Home Living in Belgium Transport Guide to public transport in Belgium
Last update on August 12, 2020
Christian Lapper Written by Christian Lapper

Leaving the car at home? Learn everything you need to know about trains, buses, trams, and more with our guide to public transport in Belgium.

Expats arriving in Belgium will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the local public transit. As well as a growing cycling network and easy access to some of Europe’s biggest cities, Belgium has a quietly impressive public transport system.

When it comes to getting from A (Antwerp) to B (Brussels), Belgium has you covered. To help you on your way, our guide to public transport in Belgium includes the following information:

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Introduction to Belgian public transit

Belgium has an excellent public transport network, offering accessible and efficient travel across the country. This makes moving around Belgium without a car relatively straightforward, whether you’re commuting, vacationing, or seeing friends and loved ones in other regions.

Antwerp station public transport Belgium

There are four public transport operators in Belgium. All public trains in the country are operated by SNCB/NMBS (Société nationale des chemins de fer belges/Nationale Maatschappij der Belgische Spoorwegen). For buses, trams, and metro trains, operations are split regionally:

However, regardless of where you are or how you travel, you will always be able to use your MoBIB card for payment. Should you buy individual tickets at a station or from a bus driver, you may need to buy another ticket if you want to change to a service run by a different operator.

MoBIB card

One of the most important things to have when taking public transport in Belgium is a MoBIB card, standing for Mobility in Belgium. Introduced in 2018, the MoBIB card is a payment system that has revolutionized public transport in Belgium. The card operates across the country for all transport options, making it much easier to switch between modes and companies.

There are two types of MoBIB card: anonymous (basic) and personal. You can buy cards online, at stations, and at certain stockists. You can load a number of products onto your card, including monthly/annual subscriptions, multi-trip tickets, and more. These are often called JUMP tickets and come in a variety of options. However, to load certain products, you may need a personal MoBIB card.

In addition to trains, trams, and buses, MoBIB cards can also be used as payment for car parking and car- and bike-sharing platforms. This gives you plenty of transport options across Belgium.

Taking the bus in Belgium

Like a lot of other countries, the most common form of public transit in Belgium is the humble bus. Whether you find yourself disconnected from the train network or simply traveling into the suburban fringes of the larger cities, chances are a bus will be your best bet. Thankfully, buses in Belgium are relatively cheap, accessible, and efficient.

Bus in Ghent

Bus operators vary depending on your region, but you’ll be able to use your MoBIB card throughout the country. If you don’t have a MoBIB card, you can buy a ticket at stations, kiosks, and even on the bus itself, although this is more expensive. Some buses let you take your bike on-board, however, this is not always possible so check ahead before you travel.

Top tips for traveling by bus in Belgium

Getting on the bus? Read these tips beforehand:

  • If you buy a single ticket, they are valid for 60 minutes after you validate your ticket on board. In that time period, you can change lines or modes as often as you like.
  • An increasing number of buses across the country have free Wi-Fi onboard, allowing you to catch up with any life admin on the go.
  • Don’t miss the last bus home. Routes in more rural areas often finish early, so check timetables before traveling.
  • However, in larger cities, you’ll find night bus connections operating on Friday and Saturday night, helping you get home safely after a night out.

Coach travel in Belgium

Belgium is a compact country, which means everywhere is relatively close to everywhere else. In fact, it’s so compact that you might not consider taking a coach to get you between Belgian cities. However, coach travel can offer a cheap alternative to train travel so it might be worth your while to check your options on Flixbus or Omio before you travel.

Coach travel is also a popular choice for those heading out of the country. Regular coach services to the UK, France, Germany, and beyond operate from Belgium. These are often cheaper than train tickets and offer a more environmentally-friendly option to air travel. Visit Omio to see your coach travel options.

Top tips for traveling by coach in Belgium

Catching a coach? Read these tips beforehand:

  • Coach stations and stops aren’t necessarily in the most obvious places. In fact, they are often located on the edges of cities and towns so make sure you check locations ahead of time to avoid missing your ride.
  • Coaches will take comfort breaks at rest stops during longer journeys. Here, you can buy refreshments and use the restrooms.
  • If you’re traveling internationally, make sure you take your passport if you need one at your destination.

Traveling by metro in Belgium

In Belgium, traveling by metro can only mean one thing: you’re in Brussels. The country’s solitary metro network has four standard metro lines and a further three ‘premetro’ lines, which are similar to tram lines. In total, the integrated network has 69 stations across the seven lines, stretching from the city center out to the Brussels suburbs. Charleroi also has a “metro” system, although this consists only of premetro and tram lines.

metro in Brussels

The Brussels metro is operated by STIB/MIVB, and you can use your MoBIB card throughout the network. Alternatively, single-trip and multi-trip tickets are available, and can also be used on other transport modes within the city. Brussels can get very congested with road traffic, so the metro is a great alternative for getting across the city center quickly.

