Practical Information

 Table of contents:

Accommodation

1. For students:

  • UCL Accommodation Office offers 5,725 university units (rooms in shared flats, studios, flats, and family apartments) on the Louvain-la-Neuve and Brussels Woluwe and Mons campuses, primarily for use by students.
  • Private property agencies (French)
  • Private landlords who rent out rooms or flats
  • Rental listings at www.student.be and www.kots.be 
  • The Findaroom application on Facebook, updated daily (enter ‘Findaroom’ in Facebook’s search engine).

Those who arrive at Louvain-la-Neuve without having reserved accommodation are advised to check into private accommodation in the area (hotels, guest houses, bed and breakfast, etc.).

For students, most accommodation managed by the university and private companies consist of shared flats: students have their own room but share a kitchen, living area and bathroom facilities (shower and toilets). Rooms are furnished (washbasin, bed, mattress, chair, desk, wardrobe and bookcase). Tenants must provide their own bed linen and crockery. Shared flats can accommodate six, eight or ten tenants. Average monthly rent for a room is €295. Studios and flats generally comprise one room with a kitchen area and shower. Apartments are available for students with families; they have between one and three bedrooms. Rents range from €295 to €990, depending on the type of accommodation and number of bedrooms.

UCL has also created the unique concept of theme-based shared flats (the so-called ‘kots à projet’), which involves students living in shared accommodation and working together on a social, cultural or sport-related project.

Students with a disability can benefit from adapted accommodation mainly through two options: a shared flat or an individual flat. Additionally, some students without a disability are keen to offer their help by renting accommodation to a student with a disability.

UCL accommodation is in high demand and it is recommended that students reserve it as far in advance as possible by contacting the Accommodation Office.

Lists of private accommodation is also available on the various university campuses.

Full range of information on student accommodation (Accommodation Office website)


2. For researchers and lecturers (including research assistants, scientific collaborators, interns):

In Louvain-la-Neuve, the Accommodation Service proposes a list of private short- and long-term accommodation and property agencies.

Accommodation can also be searched at sites such as Immoweb, Immovlan, Logic-immo and SabbaticalHomes.

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Budget / Cost of Living

Naturally, planning a budget depends on specific situations. Generally speaking, a single person should plan on an annual budget of approximately €9,500. Families and shared households should assume an additional budget of at least €3,000 for each extra person.

Accommodation costs are the greatest expense. Average monthly rent for UCL accommodation (a room) is €295. Average rent for privately owned accommodation is between €600 and €800 for a one-bedroom flat, and between €750 and €900 for a two-bedroom flat.

Other costs depend on lifestyle and use of university services (University Restaurants, certain university library services, sports facilities).

For students, a significant portion of these costs is due in September: enrolment fees, health insurance premiums, fees for most courses and syllabuses, first month’s rent, security deposit and initial accommodation costs. As a result, a minimum of €2,500 (excluding tuition fees) will be required in September. Thereafter, students must anticipate monthly rental payments and living expenses.
Sample prices of everyday items:

  • Train ticket from Brussels to Louvain-la-Neuve: €6
  • Daily newspaper: €1.50
  • Cinema ticket: €8
  • Private restaurant daily special: €10-13
  • Sandwich: €3.50
  • Loaf of bread (800 g): €2.10
  • 250 g of chocolates: €6
  • 1 kg of apples: €1.50-2.50
  • Litre of milk: €0.60-1
  • Package of ground coffee (250 g): €4-5
  • University Restaurant daily special: €4.75

Paid employment and student status

Undertaking paid employment or a student job is subject to very strict regulations (a work permit is compulsory for students who are not from the European Union). By the same token, current legislation does not allow students to finance their studies by student jobs alone. More information is available at the federal website ‘Studentatwork’.

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Getting around Belgium

Public transport

The Belgian National Railways offers discounts for adults under 26. Children under six ride free (up to four per adult), those aged six to eleven ride at half-price. Other discounts and passes are available, such as the Railpass, which is good for ten trips within Belgium over one year, and the Benelux pass, which allows unlimited travel on any five days within one month of purchase in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Attention: the Eurail Benelux Pass is valid only for non-European residents; the Interrail Benelux Pass is valid only for European residents.

