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Most foreign travelers will come to Brussels either by plane to Brussels (BRU) or Charleroi Airport (CRL) or by train.
Website : www.brusselsairport.be
Getting from Brussels Airport (BRU) into the city is easy. For more information (and alternatives) about going to or leaving the airport, see the website for Brussels Airport
Trains to all 3 main Brussels stations (Nord/Noord, -Central/Centraal and -Midi/Zuid - this last usually the final destination) run from the airport station (now "Brussels Airport-Zaventem" in timetables) located at level -1 of the terminal, roughly 4 times an hour on weekdays. Since March 2016, another train runs twice an hour to Bruxelles-Schuman, Bruxelles-Luxembourg and Etterbeek stations (final destination Charleroi-Sud or Dinant) Whichever train is used, the cost BRU-Brussels or vice versa is €8.60 standard single, 2nd class (including a charge that applies to all tickets to/from the airport, called Diabolo Fee: if travelling using a flat-rate fare or pass e.g. Rail Pass, it is necessary to purchase a separate Diabolo Fee ticket for €5 for trips to/from Brussels Airport).
Tickets can be bought at the station ticket office or from ticket machines ("dispensers" in SNCB/NMBS terminology) at the station or in the baggage reclaim area (near Carousel 2). They can also be purchased online, selecting "homeprinting" option from (for domestic tickets) www.belgianrail.be - for payment methods accepted see http://www.belgianrail.be/en/customer... - for destinations outside Belgium, use www.b-europe.com/Travel
The airport station can be found by bearing right in a 2 o'clock direction on exit from Customs. Following train signs leads to escalators and elevators/lifts down. Journey time into/ from Brussels is roughly 20 minutes and trains start running from the airport at around 5:30 am until past midnight. From Brussels, the first train is at around 04:40 hrs and the last around 23:00 (from Bruxelles-Midi). For schedules use the belgianrail link above.
There are also DIRECT trains from the airport to certain other destinations such as Leuven, Ghent, Antwerp (some continuing to Amsterdam), Charleroi, Mons, Tournai, Brugge, Kortrijk and Oostende. However, all high-speed international trains such as Thalys, Eurostar and TGV leave from / arrive at Bruxelles-Midi, so destinations of these trains will require a change in Brussels, as also do some others (e.g. Luxembourg). While for some destinations, it is necessary to change in Leuven (e.g. Hasselt, Genk, Eupen and Maastricht) or Kortrijk (Lille).
The airport bus station is located on level 0 (ground level) outside the terminal building. As for the train station, coming into the arrival hall from the baggage claim area, go to the right and take lifts/escalators.
The Brussels city transport company STIB operates Airport Line bus #12 (weekdays, daytime) or #21 (weekends and weekday evenings), between the airport and Place du Luxembourg (rue de Trèves, outside Exki). Buses start from Brussels City from 05:00 and from BRU from 5:40 am; on Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays and weekday evenings, line 12 is replaced by (non-express) line 21, which runs until around 23:00; see schedule Both stop at DIAMANT pre-metro station where it is possible to change onto trams #7/25 (to e.g. Rogier/Heysel in one direction and Montgomery and destinations beyond in the other) - also bus #29 to Madou and De Brouckère; and SCHUMAN, where it is possible to change onto metro lines 1/5 for e.g. Arts-Loi, Gare Centrale, St. Catherine.
Tickets cost €4.50 from ticket machines next to the bus stop at BRU (stand C), which takes coins or credit cards; or €6 from the bus driver - cash only, no large notes. They are valid for any number of changes to/from other STIB buses, trams, metros, within 60 minutes of first stamping the ticket (which must also be "validated" with each change to another bus/tram/metro).
In addition, the Flemish bus company De Lijn operates services between Brussels Airport and destinations in Flanders, and stops at the airport on the way between Brussels and Flanders. Services #272 and #471 can be used to reach Gare du Nord/Noordstation, taking about 40 mins, and the #359 to Roodebeek metro station, on metro line 1. Tickets must be purchased from the bus driver and cost €3. There is no De Lijn ticket office or machine at the airport, from which it would be possible to purchase a 10-trip Lijnkaart for €14, which may also not be purchased on board the bus: the only DL ticket office and ticket machine in Brussels is located inside the bus station area at Gare du Nord.
