area. Because of its bilingual status, it could be helpful to approach drivers in their native language. Although there is no specific way to be sure of telling what language a driver speaks, some solutions are:
- quickly say 'Hi' in both Dutch (dag) or French (bonjour)
- check up the sticker of the car retailer to notice in what part of the country it has been bought
- introduce yourself as a foreigner
Useful tip: Free use of Internet PC's in many city libraries. Useful tip: Most petrol stations in Belgium are open 24/7, the staff is friendly and you can have a nap during the night, if you end up on the road. However, be careful since the traffic is high all night long, many people stop and some can be drunk.
It is common practice to use the E-numbers for motorways, instead of A-numbers like in most countries. Even on road signs you will only find E-numbers.
- Brussels (French: Bruxelles, Dutch: Brussel, German: Brüssel)
- Antwerpen (French: Anvers, Dutch: Antwerpen, German: Anwerpen)
- Brugge (French: Bruges, Dutch: Brugge, German: Brügge)
- Gent (French: Gand, Dutch: Gent, German: Gent)
- Hasselt (idem)
- Leuven (French: Louvain, Dutch: Leuven, German: Löwen)
- Oostende (French: Ostende, Dutch: Oostende, German: Ostende)
- Liège (French: Liège, Dutch: Luik, German: Lüttich)
- Charleroi (idem)
- Namur (French: Namur, Dutch: Namen, German: Namur)
- Mons (French: Mons, Dutch: Bergen, German: Mons)
- Arlon (French: Arlon, Dutch: Aarlen, German: Arlon)
- Louvain-la-Neuve (idem)
Belgian license plates do not contain information about where the car comes from. A Belgian license plate is assigned for life to the owner of a car. Usually the plates are white with red text. Cars owned by employees of institutes of the European Union in Brussels and Diplomatic Technical and Administrative Staff have a white plate with blue letters. Diplomatic license plates start with "CD". When Belgians replace their cars, they will keep the same license plate number. Often the name and the city of the garage where the car was bought is indicated just under or at the left side of the license plate on the backside of the car. License plates of classic cars start with "O" (for "old timer").
Food & Toilets
The price of food on motorway services is very high, so try to stock up before leaving and note that very few motorway services have free toilets. The price (usually between EUR 0.30 and 0.70) sometimes includes a voucher that can be used in the restaurant. However, it is easy to jump over the barrier and use the toilet for free. The cheapest supermarkets in the country are Lidl, Aldi and Colruyt, and food bought in them will be significantly cheaper than on motorway services. Carrefour and Delhaize are more expensive options, but are extensively located downtown with longer opening hours (Often 20:00, but not all of them!) which will offer better prices than the convenience stores. Note that in Belgium most shops close at 18:00 and very few shops are open on Sundays.
There are few free public toilets around, and you might even be charged in places like McD's. It is best to avoid the tourist areas when looking for a free toilet and aim at the less obvious places such as big chain hotels (Radisson...), public buildings (libraries and schools) and some cafés where you can use the toilet without being spotted by the staff who might request you to pay a fee up to 50 cents, although many will allow you to use the toilet if you ask them in English!
Belgium is famous for its frietkoten. These are small restaurants or stands that sell French fries (a Belgian dish mind you! Protip: Make sure you don't call them French fries, but just fries. Because some will lecture you about fries not being French.) and all sorts of snacks for relatively low prices. It's not very healthy, but for EUR 5 you can have quite a big meal which is bigger & cheaper then McD's. Every village has a frietkot, and every city has at least one in every neighborhood.
Also make sure you try out the beer. Belgians have the most and best types of beer in the world, and often it'll be cheaper then water or soda.
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