Just moved to Belgium? Get connected with your new friends and colleagues with our guide to getting a mobile phone and SIM card in Belgium.
With almost as many smartphone users as people, you shouldn’t find it difficult to stay connected in Belgium. The country has excellent 4G coverage and a whole host of phone operators, many of which offer great options for expats and visitors alike.
Increased competition has pushed operators to create a range of affordable mobile services. But with so much choice, finding the right SIM can be confusing. To help you out, this guide to getting a mobile phone in Belgium includes the following information:
- The mobile network in Belgium
- Can I use my mobile phone in Belgium?
- Mobile phone operators in Belgium
- Prepaid vs mobile contracts
- Mobile phone plans in Belgium
- Prepaid SIM cards in Belgium
- Belgian mobile phone numbers
- Repairing a mobile phone in Belgium
- Belgian mobile phone laws
- Useful Resources
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The mobile network in Belgium
Fortunately, Belgium has one of the best mobile networks in Europe. It uses the GSM mobile network, instead of the CDMA network. This means that generally speaking, foreign visitors to the country won’t have a problem connecting to the Belgian network. Even if you’re arriving from a country that uses the CDMA network, your smartphone will still likely work in Belgium.
When it comes to networks, the vast majority of Belgium has 4G or 4G+ connectivity. From Antwerp in the north to Arlon in the south, you should be able to connect to 4G wherever you are. The only exception to this being certain rural areas – particularly to the south and east of the country – where you’ll be able to connect to 3G.
Wi-Fi connectivity in Belgium
Generally speaking, public Wi-Fi is not widely available in Belgium. However, Wi-Fi is often accessible in public buildings and institutions, including local government offices, museums, and some public transport terminals. If you’re looking to set-up Wi-Fi at home, read our Guide to setting up TV, home phone, and internet in Belgium.
Can I use my mobile phone in Belgium?
Most visitors and expats arriving in Belgium will find it easy to connect to the country’s mobile networks. The only exception is those traveling from a country that uses the CDMA – including Japan, parts of the US, and Canada. However, many smartphones will still connect on arrival although you should check with your operator beforehand on the costs you can expect to face.
Should your phone not be able to connect to the Belgian network, you can purchase a pre-paid mobile on arrival. These start at €30 for the most basic models. Alternatively, you can rent a phone at the airport or your arrival port, or pick up a world phone in your own country before traveling.
Roaming charges within the EU were abolished in 2017. This means that EU residents arriving in Belgium will likely find they can use their phone at the same rates they would enjoy at home; including data usage. However, you should double-check this with your operator before you travel to avoid any unexpected charges.
If you’re moving to Belgium – or planning a longer-term stay – you may want to buy a local SIM card or even a brand-new phone. There are plenty of mobile operators to choose from. Many offer a range of deals depending on usage and budget. Some, including Proximus and Scarlet, also offer discounts should you choose to take out another service, such as home internet or TV.
Unless you are registered as a resident in Belgium, a Belgian prepaid SIM card is your only option. If you do acquire a residency permit later, though, you can buy and register your Belgium prepaid SIM card online. Read our checklist for moving to Belgium to make sure you know what to expect.
Mobile phone operators in Belgium
There is a range of operators in Belgium, which makes competition fierce. Mobile package deals typically offer good value for money. As such, it pays to shop around. It’s also a good idea to compare mobile operators as many offer add-on benefits, including discounted home phone, internet, and TV. Mobile operators in Belgium include:
Proximus is the leading mobile operator in Belgium. It was the first Belgium provider to introduce 4G back in 2012 and has the best coverage at around 99% of the country. Orange introduced 4G in 2014, while Base also offers 4G. The smaller providers use one of those three networks, meaning all operators have good quality 4G connectivity.
Comparing Belgian mobile phone operators
Still not sure what Belgian operator to choose? Thankfully, there are plenty of options when it comes to comparing mobile phone plans and tariffs. Comparison sites like Aanbieders can give you a better idea of what type of plans you can choose from, and many have additional deals for new customers.
Mobile phone coverage in Belgium
Mobile coverage in Belgium is unsurprisingly better in the larger cities, however, rural areas in Flanders and Wallonia are still well connected when compared to other countries. If you want to check coverage before buying, visit www.nperf.com and check your local area.
Proximus and Orange generally have the best coverage throughout Belgium, although their competitors also perform well. For those living close to the border, choosing a larger provider can be the best option. Some smaller networks don’t have strong connections in border towns. This means that mobile phones can easily switch to Dutch, French, or German connections, which could see you unknowingly paying more for calls and data.
Alternatively, if you are moving to one of the major cities such as Brussels or Antwerp, you might find one of the smaller operators is a better fit for your needs.
