Accidentally breaking the local rules of the road and getting fined is the most common worry among drivers heading across the channel. The rules of the road including basics like speed and drink drive limits can be different from home so get to know the local rules before you go to help you keep out of trouble.
Our general advice for motoring in Europe covers the basics like documents, personal safety and vehicle preparation.
In this article:Driving licence
Seat belts and children in cars
Drinking and driving
What do you have to carry?
low emission zones
Other rules and advice
- You must have a minimum of third-party insurance cover.
- The police can impound an uninsured vehicle.
- Unleaded petrol (95 and 98 octane), diesel and LPG are all available.
- Lead substitute additives are available.
- Petrol in a can is permitted, but forbidden aboard ferries.
- Credit cards are accepted at filling stations but check with your card issuer for usage in Belgium before travel.
(Standard legal limits, which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles with or without trailers)
- Residential areas 12 mph (20 km/h)
- Built-up areas 31 mph (50 km/h)
- A limit of 18 mph (30 km/h) may be indicated at the entrance to a built up area and also applies in cycle streets (Fietsstraat).
- Outside built-up areas 55 mph (90 km/h)
- Outside built-up areas in the Flanders region 43 mph (70km/h)
- Motorways and dual carriageways separated by a central reservation 74 mph (120 km/h).
- The minimum speed on motorways 43 mph (70 km/h).
Vehicles with spiked tyres must display at the rear a white disc with a red reflectorised border showing the figure ‘60’ and must not exceed 60 km/h on normal roads and 90 km/h on motorways/dual carriageways.
You must wear seatbelts in the front and rear if fitted.
Passengers/children in cars
- Children under 18 and less than 135cm must use a suitable child-restraint system whether seated in the front or rear seat of a vehicle.
- When two child restraint systems are being used on the rear seats and there isn’t adequate room to place a third child restraint system, then the third child may travel on the back seat protected by the adult seat belt.
- A child under three can not be transported in a vehicle without a child seat/restraint, except in a taxi.
- You must not use a rear facing child seat on a front seat with a front airbag unless the airbag is deactivated.
You should use dipped headlights in poor daytime visibility.
- You must use dipped headlights during the day.
- Riders must wear crash helmets.
- Riders must wear protective clothing i.e. gloves, jacket with long sleeves, trousers with long legs or overall and boots protecting the ankles.
- Children under three are not allowed on motorcycles, except in a side car if equipped with an appropriate child seat.
- Children between 3 and 8 may be carried as passengers in a special seat, only on motorcycles up to 125cc.
Drinking and driving
The legal limit of alcohol is 49 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood.
- Between 50 and 80 milligrams you will be banned from driving for three hours and issued an on the spot fine of €170.
- From 80 to 100 milligrams the fine is €400, from 100 to 120 milligrams €550, and from 120 to 150 milligrams it is €1200.
- Above 150 milligrams per 100 millilitres there will always be prosecution with a fine up to €12,000 and a licence suspension up to five years.
If you have held your licence for less than two years, an on the spot fine won’t be imposed, you will automatically be prosecuted.
Police use saliva tests to test for the presence of drugs.
- On-the-spot. The officer must issue an official receipt for the amount paid.
You can refuse to pay an on-the-spot fine but must make a consignation (deposit). If you do not pay a deposit your vehicle will be impounded by the police and permanently confiscated if the deposit is not paid within 96 hours.
- The amount of the deposit is the same as the on-the-spot fine.
- On-the-spot fines for exceeding the speed limit are high.
- Fines can be paid in cash, euros or debit/credit card.
What do you have to carry?
Reflective jacket – You (the driver) must wear a reflective safety jacket as soon as you leave your vehicle on a road following a breakdown/accident or if stopped where parking is not allowed.
- The fine for not wearing one is €55, but the amount can be much higher (€60 - €1500) if you refuse to pay or if you have to go to court e.g. in the event of an accident.
Low Emission Zone (LEZ)
There's been an LEZ in Antwerp since 2017 meaning that access for some vehicles is restricted - initially only Euro 0 petrol and pre-Euro 3 diesel. The restrictions are set to tighten in 2020, meaning that more types of vehicles will be affected.
Brussels has operated an LEZ since January 2018, affecting Euro 0, 1, and 2 diesel vehicles only. Like Antwerp, restrictions will be progressively tightened.
The fine for noncompliance is currently €150
Other rules and advice
- A first-aid kit and fire extinguisher are recommended as Belgian-registered vehicles must carry them.
- Although rarely enforced, in some cities in one-way streets, vehicles must park on the carriageway from the 1st to the 15th of the month on the side of the road where buildings have odd numbers, and from the 16th until the end of the month on the side where buildings have even numbers.
- Most roundabouts have signs showing that traffic on the roundabout has priority. If there is no sign present, (very few roundabouts) traffic joining from the right has priority.
- Using cruise control is prohibited on congested motorways and some motorways during road works.
- A white disc bordered in red, bearing the word 'Peage' in black indicates that drivers must stop. The Dutch word 'Tol' sometimes replaces 'Peage'.
- Any stationary vehicle must have its engine switched off, unless absolutely necessary.
- A car navigation system with maps indicating the location of fixed speed cameras is permitted but equipment which actively searches for speed cameras or interferes with police equipment is prohibited.
- The police can impound a vehicle with an unsafe load.
- Spiked tyres are permitted from 1 November until 31 March on vehicles weighing up to a maximum of 3.5tonnes.
- Snow chains are only permitted on snow- or ice-covered roads.
- Winter tyres are permitted from 1 October until 30 April, a lower speed limit needs to be adhered to and the maximum design speed for the tyres displayed on a sticker on the dashboard.
- Some level crossings in Belgium are equipped with cameras. Crossing a level crossing when not permitted to do so i.e. when the lights are red, carries a fine of up to €3000.
- When overtaking a cyclist or moped rider, you must allow a distance of at least 1m between the vehicle and the cyclist/moped.
On congested roads, drivers driving on a lane that is coming to an end or where traffic is obstructed, must continue until they get to the point where the lane starts to close up and then merge into the adjacent lane. Drivers in the lane that remains open must give way in turns, and allow drivers from the lane that narrows to merge in turn.
15 July 2019