Are you thinking of visiting Belgium? Belgium is, without a doubt, a beautiful country that offers so much in terms of culture. Nevertheless, is Belgium safe to visit? Should you take some specific precaution measurements before visiting this country? What is it that you should know about it? These are some legit questions that come to mind, which we plan on focusing on in our Belgium safety guide.
For the most part, we could say that Belgium is a safe destination. Still, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any threats that could jeopardize your safety. Just as any other destination, criminal incidents can happen.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Belgium
Overall Risk in Belgium: LOW to MEDIUM
Since this article focuses on answering the question: how safe is Belgium for tourists, we’ll first outline the main risks that are associated with this destination. Specifically, it is true that the crime rates in Belgium’s major cities tend to be significantly higher in comparison with the rates in rural areas. Nevertheless, when we’re talking about crime levels, we’re talking about petty crime such as pickpocketing, theft, so on and so forth, as more serious crimes aren’t as commonplace.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risk in Belgium: MEDIUM
To start with, the issue of pickpocketing and theft is quite noteworthy in Belgium. Bag snatching, mugging and pickpocketing are widespread tactics that are rather common in specific areas. To be more precise, in Brussels, you should be doubly wary of your surroundings, as these practices are really popular.
The areas in which you should exercise additional caution include Brussels Center, Brussels North, Anderlecht, Molenbeek and Schaerbeek.
At the same time, on occasions, visitors have been threatened with violence by criminals. This has happened in popular spots such as in the proximity of the Belgian Parliament, or close to the Royal Palace. Moving on, if you’re in Antwerp, we advise you to avoid the areas in the proximity of the docks and port. Popular tourist cities such as Bruges and Ghent are a major draw for pickpockets and thieves.
Nevertheless, without a doubt, industrial cities feature the highest threat when it comes to pickpocketing and theft. For example, this is the case for Charleroi and Liege, which are situated close to Brussels. The good thing is that these cities aren’t really that attractive for tourists. Notwithstanding, if you do plan to go there, make sure you are careful.
There is also an increasing problem in Belgium – Brussels more specifically. We’re referring to theft from moving or parked cars. What does this entail? For example, thieves choose top spots such as traffic lights and they try to pull up motorcycles. At the same time, if they notice that there is something valuable inside the car, they’ll smash the window to steal that in a matter of seconds.
- How to Avoid Unwanted Incidents?
Essentially, there are a few key Belgium safety travel tips that should come in handy if you want to avoid being a victim of pickpocketing or theft during your visit. For one thing, it is best to avoid displaying evident signs of wealth. In this way, you’ll notably diminish the likelihood of being a target. In general, petty criminals look for signs of wealth when picking out a victim.
At the same time, in the case in which you do end up being robbed, especially in the center of Brussels, note that there is a police station located right in front of the Belgian parliament – namely on the right side after leaving the park. The good news is that most police officers speak English, French and Dutch.
Scam Risk in Belgium: MEDIUM
What is there to be said regarding the scam risk in Belgium? Should you be worried in this respect? When it comes to popular traveling destinations, such as Belgium, there is always the risk of scams. Without a doubt, a scam can really ruin your traveling experience, which is why we advise you to be wary and cautious at all times. For one thing, it is quintessential to learn to differentiate between a scammer and a reliable vendor.
There are a few tips that usually apply in all scenarios. For one thing, if something seems a bit too good to be true, it probably is. What we’re trying to say is that it’s better not to believe everything you hear. Some of the most popular scams in Belgium include the unsolicited ticket helper, or the traveling salesman scam, or the widespread train distraction thief. All these scams involve that someone in your proximity tries to distract you. For example, in the case of the unsolicited ticket helper, the so-called helper will eagerly help you get your ticket for public transport.
Nevertheless, in exchange for the unsolicited help, they will require you to pay them something. As for the train distraction thief, this entails being distracted by a thief; in the meantime, another thief will come and snatch your luggage. You get the picture.