Prepaid vs mobile contracts
As with many countries, expats have the choice of prepaid SIM cards or mobile contracts in Belgium. However, be aware that you won’t be able to take out a mobile contract unless you have registered at your local town hall. For many expats planning a longer stay, registration will take place soon after you arrive. However, if you’re only staying for the short-term you will be limited to prepaid SIMs.
Regardless of how long you plan to stay, prepaid SIMs are generally the more flexible option. With these, you’ll be able to make calls, send text messages, and use mobile data. This is particularly popular for expats who already own a phone and simply want a Belgian SIM card to get by. As well as not needing to register at the town hall, SIM cards also offer users more freedom as they don’t involve signing up for a lengthy contract.
However, others will prefer the security and cost advantages of a mobile contract. Generally speaking, your calls, texts, and data will work out cheaper on a contract if you use your phone a lot. This can be a good option if you are planning on staying in Belgium long-term or want the latest smartphone.
Mobile phone plans in Belgium
Belgian mobile phone contracts generally offer cheaper rates than pre-paid SIM cards and typically include great deals on unlimited calls, text, and internet use. These deals can work out even better if you opt for a mobile package that includes TV, home phone, and internet connection. These are available from certain providers, including Proximus and Scarlet.
Mobile contracts in Belgium are either SIM-only or include a handset and are available for one, two, and three years. What you pay each month will depend on how much you use it and your contract. You may also need to pay an activation fee, usually a one-off payment. All monthly charges are collected from your Belgian bank account. You can also purchase additional minutes or data should you use up your monthly allowance.
How to get a mobile phone contract in Belgium
Signing up for a Belgian mobile phone contract can be done easily in-store or online. If you order online, your SIM and/or handset should be delivered to your home address within a week. To sign up, you will likely need to provide the following:
- a Belgian bank account or International Bank Account Number (IBAN)
- your address and proof of residence (registration documents)
- a valid ID
Prepaid SIM cards
Prepaid SIM cards give you a little more freedom, but charges are generally more expensive than a contract. However, if you don’t expect to use your mobile phone in Belgium much, prepaid SIMs are the better and easier option. And if you’re not registered with your local town hall, prepaid SIMs are your only option.
It is possible to use your phone from home for a short while. Unless you’re arriving from another EU country, you’ll pay high roaming charges. This includes charges for incoming texts and calls. However, roaming is only meant for short-term visitors, and not meant to be used permanently. If you’re staying longer, you should buy a Belgian SIM card. This will also work out cheaper in the long-run.
Most prepaid SIM cards in Belgium cost around €15, which converts into the same amount of credit. Some Belgian mobile operators ask for around €5 for a SIM card plus the amount you want to add as credit. You can buy one online, in a mobile phone shop, and some convenience stores. Bear in mind that you’ll need a Belgian address to receive the SIM card should you order it online. You will also need to register your SIM card before you can use it freely.
Belgian prepaid SIM cards can usually be topped up in increments of €5, depending on the mobile provider. Take note that even when getting a prepaid SIM card in Belgium, you may need to show a valid form of ID. You can either top-up in a mobile phone shop or at most convenience stores and supermarkets. Alternatively, you can top-up online or using your phone.
Belgian mobile phone numbers
Unlike other European countries, Belgium uses a closed telephone dialing plan, which means the country code must be added even for domestic calls. The country code for Belgium is “+32”.
Belgian mobile numbers will have either nine or 10 digits, depending on the company. They start with different variations, followed by six more digits. Mobile numbers for the three largest operators are as follows:
- 047 (Proximus)
- 048 (Base)
- 049 (Orange)
To call a mobile number in Belgium, dial your international number code, and then proceed with ‘+32’, the country code for Belgium. Then dial the area code and the rest of the number. If you have issues trying to call a Belgian phone number, try leaving out the first ‘0’ of the area code.
Repairing a mobile phone in Belgium
Have you dropped your phone after one too many local brews? Or maybe you’ve spilled mayonnaise on it? Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to get your smartphone repaired in Belgium. Some operators will be able to provide repair services if you take your phone into one of their stores. Manufacturers like Apple will also offer this instore service.
Alternatively, you’ll be able to find mobile phone repair shops in most major towns and cities. You can search online for the most convenient location and take your phone along to the professionals.
Belgian mobile phone laws
When visiting or moving to a new country, it’s essential to understand the local laws of the land. Here are some of the things you need to know when it comes to using your phone in Belgium:
- As with most other countries, using a mobile phone while driving in Belgium is against the law and can result in a hefty fine or suspension.
- If your mobile phone is stolen, you should report it immediately to both your Belgian mobile operator and the police to not be charged for any calls made.
- Belgian Insitute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (Regulatory body of mobile phone operators in Belgium)