Although Belgium remains relatively free of violent crime, low-level street crime, such as muggings, purse snatchings, and pickpocketing is common, particularly in major cities. Thieves loiter in transportation hubs like the metro (subway) and train stations, notably the Gare du Midi, the primary international train hub in Brussels. They take advantage of disoriented or distracted travelers and watch for people who put their luggage down and are inattentive for even a moment. Be particularly vigilant in these areas. Keep your eyes on your belongings. On trains, don’t place valuables on overhead racks.
Thieves often operate in teams. Once they identify a target, they cause a distraction. One way to do this is to create a random commotion such as by dropping money, cell phones, or other objects on the ground. Another way is by bumping into or shoving the target, especially in crowds. Still another common method is for an accomplice to get the target’s attention by speaking to that person or asking to sign a petition while the partner carries out the theft. Be alert to distractions.
Thieves also operate in restaurants, bars, and hotels. Take appropriate caution in these locations. Don’t sit next to doors where thieves can reach in and grab a bag that is placed on a chair or on the floor next to it. Exercise good security and safety practices when selecting and checking into hotels. Ensure that rooms have door and window locks. When possible, select a room above the ground and first floors.
Another problem is theft from vehicles. Do not leave anything visible that might attract a thief, even while you are driving. Items left on the passenger front seat of a car are particularly vulnerable. Always drive with your windows up and the doors locked. Thieves will sometimes position themselves at traffic lights to scan for valuables in stopped cars. If they see a purse or other valuables, they break in and steal the item before you have time to react. If doors are locked, thieves may smash the window to steal. Use parking garages when possible, as they are generally more secure than street parking. When a parking garage is not available, look for a spot near a street light.
There have been instances of small groups of young men who prey on unwary tourists, usually at night in the Brussels metro (subway). These thieves typically seek small, high-value items such as smart phones and MP3 players. You should carry only a minimum amount of cash, credit cards, and necessary personal identification (see Special Circumstances, below, for acceptable forms of identification). We advise against wearing expensive jewelry and watches.
Scammers have victimized U.S. citizens around the world, including in Belgium. A common scam involves an Internet friend or partner who is reported to have been detained by immigration authorities in Belgium en route to the United States and will not be released unless additional funds are paid to the “traveler” for Belgian customs fees. In every case, these reports have been determined to be confidence schemes. Several U.S. citizens have lost tens of thousands of dollars in such scams. Funds transferred in response to such offers can rarely be recovered. Information on fraud schemes can be found on the Department of State's International Financial Scams brochure. Although the scammers are pretending to be distressed U.S.-citizen travelers stranded in Belgium, it is important to realize that the scammers are, in fact, most likely not in Belgium. The point of the scam is to make the target believe that the message is coming from Belgium when it is really coming from another country. U.S.citizens in the United States who have been victimized by Internet crime should report it to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center. U.S. citizens present in Belgium who have been victimized should contact the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels (Telephone 011-32-2-811-4057). Depending on the circumstances, the Regional Security Office can then direct you to the appropriate Belgian, U.S., or international law enforcement agency.
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