It’s best to avoid carrying all your important belongings in one place. For example, you shouldn’t have your passport and credit card in the same place.
- How to Avoid Unwanted Incidents?
For one thing, it is highly recommendable to avoid talking to strangers that seem to insistent. In general, insistent people are far from being reliable. At the same time, you shouldn’t leave your belongings unattended, whether you’re at the airport, in a train station, so on and so forth. Even if these people tend to be quite pushy, if you ignore them, they will eventually go away.
It’s best not to say anything if you’re approached by a scammer. Usually, scammers focus their attention on the people that reply to them, in a way or another.
Kidnapping Risk in Belgium: LOW to MEDIUM
How safe is Belgium for tourists when it comes to kidnapping? The official kidnapping rates in Belgium aren’t that worrying. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that kidnapping doesn’t pose any threats whatsoever. That being said, not many people have been violently mugged or kidnapped in Belgium. But it’s best to avoid some of the most dangerous areas in Belgium, which have a negative reputation for the high crime levels.
Moving on, note that demonstrations that could take place in Belgium might get violent without additional notice. This is partly due to the increase of refugees and migrants that have been entering Europe during the last couple of years. To that end, it’s always best to consider the authorities advice regarding the area you’re planning to visit throughout a given day.
- How to Avoid Being a Victim of Kidnapping?
Even if Belgium is relatively safe, this doesn’t mean you should leave your guard down. As we mentioned beforehand, criminal activity does exist; therefore, you should be cautious and pay attention to your surroundings at all times.
If you notice that someone seems to be following you, you should try to get distance right away. At the same time, crowded places should be avoided, if possible. And if you do visit crowded places, make sure you pay attention to your surroundings and your personal belongings.
By all means, try not to look like a tourist, as this will draw unwanted attention towards you.
Rape Risk in Belgium: LOW
There’s not much to be said in this department, as the rape rates in Belgium aren’t as high as they are in other countries. Of course, that isn’t to say you should leave your guard down, considering that rape incidents to happen round the world, regardless of the country you’re visiting.
- How to Avoid Being a Victim?
If you notice that someone approaches you in order to help you out or give you advice, we advise you to avoid talking to such persons. At the same time, it’s best to be suspicious when it comes to talking with strangers, especially if you’re traveling by yourself. Considering the increase of migrants and refugees, the level of safety in Belgium, and other European countries, has significantly diminished.
For example, if you’re having trouble with your car, and someone wants to help you out, you should be suspicious. Expressly, many individuals actually punctured the tires on parked cars and, afterward, they offer to help, in order to create the opportunity to steal something from you, or worse.
Terrorism Risk in Belgium: MEDIUM to HIGH
Unfortunately, the issue of terrorism in Belgium has become quite severe over the last couple of years. This aspect shouldn’t be overlooked if you’re planning a trip to Belgium. The primary reason why terrorist attacks are likely to be carried out in Belgium is due to the fact that the NATO and the EU have their headquarters based in Brussels. This is why terror attacks might be carried out.
Bear in mind that, when visiting Belgium, the law requires you to carry a means of identification with you at all times. At the same time, note that the security checks at airports, for instance, are rather comprehensive. This is specifically due to the terror-related incidents that have happened in the past.
Moving on, our Belgium safety guide ought to mention that terrorist attacks are likely to happen in most public spaces; this includes transport hubs, public transport hubs, as well as other places that are frequented by tourists.
Once again, security operations might be carried out without additional notice, which is why you ought to be prepared in this respect. Make sure you remain vigilant at all times and you listen to the instructions pointed out by the authorities.
On a final note, one of the most important Belgium safety travel tips is, without a doubt, to avoid participating in public demonstrations, as well as really crowded areas. In this way, you’ll minimize the risk of being a victim of terrorism during your visit.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone: LOW
Is Belgium safe for solo women travelers? This is obviously a legit question for women that are thinking of visiting this beautiful country. Happily, visiting Belgium as a solo woman traveler is doable. In fact, it is safe, for the most part; many women have traveled there and didn’t encounter any unwanted incidents.
