Each country has its lot of annoying things. In Belgium, the administration and the police are close to the top the list.

This thread is dedicated to all the potentially frustrating things one should know in order to avoid.

The slowness of Belgian bureaucracy

It doesn't really matter whether you are Belgian or not, everybody in Belgium will have to go through tedious bureaucracy. Here are a few examples of how long things take in Belgium :

- getting a new ID card => 1 to 2 months
- getting the police report to prove that you live at a new address (required to get a resident card that allow free parking in the neighbourhood) => 1 to 2 months
- changing a foreign driving licence to a Belgian one => 2 months
- obtaining the red tape to buy a real estate property => 2 to 4 months
- getting married => 3 months (compulsory waiting period after declaring your intention to get married at the town hall)
- obtaining a construction permit => 4 months to several years

Getting a Belgian driving licence from a non-EU driving licence

It is possible for citizens of most industrialised countries to exchange their driving licence for a Belgian/EU driving licence without having to pass any test. If you are registered as a resident at a Belgian town hall, a translation of your country's driving licence approved by your embassy is enough.

Beware though that the town hall will NOT accept the change if you obtained your driving licence in your country after registering as a Belgian resident. So if you do not have a driving licence before moving to Belgium, it is useless to go back to your country for a few weeks/months to pass the test and come back to Belgium.

The only way the Belgian authorities will accept a foreign licence issues after you first became a resident in Belgium is to unregister as a resident, give back your Belgian ID card, cancel your health insurance, etc., move back to your country for at least 6 months, and come back with your new driving licence.

Needless to say that it is much easier to get an international driving licence, or even to repass the theoretical and practical exams in Belgium with a translator.


The police in Flanders

Flanders has become infamous for being the region with the most speeding radars in the world. Belgium also has some of the heaviest speeding fines in Europe. In some cities there is a radar every few hundred metres. Be very careful if you drive in Flanders. Brussels and Wallonia are much more relaxed in that regard.

Watch out for parking tickets as well. The Flemings are overzealous for that as well. Don't think that they will turn a blind eye for a few minutes in excess to what you paid for at the parking meter. They won't and you will be charged for the whole day, even if you already paid for 5 hours ! Officials in Antwerp are probably the most ruthless.