Taxi / rental car (see other section)
The taxi rank is immediately outside the Arrivals area. Other than pre-booked services (when the vehicle will be located in one of the nearby car-parks as it cannot wait outside Arrivals), it is recommended to use only official, metered taxis from the rank rather than accepting offers from unofficial drivers. The normal price from BRU to Brussels is €45 to €50 and from Brussels to BRU, €40 to €45 or less - the difference arises because taxis starting at the airport are registered in Flanders, and on the route into Brussels operate maybe 1/3 in their "own" region (price level 1) and 2/3 in Brussels Region (price level 2); while taxis starting in Brussels are registered in the Brussels Region, and on the route out to Zaventem, operate maybe 2/3 in their "own" region (price 1) and 1/3 in Flanders (price 2). (NB these price levels are actually indicated using Roman numerals but Tripadvisor confuses ONE with a personal pronoun which it refuses to accept in Traveler Articles).
Car rental is located in the arrival hall, to the right when exiting the baggage claim area.
It is difficult to walk from the airport to nearby places, except Zaventem village. In Belgium, it is not the custom to flag down cars (nor can taxis be hailed in the street, it is necessary to phone or to go to a taxi rank).
Flying from Brussels Airport
Brussels Airport has a single terminal, with separate check-in areas for scheduled and charter flights.
Flights to/from airports in the Schengen zone use Pier A (some non-Schengen flights to Africa also depart from zone A/T, at the end of Pier A), while non-Schengen flights depart from and arrive at Pier B.
Pier A gates with a number lower than 30 are for planes with apron parking positions, so these gates are serviced by buses, while all other gates of pier A and B are jetties with direct access between the plane and gate area.
The airport offers wifi (Telenet hot spots), but this isn't free. In the business lounges, vouchers for free access are available at the reception.
Near the airport, 3 parking buildings are available. P1 is the nearest to the departures/arrivals (10min walk), but also the most expensive (more than 20 euro / day). P2 is slightly better priced, and a good 10-15 minute walk from the main terminal building. P3 is the cheapest and about 10-15 min walk from the terminal building. P3 also offers promotions such as 3 days for the price of 2 (50 euro), 9 for the price of 7(100 euro).
"Brussels South Charleroi" Airport (CRL)
The name is misleading as the airport, used exclusively by no-frills airlines (Ryanair, Wizz Air, Pegasus Airlines and Jetairfly) is located in Gosselies, near Charleroi, about an hour from Brussels by bus or train. The airport code clearly identifies its real location.
CRL is connected with the city it was designed to serve, CHARLEROI, by bus A operated by the Wallonian transport company, TEC. This runs every 30 mins on weekdays, hourly on Sat/Sun, taking about 20 mins to Charleroi-Sud station (NB in TEC timetables, the airport is called "Gosselies Aérogare"). Tickets may be purchased from bright yellow machines next to the TEC bus stop outside Exit 2 on the Departures side of CRL, and cost €6.
Between CRL and BRUSSELS there are the following transport options:
a) The Brussels City Shuttle operated by Flibco to/from rue de France next to Bruxelles-Midi station. This runs every 30 mins, takes 55 mins, and costs maximum €14 buying online (€5 or €10 purchasing well in advance), €17 on the spot - no specific "return" price, no fixed booking other than as regards the date of travel; or
b) TEC bus A between CRL and Charleroi-Sud station plus train from that station to Brussels (Nord, Central, Midi). This costs €9.40 for the train plus €6 for the bus or €15.40 for a "combi" ticket to/from Brussels, covering both. It may be noted that the combi ticket saves no money for this destination, but it does save time at Charleroi-Sud station. Tickets can be purchased from the TEC ticket machines next to the bus stop outside Exit 2 at CRL, or (when travelling TO CRL), at any railway station, or online from Belgian Railways - when it is necessary to specify as departure point/destination "Brussels South Charleroi" (as opposed to Charleroi-Sud, which would give train fare only, without the bus). This ticket can only be purchased as a single, there is no "return" option.
c) A taxi to Brussels will cost €90 (in 2011) - however, in this direction, shared vans are available which split the cost between up to 6 passengers, thereby reducing the price. Taxis from Brussels to CRL are more expensive: €120 when booked in advance, up to €170 on the meter. Private transfers are also available from any number of private transfer/"shuttle" companies, it isn't possible to recommend or advise against any one company in particular.
