If you plan on living in Belgium as an expat, chances are that you will drive here, too. Owning a car allows you to easily travel through this beautiful country. Despite the fact that Belgium is a fairly small nation, where the distance between two points is never more than 300 km, most Belgians own at least one car per household.
Belgium’s 154,012 kilometers of roads follow an orderly network. Belgian roads are labeled and differentiated by letters of the alphabet. A-roads connect major cities and international destinations and usually radiate out from Brussels. B-roads are shorter routes between other, slightly smaller cities. R-roads are ring roads that circle around large cities, and N-roads connect secondary cities and towns. Provincial roads abound in Belgium; however, they rarely have signposts.
There are no toll roads in Belgium, aside from the Liefkenshoek Tunnel in Antwerp. The Belgian highway system is purportedly among the best lit in Europe, which eases driving at night.
If you are planning on driving in Belgium’s capital, don’t be surprised if you spend a fair amount of time waiting in traffic as congestion in Brussels is terrible. Brussels’ R0 Ring is also apparently a nightmare concerning traffic; however, the Agency for Roads and Traffic is presently working on improving this congestion.
Additionally, it is important to be cautious on the road, as many Belgians drive at extreme speeds. According to a nationwide study conducted between 2009 and 2013 by the Belgian Institute for Road Safety, in built-up areas less than one in ten Belgians adhere to the maximum speed limit. Although highways have a standard speed limit of 120 km/h, the study announces that 40% of drivers go much faster.
Compared to its neighbors France, Germany, and the Netherlands, Belgium has the highest road death rate per capita amongst all four, thus having one of the highest in Western Europe.
Those with a valid driver’s license that was originally issued in a European Union member state can go on driving in Belgium with their normal license until it expires. It is recommended to trade it in for a Belgian license though, as this simplifies things for the police and can serve as a form of identification.
If your license was issued in a non-EU country, you are allowed to drive with an international driving permit for visits that are up to six months in duration. However, if you intend to visit the country for a longer time or if you establish resident status, you need to apply for a local license. Belgium has a license agreement with some nations, so their citizens are able to simply trade their license in for a Belgian one. Citizens from most other countries must take both the written and practical driving test in order to legally drive here.
To find out which non-EU countries need to meet which requirements, visit the Federal Public Service of Mobility and Transport (Dutch and French only) and check their list of countries whose citizens qualify for swapping their national permits for driving in Belgium.
The application for a Belgian driver’s license takes place at the town hall in the municipality you are registered in. You need to supply a completed application form, proof of residency, your original license, an application fee, and passport photos.
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