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Brussels

Europe > Belgium > Brussels

See: Why rent a car in Brussels ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments

(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)

Your key questions for any destination:

Do I need a car in Brussels?

Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.

That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!

  • The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
  • How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
  • Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
  • Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?

Is it worth hiring a car in Brussels?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Brussels car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.

How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare Brussels with other destinations locally and around the world.

This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.

Should I rent a car in Brussels? 

This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in Brussels, but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.

The Belgian capital is often overlooked on the way to other touristy cities in Belgium such as Bruges. This is a shame as Brussels also has plenty to offer. As Belgium is a relatively small country, the advice here applies to Belgium as a whole as well as just Brussels.

Please note that Carornocar.com is currently being revised and updated in preparation for the Summer 2022 (northern hemisphere) tourist season. 

We do not intent to include detailed covid information, nor do we intend to suggest hiring a car, just because public transport might still have a mask requirement. Our advice will be based on the same criteria we've always used, ie whether or not you can get a better travel experience, or at least a better value one, by choosing not to hire a car.

Quick Ratings

Price band

Brussels is in car rental price band: 4/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)

General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Brussels? 

Sometimes. Car rental is slightly cheaper than global averages.

Volatility:

Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Brussels between the peak and the off peak season?

5/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 2/10

Non car score:7/10

Balance: 2

(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)

General comment -

 

Why? Visiting Brussels using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Brussels ?


  • Flexibility — as with anywhere else, a car will give you the flexibility to explore Belgium at your own pace. Belgium has an excellent network of high intensity train services between the major cities. However, this is concentrated on what approximates to a cross shape leading out Brussels. Travelling between other cities is not always so easy. To enjoy smaller Belgian towns and villages, a car is a much better idea.
  • Brussels suburbs — architecture pundits will love the variety of designs on display in the suburban areas around Brussels. Heading out to and around the suburbs by tram can be tortuously slow. A car could be good idea for this kind of architectural tourism. However, you may prefer just to walk around anyway, and not worry too much about those trams!
  • Battlefields — a car is a more flexible choice for independent touring around the battlefields of Belgium and neighbouring northern France.

Why not? Visiting Brussels without a car

Why don't you need a car in Brussels ?


  • Eurostar additions — passengers arriving from London on Eurostar trains can pay a very small amount of extra to enjoy onward travel to and from anywhere within Belgium. This needs to be a journey in a continuous direction. Travel must take place on the same day as the Eurostar journey.
  • Brussels airport — for travellers taking flights to Brussels, the airport is easily connected to all the main stations in Brussels city centre. You have easy links onwards to the rest of Belgium.
  • Beer — One of Belgium’s biggest exports is its beer, and Belgian beer can be particularly strong. This is simply not something to mix with a driving tour! It’s much better to sit back and relax, and let someone else provide transport between bars.

Super stations!

For those that appreciate genuinely grand designs, Belgium offers two of the most impressive medium-sized stations in Europe.

  • For the classicists, Antwerp has a delightfully eclectic cathedral of a station. Then there is the more recent addition of two tiers of underground platforms stacked on top of each. These cater for high speed through trains and other services.
  • Meanwhile, in the southern city of Li├Ęge is arguably the finest work of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, featuring a delightful arched station hall.

Brussels to Bruges

  • Belgium’s most famous tourist honey trap is the beautiful city of Bruges.
  • Like its Dutch counterparts , Bruges has an extensive canal network.
  • The best way to appreciate a city like Bruges is on a bike. These can readily be hired at the station and at other locations in Bruges.
  • There are also plenty of boat tours available around the city.
  • Bruges is easily accessible by train from Brussels or anywhere else in Belgium.
  • If you drive there, you will only end up parking in an edge of town car park.

Ratings: How does Brussels compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Brussels? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Brussels, and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.

How does this compare if:

You are travelling:

Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc

Does car rental make sense on different budgets?

 

 

Do you need to hire a car in Brussels? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Brussels (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".

Should you rent a car in Brussels? TBC

This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good. 

See global comparisons

Hiring | Driving | Parking

Trains | Buses | Local travel

 

Car hire basics:

 

Public transportation basics:

 

Regular bus services: YES

Coach (inter-city): YES

Tram: NO

Metro: NO

Commuter Rail:

High Speed Rail:

Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):

 

As you start ....

Does Brussels airport have a direct rail link?

(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No

 

 

 

 


Changelog

Has our advice for Brussels car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?

2017 - 3

2019 - 4

2021 - 2

Average score - 3

Notes:

 

Due to the excellent public transport in Belgium, which is supported by plenty of opportunities for cycling, or indeed just for walking around at a more leisurely pace between beers, there really is no need to hire a car in Brussels.

Summary

Do you or don't you need a car in Brussels ?

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