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Belgium > Details

Country Name
Geographical Area
total: 30,528 sq km
10,392,226 (July 2007 est.)
Capital City
People   The people of Belgium can be divided into two ethnic groups - the Flemings and Walloons
Language   Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%, legally bilingual (Dutch and French)
Religion   Roman Catholic 75%, other (includes Protestant) 25%
Government   Federal constitutional monarchy and bicameral parliamentary democracy
- King Albert II
- Prime Minister Yves Leterme
Head of Government   Prime Minister Yves Leterme
Embassy   Embassy of the United States Regentlaan 27 Boulevard du Régent, B-1000 Brussels Tel : (+32-2) 508-2111
Visas   VISITORS (Schengen Visa)
American Citizens do not need a visa when they travel to Belgium for business or for personal travel. The stay in the Schengen area should not exceed 90 days in a 6 month period. Please note that the American visitor will need to present a valid American passport (that does not expire before the end of the visit), proof of sufficient funds and a return airline ticket.

The Schengen visa is valid for the following 15 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. A Schengen visa issued by an Embassy or Consulate of the above countries allows the holder to travel freely in all of these countries.

If you are not a US citizen and you don't know whether you need a visa, please contact the Embassy or the Consulate General.

Health Risks   Diseases found in Western Europe (risk can vary by country and region within a country; quality of in-country surveillance also varies)

The preventive measures you need to take while traveling in Western Europe depend on the areas you visit and the length of time you stay. For most areas of this region, you should observe health precautions similar to those that would apply while traveling in the United States.

Disease Risks
In 2004-2005 there has been a marked increase in reported cases of mumps in the United Kingdom. Tickborne encephalitis, a viral infection of the central nervous system, occurs in Austria, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark (only on the island of Bornholm); a few cases have also been reported from Italy, Norway, and France. Travelers are at risk who visit or work in forested areas during the summer months and who consume unpasteurized dairy products. The vaccine for this disease is not available in the United States at this time. To prevent tickborne encephalitis, as well as Lyme disease, travelers should take precautions to prevent tick bites (see below).

Leishmaniasis (cutaneous and visceral) is found in countries bordering the Mediterranean, with the highest number of cases from Spain, where it is an important opportunistic infection in HIV-infected persons.

Legionnaries disease, caused by the Legionella bacterium, is sporadic; some outbreaks have involved tourists at resort hotels.

Clothing Suggestions   Seasonal, with warm weather from May to September and snow likely during winter months.

In summer bring lightweight, comfortable clothing, and a sweater or a jacket for the evening. During the winter bring warm clothes, and it is always a good idea to pack an umbrella and a rain coat.
Time Zone:   time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Banking / Exchange   Banking Hours
Mon-Fri 0900-1600.

Exchange Rate Indicators
Date Apr 07
£1.00= €1.48
$1.00= €0.75

Currency   Euro
Electric Current   A.C. 220 volts - 50 cycles. Plugs are of the round 2-pin type.
Credit Cards / Traveler Checks   Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted. ATMs are widespread.

Traveller's Cheques
Widely accepted. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, visitors are advised to take traveller’s cheques in Euros, Pounds Sterling or US Dollars.
Shopping   Shopping hours
Mon-Sat 1000-1800/1900. Department stores often remain open longer, up to 2100 on Friday. Outside main areas, some shops may close at lunchtime.

Weights & measures   The metric system is standard throughout the country.
How to shop Tax Fee   Global Refund

Tax refund available for a minimum purchase of 125.01 Euro per invoice for non European residents. You can also purchase goods from shops participating in the Europe Tax-free Shopping program - look out for the Tax-free Shopping logo displayed in the window. Simply show your passport when you make a purchase and you will be given a Tax-free Shopping check showing the refund you are owed. As you leave the country, customs officials will stamp your checks. You can claim your refund from the Europe Tax-free Shopping desk or have it sent on to you.
National Airport   Brussels
Major Tourist Attractions   Brussels, Flanders, Ghent, The Coast and West Flanders,
Tipping Suggestion   Tipping is not common in Belgium. Restaurant, taxi and hairdresser bills include the service charge. However, if you are very happy with the service you got, it is not uncommon to leave a few Euros (or to round up your bill) as a tip, but never more than 10%. It is customary to tip tour guides 5 to 7 EUR per person per day on multiday tours and drivers 3 to 5 EUR per person per day. The suggested tip for day tours is 10 to 15 EUR for the guide and 5 EUR for the driver.
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