Brussels Airport (also known as Zaventem because of the city where it is mainly located) is the main airport in Belgium (IATA: BRU). It is not located in Brussels itself, but in the surrounding area of Flanders. The airport is the base of the national carrier Brussels Airlines. Other full-service airlines use BRU, as do low-cost carriers such as Vueling, JetairFly and Thomas Cook.
A train (5.10 euros) runs every 15 minutes in 25 minutes to the centre of Brussels, some of them further to Ghent, Mons, Nivelles and West Flanders, and bus lines 12 and 21 (3 euros at the ticket machine / 5 euros on board) every 20 to 30 minutes to Place Luxembourg (European Parliament Quarter). The bus stops at NATO and Schuman (for the European institutions) towards the centre. There are also two trains per hour to Leuven, which take 13 minutes. A taxi to the centre of Brussels costs about 35 euros – cheaper if you book in advance. Blue taxis: +32 2 268-0000, Taxis Autolux: +32 2 411-4142, Green taxis: +32 2 349-4949.
Brussels South Charleroi Airport (IATA: CRL) is located about 50 km south of Brussels and is mainly served by budget airlines such as Ryanair and Wizzair. By bus, you can reach Brussels South station in about an hour (€13 one way, €22 return). If you are travelling to another part of Belgium, buy a combined bus+train ticket via Charleroi Sud station from the TEC ticket machines outside the airport for a maximum of €19.40 each way.
However, if you are really stuck, it is not unusual for taxi drivers to accept credit cards. The price of a taxi ride to Brussels is a fixed price (about €95 in May 2006) and you can check with the taxi driver whether or not he accepts your credit card(s).
Antwerp Airport (IATA: ANR) offers some business flights, including the low-cost CityJet service to London City Airport. The other airports are Ostend, Liège and Kortrijk, but these only handle cargo and charter flights.
Flights to airports in neighbouring countries could be considered, in particular to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, which has a direct rail connection with Brussels, with stopovers in Antwerp and Mechelen.
There are direct train connections between Brussels and :
- Luxembourg (normal trains running every hour)
- Paris, Cologne, Aachen, Amsterdam (Thalys [www])
- Lyon, Bordeaux, Paris-CDG airport and many other French cities (TGV Brussels-France [www]).
- London, Ebbsfleet, Ashford, Lille and Calais (Eurostar [www]). Tip: If you are travelling to another Belgian city, opt for the “any Belgium Station” ticket (£5.50 for a one-way 2nd class journey) and your local transport is included in your Eurostar ticket. Depending on the distance, this may be cheaper than buying a separate ticket. Note: Passengers travelling to Belgium from the UK are subject to a French passport or ID check (carried out on behalf of Belgians) in the UK prior to boarding, and not on arrival in Belgium. Passengers travelling from Lille/Calais to Brussels are in the Schengen area.
- Frankfurt, Cologne (ICE [www])
- Zurich, Switzerland, via Luxembourg (normal trains, 2 per day)
There used to be hourly intercity trains between Brussels and Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the Netherlands via Antwerp. This route was due to be replaced in December 2012 by a new high-speed service called “Fyra”, but after two months of unreliable operation, the new trains were withdrawn for safety reasons as they literally began to collapse under the snow. The only direct connection to Amsterdam is the expensive Thalys (book well in advance for cheap fares). The alternative is to take the train from Brussels or Antwerp to Roosendaal (NL), where connecting trains to Rotterdam and Amsterdam are available. A rack-and-pinion service from Brussels to The Hague is expected to start in early 2013 until a reliable high-speed service can be re-established.
International trains connect with national trains at Brussels Midi/Zuidstation station, and all Eurostar or ICE tickets and some Thalys tickets allow you to end your journey on national trains for free. For all high-speed trains, you need to book cheap fares in advance, either online or at a travel agency. There are no longer any regularly scheduled sleeper trains.
You can also check TGV connections to Lille. Trains from the rest of France to Lille are more frequent and usually cheaper. There is a direct train connection between Lille-Flanders and Ghent and Antwerp. If your TGV arrives in Lille Europe, you can walk to Lille Flandres station in 15 minutes.
Plan your journey with the Deutsche Bahn timetable [www]. It offers all national and international connections throughout Europe.
Smoking is no longer allowed on Belgian trains.
The price of a train ticket for travellers aged 65 and over in Belgium is often capped at 6 euros and is valid for a return journey on the same day, but this price may require a journey only after 9 hours.
Major European motorways such as the E-19, E-17, E-40, E-411 and E-313 pass through Belgium.
The cheapest way to get to Belgium from anywhere in Europe (3 euros/100 km) is – if you’re a little flexible and lucky – usually the taxi stop
With Eurolines buses you can travel to Belgium from all over Europe. International buses have stops in Antwerp, Brussels North Station, Leuven and Liège.
Due to the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, there are bus companies for the Bosnian diaspora that offer a cheap and clean way to travel to the other side of the European continent. Out of season, there are half-day excursions from various destinations in Bosnia and Herzegovina to Belgium and the Netherlands three times a week (about €132 for a return ticket).
There are night ferries between Zeebrugge and Hull in England, but they are not cheap. There used to be a special vehicle service during the day between Ostend and Ramsgate in England, but this has not been in operation since 2015.
- There are Belgian national trains that end in Lille (Lille-Flanders station).
- Between De Panneterminus on the Belgian railway (and the coastal tramway – Kusttram) and the French coastal town of Dunkirk, there is a bus route operated by DK’BUS Marine: [www]. However, it can only operate at certain times of the year. It is also possible to take a DK’BUS bus as close as possible to the border and cross it on foot, walking along the beach and arriving at a convenient tram stop on the coast, such as Esplanade.
- You can travel by bus between the train stations of Eupen (Belgium) and Aachen (Germany), which is quite fast and cheaper than covering the same distance with an international train ticket.
From the Netherlands
- You can see a list of border buses between Belgium and the Netherlands at [www].
- The city of Baarle (formerly Baarle-Hertog in Belgium and Baarle-Nassau in the Netherlands) is not only a special result of ancient European history, but also a possible transfer point, as the city’s main bus stop, Sint-Janstraat, is served by both Flemish (Belgian) and Dutch buses.
- The Flemish (Belgian) company De Lijn operates a cross-border bus between Turnhout in Belgium and Tilburg in the Netherlands, both of which are end points of each country’s railway network.
- A bus (line 45) of the Flemish (Belgian) company De Lijn runs between the stations Genk (Belgium) and Maastricht (Netherlands). Another bus (line 20A) runs from Hasselt to Maastricht. There is no rail connection there, but it is under construction.