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When planning your trip, keep in mind that serious crime is rare in Belgium, and while its biggest cities – Brussels and Antwerp – have had a reputation for being unsafe, even opportunistic petty crime has become less prevalent in both over the last few years. Still, you should exercise the same caution you would in any large city: pickpocketing and bag or phone snatching is not uncommon.
The country’s bustling, multilingual capital is the centre of the EU and NATO organizations, and draws travelers to its historic streetscapes and Belgian specialities such as beer, chocolate, waffles and frites. It’s also the most likely place you’ll encounter security issues, of all kinds. Brussels’ three train stations, Brussels North Station (Bruxelles-Nord or Brussel-Noord), Central Station (Bruxelles-Central or Brussel-Centraal) and the South Station (Bruxelles-Midi or Brussel-Zuid) are all known for pickpockets and scammers, who target tourists weighed down with luggage.
This is particularly the case atBruxelles-Midi or Brussel-Zuid, usually referred to simply as Midi, the international hub and Eurostar terminal. A tip: it may be only a 20 or so minute walk from here into the center, but if you’re hauling a suitcase, it’s easier to jump on a local train to Bruxelles-Central – free with your Eurostar or Thalys ticket – and you’ll avoid the surrounding neighborhood, which can be a little daunting to first-time arrivals to the city.
Ordinary Brüsseleers are faithful users of the highly efficient, cheap metro-tram-bus network and you should by all means join them. Do be vigilant about your belongings though, especially phones and other devices, as pickpockets use these networks, too. There have also been reports of small groups of young men preying on tired tourists in metro stations at night – try to not sit far from others or to look disorientated. Familiarize yourself with your prospective route via the STIB-MIVB site before you head out and load transport passes onto a MOBIB card (you can buy these from kiosks at the major rail hubs and most metro stations).
Tourists are often warned off visiting a few Brussels neighborhoods that are less economically flush and home to large immigrant communities. While you should be careful around Saint Josse, the Gare du Nord-Liedts-Cage Aux Ours areas, plus the red-light district around Midi station, especially if you are a woman, don’t avoid all of Marolles, Molenbeek or Schaerbeek. Parts of these diverse areas are well on the way to gentrification, such as Ixelles a few years ago, and offer up some lively studenty bars, great cheap eating options as well as quieter residential streets. The center too has some dodgy pockets, often differing greatly from street to street, but these are easy to spot and avoid. Again, it’s more a matter of doing your research, and being aware of your surroundings, especially at night, than steering entirely clear.
Petty crime is far less prevalent in the Flemish cites of Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent than it is in Brussels. The historic centers of each, where tourists head to first, especially that of ever-thronged Bruges and Grote Markt in central Antwerp, are again places to watch your bags, pockets and phones.
Antwerp was, in the 14th century, one of Europe’s largest and richest ports, and has a red-light district that you’d expect with this long maritime history (its name, Schipperskwartier – skipper's quarters – reflects this, too). Once known for crime and vice, the industry was tightly regulated more than 20 years ago and is now strictly confined to three streets, with a police station in the middle. Situated between the center and fashionably redeveloped docks area of Eilandje, Schipperskwartier is a thoroughfare between the two, and has some great authentic pubs and legendary nightclubs to visit, away from the ‘window’ streets. It’s not unsafe, but women alone late at night might feel uncomfortable in the window streets. The city’s former working class neighborhoods to the west are similarly safe, with the caveat re personal belongings as ever, and offer a great diversity of eating options, artist’s studios and hipster haunts. The area between here and the center, around the main station, Antwerpen-Centraal, can feel a little sketchy though, with some obvious drug dealing going on.
Bruges attracts huge numbers of tourists each year and its tight canal-fronted streets can get very crowded – watch for pickpockets when in tights spaces and on the main squares, as well as on the train there and back from Brussels. Similarly, in the historic centre of Ghent, although this city’s large student population make it feel more authentic as well as relaxed and safe.
You may encounter petty crime in the industrial and university cities of Liège and Charleroi, so as in Brussels, be aware of your belongings. Note though, there’s really not much greater risk than in any city in Europe.
One of the most convenient ways to get to and around Belgium is by train, so you're likely to encounter at least a few of its train stations.
