Is it safe to travel to Brussels and Belgium?

As the highest terror threat level remains in place in Brussels, Belgium, we ask what it means for tourists and travellers

There is a strong military presence in Brussels Photo: Getty

Tourists visiting Brussels this week should avoid public places and follow the instructions of the local security forces, the Foreign Office has said.

After a number of raids in the capital over the weekend, in an effort to find terrorists involved in the Paris attacks, the threat level for the city and the surrounding region remains at its highest, indicating that the danger of an attack is “serious and imminent”. The national level is one lower, with the threat of an attack “possible and real”.

“Attacks could be indiscriminate, including on public transport and transport hubs and in places frequented by foreigners,” the Foreign Office warns.

• Mapped: the terror threat around the world

Is it safe to travel?

Brussels remains in lockdown with the metro network closed today (Monday), as well as schools and universities. Some employers in the area are advising staff to avoid coming into work. Football matches and concerts were cancelled over the weekend. It is likely that tourist attractions will be closed, or swarmed with security personnel.

All federal museums are closed but anticipating reopening tomorrow, including the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, the Royal Library and Museum of Natural Science. A statement said: “We are convinced that visitors will understand this preventive measure linked to exceptional conditions.”

The Horta Museum and the Atomium are also closed. For a full list see here.

The Foreign Office said: “The Belgian government has confirmed the continuation of the increase in its national threat level to its highest level, very serious, for the Brussels region, indicating that the threat of a terrorist attack is serious and imminent.

PROFILE

Salah Abdeslam

Salah AbdeslamSalah AbdeslamAge:26Height:5ft 7inNationality:French police have described him as a French nationalLived:Molenbeek, BelgiumStatus:On the run


Rented a black VW Polo in Belgium which was found abandoned near the Bataclan concert hall. Slipped through the fingers of French police when they stopped the car as he and two alleged accomplices were driving back to Belgium the morning after the Paris attacks. Despite a massive police and army operation he remains the most wanted man in Europe.


Between 2009 and 2011 Abdeslam worked as a mechanic for STIB, the Belgian state railway, working in a district Brussels.

He also ran a number of business ventures with his brother Ibrahim, and other family members.

Salah’s brother, Ibrahim, 31, blew himself up during the Le Comptoir Voltaire restaurant attack.

“The public are advised to avoid places where there is a high concentration of people, including concerts, large events, stations and airports, public transport, busy shopping centres; follow the advice of local authorities and respect security controls.

“The Brussels metro network will remain closed on November 23, and many public events are likely to be cancelled and tourist attractions will be closed. There is currently a heavy police and military, presence, including at transport hubs and public sites.”

For those travelling to the country via Calais or the rest of France, the Foreign Office advice urges the public to be vigilant in public places and notes that the country is still in the midst of a three-month national state of emergency. It advises to allow more time for travel to take into account thorough security checks.

The lastest news on Great Britain’s Davis Cup Final against Belgium that starts on Friday in Ghent is that it will take place. The Belgian government is regularly updating its threat level and the Foreign Office is updating its travel advice.

Are trains and flights affected?

Eurostar is continuing to run a normal service to and from Brussels, but is offering those customers travelling up to and including Wednesday the chance to exchange their tickets for free.

A spokesperson said: “Our security operates at the highest level of any rail network in Europe, and has done since before the awful attacks in Paris. We operate at 100 per cent of bag and passenger checks, so this wouldn’t be increased.

“What we have seen is increased checks by the relevant border authorities in each country, so would advise passengers to allow a little more time than normal to check in.”

There is no sign of flights to the country being affected, however, transport links once in Belgium are likely to be disrupted. Brussels Airport says it is operating as normal.

EasyJet continues its regular service to Brussels (one flight a day), and is offering customers travelling to and from the Belgian city up until November 27 a credit note to fly at a later date.

A spokesperson also said to allow extra time when travelling. It is advising customers on social media flying to Belgium to call its advisors.

The airline also issued a statement regarding the tightening of border controls for travel to France.

It said: “The French authorities have notified us of their intention to impose border controls on all flights including between Schengen states [until] Sunday 13 December inclusive.

Is it safe to travel to Paris?

“During this time it’s important that all our customers travel with either their EU National ID card, their passport and where applicable a visa for Schengen. Customers travelling without the required documentation will be prevented from entering France.

“There will also be increased focus on security controls, so please allow extra time to get through the airport. Thanks for your understanding.”

British Airways is telling customers that flights are operating as normal.

Shops, galleries and museums may remain shut today Photo: Getty

Can I cancel my trip, or return home early?

You can, but you may have to pay for any extra costs you incur.

Travel companies are not obliged to offer free cancellation or repatriation unless the FCO advises against travel, which currently it doesn’t, although Eurostar is temporarily permitting visitors to exchange their tickets.

However, today (Monday) many tourist sights in Brussels are closed. If these closures are extended, and you are booked on a package tour which is based around visits to those sights, you will have good grounds to ask for your departure to be postponed. Independent travellers, on the other hand, are normally liable to honour any bookings – for accommodation for example – unless there is a free cancellation clause. Some hotels may be flexible allow you to postpone your booking to another time, however. It is always worth asking.

Will my travel insurance cover any losses if I don’t travel?

Not usually. Travel insurance normally excludes costs associated with terrorist action.