Top tips for traveling by metro in Belgium

Going underground? Read these tips beforehand:

  • Single or multiple ride tickets must be validated on entry to the metro and are then valid for 60 minutes, regardless of how often you change mode.
  • The metro can get particularly busy during morning and evening rush hour, so consider traveling outside these hours if possible.
  • Unfamiliar with where you’re going? Check out the STIB/MIVB journey planner and get to your destination efficiently.

Train travel in Belgium

Belgium has a dense railway network, making trains the quickest and most efficient way to travel between towns and cities. As well as helping you explore Belgium, the stations themselves are well worth checking out. The impressive Liège-Guillemins is a sweeping statement of modern architecture, while the eclectic Antwerp Centraal is one of the world’s finest railway stations.

Liege station - public transport in Belgium

All public trains across the country are run by the state-owned operator, SNCB/NMBS. Get a ticket in the station before boarding to avoid paying the surcharge for buying on board. You can also use your MoBIB card to travel, which you can load with season tickets should you use the train for commuting. International trains to Paris and London depart Brussels’ Midi/Zuid station.

Top tips for traveling by train in Belgium

All aboard? Not before you read these tips:

  • If you’re planning a lot of train travel in Belgium, you should download the SNCB/NMBS app. The app lets you plan your route, check train times, and buy tickets at the click of a button.
  • Pets and bikes are allowed on most routes, however, you’ll need to buy a surcharge ticket.
  • Students and job seekers can claim discounted tickets, so ask at your nearest station or check the SNCB/NMBS website for more details.
  • Children under 12 travel free on Belgian trains, while pregnant women in the last four months of pregnancy can upgrade to first class for no additional fee.

Traveling by tram in Belgium

Trams are a great way of using public transportation in Belgium, offering quick and efficient travel with an ever-changing view of the city. Belgium has five tram systems in operation today – Antwerp, Brussels, Charleroi, Ghent, and the ever-popular tourist tram running along the Belgian coastline. This 67km-long tramline offers excellent views out across the sea.

public transport Belgium - Antwerp tram

Trams in Belgium are run by the respective regional transport operators, De Lijn (Flanders), STIB/MIVB (Brussels), and TEC (Wallonia). MoBIB cards can be used across the country’s tram networks, but you can also buy tickets when you travel. You can then use these in conjunction with other transport modes.

Top tips for traveling by tram in Belgium

Catching the tram? Then make sure you read these tips:

  • During the morning and afternoon rush hours, trams in the city centers can get busy so consider traveling outside these hours if possible.
  • Charleroi’s tram network is called the Charleroi Metro and even has the same blue “M” signs visible on Brussels metro. However, this is technically an underground tram/light rail network.
  • An additional sixth tram system exists in Han-sur-Lesse, operating on a popular touristic route.

Taking a Belgian taxi

With all these public transport possibilities – as well as walking and cycling – you might not even think about taking a cab. However, in some situations, taxis are the most convenient form of travel. Thankfully, it’s easy to catch a taxi in Belgium. In towns and cities, you’ll find taxi ranks near prominent attractions, as well as stations and ports.

Taxis typically charge a set fare plus a certain amount per kilometer traveled. This cost per kilometer varies between urban and rural areas and there is a supplement for nighttime travel. Tipping is not expected, although you may wish to round up to the nearest euro.

Top tips for taxi travel in Belgium

Hailing a cab? Then check out these tips first:

  • Taxi drivers are legally required to provide you with a receipt. On this receipt, you should find the driver’s ID number, which you can use should you need to complain or inquire about lost property.
  • An increasing number of taxis are electric, so inquire ahead of time should you wish to make your journey more environmentally-friendly.
  • Ride-sharing app Uber is only available in Brussels, although their radius of operation also includes the southern cities of Mons and Charleroi.

Airports in Belgium

Flying into your new life in Belgium? Or maybe you’re heading off to sunnier climes for a well-earned vacation with your family. Belgium has five airports: Antwerp, Brussels, Charleroi, Liège, and Oostend-Bruges. These airports serve a wide range of destinations and all have public transport and taxi connections.

The largest of Belgium’s airports is Brussels (also known as Brussels-Zaventem), which welcomed 26 million passengers in 2019 alone. Don’t confuse this airport with Charleroi Airport, which is also known as Brussels South and welcomes many budget airlines.

Top tips for airports in Belgium

Flying away? Then check out these tips first:

  • Check your ticket to see which airport you’re flying from, particularly if flying out of Brussels as you could be departing from Brussels or Brussels South.
  • Plan your journey to the airport ahead of time, especially if you have an early flight or one which means you’ll be traveling during rush hour.
  • Flying to Belgium? It might actually be more convenient to fly into Amsterdam Schiphol and travel into the country by train.

Useful resources

  • SNCB/NMBS – national operator for Belgium’s train network
  • De Lijn – public transport operator in Flanders
  • STIB/MIVB – Brussels’ public transit operator
  • TEC – transport operator in French-speaking Wallonia