Once your train arrives, keep an eye on your belongings, especially phones and laptops. Pickpockets have been reported to operate on international trains, especially the Paris-Brussels and Amsterdam-Brussels Thalys routes. If you can afford to spring for first class (pre-booking online can mean its costs only a little more), do, as these carriages are far less crowded and have more staff in evidence.
Professional thieves often work in teams of two or three and use a range of techniques to distract their victims such as asking for directions, spilling food or drink, or telling them someone has spilled something on their clothes.
Avoid placing bags in the overhead compartments where thieves can easily grab them when you're sleeping. There have also been reports of bags being stolen from the racks at the end of carriages, normally just before the doors close for the train to depart, so also keep a watch on these at this time.
Driving in Brussels is not great due to its terrible traffic, but if you do drive, be aware that theft from moving or parked cars, is not unknown. Thieves position themselves at traffic lights or pull up on motorbikes, scan for valuables and either smash the window or reach in through the open gap and take off unsecured handbags, phones or wallets, so keep these out of sight and reach, and drive with the door locked. To avoid theft while your car is unattended, park in secure areas or parking garages where possible.
Stationary car theft is also not unknown in Antwerp, again best to park in a secure area or a parking garage.
There were a series of terrorism attacks in Belgium in the 2010s, including the tragic Brussels suicide bombings that killed 32 civilians in 2016. This wave of violence is often attributed to the fact that there is a large immigrant population and significant social inequality in Brussels, as well as it being the symbolic centre of Europe, with NATO and the EU headquarters located in Brussels. Along with Islamist extremist attacks, terrorist violence from sections of the far right is also considered an ongoing threat.
That said, there have been only three minor, lone-actor attacks since 2016, and none at all since 2018. There are increased security checks in place at international airports and train stations, all part of robust domestic security efforts, along with the thwarting of attacks in the planning stages.
While traveling in Belgium, you are legally required to carry identification at all times, again, part of an active counterterrorism policy. If you are concerned about having your passport with you in a busy area or at night, at least carry a photocopy of it and some other form of identification, such as a drivers licence or student card.
It’s always a good idea to check your country’s travel alert warning for Belgium.
Find about the latest travel warnings for Belgium here.
The official emergency number is 112, where you can reach all emergency services and then you will be re-directed to the department you require: police, ambulance or fire brigade. Many police officers in Belgium’s cities are fluent in English.
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What are the issues affecting travelers to Belgium? Read the latest travel warnings and alerts.
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Stayed in the centre with friends one weekend. During the day it was pleasant enough. North African street gangs all over and a few lads got pickpocketed by them. I wouldn't go back.
Can any one let me know at present in June 2016 is it safe to work in Belgium , thanks
I visit Brussels often and have never been subjected to any theft or incident. Just keep your phone and wallet in your pockets and use common sense.
I was travelling on flix bus from London to Rotterdam and had a transfer is Anterwerp. When I got down from the bus my luggage was no longer there in the bus carrier.. it was stolen and no one knew where it was.. it is a place of thieves. Please be very careful.
Just as I was just to enter my hotel a white french male, 6 foot maybe taller. Wraps his leg around you and steals my phone from my behind and runs away. Police has still not caught this theft. Near Brussels - Avenue de Stalingrad (close to Gare du Midi) - 7:30pm. An older man who stands watching is also suspected as an accomplice he selects the target while seeming he is busy. Do be careful, do be vigilante. These low life scums are after your belongings no matter what.
We were travelling from Amsterdam to Luxembourg and had 2 hand baggages and three strolleys.We had to switch from Thalys to the local train at Brussels Midi. On getting into the train we kept the strolleys near us as they were heavy to put on overhead rack and put two hang baggages just above us.Since we were four persons we kept a watch on all the bags. But short of Brussels Schuman a young boy came in with a Midi Ticket and started asking something in the local language ,we had heard of the distractions thieves create and we protecting our purses and pockets. Just then he threw his mobile down and was reassembling it at our feet. We all looked down at him and in that time his accomplice picked the overhead luggage and ran out of the train ,this boy also followed and in a split second they were out of the train and the doors closed. The railway authorities on the train said that there is no Railway police till Brussels Namur which is half an hour away. The police and authorities are aware of the robberies in this sector and not bothered.
