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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in belgium
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Belgium is a low lying country on the North Sea coast in Western Europe. With the majority of West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels, the seat of both the European Union and NATO, Belgium sits at the crossroads of Western Europe. Its immediate neighbours are France to the southwest, Luxembourg to the south east, Germany to the east and the Netherlands to the north.
Belgium consists of three regions, listed from North to South:
Flanders and Wallonia are each divided in 5 provinces.
These are the major cities in Belgium.
Belgium is a densely populated country trying to balance the conflicting demands of urbanization, transportation, industry, commercial and intensive agriculture. It imports large quantities of raw materials and exports a large volume of manufactured goods, mostly to the EU.
Temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy.
Flat coastal plains in northwest, central rolling hills, wooded hills and valleys of Ardennes Forest in southeast.
Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830. It was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II and has many war graves near the battle zones. It has prospered in the past half century as a modern, technologically advanced European state and member of NATO and the EU. Tensions between the Dutch-speaking Flemings of the north and the French-speaking Walloons of the south have led in recent years to constitutional amendments granting these regions formal recognition and autonomy.
Electricity is supplied at 220 to 230V 50Hz. Outlets are the European standard CEE-7/7 "Schukostecker" or "Schuko" or the compatible, but non-grounded, CEE-7/16 "Europlug" types. Generally speaking, U.S. and Canadian travelers should pack an adapter for these outlets if they plan to use North American electrical equipment in Belgium.
Brussels is home to an international airport, - Brussels National Airport (http://www.brusselsairport.be/index.cfm?lang=en) (IATA code BRU), about 25 minutes from the city centre with the train or the number 12 airport express bus.
There are also small airports at Charleroi - Brussels South (http://www.charleroi-airport.com/) (IATA code CRL, 1 hour from Brussels) , Oostende (IATA code OST, on the coast, Tel: 059/55.12.11 - Fax: 059/51.32.51) and Deurne - Antwerp (http://www.antwerpairport.be/) (Tel: 00 32 (0)3 285 65 00).
Virgin uses Zaventem airport, Ryanair uses Charleroi, and charter flight tour operators use all of them.
There are high speed trains between Brussels, Cologne, Paris (Thalys), and London (Eurostar), as well as normal trains that run between all cities. Check out the website for SNCB/NMBS (http://www.b-rail.be). If you are planning to travel around Belgium by train often, perhaps you should buy a "Rail Pass" (26 years old +) or "Go Pass" (up to 26 years old). For 44 Euros (student price), you can buy 10 one-way trips anywhere in Belgium. Not bad considering most trips will cost you at least 7 euros.
Major European highways like the E-19, E-17, E-40, E-5411 and E-313 pass through Belgium.
Belgium has an extensive public transport network with frequent operating buses and trams.
There are boat services to/from England and Ireland, e.g. from Ostend. From Ghent, you can sail to Sweden.
Being such a small country (300 km as its maximum distance), you can get anywhere in a couple of hours. Public transport is fast and comfortable, but rather expensive. Between larger cities, there are frequent train connections, with buses covering smaller distances.
To do some local sightseeing, especially in Flanders, a lot of infrastructure is prepared for bikes.
Go Pass: 43 euro's for ten rides from any station to any other station within Belgium, within one year. Only <26 can use the Go Pass (http://www.b-rail.be/nat/N/tarifs/passes/go) (Dutch/French). The senior variant is called Rail-pass (62 euros).
Belgium has three official languages: French, Dutch, and German. English is widely spoken by people under 30, regardless if you are in Flanders or Wallonia, but speaking foreign languages is far more common in Flanders, especially Englsh and German. You will find that some older people do speak English but it is less likely.
Belgium is Famous for its good cuisine and Belgians like to go to restaurant frequently. However as a small country in the centre of western Europe, the cuisine is influenced not only by the surrounding countries, but also by many others. This is also emphasized by many foreigners coming to this country to make a living here, for instance by starting a restaurant. You can find all types of restaurants:
Belgium offers an incredible diversity of beers. The most well known are Stella Artois, Duvel (literally: the Devil, beware, 8.5%!), Leffe, Jupiler (plain standard beer), Hoegaarden (white beer). The names given to some beers are pretty imaginative: eg Verboden Vrucht (Forbidden Fruit), Judas, Delirium Tremens. Some really exquisite ones are the beers that are still brewed in monasteries of the Trappist monks, such as the West-Vleteren, rated best beer in the world! Warmly recommended are also Kriek (sweet cherry beer) and, for the christmas season, Stille Nacht (Silent night).
Belgium has many fine hotels, but the best are located in Antwerp, Brussels and the Ardennes region of Belgium.
The level of Belgian education and universities rank among the highest of the world. The other side of the medal is that Belgian students have to study for long periods.
Having one of the highest labour taxes in Europe, Belgium is struggling to reposition itself as a high-tech country. In that struggle, Flanders is quite ahead of Wallonia, in contrast to the previous decades, where Wallonia's steel industry was the main export of Belgium.
Highly skilled people will have the most chance to find work, and knowing multiple languages (Dutch, French, English and/or German) is almost a standard requirement. Interim offices providing temporary jobs are flourishing in a search to avoid the high labour taxes.
The upside of the high taxes is that Belgium has a very good social security system, with compulsory health insurance, unemployment wages and pension for all citizens.
Except for certain neighbourhoods in Charleroi, Brussels and Antwerp, Belgium is a safe country. Being aggressive or even unhelpful towards strangers is very unnatural for Belgians in general. One exception: when driving a car, don't annoy other drivers with more expensive cars.
Also be aware of a mild form of resentment towards Muslims and North African ethnicities.
Always use your common sense, of course. Don't walk in empty streets in the middle of the night, showing off your expensive equipment or jewelry.
In the winter, like most other countries, only influenza will cause you an considerable inconvenience. No inoculations are needed to enter or leave Belgium.
The Belgian attitude towards life is one of humility, and not being proud of what's given to you. A real Belgian patriot is very hard to find.
A few sensitive points:
Belgium has a modern telephone system with nationwide cellular telephone coverage, and multiple internet access points in all cities, free in most libraries. Also in multiple gas stations, NMBS train stations and diners on the highways there is wireless internet access available.