Health & insurance
Travel in Belgium presents very few health problems. The standard of care is extremely high; English is widely spoken by doctors and medical clinic staff.
Before You Go
Well before departure, find out if there is a reciprocal arrangement for free medical care between your country and Belgium. For example, citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) are covered for emergency medical treatment on presentation of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which should be applied for at least a couple of weeks before departing from home (online, through a health centre or, in some countries, a post office). You'll still need to pay a per-appointment doctor's fee as a local would, but having an EHIC card means that you can use the official medical receipt to claim a reimbursement of up to 75% through a Belgian mutual health-fund office (ziekenfond/mutualité).
Additional health insurance remains wise to cover cashflow problems and any shortfall between medical bills and what is eventually refunded.
No vaccinations are legally required, but check that your standard inoculations, including tetanus, are up to date, as you should if staying at home anyway.
Availability & Cost of Health Care
Sick Belgians often self-diagnose to a degree (or with free help from a pharmacist) then bypass GPs and head directly to a clinic or specialist doctor. Personal recommendations are the best route, but there are also two new online services (www.doctoranytime.be and en.doctena.be), both aimed at making the search for and choice of a doctor easier.
Traditionally a doctor's bill is payable immediately in cash, so visit an ATM before a consultation. A hospital (ziekenhuis/hôpital in Dutch/French) will generally accept plastic.
Tap water is almost always fine to drink, though restaurants will sometimes deny this as an excuse for insisting on serving mineral water.
For minor self-limiting illnesses you might save a doctor’s fee by asking advice at a pharmacy (apotheek/pharmacie in Dutch/French).
Most are open from about 8.30am to 7pm Monday to Friday, plus Saturday mornings.
At night or on weekends special 'duty’ pharmacies charge higher prices. Find the nearest Pharmacie de Garde using www.pharmacie.be in French, or Apotheek van Wacht on www.apotheek.be in Dutch.