Money & costs
Belgium is, on average, slightly cheaper than Luxembourg, except for fuel and bulk purchases of cigarettes and alcohol. In both countries, accommodation and dining will burn the biggest hole in your pocket; though Belgium’s exciting fashions, sublime chocolates and speciality beers can all seriously dent the credit card too. Public transport, on the other hand, is cheap – and that, coupled with the diminutive size of both countries, makes getting around a minor expense.
Those staying in hostels, doing a museum, filling up with fast fodder like frites (chips or fries) and baguettes and downing a good beer or two can expect to spend from €40 per day. Those opting for hotels with full amenities and midrange restaurants will pay from €120. B&Bs offer excellent value, as do those weekend discounts.
Families can minimise expenses by staying at hostels, B&Bs or self-contained guesthouses. Restaurants often have discounted children’s meals, usually costing around €8. Also look out for the occasional restaurant offering complimentary children’s meals. Keep in mind too that children under 12 travel for free on Belgian trains.
Tipping is not obligatory as service and VAT are included in hotel and restaurant prices. Cinema and theatre attendants generally expect a €1 tip, and in public toilets you’ll be given a foul look or be reprimanded if you attempt to leave without tipping the attendant (€0.30 to €0.50); this goes for both men and women.
Belgium and Luxembourg are still largely cash-based societies. Locals generally use cash for small purchases so you can’t avoid having at least some cash in your pocket. Major credit cards are widely accepted at top and midrange hotels and restaurants, and in many shops and petrol stations.
Belgium and Luxembourg both use the euro, which has the same value in all euro-zone countries. There are seven euro notes (five, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros) and eight euro coins (one, two, five, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and one and two euros). One side is standard to all euro coins and the other bears a national emblem of participating countries.
Banks are the best place to change money, charging only a small commission on cash or travellers cheques. Out of hours, there are less generous exchange bureaus. Banks in both countries generally open from 8.30am or 9am to between 3.30pm and 5pm Monday to Friday, and also Saturday mornings. In smaller places, they may close for an hour at lunch.
Outside banking hours, there are exchange bureaus (wisselkantoren in Flemish, bureaux d’échange in French) at airports or train stations. These mostly have lower rates and higher fees than banks.
Automated teller machines (ATMs) are not widespread around the countryside, but are well populated in city centres and at the main international airports (Brussels National and Luxembourg Airport). They generally accept MasterCard (called EuroCard in Belgium and Luxembourg) and Visa.