How long can I stay in Belgium?
Belgium is one of the many Schengen Countries within the European Union, many countries are not required to obtain a short term tourism visa before entering as they have a reciprocal visa agreement. This means for those with short term travel plans, once inside you are permitted to travel from one Schengen Country to the next without problem for a 90 day period within a 180 day period. Simply put you can travel throughout Belgium (and most of Europe) for 3 months within any given 6 months.
Overstaying the 90 day period is not recommended unless you have obtained a long term visa – as the information changes by country we recommend that you contact your local Belgian Embassy for more information. Some countries are required to obtain a visa whether for short or long term stays, so make sure you find out if your country has a reciprocal visa agreement.
It is also important to note that extensions to ones stay are not easy to come by once inside a Schengen country, in fact you are normally required to return to your home country before a new/extended visa can be obtained (only under exceptional circumstance can you obtain one inside the EU).
What is the easiest way of getting around in Belgium?
Belgium is a very small country so getting around it is relatively easy. Just think, by car it takes less than 3 hours from end to end (without traffic of course).
Getting to a race in warm weather is easily done by bike – bonus you’ve just given yourself a good warm up. Going for coffee in town or food shopping is also easily done by bike, find yourself a half decent clunker townie bike so you don’t have to worry about your race bike when not in sight.
Larger cities have tram and even metro service, plus larger Belgian cities are still relatively small so it is easy to get from one part to another on foot or by bike. If you stay outside of a major city accessing larger cities can be done by train, or if you live in a small town or village the bus line can take you to a city with a train station.
A car is definitely not necessary for racing in Belgium, unless you are a cyclocross racer. A car is of course always nice if you are doing kermesse races in small towns which are too far too ride to, and not easily accessible by train (ie the trip would mean a train from town X to town Y and then a bus or ride from there). Though if you are here in ‘high racing season’ it is easy to find races that are not such a hassle to get to.
One thing to keep in mind if you do go the route of renting a car for a period of time, is that parking in larger cities is both not easy to find, and quite expensive. Also most major rental companies require primary drivers to be 25 years of age or older, and do keep in mind that most vehicles here are manual and you must drive on the right hand side of the road. Lastly fuel can be quite expensive here, though you will find that most trips in the car are shorter than what you might be used to driving – so it even’s out I guess.
Where do I purchase XXXX?
Belgium is a first world country, so if you look hard enough you can usually find it. Bike shops will carry everything you need, and much more (probably cheaper than you will find at home). The only difficulty that you will run into is with specialty parts, even so check the manufactures website and find the nearest dealer. If you still can’t find that special part, save yourself the hassle and order it online.
Certain foods can be tricky to find especially if you aren’t living near to one of the major internationally diverse cities (Brussels, Antwerp, Gent, Liege, Leuven etc) but they can be found if you look hard enough and are willing to pay premium prices for them. A few things you might need to consider packing if you a) have room and b) can’t go without include: marmite/vegemite, peanut butter (which you can find here, but it’s not the same as what you are typically used to), cheddar cheese, maple syrup, cordial syrup etc. Though if you can go without for a few weeks/months just embrace what Belgium has to offer, there are some great culinary gems to be had.
Please contact us if you have any Belgium related racing/living questions that you would like answered.