Would advise tourists not to keep anything overhead and if you can avoid it ,dont take the local trains. The Thalys and TGV are the safe option as they have police on board and the stops are few. Chain your luggage together if possible.
As written a few times already, be aware when somebody stops you and asks for directions. I've been living in Brussels for some time now and have been pickpocketed once. The police is doing a lot though to prevent these petty crimes, but there are simply too many robbers around.
Don't keep your wallet in your backside pocket.
Don't keep cash around.
Always stay with your belongings.
Keep your passport and traveling documents separate.
I had my cycle stolen in broad daylight, amidst tourists, at the citadel in Namur. The thieves cut the security wire on my bike, but left my wife's as it was secured with chain rather than wire. The bike was of little value, the lights did not work and the brakes were worn - so good luck to whoever was so desperate. The walk down to the police station was quite fun, as was the trip to Decathlon to get a better bike and a heavy duty lock.
Inner & central Brussels has become increasingly dirty and poorer in the 13 years I've been visiting the city. On the first visit in April 2004 as an 18 yr old solo traveller I found Brussels and the whole of Belgium to be very impressively clean, modern and well-functioning. Ironically it was also during this first visit to Bxl that I was targetted by three immigrant youths at Avenue de Stalingrad who pulled a small knife out in an attempt to steal my travel holdall (and who luckily I out-ran!), but really I was very naive on this occasion because it was 03:00 in the morning and I was out on the deserted streets alone with no money left for a hotel room before my train booking the next day. Everything else in 2004 was a great experience, and it is since that time I've observed the sense of safety and wellbeing in Brussels decline. The country's problems do need to be acknowledged and addressed. All this being said, I will never stop visiting this fascinating city and region :–)
As a Belgian citizen (living close to Bruges), I think all European capitals are having problems like this with pickpockets and stuff like this, but if you want to see nice things with less criminality, go to cities like Antwerp, Ghent, Hasselt and Bruges. People there are more friendly, good police, nice restaurants and clubs, a lot of young children going to school there also. And good public transport with bus and trams in the city (no metros). Bruges and Ghent are having a lot of tourists from China, Japan and England. Bruges count maybe 120000 citizens, so it's nice to go there because u'll feel more confident as a tourist there.
Since my birth, i've never had problems, not for my money, not for my iPhone, for nothing... It's good that you try to look as a citizen and not as a tourist. Place your money somewhere else than in your wallet, wear a copy of your passport and leave the real one in your hotel, this is the best option. Brussels is the capital of the EU, what makes that criminals knows that Brussels will have a lot of victims to catch their stuff.
And of course the police in Brussels is now more worried about new terrorist attacks than somebody's bike or wallet that has been stolen. They cannot find everybody's phone back because this is just happening too much.
Cities like Namur, Liège and Mons, you can leave them, because this is the Wallonian part of Belgium. They are not as good employed than Flanders, what makes them more vulnerable to do criminal facts.
This site is removing comments about crime in Belgium, so the picture painted here is better than it is in reality.
I had a bad experience as well that happened near Rogier Metro station. I was walking with my wife around 5 PM after did some shopping and couples of guys approached me and give me a good smile. Since I haven’t had any bad experience living in Brussels for almost an year I thought it would be nice to meet new people and therefore I smiled at them and one of those guys gave me a Hi-5 and then hold my hand and did some trick with his leg on to my right leg while he was holding my left hand. I felt so discomfort and when I tried to leave him, he again hold my hand and did the trick again as if he was asking me to do something funny. But I didn’t realise he was able to took my watch by this time and I came to know only after my wife asked me to check my valuables. Luckily I kept my mobile and wallet in my front pocket and there was no injuries. I wish I wouldn’t had smiled at those people. Brussels is a nice place to live, but we should always be alert and wary when someone approaches us with bad intentions.
I was tricked and robbed last week on the street in Stalingrad after exiting a taxi cab returning to my Airbnb after a night out (mid September 2018) the thief tricked me and somehow snatched my wallet and got away with $200. Unbelievable; Please be warned!
