Congratulations on your new assignment! Our garrison is a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family. We put together this informal guide to help our newcomers prepare for their big move.
Belgium is a country in Western Europe bordered by France, The Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg. The country is divided by three regions, Brussels-Capital, Flanders and Wallonia. Flanders is the Dutch-speaking, northern portion of Belgium. Wallonia is the French-speaking, southern portion of Belgium. The country has three communities: the Dutch, French and German.
QUICK FACTS (ACCORDING TO BELGIUM AT A GLANCE)
- Population: 11,099,554
- Official Languages: French, Dutch and German
- Currency: Euro
- Surface Area: 30,528 square meters
In U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, there are multiple locations in Belgium: Brussels, Chièvres Air Base, SHAPE and Zutendaal Army Pre-positioned Stock (APS) site.
Brussels is the capital city of Belgium and is the country’s largest city. It is also where the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is headquartered. The Brussels Capital Region is divided by the both communities so there are areas where Dutch is the primary language and where French is the primary language.
CHIÈVRES AIR BASE/SHAPE
SHAPE, located near Mons, and Chièvres Air Base, located in the town of Chièvres, are in the Wallonia region. The locations are within 20 to 25 minutes driving distance apart and U.S. military services are split between the locations. The primary language in the area is French.
ZUTENDAAL APSZutendaal APS site is in the Flanders region, close to The Netherlands border. The primary language in the area is Dutch.
You should have a sponsor who will help you with in-processing to Belgium. Please do not hesitate to ask them questions as your sponsor can share their experiences and provide useful tips for making your transition as smooth as possible.
If you flying to Belgium, your sponsor should pick you up from the airport. There are two major airports within the Benelux footprint in Belgium. If you are traveling from the U.S. or another continent, you will arrive through Brussels International Airport in Zaventem, Belgium. For more information, go to their website.
The other main airport is Brussels South Charleroi Airport, which is about 29 miles south of Central Brussels and approximately 29 miles from SHAPE. The airport has flights for other cities in Europe as well as other destinations in the world. For more information, go to their website.
PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLES (POV)
You are probably wondering if you should ship your vehicle (if the entitlement is in your PCS orders) or purchase a vehicle in Belgium. It is your choice depending your personal budget and circumstances. However, please do not feel that you cannot drive your American vehicle in Europe. There are auto mechanics in the area who can service your vehicle, including the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation's Auto Skills Center on Chièvres Air Base and Brussels.
Please keep in mind that, if you ship your vehicle, it may take at least six to eight weeks, if not longer, to arrive to the country. Please plan ahead and ship your vehicle from the nearest Vehicle Processing Center to your current duty location as soon as possible. Your vehicle will arrive at the Chièvres VPC.
To get around town, you can rent a car as public transportation may be limited in your area. Please be aware that rental car costs are not an entitlement in PCS orders. It is the person's responsbility to pay for those costs. There are rental car facilities near each location, and it is recommended to make a reservation in advance. Your sponsor can help you with booking a reservation.
Some U.S. automobile insurance carriers provide international coverage. Please check with your current carrier first. Your rate may be higher in Europe, and some people consider using a local insurance carrier instead.
The legal driving age in Belgium is 18 and over. U.S. personnel in Belgium are required to maintain a valid U.S. driver’s license and must renew it even if they are living overseas. In addition, they must obtain a SHAPE Driver’s License shortly after arrival to the country.
Belgium is a small country and traveling around is inexpensive. It has three regional operators: De Lijn (Flanders), TEC (Wallonia) and STIB (Brussels).
You can purchase a MOBIB-card at any local railway station or online at Belgian Rail for €5. Then you can load on any kind of ticket or season pass during five years. Children under age six can travel for free.
If you want to take the train, booking online or via the Belgian Rail app is the best idea, because ticket offices are often busy. You can print your own ticket or present the “SMS ticket” but make sure you wrote the correct details, as tickets are not transferable and you will have to show your ID.
CHIÈVRES AIR BASE/SHAPE
For people PCSing to SHAPE or Chièvres Air Base, the on-post lodging options are the Chièvres Army Lodge and SHAPE Inn. After receiving your PCS orders, please book a reservation as soon as possible as these places reach full occupancy, especially during PCS seasons.
If you are bringing pets, please know that the Chièvres Army Lodge has a limited amount of pet rooms. There is a kennel on Chièvres Air Base for dogs, cats and other animals.
If on-post lodging is full, people can get a statment of non-availability. The neighboring towns and cities have hotels which accomodate long-term stays. Please talk to your sponsor about options in the local area before making a reservation.
BRUSSELS AND ZUTENDAAL
For people PCSing to Brussels or Zutendaal, there are no on-post lodging options. Please talk to your sponsor about hotels in the local area before making a reservation.
Europe is very pet-friendly. If you decide to bring your pets to Belgium, please refer to the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on pet travel regulations. Before your move, make sure your pets are up-to-date on their vaccinations. If you are currently living near or at a U.S. military installation with veterinary services, you can ask the veteranian for assistance in preparing travel documentation.
If you are flying to Belgium, research the airline's pet travel policies. Pets will either travel in-cabin or in cargo. Some airlines have restrictions on putting pets in the cargo hold during certain months of the year due to extremely high or low temperatures. Airlines also have breed restrictions. When in doubt, talk directly to the airline's customer service for clarification.
