| ||INFORMATION STATION|
|Facts at a Glance|
| ||Full country name: Kingdom of Belgium|
Area: 30,518 sq km
Population: 10.2 million
Capital city: Brussels (pop: 980,000)
People: 55% Flemish (of Teutonic origin), 33% Walloons (French Latin) and about 10% foreigners.
Language: Flemish, French and German. Most Belgians also speak English.
Religion: 75% Roman Catholic
Government: constitutional parliamentary monarchy
Prime Minister: Guy Verhofstadt
Squeezed between the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France, Belgium is one of Europe's tiddlers. The north is flat, the south dominated by the picturesque Ardennes and the 65km North Sea coastline monopolised by resorts, except for a few patches of windswept dunes. Lower Belgium is criss-crossed by a network of canals. Seasons are mild, but the warmest months (July and August) are also the wettest.
| ||GDP: US$259.2 billion|
GDP per head: US$25,300
Annual growth: 2.8%
Major industries: Services, agriculture, chemicals, engineering, metal products, car manufacturing, iron and steel, textiles and food
Major trading partners: EU (esp. Germany, France, Netherlands, UK), USA
Member of EU: yes
Euro zone participant: yes
|Facts for the Traveler|
| ||Visas: EU citizens can enter on an official identity card. Travellers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, the USA and many other countries just need a valid passport (no visa). Unless you're a citizen of a developing country, you can probably stay up to three months.|
Health risks: None, except the cost of medical care.
Time: GMT/UTC +1 (+2 in summer)
Electricity: 220V, 50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
Tourism: 13 million visitors annually
|Money & Costs|
| ||Currency:euro (EUR), formerly Belgian franc|
Budget: US$7-10Mid-range: US$10-25Top-end: US$25+
Budget: US$20-50Mid-range: US$50-110Top-end: US$110+
Being a pocket-size sort of country, Belgium is cheap to get around in, but budget hotels are both rare and heavily booked - especially in summer. On the food front, eating out is far better for your palate than it is for your wallet. Travelling modestly, you could survive on $30 per day. But if you don't fancy sleeping in public toilets, figure on at least $50 per day.
Banks are the best place to change your money, charging around US$4 commission on travellers' cheques. Out of hours, there are the less generous exchange bureaus. All major credit cards are widely accepted. Tipping isn't obligatory, and haggling is not exactly a national pastime.
|When to Go|
You're unlikely to encounter extremes in weather during an average Belgian year. April to September is the warmest time, but be prepared for grey skies and soggy streets no matter what time of year you go. Visitors may be forgiven for assuming umbrellas and raincoats are part of the Belgian national dress.
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