Between CRL and BRUGGE / GHENT:
a) Flibco operate a shuttle which stops at Gent St. Pieters and Brugge stations, costing €17/21 for Brugge and €15/€19 for Ghent (= maximum online price / price on the spot).
b) A combi ticket covering TEC bus A plus train (changing at Bruxelles-Midi) costs €21.60 for/from either city ; this is a much better buy than for Brussels, as using separate bus/train tickets would cost €6 + 21.30 = €27.30 for Brugge and €6 + €16.30 = €22.30 for Ghent.
International high-speed trains such as Thalys, Eurostar, TGV and the German ICE stop at Bruxelles-Midi/Brussel Zuid station (ICE also at Bruxelles-Nord). Non-high-speed international trains such as IC trains to/from Amsterdam and Luxembourg stop at all 3 of Brussels' main stations, Midi, Central and Nord (those to/from Luxembourg also at Bruxelles-Schuman and Bruxelles-Luxembourg).
All train tickets to BRUSSELS are to any train station in Brussels that can be reached by train from the arrival station; therefore although Thalys, Eurostar etc. terminate at Bruxelles-Midi, the ticket is valid to continue on any normal train (so not ICE to Gare du Nord!) to another station in Brussels, e.g. Bruxelles-Central (near the Grand' Place), which saves the metro/bus/tram fare. It is not necessary to show the ticket to anyone before boarding a train, it must merely be shown to an inspector on board the train taken, if asked. There are trains every few minutes in each direction, along the corridor Midi-Central-Nord and Nord-Central-Midi, and the journey between each station takes only about 3 minutes.
Transport to other destinations in Brussels from Gare du Midi obviously depends on exact destination. It’s quite easy to leave Gare du Midi using public transport, following M signs to the metro for metro lines 2/6 and pre-metro (underground tram) lines 3/4, or to "rue couverte" (lit., "covered street", i.e. underneath the railway bridge) for other buses and trams. For specific destinations it is of course necessary to consult the STIB network map - cost for a single journey using an individual ticket is €2.10 purchasing the ticket in advance (ticket machine or metro station ticket office), €2.50 buying this from the bus or tram driver.
With luggage and/or outside normal public transport hours of about 5 a.m. till midnight, a taxi may be the best solution. Follow "taxi" signs in the main concourse to the ranks outside the station - and be aware that taxis in Belgium are expensive, and while Uber X (version using professional drivers) operates in Brussels, it operates dynamic pricing so it is sometimes less expensive than a normal taxi and sometimes more..
Most international buses (Eurolines and Flixbus, which has now taken over Megabus) use the bus station next to the CCN ("Centre de Communications Nord") complex, which houses the railway station Gare du Nord/ Noordstation (levels +1 and +2), the local/regional bus station, for STIB and De Lijn buses to destinations in Brussels and Flanders (level 0) and the metro station Gare du Nord/Noordstation (level -1). Potential passengers should note that this complex closes between about 01:00 and 04:30 hrs (Gare du Midi is the only Brussels station that remains open overnight). There are therefore no facilities of any sort for bus passengers between those times; and only Eurolines has its own waiting room anyway.
Ouibus, operated by SNCF (French Railways) departs from and arrives at rue de France outside Gare du Midi.
Since the demise of EasyCruise it is unlikely that visitors would be arriving in Brussels by boat, and strictly speaking this also won't be the case when the river cruise terminal at Neder-over-Heembeek (just outside Brussels) is completed in 2017. Information is awaited about public transport connections between the cruise terminal and Brussels, most likely Gare du Nord.