You can also use an international pet shipping service for your move.
If you are moving to Chièvres Air Base or SHAPE, please know that the Chièvres Army Lodge has a limited amount of pet rooms. There is a kennel on Chièvres Air Base for dogs, cats and other animals. For more information, go to their website.
If you are staying at hotel off-post, please check their pet policies for arrivals. Guests may be charged extra fees for pets.
Like in the U.S., home rental listings will state if pets are allowed. U.S. military housing typically allows pets.
If you are moving to Chièvres Air Base or SHAPE, please know that unaccompanied service members in grades E1 to E6 must live in the barracks on Chièvres Air Base. Having a pet does not exempt you from this regulation.
Although pets are family members, they are not on official PCS orders. This means that you are responsible for the costs for your pets.
There are American schools on Brussels and SHAPE. For more information, go to the DODEA Europe West District website. For those living in Zutendaal, children will need to attend either a local Belgian school or international school.
Families affiliated with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of State have the opportunity to send their children to Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) - Brussels American School (Kindergarten to 12th grade), local Belgian schools (pre-school to 12th grade, tuition free) and local international schools (pre-school to 12th grade, tuition required).
CHIÈVRES AIR BASE/SHAPE
The international school is a unique institution, operating under the authority of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). The U.S. sections operate under the support of the DOD Dependents Schools - Europe Region (DODEA-Europe). The SHAPE American School sections come under the purview of the Isles District offices near Lakenheath, England, one of five DODEA-Europe operating districts:
SCHOOL LIAISON OFFICER (SLO)The Army School Liaison Officer (SLO) works with all families attending the DoDEA schools regardless of branch of service or nationality. Although primarily working with American families in DoDEA, the SLO is available to families with school-age children stationed at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux regardless of where their children attend school be it DoDEA, SIS, local off-base schools or home school. For
more information about SLO, visit the MWR website:
As you are preparing for your move, you are wondering what items to bring, pack in storage or sell. Please keep in mind that European homes are different than U.S. homes. You may find that the bedrooms are smaller, and appliances are smaller. Most homes are heated by radiators and don't have air conditioning units or ceiling fans. Most homes also don't have carpeted floors.
Even though it is tempting to start your home search before you move, we recommend people wait until after they arrive to do house hunting. All personnel must go to the Housing Office for their in-processing brief. Your sponsor will set up your appointment time with Housing before your arrival. For more information about Housing, click here.
Homes have 220-volt electric outlets as opposed to 110-volt outlets in the U.S. If you lived at an OCONUS duty station before, your landlord may have provided you electric converters and transformers. Belgian landlords aren't required to provide those items so it is the tenant's responsibility to get them. Electric converters and transformers use a lot of energy which may result in high electric bills. We recommend that people store their 110-volt appliances and purchase 220-volt appliances. You can buy 220-volt appliances at the PX or local stores. You can buy gently-used appliances from local thrift stores as well as from other community members. There are Facebook groups dedicated for community members to sell items.
Most Belgian homes don’t have closets so people store their clothes and other belongings in a free-standing wardrobe. If you have housing entitlements in your PCS orders, Central Furniture Management Office (CFMO) provides wardrobes for each family member in your orders plus one extra for the household. If you wish to purchase your own wardrobe, there are many department and furniture stores that sell them.
U.S. personnel, including Department of Defense civilian employees, can use services provided by the SHAPE Healthcare Facility (for people stationed at Chièvres Air Base and SHAPE) and Brussels Health Clinic. Please know that these facilities offer limited services. Doctors may refer patients to other military medical centers such as Landstuhl Regional Medical Center near Ramstein Air Base and U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany. Doctors also may refer patients to medical services in the local area.
If you need to go to a Belgian hospital, known as a hôpital in French or a ziekenhuis in Flemish, they are listed in the Yellow Pages. During the Army Community Service’s Newcomers Orientation tour, people will get the chance to visit a local hospital and learn how processes work there.
If you have U.S. health insurance, please review your plan details before seeking medical services. If you have questions, please talk to your insurance carrier so there is no confusion on coverage for international services.
Andrews Federal Credit Union is a U.S. financial institution with branches in Brussels and Chièvres Air Base. These branches have 24-hour ATM, convenience services, European Bill Pay services, loans and other financial services. You can get U.S. dollars and Euros there. At SHAPE, there is Monte Paschi which is an European bank. Mentioning of these financial institutions does not imply federal endorsement.
Please remember that the local currency is Euro. If you plan to use your U.S. debit and credit cards, you may be charged international conversion fees. Talk to your current bank and credit card company regarding possible fees before moving.
Since your first few weeks in Belgium will be quite busy, it is a good idea to get Euro before you move.
U.S. phones will work in Belgium. If you plan to keep the same phone, please check with your service provider to make sure there are no outstanding payments due on the bill. Also, please make sure your phone is unlocked by your service provider before moving.
After arriving to Belgium, you will need to remove the SIM card and replace it with a SIM card from a Belgian service provider.
It is always difficult choosing the right mobile provider when you move to another country. However, the mobile network in Belgium is excellent and you will have plenty options. We recommend talking to your sponsor for the best coverage in the area.