TEC is the regional bus service for Wallonia and De Lijn is the regional bus service for Flanders; both offer service to, from and in Brussels. De Lijn also operates trams, including the Kusttram which operates along the Belgian coast. For public transport in Brussels (metro, bus and tram), consult STIB-MIVB as well as information on the Brussels public transport system’s MOBIB electronic card, which can also be loaded with ticketing for Belgian rail, TEC or De Lijn.

Passengers must indicate they intend to board approaching buses and trams by signalling the driver with a simple raise of the hand, otherwise they mightmay not stop.

By taxi

All major towns have taxi services, but they are quite expensive. They can rarely be hailed from the roadside; taxi stands are located at strategic locations, such as central squares and train stations. They can also be booked by phone and online. Drivers often do not have detailed knowledge, so passengers should be prepared to explain. As fares include service, tipping is not necessary, though rounding up is a frequent practice.

Brussels taxi companies

Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve

Uber is also available in Belgium.

By bicycle

Overall, Belgium takes cycling seriously and is continually adding lanes and paths. Cyclists must know the rules of the road (see our sister university KULeuven’s helpful guide) and be particularly aware that traffic approaching from the right has right of way. Equipment can be rented in most towns and/or train stations for a reasonable price. Automated bike sharing networks include the Blue Bike nationwide network, Villo! in Brussels, La Bia Velo in Namur and Velo Antwerpen in Antwerp. Cyclists can even bring their bikes on trains or rent bikes as part of the train ticket price.

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Driving in Belgium

Belgium has a dense network of motorways, none of which are tolled. Road conditions are excellent, service stations are plentiful. Traffic congestion in Brussels can be heavy. Signs can sometimes be unclear and on secondary roads even absent. Road signs are in Dutch in Flanders and in French in Wallonia.

The minimum age for renting a car is 21; one year’s driving experience and a credit card are required. All major car rental agencies are available at airports and major train stations, across cities and in towns, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, etc.

Driver’s licence

Drivers must have a valid license and carry it while driving. The minimum driving age is 18.

Licences issued by an EU or EEA country are recognised throughout the EU.

Some licences issued by non-EU/EEA countries may be valid for short-term stays up to three months; others may be valid for short-term stays up to six months but only in conjunction with an International Driver’s Permit issued by national automobile associations (for country-specific requirements, check with the embassy or consulate in Belgium). For longer stays, licences issued by non-EU/EEA countries that have a licence exchange agreement with Belgium can be exchanged for a Belgian licence upon registering with the commune of residence. Otherwise, a Belgian licence must be acquired by taking both written and practical driving tests; it is possible to benefit from an interpreter when taking the written exam.

Rules of the road

Traffic drives on the right. Speed limits in urban areas are 50 kph (30 mph), on motorways 120 kph (75 mph) and 90 kph (55 mph) on other national roads. Unless intersections are otherwise marked, drivers coming from the right (and turning to the right) have priority and may proceed without stopping. Buses and trams always have priority.

Third-party insurance is essential and comprehensive insurance is highly recommended. Wearing safety belts is mandatory and no child under 12 can sit in the front passenger seat if back seats are available. Drink-driving is illegal and severely punished. Mobile phone use while driving must be hands-free.

Motorcycle drivers and passengers must wear gloves, a jacket with long sleeves, long trousers, and boots that protect the ankles. Children under three are not allowed on motorcycles. Children between three and eight can be passengers only on motorcycles up to 125cc and must be carried in a special child’s seat.

More complete information is available in the Belgian Highway Code (French and Dutch) and various English guides online.

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Telephone / Internet


There are three main mobile phone service providers:

Each company offers a range of services and packages. Tariffs and conditions should be compared prior to entering into a contract, which can be obtained by visiting the nearest shop with:

  • ID (passport or identity card);
  • proof of address (a utility bill, property rental contract or bank statement);
  • bank account IBAN number.

Mobile deals can be fixed contract, rechargeable or pay as you go.