Nevertheless, even if this is good news, that isn’t to say, you should be negligent and let your guard down. Just as unwanted scenarios can happen back home or any other place you might be visiting, they can take place in Belgium as well.
For example, in contrast with traveling to the Middle East, traveling to Belgium doesn’t entail any dress code specifications you should abide by. However, there are still some risks; for instance, those connected with pickpocketing and theft, which are quite common, especially in Brussels.
At the same time, you should be careful and vigilant when it comes to drinking. It’s mandatory to know your limits so that you can be conscious. In this way, you won’t have any trouble to get back to your hotel, for instance. On a different note, if you’re dining by yourself, whether you’re in a bar, restaurant or café, it’s best to avoid leaving your drink unattended. You don’t know who might be watching you and add something to your drink when you’re not looking.
This is a common tactic used by criminals worldwide and solo women travelers are even more vulnerable than women traveling in groups. This is why you should be even more precautious and know what to expect.
At the same time, you should create your itinerary whilst being wary of the safety guidelines. For example, you should avoid visiting remote areas after dark. This is common sense when traveling solo. Also note that the public means of transportation are quite dangerous. In fact, most mugging incidents are likely to take place in buses or trains. This is why you should be mindful of your bag and, if possible, avoid displaying signs of wealth.
Risks for Families Traveling with Children: LOW to MEDIUM
In regards to the risks for families traveling with children, there aren’t many. Once again, you should carry in mind the threats associated with terrorism. We think that these are the most worrisome, especially when it comes to families with children. Considering the frequency of these attacks in Belgium, they cannot be ruled out.
At the same time, petty crime such as bag snatching, pickpocketing and mugging might also occur in central parts of Brussels, for example. There are certain areas in the city that are more dangerous when it comes to petty crime, whereas others are safer. It is best to do some research beforehand to know what to avoid, for your safety’s sake. Concurrently, if you intend to rent a car during your visit, be wary of criminals that always look inside parked cars for valuable items. Many tourists have had their cars broken into due to this.
Natural Disaster Risk: LOW
The risk of natural disaster in Belgium is low. So, there’s nothing to worry in this respect.
List of Vaccines You Need When Visiting Belgium
It is highly recommendable that, approximately eight weeks before your trip to Belgium, you consider the health travel advice issued by the National Travel Health Network and Centre. There is comprehensive advice for each individual country, so make sure you check it out beforehand. That being said, what are the vaccines you should have for visiting Belgium? Consult with the list below.
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Yellow Fever
Final Thoughts: Is Belgium Safe to Visit?
So, how safe is Belgium for tourists really? Should you be worried or not? Just like the majority of European countries, Belgium is safe to visit, for the most part. There are just a few things you should worry about. For one thing, there is the aspect of pickpockets and thieves, who usually choose central, overcrowded spots. That’s because, in such places, it is easier to get away with the crime than otherwise.
As you have seen in our Belgium safety guide, more serious crimes aren’t as widespread as they are in other countries – such as kidnaping or rape. Notwithstanding, terrorism does remain a threat. This is crystal clear, due to the many attacks that have been planned in the past years. In fact, since 2015, Belgium has been a top target of a range of terrorist attacks organized by ISIS.
These occurred at Brussels’ Jewish Museum, in the subway, at the airport, not to mention that there were several terrorist attack attempts on the Thalys Train. This is why security checks are through and comprehensive; so, know what to expect in this view.
On a final note, we also recommend getting travel insurance, if you do decide to go to Belgium. There’s no such thing as being too safe. In truth, having insurance is pretty much mandatory in the conditions in which you cannot anticipate accidents or anything of the sort. We hope that our safety guide has addressed most of the questions you had regarding traveling to Belgium.