From getting a Belgian driver’s licence to registering a foreign car and paying road taxes in Belgium, this guide will get you driving in Belgium.
If you’re living in Belgium, there are specific requirements in registering your car and paying the relevant taxes once you become an official Belgian resident. Typically, Belgian car registration and licence can apply once you become an official Belgian resident.
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Driving in Belgium
Driving in Belgium is the same as in most continental European nations, on the right hand side of the road. All car owners should carry a warning triangle, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and a hi-visibility jacket or vest in their vehicle at all times, along with relevant licence, registration and insurance documentation.
Who can drive in Belgium? Applying for a Belgian driving licence
If you are a European citizen, you do not need to obtain a separate Belgian licence if you already have a licence for your home country. Other foreigners residing in Belgium long-term may use an international driving licence initially, but are advised to apply for a valid Belgian driving licence when issued with a Belgian identity card.
An application must be made at the driving licence service of your local commune, and can be done at the same time as your residence registration. It is required that you provide an existing driver’s licence, passport-type photographs and a residence permit. Expect to wait for several weeks before receiving the Belgian licence.
Belgium has agreed with most countries to automatically exchange a foreign driver’s licence, however, other nationals may need to take a Belgian driving test to qualify. Non-EU nationals can check the government website for licence exchange rules: mobilit.belgium.be. The Belgian government allows a one-year grace period for those who need to pass a driving test, provided they have an international licence.
Bear in mind that the minimum driving age in Belgium is 18, so those who are 17 or younger will not be unable to drive on their own, even if they have a licence in their home country.
Read more about exchanging a foreign licence in Belgium.
Belgian registration tax
Once you are registered as a Belgian resident, the car you drive must also be registered in Belgium within the next six months if you plan to stay in Belgium for more than one year – or you could risk a fine. Registration tax in Belgium is for your number plate, which stays with you and not with the car. After registering your car with the DIV (Direction des Immatriculations des Véhicules/ Dienst voor Inschrijving van de Voertuigen), you will get the rear number plate in the post (EUR 30) and will have to arrange a copy. Regular inspections are required after registration, or after a car is four years old.
If you brought your car from abroad, you will need the registration to be permanently moved. This may mean making modifications to the car to meet Belgian laws. There is a six-month period in which the registration can be made with the DIV, although it is generally required once you register with your local commune. An import tax will also apply at customs, about 10 percent of the value of the vehicle plus VAT.
Circulation tax (taxe de mise en circulation/ belasting op inverkeerstelling) is a one-off payment made upon the purchase of a new or used car, based on the power of the engine. This is designed to curb the use of fuel-heavy cars, so check the tax bracket you fall into when buying a car.
Belgian road tax
Your annual road tax is also based on the power of your engine. It is payable annually and is higher on a second car.
Speed limits in Belgium
General speed limits are 30–50km/h in built-up areas, 90km/h out of town and 120km/h on motorways and four-lane roads. On entering any town or village, the speed limit comes into effect at the white background signboard bearing the community’s name. Radar speed traps are common, particularly on the highway, where drivers are more tempted to speed.
Belgian traffic information
Traffic congestion is common in Belgium. For traffic information, you can see traffic reports on the federal police’s website, in Brussels and on RTBF radio and its website, to which you can also report traffic problems at 0800 48 400. You can also call the number for all of Belgium (0900 10 280), or the regional authorities: Flanders 0800 122 66; Brussels 0800 940 01; Wallonia: 0800 119 01.
Parking in Belgium
Parking in town centres is controlled by parking meters, or in so-called blue zones by using a special disc (showing the time of arrival), which can be bought from supermarkets, newsagents or tobacconists. If using meters, a ticket must be bought from a machine and placed clearly on the dashboard, showing valid hours.
Watch out for temporary signs left by the commune to indicate that the road needs to be kept clear for road works or the like. Ignore these at your peril as your car will be towed away. You can’t park less than 15m from tram and bus stops, either. Certain very busy streets are marked with a red triangle stating Axe Rouge/Ax Rode, meaning that no parking is permitted from 7am to 9.30am and from 4pm to 6pm. Additionally, a yellow line on the curb indicates no parking.
Residents can also apply for a municipal parking card that allows parking within a certain distance of their residence. Check your local municipality details. In Brussels capital, this application is free for one car per family and paid thereafter.
Cyclists on the road in Belgium
Throughout the 19 communes in the Brussels Region, you will see small signs that indicate where cyclists have permission to jump red traffic lights, provided they turn right or continue straight on and have checked for zero danger of oncoming traffic.