Keeping in Touch 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 telecommunications system in Belgium is modern, efficient and reliable.
Mobile coverage is comprehensive with cafés and bars often offering free Wi-Fi.
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.
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
Belgium is under a closed telephone numbering plan, but retains the code ‘0’ for all national calling and, while international calls can be expensive, those with broadband will find Skype to be the most cost-effective way to make long-distance calls. The international access code for Belgium is +32. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). Public phones take coins or phone cards.
To subscribe to a phone service in Belgium, clients must be over 18 years old and show proof of identification. Installation can take 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 Proximus.
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 in various denominations. The most common mobile providers in Belgium are Base, Mobistar and Proximus.
Internet in Belgium
Expats will find that most households are equipped with high-speed broadband, with a choice between unlimited ADSL or fixed-bandwidth contracts. Internet cafés are also widely available in Belgium.
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. Many Internet providers in Belgium offer full triple play services which include television, Internet and telephone.
Proximus, Scarlet, Mobistar and Belgian Telecom are a few of the most prominent Internet service providers in Belgium.
Cable Internet providers include Telenet, VOO and SFR Belgium, with each offering different speeds. Bandwidth in Belgium is relatively fast, but some Internet providers have bandwidth caps in place to limit the amount of data transferred.
Television in Belgium
Belgium’s public television is controlled by the VRT (Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroeporganisatie) for Dutch speaking regions such as Flanders and Brussels, while the RTBF (Radio Télévision Belge de la Communauté Français) controls the French-speaking regions of Wallonia and Brussels, and the BRF (Belgischer Rundfunk) controls the German community. Satellite channels are available in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia and are operated by Airfield Belgium or Digidream.
Postal services in Belgium
Mail is delivered Monday through Friday in Belgium, and most post office hours are from 9.30am to 4.30pm. 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 for approximately two weeks at the post office. A legitimate form of identification is needed to collect a package.
Expats will often need to pay a fee or tax (sometimes as much as the initial postage cost itself) to receive packages arriving from outside of Belgium. If the recipient doesn’t have the required amount of money on them, the postal carrier will simply keep the package.
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 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 and send and receive funds via Western Union.