This guide explains how to get a Belgian SIM card and mobile phone, compare Belgian mobile operators and call a Belgian mobile number.
Belgium’s mobile coverage is pretty solid in terms of 2G/3G, though there are some parts where 4G connection to your Belgian mobile phone might not work as well. Most foreigners will be able to use their existing mobile in Belgium or buy a cheap Belgian SIM card, although some restrictions apply.
This guide provided by international sim card provider Sim Options explains everything you need on mobile phones in Belgium, including if you are eligible to get a Belgian SIM card on a mobile plan or restricted to only a pre-paid SIM card in Belgium. You can also find a list of the main Belgian mobile operators and an explanation about calling Belgian mobile numbers.
This guide includes:
- Can you use your mobile in Belgium?
- Compare Belgian mobile operators
- Belgian SIM cards
- Mobile phone plans in Belgium
- Calling Belgian phone numbers
- Using your Belgian mobile
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Can you use your mobile in Belgium?
All mobile networks in Belgium are GSM networks, so as long as your phone works with GSM rather than CDMA, the process of signing up with a Belgian mobile operator is a simple process.
If your home country operates on a GSM network or your mobile phone is compatible with GSM (such as some smartphones), an affordable option is to buy a Belgian SIM card and connect with the Belgian mobile operator of your choice.
For short term visits, you can ask your mobile service provider about using your mobile overseas. Roaming charges can be extortionate if you use your original SIM card, but if you are on a network that also operates in Belgium (ie Orange) changing to a Belgian SIM card shouldn’t be a problem. Your current service provider may also offer world phones that are compatible on both networks. If you are travelling with a SIM card from another EU country, roaming charges have been abolished as of 2017.
If your provider in your home country does not use the GSM network, then you won’t be able to use your phone in Belgium or get a Belgium mobile number. However, it is possible to rent a Belgian mobile phone from Rent 2 Connect (rent2connect.com) at the airport. If you are moving to Belgium long-term, you will typically need to buy a mobile phone in Belgium. Any phone shop will be able to arrange this for you.
Unless you have official residency in Belgium, a Belgian prepaid SIM card is your only option. If later you do become a resident, you can buy and register your Belgium prepaid SIM card online. Read Expatica’s guide for more information on how to become a resident in Belgium.
Before you travel check with your current provider to see if your phone is SIM-locked, which means it won’t function with a SIM card from a Belgium mobile operator. If it locked, you can ask for the unlock code. Most mobile phone companies charge a small fee for this and often have other terms and conditions attached, so check the unlock policy of your service provider on their website.
If you cannot get your handset unlocked, you will generally need to buy a new mobile phone in Belgium, or an unlocked phone from your home country.
Compare Belgian mobile operators
With a competitive market, there are many Belgian mobile operators to choose from, as well as online tools to compare mobile plans and SIM cards in Belgium.
There are three main Belgian mobile operators which claim the largest share of mobile users in Belgium (respectively), operating their own mobile networks:
- Proximus – proximus.be
- Orange – orange.be (formerly Mobistar)
- Base – base.be
There are numerous smaller operators which sometimes offer better price rates, although coverage may not always be as good in rural areas as the larger Belgian mobile providers:
- Mobile Vikings – mobilevikings.be (Base network)
- Telenet – telenet.be (Orange network)
- Scarlet – scarlet.be (Proximus network)
- Simyo – simyo.be (Base network)
- Ello Mobile – ello-mobile.be (Base network)
Proximus is the leading mobile operator in Belgium, with the best coverage in terms of 2G, 3G and 4G. It was the first Belgian mobile provider to introduce 4G back in 2012 and now covers 99 percent of the country. Orange introduced 4G for its clients back in 2014, and although still behind Proximus, is hot on its heels. Base is the Belgium mobile network with the least amount of coverage, but with the most MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators), meaning there are more smaller mobile providers in Belgium that use Base than the other two networks.
A few of the MVNOs on the Base network include Allo RTL, JIM Mobile and Ortel. Allo RTL SIM cards can only be purchased in the areas of Belgium designated as French-speaking, which includes Brussels. JIM Mobile is available in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium as well as Brussels. Ortel is only sold online, so non-residents won’t be able to purchase Ortel SIM cards. You can compare Belgian mobile operators and prices at besttariff.be.
You can check coverage in your area for all the main networks here, while some Belgian mobile operators also publish interactive maps on their websites:
Belgian SIM cards
If you use your mobile phone in Belgium from your home country, you will have to deal with high charges for roaming, including on incoming texts and calls. If the mobile company you already use has good international roaming rates, however, this can be a feasible option for short-term visits to Belgium. If your provider does not offer reasonable roaming rates and your phone is unlocked, it can sometimes be more cost-effective to buy a Belgian SIM card.
It is possible to buy a prepaid or pay-as-you-go Belgian SIM card if you plan to visit or live in Belgium. Most prepaid SIM cards in Belgium cost around EUR 15, which is converted into the same amount of credit; other Belgian mobile operators will ask for around EUR 5 for a SIM card plus the amount you want to add as credit.
Belgian prepaid SIM cards can be topped up in increments of EUR 5, starting with EUR 10 up to EUR 20–25 depending on the mobile provider. Take note that even when getting a prepaid SIM card in Belgium, you may need to show some form of valid ID at the shop, such as your passport.
However, similar to elsewhere, Belgian mobile services are cheaper if you sign up for a monthly contract. Pay-as-you-go is really only worth it for short trips, settling in or if you do not use your mobile phone in Belgium very often.
Mobile phone plans in Belgium
There are some requirements to qualify for a monthly cell phone plan, including showing proof of:
- a Belgian bank account or International Bank Account Number (IBAN)
- your address and residence
- a valid ID.
It is easy to shop around and compare and contrast all the best deals online or in person at any mobile shop. Phone shops are traditionally the place to sign up for your contract, but you can increasingly do it online and get your Belgian SIM card delivered to your address.
Remember that your phone has to work with a GSM network as well as being unlocked to work with a Belgian SIM card. You will need to buy a new phone if yours is not unlocked, either in Belgium or before you leave. There are some phones you can buy that work with GSM and CDMA networks, including many smartphones.
Calling Belgian mobile numbers
Belgium mobile numbers are similar to numbers in other European countries. However, Belgium uses a closed telephone dialing plan, which means the country code must be added even for domestic calls.
Belgian mobile numbers will have either nine or 10 digits, depending on the company. They start with different variations, followed by six more digits:
- 0468 (Telenet/Base)
- 047 (Proximus)
- 048 (Base)
- 049 (Orange).
To call a mobile number in Belgium, dial your international number code (if required to allow you to call an international number), and then proceed with ’32’, which is the country code for Belgium. Then dial the area code and the rest of the number. If you have issues trying to call a Belgium mobile phone number, try leaving out the first ‘0’ of the area code.
Using your Belgian mobile
Though you might be tempted by some Belgian mobile operators promising better deals than the main three, it’s important to check coverage in your area. Such offers may also not be feasible at first since many of them only allow you to sign up online and require the sort of identification that most newcomers haven’t arranged yet.
This is further complicated by the fact that a SIM card in Belgium won’t work until it has been registered, which is generally done in the shop or online. If you buy one and there is no process involved to register it, you are going to have some issues.
Click to the top of our guide to Belgian mobile phones.