Exploring Belgium on a Shoestring: Your Ultimate Guide

Exploring Belgium on a Shoestring: Your Ultimate Guide

Belgium, a small country in Europe, is often overshadowed by its more popular neighbors. However, those who take the time to explore Belgium are rewarded with stunning architecture, delicious cuisine, and fascinating history. The good news is that experiencing the best of Belgium doesn’t have to break the bank. Here’s your ultimate guide to exploring Belgium on a shoestring budget.

Getting Around

Belgium’s compact size is a budget traveler’s best friend. The country’s efficient public transportation system makes it easy and relatively inexpensive to move from one city to another. Invest in a Rail Pass if you plan to travel by train frequently. It offers a set number of journeys within a certain period, making it a cost-effective option. For shorter distances, consider renting a bike. Many Belgian cities are bike-friendly, and it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere.


Staying in hostels is a tried and true method for saving money on accommodations. Belgium has a wide array of hostels that cater to backpackers, with options ranging from bustling city hostels in Brussels and Antwerp to quieter, quaint options in smaller towns like Ghent or Leuven. For a more unique experience, look for guesthouses or Airbnb listings that offer shared rooms. Not only does this allow for a more intimate glimpse into Belgian life, but it also often includes the bonus of homemade meals or local tips from your hosts.

Eating and Drinking

One cannot think of Belgium without conjuring images of mouthwatering chocolates, waffles, and beer. Sampling these delicacies doesn’t have to be expensive. Street vendors offer authentic Belgian waffles at a fraction of the restaurant price. Similarly, many local pubs serve a selection of Belgian beers without the tourist mark-up. For meals, seek out local markets or “friteries” for an affordable yet delicious experience. Cooking your meals can also save you a significant amount of money, so consider staying somewhere with kitchen facilities.

Free and Low-Cost Attractions

Belgium is full of free and low-cost attractions that provide insight into the country’s rich history and culture. Many museums have specific days when entrance fees are waived or significantly reduced. For example, the Horta Museum in Brussels, dedicated to the famous architect Victor Horta, offers free entry on the first Wednesday afternoon of every month.

Walking tours are an excellent way to see the cities. Some are “free” (you’re encouraged to tip your guide what you feel the tour was worth), covering everything from historical sites to street art. Ghent and Bruges, in particular, are perfect for self-guided walks, thanks to their well-preserved medieval architecture.

Belgium’s natural landscapes offer a plethora of activities for the nature lover. The Ardennes, a region of extensive forests, rolling hills, and small villages, can be explored on foot or by bike at no cost.

Nightlife on a Budget

Belgium’s nightlife doesn’t have to be expensive. Cities like Brussels and Antwerp are known for their vibrant scenes. Look out for happy hours or student nights, which often feature discounted drinks. Alternatively, enjoy a relaxed evening at a local pub, where you can sample a variety of Belgian beers without the hefty price tag.

Cultural Tips for the Budget Traveler

Understanding a few cultural nuances can help you save money while traveling through Belgium. For instance, tipping is not as customary in Belgium as it is in the United States. Service charges are often included in the bill, so check before leaving extra. Also, mastering a few basic phrases in French or Dutch can go a long way, especially in smaller towns or when negotiating prices in markets.

Recreating the Belgian Experience at Home

Should you wish to bring a slice of Belgium into your own home, there are several ways to recreate the experience. Start with the cuisine; Belgian waffles and chocolates can be made with recipes found online. Pair them with a selection of Belgian beers, which are increasingly available worldwide. For a cultural touch, explore Belgian cinema or music, or dive into the works of Belgian artists like René Magritte.


Q: What is the best time to visit Belgium on a budget?

– A: Spring (April to June) and fall (September to November) are excellent times to visit Belgium. The weather is pleasant, and there are fewer tourists, which often means lower prices for accommodations and attractions.

Q: Can I get by with English in Belgium?

– A: Yes, English is widely spoken, especially in major cities and tourist areas. However, learning a few basic phrases in French or Dutch is appreciated and can enhance your travel experience.

Q: Is Belgium safe for solo travelers?

– A: Belgium is considered very safe for solo travelers. However, as with traveling anywhere, it’s important to stay vigilant, especially at night and in crowded areas.

Q: How can I find more information about free attractions in Belgium?

– A: Tourist information centers in Belgian cities are a great resource for finding up-to-date information about free attractions and events. Additionally, many cities have official websites with a calendar of free activities.

Exploring Belgium on a shoestring is not only possible but can also be an immensely rewarding experience. With a bit of planning and flexibility, you can enjoy the rich culture, delicious food, and beautiful landscapes of Belgium without spending a fortune. Whether you’re wandering through historic city centers, cycling in the countryside, or savoring a Belgian beer at a local pub, Belgium is sure to steal a piece of your heart.

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