Skip Navigation

first-time traveler

Travel Forums Europe first-time traveler

1. Posted by Armeather (First Time Poster 1 posts) 12y

Armeather has indicated that this thread is about Belgium

Good Afternoon: I am an American who is planning a business conference trip to Belgium in early July. I am looking for any general "tips" about international travel as this is my very first international travel and I feel I need to know more than how to apply for a passport in a short period of time. I will only be in Antwerp for a few days but I know enough to know that I need to know more about what I am doing. Although I may be traveling with colleagues, there is also the possibility that I may be traveling alone and meeting my colleagues there. I have no clue about language, money, traditions, etc. Also, while it may not be pertinent, it may be pertinent. As an African American, will I encounter any difficulties regrding travel to a foreign country as a person of color? A difficult question but one that needs to be asked. Any tips, advice, comments or information would be great.

Thanks, Armeather

2. Posted by IMonaghan (Respected Member 431 posts) 12y

Armeather,

I'd be shocked if you have any trouble in Europe as an "African American"... More likely if you have trouble it will have more to do simply with being American.

Joking aside, you shouldn't have any trouble getting into Belgium providing that you have a round trip ticket, and a hotel reservation for your stay.

I am 90% sure that Belgium is part of the EU, therefore the currency will be the Euro, you can generally get a little bit of cash exchanged at your bank (a main branch, not a sattelite) before you go.. If that doesn't work out you can do it at the airport before your departure or after arrival... It is a little bit expensive to use airport exchangers though..

Besides that, your ATM/debit card should work fine over there with a fair exchange rate provided by your bank... Any Visa or Mastercard will work as well, though you might want to let your card company know your travel dates so no security flags are raised... AMEX has given me problems in the past when travelling internationally, but you can get by with one if you have to... It's just not accepted in some places.

As for the passport... Get an application and get your photos done. Take the application personally to your local passport office and ask for expedited service. It usually takes 1 or 2 weeks that way (I forget which) it does cost a fair bit more than normal but nothing too outrageous... An extra 50 bucks or so.. (again I forget the details.)

Other than those things, just go with it... book a flight, get to the airport 2 hours early... sit on the flight, complaining about how small the seats are... Land, get your bags.. go through immigration, complain if you are fingerprinted... Let the nice man in customs take your luggage apart, and then enjoy.

Best of luck to you, if you have any other questions, or need more details just ask.

3. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 12y

Hi Armeather,

Welcome to TP.

Firstly, Antwerp is a great little city, and you are unlikely to have any graet problems there. Virtually everybody speaks some English, many are fluent, and most enjoy/are happy speaking it.

Belgium is indeed in the euro, which are easily available. If you wait until you get to Europe, you can exchange USD easily and in lots of places, although rates aren't always brilliant. Credit/debit cards of all major brands will work fine, just make sure you know the pin # (4 digits in europe), and check with your bank that there is no int'l bar on it before you leave - some do automatically, but it's easy to remove.

As an African-American, you shouldn't have any problems at all - Belgium had a large number of African colonies, and so has numerous immigrants of different skin/colours etc and there are no major racial problems. In addition, Antwerp is and always has been a large port city, so they are used to having allsorts of foreign people walking around.

If you have a return airticket and american passport, you should have no problems whatsoever with customs etc, beyond what you would expect - baggage checks, spot checks/questiosn as to why you've come/what your doing. That's normal to everybody, and they pick people at random. Just be polite and honest and your fine.
Also note that it is a legal requirement to carry official ID, which essentially means make sure your passport is on you at all times as spot checks do occur periodically.

A couple of things to note on what Ian said -

- membership of the EU and having the Euro as a currency are NOT the same thing. Of the 15 older members, 12 have the euro, but 3 (UK, Sweden and Denmark) don't, whilst none of the 10 new ones will have the euro for at least a couple of years yet.

- Also, unfortunately, in large chunks of Europe, African Americans (or non white people in general) can still have problems. Eastern and Southern Europe (especially out of major tourist centres) can be quite bad, whilst even places like Germany still have large racist minorites, and are also significantly more likely to be spot checked for ID etc and stopped/questioned at borders. Sad, but unfortunately true.

Any other questions, just ask.

4. Posted by no15616541 (Budding Member 11 posts) 12y

Hi,

Don't worry about a thing!
English is our third language, everybody doing business speaks it and people in the street will be happy to help you out.

We just had elections. the flemish block (bunch of racists) got 1/3th of the votes but those votes are anti- morrocan and turkish.
As a African American you won't even notice any racial conflict.

Have fun, I hope you can return home with some contracts

5. Posted by zags (Respected Member 370 posts) 12y

Hi, sorry I couln't help being curious regarding racial problem, which I never thought of before. Could it be any problem for a non-caucasian (african/asian) to travel alone in Europe, especially for a woman?

6. Posted by no15616541 (Budding Member 11 posts) 12y

Hi zags,

You can backback as asian or african without a problem as far as I know.
From what I saw and heard the racial conflicts in western europe are all based on the perception that certain minorities don't like to work.
When our narrowminded fellow europeans see that you are a traveller/tourist they wont even turn their head.
I think it has a lot to do how you present yourself.

Hope this helps,
Staf

7. Posted by zags (Respected Member 370 posts) 12y

Thanks, Staf! It just never crossed my mind before. So, some is because some minorities don't like to work... Well, I won't be able to make it to Europe if I don't work and save money ...

What about Southern and Eastern Europe? Are locals friendly enough with travellers especially non-caucasian ones?