Top Tips for Driving in Belgium | Go Rentals Blog | UK

Welcome to the 2nd part of the 2017 Guide to Driving in Europe. In this post, we’re going to let you know all about the rules and regulations of driving in the beautiful country of Belgium.

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And if you’re thinking of where to go, we listed some great attractions to visit in Bruges that you’ll find in our post on European self-drive holidays.

Must-have and other important documents for driving in Belgium

So getting the basics out of the way, in order to drive in Belgium, you have to be at least 18 years old, and are limited to driving vehicles of under 3.5 tonnes and with no more than 9 seats.

You can, however, drive bigger commercial vehicles, if you possess either a 1926, 1949 or 1968 international driving permit.

As far as what you need to carry from a legal standpoint is concerned, here’s the list to take note of;

  • Headlamp beam deflectors

    • Either as stickers or using a manual beam adjust

  • Reflective “high vi” jackets

    • To be warn in the event of accident, breakdown, or where stopping on the road is prohibited

  • A warning triangle

    • This is only compulsory if your vehicle has at least 4 wheels or more

  • First aid kit & fire extinguisher

    • If your vehicle is not registered in Belgium, then you only need to carry one of the above – for Belgian registered vehicles, however, both are required

  • Motorbikes

    • All motorcyclists must be wearing full, protective clothing;
        - Crash helmet
        - Gloves
        - Long-sleeve jacket with long sleeves,
        - Trousers with long legs or overall
        - High length boots that cover and protect yuour ankles

    • If a child is under 3, he/she is not permitted to ride at all

    • For children between the ages of 3 and 8, riding is limited to being a passenger on a bike with max engine size 125cc, and this must be whilst travelling in a specially designed child seat

    • Motorcyclists should also have dipped headlights on during the day

If you do not carry or adhere to these items, you may be liable to receive a heavy, on-spot fine if stopped and checked – being a tourist is not a good enough excuse, so please take heed!

Other important documents that you’re advised to carry, are as follows;

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  • Full, valid driving licence (and with paper counterpart if still present with the type of passport you have)

  • For commercial vehicles, an International Driving Permit (1926, 1949, 1968)

  • Your proof of insurance
      - You will need at least 3rd party cover

  • An additional proof of ID - Passport

  • Vehicle ownership/rental proof
      - V5C certificate of other such relevant document

What You Need to Know for Driving on Belgian Roads

Wearing your seatbelt:

Seat belts:

  • Every driver has to wear a seatbelt whenever one is present in either the front or rear seats
  • If you have children travelling;
    • Those less than 1.35m (4ft 5 inches) tall, must travel in a child seat or restraint.
    • If one such seat isn’t available, children over 3 years old but under 1.35m tall, must travel in the rear of the vehicle and use a seatbelt or other safety device attached to the seat
    • For all children under 3 years of age, they can only travel without a proper seat/restraint, if they are travelling in a taxi

Speed limits:

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UK drivers, be aware that within residential areas you are limited to only 12 mph (20 km/h) – this is significantly slower than even the new 20mph limits observed in many parts of London now

  • Within built-up areas, the limit increases to 31 mph (50 km/h)
    • Sometimes a limit of 18 mph (30 km/h) can as you approach a built-up area
    • You may also see this applied in cycle streets (Fietsstraat)
  • Outside of built-up areas on normal roads, the limit is extended to 55 mph (90 km/h)
  • And on motorways and dual carriageways separated by a central reservation 74 mph (120 km/h)
    • The minimum speed on motorways 43 mph (70km/h)

Traffic lights:

The standard 3 light system is used in Belgium – green, amber and red. Although, there are also times when you may see these lights as arrows.

Who has driving priority:

You must give priority to any and all vehicles that come from your right - the exception here is where a driver is driving the wrong way in a one-way street.

  • When it comes to trams and other railed transport, they must always be given prirorty irrespective of whether on the right or on the left
  • Within built-up areas, drivers are required to slow or stop for bus drivers indicating they’re about to drive off

At pedestrian crossings;

  • When approaching a pedestrian crossing without traffic light or traffic officer control, all drivers must slow and give way to pedestrians who are either already crossing or about to

Also, whenever you see a white disc bordered in red, bearing the word 'Peage' in black indicates that drivers must stop. The Dutch word 'Tol' sometimes replaces 'Peage'.

Overtaking & passing

When you need to overtake a push bike or motorbike, ensure you leave at least a 1m distance between you and them. At times when the size of carriageway may cause a challenge to the 1m distance, drivers are allowed to mount the pavement and pass that way, as long as no pedestrians are not put in danger.


Motorway driving:

Unlike France, Belgian motorways are currently toll-free, unless you’re driving a vehicle over 12 tonnes in weight.

In the case of emergencies, you’ll find emergency telephones every 2km on motorways that are linked to an SOS telephone network.

And on motorways that are congested or have ongoing roadworks, you are not allowed to engage your car’s cruise control.

Parking vehicles in Belgium:

Any time a vehicle is left standing still, it must have its engine switched off, unless there is a solid reason for doing so. And for any vehicles that come to a standing stop to either due to parking, or because of loading or unloading people or goods, these vehicles need to be on the right-hand side of the road, except on one way streets, where they can be left on either side.

  • All paid parking is controlled either by meters or automatic parking machines. The specifics of the conditions and how to pay, will be displayed on the machine
  • If these machines are situated within what are known as “blue zones” - Blue zones means free parking with your international blue disc for a limited number of hours, you should not use parking discs, except when machines are broken

Foreign disabled permits are recognised in Belgium, and as in the UK, there are special places reserved for disabled parking. These areas will be indicated by sign E23, with the addition of the international symbol. Badge holders may also park without time limit where parking time is otherwise restricted by road signs, in blue zones and by parking meters.

Alcohol and driving:

At the time of writing, the Belgian limit for alcohol in the blood is either;

  • 50mg of alcohol in the blood per 100 ml, or
  • 0.22mg per litre of exhaled air

Again, this is less than the UK limit of 80mg!

There are also some other conditional aspects associated with Belgian drink driving law;

  • If anyone who is in the in act of driving, intending to drive, or under suspicion of being responsible for a road traffic accident, they potentially can be made to take an on-the-spot breath test
  • In the event of a positive result that indicates a slight excess of the legal limits, the driver is prohibited to drive for at least the next 3 hours, and will have their licence is revoked for that period

For more severe transgressions, expect to banned from driving for at least the next 6 hours.

Traffic offences:

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In Belgium, there are 4 categories of road traffic offences that you can fall foul of…

Level 1:

  • Not wearing your seatbelt
  • Non-dangerous parking offences
  • Driving in a bus lane

Level 2:

  • Driving whilst using your mobile
  • Dangerous or potentially dangerous parking offences, e.g. pavement parking, illegal parking in a disabled bay, or parking near a junction
  • Non-observance of the amber traffic light

Level 3:

  • Infringement of passing rules
  • Not stopping at a red traffic light
  • Overtaking when prohibited

Level 4:

  • Dangerous overtaking
      - On a bend
      - Near the brow of a hill
  • Crossing a railway crossing when prohibited by lights
  • Reversing or doing a U-turn on a motorway

And lastly,

Quirky Belgian requirements;

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Although rarely enforced, in some cities you’ll find a fairly odd ruling which states that on one way streets, vehicles must park on the carriageway from the 1st to the 15th of the month on the side of the road where buildings have odd numbers, and from the 16th until the end of the month on the side where buildings have even numbers.

Ok – that’s it from the Go Rentals team for this post. Check back shortly for the 3rd and final instalment of the driving guide.

See you soon.

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Published on 26 Jan 2017

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