Belgium is a small country with loads of interesting places to visit.
In the following chapter you can find practical information about your transport to Antwerp, the possibilities to travel inside the city, and the means to visit other parts of Belgium.
Each section contains a detailed description about the various existing possibilities (bike, bus, train, car,...). We assume that public transport will be the most important way of travelling for exchange students.
GETTING TO ANTWERP
The international airport of Brussels (Zaventem) is the most frequently used gateway to Antwerp. There are flights from all major European cities as well as from the most important overseas metropoles. Various airlines fly into Brussels airport. From the airport you can travel to Antwerp by taking the airport express bus or train. The airport express bus runs every hour and reaches the centre of Antwerp in approximately 40 minutes. It runs from 7.00 until 23.00 (Brussels airport to Antwerp) and from 05.30 until 22.00 (Antwerp to Brussels airport). It costs €8 for a single ticket (info:tel. + 32 (0)2 723 23 23). The train to Antwerp takes approximately one hour (you have to change at "Brussel Noord" station) and costs €6.20 for a single ticket.
If you fly with Ryanair, you will arrive at the airport of Brussels South, near Charleroi. You can then buy a 'bulk' ticket for €10 at the Ryanair desk at Charleroi Airport. This is a one-way ticket that enables you to go by public bus (line A) to any train station in Belgium. It takes approximately 1h and 30 minutes to reach Antwerp Central Station from Charleroi.
Antwerp is easy to reach by train. International railway lines link Brussels and Antwerp to several other major European cities. The European high-speed train project includes the Thalys, the Eurostar and the Eurotunnel. There are direct rail links with different cities in France, the Netherlands and Germany. Antwerp can be reached from the UK by Eurostar via Brussels, or by taking the ferry-rail link via Ostend (Ramsgate/Ostend) Zeebrugge (Hull/Zeebrugge). Antwerp has two main stations: Central Station and Berchem station.
www.b-rail.be: information about the Belgian rail-network: train connections (travelling in Belgium and Europe), timetables and prices.
If you are looking for a cheap way to come to Antwerp you could travel with 'Eurolines'. The Eurolines bus goes to the centre of the city (Van Stralenstraat 8, 2060 Antwerpen). Within the province and the city of Antwerp transport is organised by the public transport company "De Lijn". Buses leave to all parts of teh city from Antwerp Central Station. From the bus station "Rooseveltplaats", which is close to the Central Station, there are direct bus links to various other towns and cities.
www.eurolines.com: detailed information on destinations, timetables and prices
www.delijn.be: information about trams and buses
All destinations are within easy reach by car. Antwerp itself lies at the crossroads of the E17, E19, E34, and E313 motorways.
GETTING AROUND IN ANTWERP
By bike (or motorbike)
Cycling and walking are amongst the most popular ways of getting to classes. Anyone may ride a bicycle in Belgium; there is no minimum age, and no license or insurance are required. As bicycle theft is a problem, be sure to lock your bike at all times. Bicycle storage is often available in railway stations and schools, either free of charge or for a small fee. Second-hand bikes can be bought from several bike shops or from second-hand shops such as the "Koopjesgigant", Terbekehoflaan 21, 2610 Wilrijk (tel. +32 3 877 26 12). The local police station also organises big sales of recovered bicycles on specific dates (for more information: "stadsmagazijn": tel. +32 3 248 29 67). Local newspapers include 'for sale' advertisements. Prices vary, but you should be able to find a decent second-hand bike for around €80-€100.
- Antwerp: "Koopjeskrant" (sales paper) is on sale in newspaper shops
- "Antwerpse Post", "Streekkrant" (free door-to-door distribution)
Or you can check the Internet:
By public transport
Belgium has the most dense rail network in the world. Trains run at regular intervals between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.; later in the evenings only a selection of trains run until about 11 p.m. Trains run less frequently during the weekends. There are first and second class compartments, and a standard return (round-trip) fare is double the price of a single (one-way) fare. Smoking is not allowed. Keep in mind that a ticket is only valid for one day. Children under the age of six travel for free, and children under twelve at half price. You can download a time-table containing schedules on www.b-rail.be. All train connections, travel options and prices can be consulted at the website of the railway company in Dutch, French, English, and German at www.b-rail.be.