It is true - crime is much higher than people realise in Brussels. Cars are stolen, homes are invaded while people are at home... lots of muggings... women are constantly followed while shopping...
I'll just avoid this place altogether.
Have heard many bad stories about Belgium from too many ppl before this blog.
I am living in Brussels form last 1 year, few days back, someone broke into my house and took everything. Jewelry, laptop, watches, shades, cash. I was in office and my wife just went to the market, and when she back home after 45 minutes, she found the door was broken and house was messed up badly. we called the police and they took 2 hours to reach. The answer from them was. There is only 1 percent chance, we are sorry. that's it. Bad people will follow you from market, they will check your schedule and they will attack. Only one suggestion. Don't keep valuable at home. Put it in bank locker. Stay Safe.
One common thread seems to be a lack of awareness and common sense. In any big city you need to exercise caution. If you're carrying large sums of money (such as the dude with the 1200 Euros) DON'T keep it all in your wallet. Use a money belt or an under the shirt pouch. DON'T stop for a burger if you're carrying the equivalent of 15000 dollars (and DON'T be foolish enough to keep in one place.)
I feel empathy for people who have been victimized, but Brussels is hard criminal hotspot and more than a few posters here were taken advantage of due to their lack of common sense.
T, no it doesn't seem like a lack of of awareness and common sense. Going to the market for a couple of hrs during the day and getting broke into? Getting mugged trying to report the crime at the police station, again at the hospital, not allowed to look at your cellphone like everyone everywhere does? Not being able to park for a second in front of the train station? Even the person with 1200 Euros I highly doubt had it all in one place and was flashing around the equivalent of $15,000 dollars. People aren't that stupid.
Don't talk to anyone, don't engage any strangers trying to be polite, don't pay attention when someone is pointing out something wrong with your car, they do that in America constantly to try and keep you from getting a ticket, not to rob you. Eating in restaurants, entering hotels, even walking down busy popular streets during daylight hours seems to be having a lack of common sense. And this isn't true. It's Brussels and Belgium who do a lousy job of policing that needs a dose of common sense.
Lets see, pushing a person in a wheelchair, bad for you and the handicapped person, not allowed apparently.
How do you use common sense to avoid "just having arrived in Brussels?"
Friday evening me and my friend which lives in Brussels walked down the big main avenue nearby Grand Place, two guys approached us talking of celebrating Algerian football match, did the leg wrap trick on my friend and snatched his phone. At the police station there were three other ppl who got robbed that night, reporting. Today, Sunday, I took the metro for the first time to get to Midi station and take bus back to London. Got out of train, looked for station exit, passed through one gate, guy approached me in English to take the other gate and grabbed my ticket, that I don’t need it anymore. There was one more gate afterwards and I couldn’t get out of the goddamn station, there was no staff in sight to help, I almost missed my bus connection due to being locked in, one woman sensed my panic and let me go out through the gate with her, thank god. Then outside Midi when boarding bus to London I already recognised four dodgy guys hanging around travellers checking their asses and bags and I photographed them and kept looking into their eyes like a silent threat, they didn’t rob anyone on my bus, luckily, but I bet the scored a bit later this afternoon. Why is the police not there? It’s disgusting, my third visit to Brussels and I saw someone getting robbed by coaches on both previous visits. The level of street crime is unacceptable
Quite a funny place - I step out of my taxi, and as I took my luggage out (no help from the rude and smelly taxi driver, even though we are both elderly), someone smelly tapped on my shoulder. Next thing I know someone smelly punches me and my wife and run away with our stuff.
People walked by laughing at us in flemish - the worst language I've ever heard of; sounds like ugly smelly people spitting with their mouthful. Anyways as we got up we saw we still had our wallets, thankfuly. We go to the police to report a theft, and obviously we land on bloody smelly ugly flemish policemen. "Nee engels" They screamed. I speak 5 languages fluently and dutch isn't one of them, but they wouldnt even make the effort to speak any other language. They were busy watching the vlaams elections, I felt like i was back in captivity in Nazi HQs.
