Please sign in to post.

Advice on my itinerary

Hi,
I am new to this forum and need your input on my itinerary to Belgium. This is my very first solo trip. I am nervous but excited. Thank you for your help, everyone.

7/10-7/13 Bruges (day trip to Damme)
7/14-7/16 Ghent (day trip to Brussels & Antwerp)
7/17 Brussels
7/18 Get to Brussels Airport by 7am

I have read travel reports about safety concerns around North and South train station area in Brussels. Do you have information about this?

Emma

Posted by
4657 posts

The North and South station areas are not very pleasant, it's true. It's more the streets around than the station itself. If you're really worried, you can also get a train to and from Brussels Central station, which is in a slightly nicer area and better placed for most tourist areas.

Posted by
12040 posts

Brussel Nord is basically a business and government district. Not where most people probably want to visit, but not particularly unsafe either. Brussel Zuid is more residential and commercial, and although not particularly attractive either, I don't think it's any more or less safe than any other neighborhood.

Posted by
35 posts

Thank you, Philip and Tom, for the input. Any suggestions on my splitting the days between Bruges and Ghent? Using the Intercity train is the only way i know to get to the cities I want to visit. Is buying individual train tickets more economical? Thank you very much for the help.

Posted by
11181 posts

"Any suggestions on my splitting the days between Bruges and Ghent?"

Opinions about the "big four" in Belgium (Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp) are all over the place, as a search of the forum will show. My personal take (from 2002, when I was there) was that Antwerp was my favorite, Bruges was very nice (yes it's touristy, but particularly if you stay overnight, you can find the less crowded parts), Ghent took me time to warm up to but I enjoyed by the end of my day there, and Brussels I didn't care for, except for my wonderful Art Nouveau tour with ARAU: http://www.arau.org/en/tours. If I ever go back to Brussels, I'll plan my visit around ARAU's English tour schedule.

So, all I can suggest is you read as many opinions as possible, then plan to visit all four yourself (as you are doing) and form your own opinion.

"Using the Intercity train is the only way i know to get to the cities I want to visit. Is buying individual train tickets more economical?"

These cities are all connected by several trains per hour. The trains do not require advance purchase, so you can decide each day if you want to stay where you are or see another city. For example, if after 2 days in Bruges you decide you don't like it, you can take a day trip to Antwerp cheaply.

And, Belgian domestic trains go to all three Brussels stations, so you can get off at Central, which is indeed much closer to areas of interest than Brussels North or Brussels South stations. The train from the airport also goes to all three stations.

Posted by
35 posts

Thank you, Harold, for your feedback. I wonder how early the ticket windows in Brussels Central are open in the morning? My credit cards don't have a chip so I plan to purchase tickets with cash. Are there ATM machines (affiliated with banks) available? My hotel is close by St. Catherine metro stop. Also, do shuttle trains to the airport (BRU) stop by St. Catherine? If they do, does it mean that I don't have to get off at Brussels central station and the train will take me all the way to the airport? Thanks again.:)

Posted by
11613 posts

There is an ATM at Brussels Centraal on the same level as the TI office.

Posted by
11181 posts

" I wonder how early the ticket windows in Brussels Central are open in the morning?"

I don't know, but it will certainly be early enough to buy tickets for that day.

"Are there ATM machines (affiliated with banks) available?"

ATM's are as plentiful in European cities as they are in Seattle, and for the same reason: locals use them all the time. You'll have no problem finding them.

"Also, do shuttle trains to the airport (BRU) stop by St. Catherine?"

No, the trains stop at North, Central, and South. From Central, you can walk to your hotel, or take a taxi.

Posted by
35 posts

Thank you, Harold and Zoe, for the information. I feel much more confidence in taking trains by myself.

Posted by
12040 posts

. "Is buying individual train tickets more economical?"

It sounds like you'll be making heavy use of domestic rail during your trip, so you may want to consider buying the pass sold by the national train operator, NMBS (SNCB in French). I don't know what the current price is, but last I checked it was €67. It gives you 10 trips anywhere within Belgium. If you're interested, just buy it from the ticket window at any station. And note, this is not the same as the rip-off passes sold by third parties like RailEurope.

Posted by
35 posts

Tom,
Yes, I will use the intercity trains at least twice a day. Thank you for the suggestion. That is what I need.