Beware Gare Nord station, we were followed onto a tram where I stupidly fell for the 'something dirty on my back' routine, guy grabbed our hand luggage while I was distracted, even more upsetting was the attitude of the other passengers, nobody looked or commented, the whole incident was completely ignored, my daughter jumped off the tram and grabbed the thief, it seems everybody except us knows this area is very bad, this was in the middle of the daytime too!
Namely the tram line 3-4 between gare du Nord and gare du Midi (Bourse, Annessens, Rogier, etc). Also on the way to Heysel if you take the metro. If you look at the metro map, anything located west of De Brouckere is more dangerous than east. You will notice that the "east side" is mainly "white" whereas if you travel west you will encounter more foreigners. I'm not saying that they cause all the troubles (I'm a foreigner myself) but that's just how it is... Those are just facts. The probability that something happens to you grows bigger the more west you go. And be careful at gare du Midi (it's famous for pickpockets) although it's not as famous as let's say Barcelona(!). Unlike Barcelona the police is there on location and will look for thieves.
Overal, the city is not famous for being dangerous. I was born and live in Brussels, so you can trust me.
My trip went well. I arrive to Charleroi airport at 5:00pm went out to the street (it is very small airport) in a minute and took the 5:15 pm shuttle bus right infront of the airport exit. (you must buy the ticket at the boot it's just 50m. away -13€ one way)the trip was about 50 min. It drop me in front of the Brussels midi train station.
On my way back, I decided to take 10 am bus from Brussels midi. I was there 15 min early. The bus was not punctual it waited till the bus to be totally full so we took of at 10:30 am. I paid the ride to the bus driver. The trip again took about 50 min. My plane was at 1:20 pm but I had half an hour delay so arrived a bit early and killed some time there...
Like any other cities of Europe it is not advisable to drive around in Brussels. The best way to explore city is either by foot or public transport. If you are driving into the city than try and find a parking place and get rid of your vehicle during your stay.
We were there for little time and our B&B was within walking distance to most of what we wanted to see, so we walked a lot and bought single tickets for the bus and tram.
A single ticket costs 1,70 euros (adult) if you buy it on the machines before you board the vehicle, or 2 euros if you buy it from the driver, it's valid for 1 hour and you can use it to change between buses, trams and metro lines within that hour. After buying the ticket, cancel it on the machine to avoid fines of any kind.
For longer stays or if you think you'll use public transportation a lot, there's a variety of cards that you can use.
There is a couple of cheap and easy ways into central Brussels ... if staying around the Grand Place area you can take the metro from the airport to Centrale station for 3 euro's and it's about a 30 minute ride... once there you can make your way to your hotel easily if you don't have heavy luggage .... Or you can take either the #12 or # 21 bus to the Luxemborg train station in the European district of town for 3 euro's also... the bus takes about 45 minutes ... easy and cheap !!!!
A cab into town might run you about 35 to 40 Euro's !!!! depending on the traffic.
Shuttles Brussels - Charleroi Airport
The trip takes about 1 hr and when leaving from
Brussels, you might find the bus full unless you have booked before,
or turn up 4 hours before yr flight departure to be sure.
Every hour a shuttle coach leaves the airport to take you to the
main Brussels railway station (Brussels Midi,Brussels South).
The shuttle coach stop there is at the crossing of rue de France
and rue de l’Instruction
SINGLE FARE IS 13 EURO
RETURN FARE IS 22 EURO
* Shuttle tickets are sold inside the airport terminal (counter n° 1). You can also buy tickets on the Internet : www.voyages-lelan.be
* From Brussels, tickets may be purchased on board the coach.
If you can`t get on a shuttle bus because it`s full
then there is usually a taxi that will take 5 people for the same
price per person as the shuttle bus fare.
The shuttle bus to Charleroi Train station, then one hour trip
by train into Brussels might take up to 2.5 hours...
as trains don`t go that often and not much cheaper than the shuttle.
Re-acqainted myself with the Metro this morning (16-5-8) on my way from Gare Centrale to Ave Louise.
I'd forgotten how easy it is!
€1.50 for a ticket to go anywhere on the system within an hour of purchase.
Don't forget to "cancel" your ticket before you board (look out for the cancellation machines) or you'll be in trouble.
The transport system in Brussels is pretty efficient, and you will find it reasonably easy to get around on the trams and buses.
Stops have a timetable on display, and show the list of stops along the route of the bus/tram.
One of the best options is to buy a day ticket (4 euro) which gives you access to all buses and trams and metro for the day. What is more, if you buy a day ticket on Saturday or Sunday, the one ticket will actually cover two people!
You cannot buy day tickets on the buses, but they are available from any metro station.
Note: once you have bought your ticket, you will need to validate it in the machines that you can find in the entry to the metro station or on the bus.
Since I only had a rental bike for one day, and couldn't access the CycloCity system, I actually took the # 71 bus several times between my hotel and the opera house.
This is obviously not a healthy way to travel (because you just sit there), but I must admit that the buses are fast and run often enough, even late at night.
Second photo: The Royal Palace, as seen late at night from the # 71 bus.
Third photo:I also took the Metro twice, once to get from the South Station to my hotel, and once to get back again.
There are three lines...1A, 1B and 2...the good thing is that on Sunday if you buy a day ticket...it will cost you 4 euro and it's valid for two persons...so it's quite a good deal, becuase also the trams are included...
One way ticket will cost you 1,50 euro
There are machines for buying tickets and there are many combinations of tickets...like two way tickets...5 rides..etc...
The metro is very convenient to get around Brussels. There are 2 lines, one for east to west and one that winds around the city. The stations are identified by a large M sign, and the system is easy to figure out how to use and where to go.
The metro is the quickest way to get around Brussels. The trains are frequent, quick (the trains run roughly every 7 min peak times) and easy to use. Tickets are relatively cheap (a Day-pass is only €4).
There are a few snags though:
-The metro drivers do not usually wait for you in case they are just about to go and see you running towards the metro train. You'll just have to wait for the next one.
-The trains get very packed during the rush hour.
-They stop running after midnight most days although the website says that it operates from 5am to 1am.
-You can only buy monthly tickets in a few designated offices.
Fares in 2007
Single tickets - EUR 1.50
5-ride ticket -EUR 6.70
10-ride ticket - EUR 11.00
Day-pass - EUR 4.00
Monthly pass EUR 40.50
Yearly pass EUR 405.00
All tickets are valid on metro, buses (STIB, De Lijn, TEC), trams or suburban trains (SNCB) and have to be validated each time you get on a bus, tram or metro.
We enjoyed glorious weather while visiting Brussels and much preferred walking as a means of transport. I do realise the weather is not always sunny ha ha and public transport plays a big part in city life. All forms of transport are modern, cheap and efficient. I particularly liked the hired bike idea = just pop the required euros into the machine and off you go but be warned traffic is chaotic around here - pedestrians should be well warned about street crossings = trams have right of way or priority even when the Green Man flashes!!
The ticket needs to be validated in a small yellow machine, before boarding the train. What you need to know is that these machines will SWALLOW your ticket, stamp it inside and, after a while, return it to you. Trivial? Maybe not. It was so surprising (and funny) to see that even the Belgian people are not used to it! They would try to insert one end of the ticket into the machine slot, while holding the other end, in hope the machine would just stamp the inserted end. Nuthin would happen. Agitated people would just leave the machines without having their ticket validated. And so may travellers were stunned and fell in panic, when the machine "ate" their whole ticket. They thought they'd never get it back!.....