Like most countries, crime rates tend to be higher in the bigger cities than in rural areas, but serious crime in Brussels is low. However, petty crimes such as muggings, bag snatching and pickpocketing are common - especially in tourist areas - so it's important to use common sense when you're out and about.
Some suburban neighbourhoods in the major cities can be on the dodgy side, but most travellers are unlikely to spend much time in these areas. If you do find yourself off the chocolate-beer-chips trail, make sure you know which parts of town to avoid, particularly at night.
In Brussels, be wary in Schaarbeek, Brussels North, Brussels Center, Molenbeek and Anderlecht if possible.
There have been reports of visitors being threatened with violence in the popular Parc de Bruxelles/Warandepark, between the Royal Palace and Belgian Parliament. If you are robbed in this part of town, there is a police station next to the gate in front of the Belgian Parliament, on the right side as you leave the park. Most of the policemen here speak French, Dutch and English.
In Antwerp, avoid the areas around the port and docks.
Industrial cities like Liege and Charleroi near Brussels, where some of the low-cost carriers land, have some of the highest crime rates in Belgium. Keep an eye on your belongings and stick to well-lit, crowded areas.
One of the most convenient ways to get to and around Belgium is by train, so you're likely to spend a fair bit of time in its train stations. Gadgets like mobile phones, iPods, mp3 players and laptops are lifesavers on long journeys but they can also make you a target for theft, so never leave your belongings unattended at stations.
This is particularly the case at major stations like the North Station (Noordstation or Gare du Nord), Central Station (Centraal Station or Gare Central) and the South Station (Zuidstation or Gare du Midi), which is the primary international train hub.
These stations are not located in the nicest parts of town so avoid hanging around them at night time, especially if you're on your own.
Once your train arrives you may be ready to jump on and zone out but it's a good idea to keep an eye on your belongings here as well. Pickpockets have been reported to operate on international trains, mainly between Paris-Brussels and Amsterdam-Brussels.
Avoid placing bags on overhead racks where thieves can easily grab them when you're not looking. 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.
Petty crime is also common around the Grand Place and on the metro, buses, trams and in shops, with many thieves looking for small, high-value items like mobile phones and iPods.
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. There have also been reports of small groups of young men preying on tired and bewildered tourists in metro stations, commonly at night.
An increasing problem, particularly Brussels, is theft from moving or parked cars.
Thieves position themselves at traffic lights, or pull up on a motor bike, to scan for valuables in stopped cars. If they see a handbag, wallet or other valuable item, they'll smash the window and steal it in seconds.
It's a good idea to hide your valuables out of sight and drive with the windows up and doors locked.
To avoid theft while your car is unattended, park in secure areas or parking garages where possible.
Sadly, terrorism has reared its ugly head in Belgium, particularly in the past 2 years. Generally, Belgium is a safe place to travel however it pays to be alert while travelling around. Find about the latest travel warnings for Belgium here.
If you do become a victim of serious or petty crime, contact the nearest police station straight away and obtain a police report, as you'll need this for a replacement passport or insurance claim. The local number in Belgium is 101 for emergencies requiring police assistance, or 112 for all other emergencies.
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