Some interesting travel options and special offers:
- If you are under 26, you can buy a 'Go-Pass', which will take you to any railway station in Belgium for a set price (passes are bought for ten one-way trips for €41.15). The Go-Pass is valid for one year, and destination and day of departure have to be filled in by the passenger before boarding the train.
- Up to 5 people of any age can travel together on a 'Multi-Pass', which will take your group to any railway station in Belgium and back again for a set price (€37 for a maximum of 3 people, €43 for a maximum of 4 and €47 for a maximum of 5 people). The ticket is valid for one day, and date and destination are mentioned.
- A 'weekend ticket' (Friday night 7 p.m. until Sunday night) gives you the opportunity to travel cheaply during weekends (up to 50% discount).
- 'A day at the seaside / in the Ardennes ticket' will get you to your destination for half price, but only during the school holidays (the level of discount depends on whether you are travelling alone or in a group).
- For special cultural or sporting events, train tickets at reduced prices, which include the entrance fee, may be bought at the station.
- Depending on the duration of your stay in Belgium and how often you travel by train, it may be worthwhile buying a monthly discount card (50%). Remember to take along a photograph and some proof of your student status.
Telephone numbers of some information desks:
Antwerp Central Station: +32 3 204 20 40
Berchem Station: +32 3 204 21 11
Useful Internet sites:
www.b-rail.be: train connections, timetables and prices (in Dutch, French, English, and German)
www.buzzy.be: the site of "De Lijn" for their youth magazine (also available on every bus and tram)
Trams and buses
Antwerp has a dense public transportation network. Buses and trams are available to take you to many different parts of the city. With the tickets mentioned below you can travel throughout the whole district of Antwerp. This means that you can travel freely in the city of Antwerp and its surrounding suburbs (Berchem, Berendrecht, Borgerhout, Deurne, Ekeren, Hoboken, Lillo, Merksem, Wilrijk and Zandvliet).
For more detailed information go to the "De Lijn" shop in the city centre (Rooseveltplaats tel. +32 3 233 40 20). The following rates apply when you take a tram or bus:
- A single ticket within the city: €1. You can purchase this from the tram or bus driver. It allows you to use public transportation (buses and trams) for one hour. However, it can be less expensive to buy one of the following tickets.
- A Tov ticket will cost you €1.50. This can be bought from the bus or tram driver. With this type of ticket you take the tram or bus on the first leg of your journey and then return by taxi, in which case you will get a rebate of €2 per person on the taxi fare.
- A multiple ticket costs €0.60 per person and can be obtained from the tram or bus driver when you are travelling with a group of at least 5 people.
- If you have to travel several times a week, it is cheaper to buy a "Lijnkaart" for 10 journeys, for which you pay €7.50 (i.e. €0.75 per journey).
- A day pass in the city costs €3 and can be used on trams or buses within the city all day long.
- A monthly pass costs €19.30 for those under 25 years of age, or €24.50 for those between 25 and 64. This can be bought from one of the "De Lijn" shops. It is only worth buying a monthly pass when you use public transportation on a regular and frequent basis.
Whenever you travel by tram or bus you have to validate your ticket by inserting it into the yellow device that can be found on buses and trams. Once you have done this, your ticket will be valid for sixty minutes. Press one of the blue buttons to ring the bell when you are about to reach your destination - otherwise the driver might pass your stop.
During the weekend, after a night in the city centre, night buses are provided. A ticket costs €1.50 and can be bought on the bus. A timetable for these night buses is available in any "De Lijn" shop.
