Keeping in Touch in Belgium

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A bpost postbox for mail in Belgium Expats living in Belgium can easily keep in touch with friends and family around the world, as well as contacts in their new home. The telecommunication system in Belgium is modern, efficient and reliable.
Mobile coverage is comprehensive - unless a person plans on spending a good deal of time taking hikes in the Ardennes Mountains or driving in tunnels. Cafés and bars often offer free Wi-Fi, although some places only provide service to subscribers of a particular mobile phone company.

Hardware and service provision certainly aren't hard to come by, with both fixed and mobile phones available at company stores like Mobistar or Proximus. To see a wide range of options in one place, bigger stores such as Vanden Borre, Krefel and Carrefour stock phones and computers alongside other electronics.

Similarly, for expats who prefer to stick to good old snail mail, Belgian post offices offer customers the same services (and long lines) as most other post offices around the world.

After sorting out the most pressing parts of the relocation process, expats can learn about different service providers with the help of Meilleur Tarif (Best Tariff), a website run by the government’s Institute for Postal Services and Communications.

The site, available in English, French and Dutch, calculates the best service according to the customer's needs and wants. What's more, most of the companies listed can offer combination packages that include telephone, mobile and Internet services. It may be worth contacting the providers directly to purchase, though.

Landline phones in Belgium

To subscribe to a phone service in Belgium, clients must be over 18 years old and show proof of identification. Installation can take anywhere up to 12 days and prices vary depending on the plan and number of lines being installed, as well as travel and service time.

The most basic service plans include messages, call-back, caller ID for missed calls and three-way calling. The most popular phone companies in Belgium are Belgian Telecom, Base, Voo and Belgacom.

Mobile phones in Belgium

Mobile phones are referred to as GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) in Belgium. GSM stores are easily found in most towns, and have websites displaying their stock and services. 

Mobile phone companies require identification, proof of address and a bank account number for service; logistics that may take expats some time to establish if new to Belgium.

Once an expat has the proper documentation in order, they can either choose a pre-paid or contract service, with most foreigners choosing the second, post-paid option. Pre-paid plans may look cheaper at first, but going beyond the allowed minutes may prove much more costly in the end. Nonetheless, both options do have their conveniences.

Adding more minutes (talk time) to a mobile phone is easy; phone cards are conveniently sold in grocery stores and gas stations at various denominations. The most common mobile providers in Belgium are Base, Mobistar and Proximus.

Internet in Belgium

A Proximus mobile Internet device in Belgium
Expats will find most households are equipped with high-speed broadband, with a choice between unlimited ADSL or fixed-bandwidth contracts.

To take out a contract, most being for a minimum of twelve months, customers need to provide identification, proof of address and a bank account number. Plans vary and do not have to be in conjunction with a person’s phone line.

Belgacom, Belgian Telecom and Telenet are a few of the most prominent Internet service providers in Belgium.

Postal services in Belgium

Mail is delivered Monday through Friday in Belgium, and most post office hours are from 9.30am to 4.30pm, with an hour or two break around noon. Some post offices may open on Saturday mornings.

If the recipient of a package is not home at the time of delivery, the postal carrier will put a notice in their mailbox. The delivery will be kept approximately two weeks at the post office; which is good to know when expecting a package but expecting to be out of town.
Bring a legitimate form of identity to collect a package, and don’t automatically assume a package can be picked up on behalf of a spouse or partner.

Very often expats will need to pay a fee or tax (sometimes as much as the initial postage cost itself) to receive packages arriving from outside Belgium. As the payment must be in cash, keeping some extra bills around the house during holiday time and birthdays is a good policy. If the recipient doesn’t have the required amount of money on them, the postal carrier will simply keep the package and leave.

The Belgian post office is officially called bpost, and its red and white swerve logo hangs in at least one window in every town. Large supermarkets like Carrefour and Delhaize often also have postage points where customers can buy stamps and send packages, although not all of them are equipped to mail international packages. Many gas stations and convenience stores also sell stamps.

As bpost and Banque de la Poste are part of the same organisation, clients can also do bank transactions, receive and send funds via Western Union, and even buy lottery tickets.