This is something that is going to happen … eventually. I’ve had years where I had one small tumble, to years I broke bikes and collarbones. In every race in Belgium there is an ambulance that will follow the race. If there is a serious problem this ambulance will transport you to the nearest hospital. If you are bruised, but ok, you can go to the medical team at the start/finish area of the race. They will help fix you up and clean your wounds. Once at home you can find all the medical supplies you need at your local pharmacy (in Dutch an Apotheek).
Can be recognized by their green cross and found in almost every town in Belgium. Their hours are generally the standard work hours and one day off in the week. When the pharmacy is closed you can always find another one in the area open. You will need to go to the pharmacy for almost any medications as regular stores are only allowed to sell select herbal medications.
If it is the weekend you will have to see the schedule on the door of the pharmacy for the nearest open pharmacy in the area, which all work on a rotating basis. Or you can use this online form to find out which pharmacy is open or on call (you may have to phone a number after hours). Be aware that the pharmacy may look closed, but is in fact open, all you must do is ring the bell on the door.
The hospital system in Belgium is top-notch, something I can personally vouch for. If you need to go to hospital, and it is not life threatening, it is best to get there on your own as an ambulance will be expensive. Once there they will need your ID (passport), medical insurance information along with your overseas and local contact information. They will not ask you for money up front to treat you, but will send you a bill afterwards. Most all doctors speak English (in the Flanders region) and will be able to assist you without problem. Be aware that if you ask for a private room it will cost you more (but the extra cost is not so great). The two other options are two person and four person rooms. Also, if you use the TV you will be charged for its usage, the same goes for the telephone. If you will be staying for more than a day visit be sure to have a friend bring all the needed toiletries (plus a towel and cloths) as the hospitals don’t provide much, if anything, for toiletries. Also make sure that the hospital has your home address on file (and not just your temporary Belgian address), as some correspondence may be sent after your departure from Belgium.
Doctors in Belgium are very good and will even make house calls to see you when sick. You can find the local doctor on call by calling the local “Wacht Dienst” number if it is an urgent need. You can ask local riders and racers if they know someone who works with cyclists (a regular doctor, not THAT kind of doctor) and use them. These doctors know what you can and can not have as a rider if you need medication for a cold or problem, plus the generally are cheaper than other doctors. You can also refer to this search engine to find a doctor in your local area, you just have to fill in your town and/or post code.
The local “streekkrant” flyer / free newspaper or municipality website will have a listing for the “Wacht Dienst” number so you can contact a doctor.
Emergency Phone Numbers:
- Police - 101 – www.fedpole.be
- Ambulance or Fire – 100
- Accidents – 112
- Red Cross – 105 - www.redcross.be
- Child Focus – 110 – www.childfocus.org
- Poisons – 070 245 245 – www.poisoncenter.be
- Burns – 09 240 34 90
Be sure to take out a good travel insurance policy for your trip or carry a good health insurance policy with international coverage. It’s a small investment that will give you piece of mind when traveling. It’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN. Most travel agents offer comprehensive travel insurance for a very cheap rate that will cover almost all situations you can face. I advise that you take out a policy when coming over to race as the small investment is well worth the peace of mind.
Carrying Emergency Contact Info
Always carry your vital personal data and emergency contact information with you at all times. Think if you were to be alone on the road and hit by a car and were unconscious; what information you would want someone to have. I personally photocopied my passport, drivers license, health insurance card and then wrote on it my local address, phone number, my parents address and phone number and an additional phone contact in Belgium. Then photocopied that page a number of times. I kept a copy of this with me at all times on the bike in a plastic bag, gave a copy to my team director and also one to my roommate. This way if things went wrong, people knew who to contact and what information to give.
As always, be safe and keep the rubber side down.