As prices are subject to change please telephone +32 3 218 14 06 or consult www.delijn.be.
In general, taxis are quite expensive and hence not very student-friendly. You always have to pay a standard rate (even before you start driving) which is €2.48 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and €4.34 between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. On top of this you have to pay a specific amount (€1.04) for each kilometre travelled. On occasion there are promotional offers that make travelling by taxi more affordable.
You can find taxis at various locations around Antwerp, such as the Central Station, Rooseveltplaats, Groenplaats, etc. It is also possible to call a taxi or hail one in the street by raising your hand.
Here are some telephone numbers of a few taxi companies in Antwerp:
|ATM||03 216 01 60|
|STAR TAXI||03 216 16 16|
|ANTWERP TAX||03 238 38 38|
In Belgium, traffic moves on the right-hand side of the road. Unless otherwise indicated, the speed limit is 120 km/h on motorways, 90 km/h on other roads and 50 km/h in built-up areas. Around schools and in some residential areas, there is a speed limit of 30 km/h. Drinking and driving is a serious offence in Belgium. If you are breathalysed and found positive (i.e. if your blood contains more than 0.5% of alcohol, a limit you can reach by drinking 2 glasses of beer or small glasses of wine), harsh penalties will be imposed. In Belgium, there is a well-known campaign to prevent drink-driving. This is the so-called "BOB-campaign", which suggests that when a group of people go out for the evening they should always appoint one person (who is called BOB for the night) who stays sober so that he or she can drive everyone hoA href="http://www.toerismevlaanderen.be">www.toerismevlaanderen.be
Different kinds of travel guide are available to fulfil every need. The more adventurous will appreciate the following:Rough Guide, Lonely Planet or Le Guide du Routard. If you are looking for more in-depth information try Insight Guides. A wide selection of travel guides can also be found at the public library, or are available to buy at the Fnac bookshop (Groenplaats) in the city centre of Antwerp.
The best way to become well-informed about different travel opportunities is to drop in at the provincial or local tourist information centres. Nearly every small town has a tourist information centre where you can get information about transport, accommodation and places of interest. You are most likely to find them at the "Grote Markt" in the city centre.
There are many different types of accommodation to choose from when travelling in Belgium:
- Hotels: the website "Toerisme Vlaanderen" is a database of hotels where you can choose your ideal type of accommodation, or alternatively have a look at www.hotels-belgium.com.
- Bed and breakfast or "gastenkamers": check at the tourist information centre.
- Youth hostels: there are 22 youth hostels in Flanders. The "Vlaamse Jeugdherbergcentrale" (Van Stralenstraat 40, 2060 Antwerp, + 32 3 232 72 18) will give you an overview of what is available. You can also find a list on their website: www.vjh.be. A list of youth hostels in the French-speaking part of the country can be found at www.laj.be - or alternatively call the main office for more information (tel. +32 2 219 56 76).
- Campsites: a useful website can be found at www.kompascamping.be.
Travelling outside BelgiumTravel agencies
Some travel agencies offer special student prices and specialise in organising trips and holidays for students:
- Usit connections, Melkmarkt 23, 2000 Antwerp, 03 225 31 61, www.connections.be
- Joker Toerisme, St. Jacobsmarkt 40, Antwerp, 03 231 72 68, www.joker.be
- Airstop, St. Jacobsmarkt 84, 2000 Antwerp, 070 23 31 88, www.airstop.be
If you would like to visit some of Belgium's neighbouring countries check the Eurolines buses website or (www.b-rail.be) for details of travelling around Europe by train. Amsterdam, Paris or London are all worth a visit. There is a direct rail link between Antwerp and Amsterdam (2h 10 minutes). Paris can be easily reached by taking the train called the Thalys - 1h 30 minutes via Brussels. (Thalys tickets are cheaper if you book them well in advance.) And London is only a three hour journey away by train (the Eurostar).