Backpacking in Belgium is an excellent idea! Our small country has a lot of beautiful historical cities and country sides to offer. And thanks to the extended public railway network, you can travel across all major travel destinations within 2 hours from Brussels Airport. Where you will go is all up to you, but in this guide I will try to give you some advice and tips to make the most out of your backpacking trip through Belgium.
Belgium is well-connected to the rest of Europe by train, bus, and air. Brussels International Airport is the largest airport in Belgium and is serviced by many international airlines. If you’re traveling from within Europe, you can take a train or bus to Belgium. The Eurostar train from London to Brussels takes just over two hours, whilst Paris is only an hour away from Brussels by train. Additionally there are also many cheaper yet slower buses that operate between major European cities and Belgium.
Are you considering a backpacking adventure across Europe? If so, consider getting a European Rail Pass to travel affordably between numerous European cities. While this pass includes many high-speed trains, reservations are mandatory for these trains.
European citizens can purchase an Interrail Pass, while non-European citizens can opt for a Eurail Pass. Backpackers who only want to visit Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg can opt for the much cheaper Benelux Rail Pass.
Best time to visit Belgium
To make the most of your backpacking journey, timing is crucial. The best time to explore Belgium is between April and September when the weather is mild and sunny. This period offers a delightful blend of pleasant temperatures and cultural events. However, keep in mind that the peak tourist season falls in July and August, leading to more significant crowds and higher prices. If you prefer a more serene experience and wish to save money, consider traveling during the shoulder seasons of April-May or September-October. Although the winter months can also be an option, be prepared for colder and rainier weather.
Getting Around in Belgium by Train
The cost of a single ticket depends on your destination, but there are other options worth considering. For instance, you can purchase a Standard Multi Rail Pass for 87€, which gives you 10 journeys at a fixed rate of 8.70€ per journey. What’s even better is that you can share this pass with friends or family.
If you’re traveling on the weekend, you can take advantage of the half-price return tickets, available from Friday 7pm until Sunday midnight.
If you’re between the ages of 12 and 25, you can also benefit from the youth tickets. These tickets allow you to travel to any destination in Belgium for a fixed rate of 6.60€. Alternatively, you can purchase the Youth Multi Rail Pass for 55€, which gives you 10 journeys at the fixed price of 5.50€ per journey.
During Belgian school holidays, travelers between the ages of 12 and 25 can purchase the Youth Holiday Pass, valid for an entire week at the price of 18€. In July and August, it’s possible to buy a Youth Holiday Pass that’s valid for one month for only 29€.
Local public transport:
For local public transport such as busses, metro’s and trams you can buy single tickets which are valid for one hour. Within this time period you can change lines unlimited. After the 60 minutes you can continue your ride towards your destination. If you need to change lines again, you need to buy a new ticket.
For more detailed information about the Belgian Transport System check the Belgian Public Transport Guide.
Finding affordable accommodation in Belgium
Accommodation costs can add up quickly during backpacking trips, but there are savvy ways to stick to a budget without compromising comfort. Hostels are a popular choice among backpackers, offering affordable stays in major travel destinations like Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp, Mechelen, and Leuven. Dorm room beds start around 16€ per night, providing a fantastic way to meet fellow travelers and share experiences. Websites like Hostelworld.com, Flemish Youth Hostels and Hosteling International are valuable resources to find suitable hostels across the country.
Another budget-friendly option is the Ibis Budget Hotels chain, known for its simplicity, modernity, and cleanliness. Room rates start from around 45€ per night, making it one of the most affordable hotel options in Belgium. Other cheap hotel rooms can be found, starting at around 50€ up to 75€ per night. While B&Bs tend to be pricier, they offer a more personalized and charming experience for those willing to spend a bit more.
Food and Drink
No backpacking adventure in Belgium would be complete without indulging in its culinary delights. Belgium is famous for its mouthwatering cuisine, including delectable Belgian waffles, crispy fries, and heavenly chocolates. The local beer culture is also a must-experience, with an array of unique brews to sample. Throughout the country, you’ll find an abundance of restaurants and cafes offering traditional Belgian dishes, providing a satisfying taste of the local culture.
For those on a budget, keep an eye out for friteries (chip shops) that serve inexpensive and delicious fries, a perfect on-the-go treat. Embrace the culinary diversity and immerse yourself in Belgium’s rich food and drink heritage, leaving your taste buds fully satisfied.
Cities you should definitely visit:
Belgium is a treasure trove of enchanting cities, each offering its own distinct charm and allure. Here are some must-visit cities you won’t want to miss during your backpacking journey:
Bruges is an absolute must-see for everybody who visits Belgium. It’s a beautiful old city with idyllic canals and lots of historical building.
Ghent has a rich variety of beautiful canals, historic buildings, and museums to offer whilst being a modern lively and vibrant city.
Antwerp is home of the biggest port in Europe and the most dense populated city in Flanders. The city is a vibrant mix between art, culture and trendy places to go out eating, drinking or shopping.
Mechelen is smaller then the cities listed above, yet still rich in history and culture.
Leuven completes the list of Flanders top 5 art and culture cities.
Backpacking in Belgium is an adventure worth taking. From quaint medieval towns to vibrant cities, Belgium has something for every backpacker. Whether you’re a foodie, a history buff, or an outdoor enthusiast, there’s plenty to see and do in this beautiful country.