I am a very patient man, I have gone through war, I stay up to date with modern things to not be a burden and I do apply the "dabs" as my grandchild told me. Horrible place, just horrible. I would rather go back to normandy during D day than hear another goddamn word of dutch. People talk about the immigrants and arabs but they are far as bad as the racist, ugly, smelly, loud stinking flemish people. Thinking of them makes me angry. They hate the south people but I do not know why, the south is a lot greener and people are a lot nicer even if a bit more rural. The ugly smelly flemish think they are superior, what idiots. They are all blonde like Nazis. Ugly smelly nazis, they have no baths. I met a farmer from the south working with manure, and he didn't smell nearly as bad as the smelly, ugly flemish. Do not go. Send message. Google send message. Stop. Enter. Ent. Accept. I am not a robot. Subm
For the first time I am going to visit Belgium. Thanks for the helpful and informative article.
Brussels is not a safe city. There is a clear divide between the haves and have-nots which is likely to push some people towards crime. The Police try and get tourists not to report crime. When I tried to report crime, they said I had to go to a police station. I did and they asked me what I expected them to do. It was clear to me they didn't want to report this crime. Rising crime statistics are not good for tourism. Anyone visiting Brussels needs to be cautious, particularly at night.
God, thanks to all the contributions re safety in Brussels. As an elderly lady using stick. I'm a real easy target at the Eurostar station. I hoped to visit in March 2020. Wish I read this prior to booking. But have cancelled my paid return Eurostar, and hotel. Lost £231 but my safety and security is priceless!! My daughter and 3 friends just visited, and didn't experience any issue at all, which is why I booked the trip
"Jean" is a troll. "Security professional" and probably has never been to Brussels. Anyone who had any bad luck and needed police help in Belgium know that nothing will happen, they will take a deposition and throw it in the trash.
I felt much safer in Amsterdam, in Barcelona at 5am, than Brussels any time of day.
If you want to get knifed listen to Jean's advice and enjoy getting beat up by the police as well
Ohh!! This is really horrible, my elder Bros wants to get me a visa to Belgium
Am a Nigerian but I think I'll rather stay back home. Believe me this kind stories I read here makes me believe Lagos is still an apprentice.
Would definitely stay back until i get a visa to Canada or Australia. Thanks so much everyone and I really pray you recover from your losses. Stay safe
Brussels is terrible! I lost all I have in Gare du Nord in KFC.
The thieves got all my luggages and backpack, all gone, my first stop in Belgium.
The KFC staff and police suck!
Very dangerous city. The worst I have ever been. Rats size nearly like cat size . They steal my heckles first day of the visit when I was with my son…. Just slap my face and pull my necklace…I checked police comments and after I realised that they don’t do nothing… nearly no tourist because everyone knows how dangerous is there . I didn’t know… I didn’t know because is not any information in internet only wrong article that is dangerous same like in the other countries. No!!!! Is very dangerous city!!!!!!! I thing the most dangerous city in Europe. Very dirty . And expensive for such a bad city with not many attractions .
I have seen the world and when I was younger I have backpacked in every continent. Sure there are ups and downs, and I have had quite a lot of issues in Argentina, but I would gladly go back to Argentina wearing louis vuitton than going back to Brussels for even a second. How everything is covered in urine and graffiti is beyond me. You assume captials will always have a bit of a dirty side, but it's just absolutely insane that right when you arrive in any train station or even zaventem itself, you wonder what you got yourself into. Most countries try to make you feel welcome, and here it's absolutely not the case. Everyone speaks Flemish, and forget talking any other language. The overall atmosphere was very racist and I felt very unsafe. I got into a taxi that drove like he was trying to kill us, and once I arrived he asked for 70 euros!!!! For a 14 minute trip! I decided not to get into trouble but when I got out of the taxi I was approached by youths listening to god awful music and started to push me around and asking me for my phone. Thank god they left after I gave it to them but I was left without any way to communicate to my family. I took the metro back to the airport and booked the first flight back to home. People should skip belgium when traveling across europe, a terrible place.
I had my phone stolen in Brussels in a nightclub last month. The phone was in a pouch on my arm. They must have distracted me. I have been to Brussels several times but noticed how rough this city is. The same day I saw I guy get chased with a pole and then the local shop got hijacked. They need more police especially in the rougher neighbourhoods. It has caused me such an issue as I had my Eurostar ticket on it, my photos and couldn't attend a job interview.