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Telephones

The country code for Belgium is 32. When calling Belgium from abroad, you do not use the initial 0 in the area code. For example, if you're calling a Brussels number (area code 02) from outside Belgium, you dial the international access code (which is 011 when calling from North America, and 00 from elsewhere in Europe) and then 32-2, followed by the subscriber number.

You only dial the initial 0 of the area code if you're calling within Belgium (and this includes if you're calling another number in the same area-code zone). When you call someone in Belgium, you always need to use the area code even if you're calling from inside the same area. There are two main formats for Belgian phone numbers. In the main cities, a two-digit area code followed by a seven-digit number; and for other places, a three-digit area code followed by a six-digit number. For instance, Brussels's tourist information number is 02/513-89-40; Ypres's is 057/23-92-00.

For information in English, both domestic and international, dial tel. 1405.

To make international calls from Belgium, first dial 00 and then the country code. To call the United States or Canada, dial 00 (the international access code) + 1 (the country code) + the area code + the number. For example, if you want to call the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., dial 00-1-202-588-7800. Other country codes are: United Kingdom, 44; Ireland, 353; Australia, 61; New Zealand, 64. International calls, per minute, cost: U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland: 0.35€ (55¢); Australia, New Zealand: 1€ ($1.60).

You can use most pay phones in booths all around town with a Belgacom telecard (phone card), selling for 5€ ($8), 10€ ($16), and 20€ ($32) from post offices, train ticket counters, and newsstands. Some pay phones take coins, of 0.10€, 0.20€, 0.50€, 1€, and 2€. Both local and long-distance calls from a pay phone are 0.30€ (50¢) a minute at peak time (Mon-Fri 8am-7pm) and the same amount for 2 minutes at other times. Calls dialed direct from hotel room phones are usually more than twice the standard rate.

To charge a call to your calling card, contact: AT&T (tel. 0800/100-10), MCI (tel. 0800/100-12), Sprint (tel. 0800/100-14), Australia Direct (tel. 0800/100-61), Canada Direct (tel. 0800/100-19), British Telecom (tel. 0800/100-24), and Telecom New Zealand (tel. 0800/100-64).

Cellphones

If your phone has GSM (Global System for Mobiles) capability and you have a world-compatible phone, you should be able to make and receive calls from the Benelux countries. Only certain phones have this capability, though, and you should check with your service operator first. Call charges can be high. Alternatively, you can rent a phone through Cellhire (www.cellhire.com, www.cellhire.co.uk, or www.cellhire.com.au). After a simple online registration, they will ship a phone (usually with a U.K. number) to your home or office. Usage charges can be astronomical, so read the fine print.

U.K. mobiles work in the Benelux countries; call your service provider before departing your home country to ensure that the international call bar has been switched off and to check call charges, which can be extremely high. Also remember that you are charged for calls you receive on a U.K. mobile used abroad.

To rent a GSM mobile phone in Belgium, go to Locaphone (tel. 02/652-14-14; www.locaphone.be), in the Arrivals hall at Brussels Airport.

Voice-Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)

If you have Web access while traveling, consider a broadband-based telephone service (in technical terms, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP) such as Skype (www.skype.com) or Vonage (www.vonage.com), which allow you to make free international calls from your laptop or in a cybercafe. Neither service requires the people you're calling to also have that service (though there are fees if they do not). Check the websites for details.

Internet & E-Mail

With Your Own Computer -- More and more hotels, hostels, bars, coffeehouses, and cafes have terminals and/or Wi-Fi hotspots with Internet access. To find public Wi-Fi hotspots in the Benelux lands, go to www.jiwire.com; its Hotspot Finder holds the world's largest directory of public wireless hotspots.

Without Your Own Computer -- The number of dedicated Internet cafes is declining in all three Benelux lands. You'll still find them, just not so many, due to the fact that many hotels, hostels, bars, coffeehouses, and cafes have terminals and/or Wi-Fi hotspots with Internet access.

Online Traveler's Toolbox

Veteran travelers usually carry some essential items to make their trips easier. Following is a selection of handy online tools to bookmark and use.

  • Airplane Food (www.airlinemeals.net)
  • Airplane Seating (www.seatguru.com and www.airlinequality.com)
  • Foreign Languages for Travelers (www.travlang.com)
  • Maps (www.mapquest.com)
  • Subway Navigator (www.subwaynavigator.com)
  • Time and Date (www.timeanddate.com)
  • Travel Warnings (http://travel.state.gov, www.fco.gov.uk/travel, www.voyage.gc.ca, and www.smartraveller.gov.au)
  • Universal Currency Converter (www.oanda.com)
  • Weather (www.intellicast.com and www.weather.com)
  • Belgium Tourist Information (www.visitbelgium.com, www.opt.be, www.wallonie-tourisme.be, www.toervl.be, www.brusselsinternational.be, and www.visitflanders.com)
  • Independent Belgian Travel Information (www.trabel.com and www.xpats.com)
  • Virtual Tour of Bruges (www.virtualbruges.be)
  • Hotels in Belgium (www.hotels-belgium.com)
  • Dining Out in Belgium (www.resto.be)

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.