Several companies offer landlines either individually or as part of package deals that combine landline, internet, television and/or mobile service:

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Postal Services

The Belgian postal service, bpost, operates post offices Monday to Friday from 8:30 or 9:00 am to 4:00 or 5:00 pm. Some are open late Fridays and Saturday mornings. Increasingly, however, supermarkets and press shops also offer postal services. Public mail boxes are red.

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Banks / Payments

Several banks have campus branches, which are generally open from 9 am to 3 pm on weekdays and have 24-hour ATM service:

Payment by cards is highly developed in Belgium – they can almost always be used, with rare exceptions, even for tiny sums – so acquiring a payment card is necessary. Payment by check is no longer possible.

Western Union agencies are located throughout Belgium including in Louvain-la-Neuve.

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Childcare

In the French Community of Belgium, the Office of Birth and Childhood (ONE) is responsible for organising care for children aged three and under. There are various types of childcare facilities, but their number is limited. Therefore, one should take the time to search for the right facility. In practice, registering a future child can be done beginning with the fourth month of pregnancy.

The cost of childcare varies based on the type of facility but all costs are tax deductible. Thus a childcare facility subsidised by ONE offers prices proportional to the parents’ income, whereas other facilities set their own prices. More information on childcare facilities in the French Community of Belgium can be found at the ONE website.

The University of Louvain has two nurseries. Both are located in Louvain-la-Neuve:

  • Pomme d’happy welcomes around 24 infants.
  • Le P'tit Matelot (tel: 00 32 (0) 10 47 88 67)receives children if something unexpected comes up, if someone is needed to watch over a child for a few hours, or if childcare is required on a regular basis or for extended periods of time.

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Schools

Compulsory education, which applies from the age of six to 18, is free in Belgium. The choice of institution is left to the parents. There is a wide range of secondary schools: collèges, instituts, lycées, athénées, etc.

Education is organised based on the following schema:

  • Fundamental education: preschool begins at age 2½ and continues for three years; elementary school begins at age six and continues for six years.
  • Secondary education: six years split into three two-year cycles.

There are two networks of subsidised education: the official network (state schools) and the open network (religiously or non-religiously affiliated schools). The cost of attendance is limited to school expenses such as books, photocopies and regular outings. For details (and a list of the region’s schools), go to www.enseignement.be.

A third network is private – not subsidised by the government – and therefore requires the payment of school fees. For European schools, visit the Schola Europaea website. A list of international schools in Belgium can be found at the website of the Educational Collaborative for International Schools (ECIS).

Louvain-la-Neuve hosts numerous primary and secondary schools in the two subsidised networks. These schools and their contact information are available at the official website of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve, and in the ‘Guide des commerces et services de Louvain-la-Neuve’ available both at the Student Support Service (‘Point de repère’) and at the Inforville counter near the train station ticket windows.

For other communes, consult their websites for school lists.

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Electricity

The electrical current is 220 volts AC and standard European plugs have two round pins.

As the market has liberalised in recent years, the number of electricity and gas providers has multiplied and comparison shopping is essential.

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Television

Over 95% of Belgian households have cable television. The main cable network operators in the Brussels Region and Wallonia are ProximusVOO, Telenet and Scarlet . They offer package deals that can include television, internet, landline and/or mobile services. There are no national television channels in Belgium. The two main public networks are and RTBF in the French Community (Wallonia and Brussels) and VRT in the Flemish Community (Flanders and Brussels)

Most cable, satellite and IPTV platforms in Belgium distribute stations from other European countries including the Netherlands, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy (NPO 1, NPO 2, NPO 3, ARD, ZDF, BBC One, BBC Two, BBC World News, BBC Entertainment, TF1, France 2, France 3, Rai 1). RTBF channels include La Une, La Deux and La Trois. The private RTL Group runs the French-language channels RTL-TVI, Club RTL and Plug RTL. La Une and RTL-TVI are the main channels with local newscasts and the most local programming.

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Smoking

Smoking is prohibited in any public building in Belgium, including all university buildings, student accommodation, pubs and restaurants (though separate smoking rooms are permitted under strict conditions), as well as shopping malls, public transport and taxis. Basically, one can only smoke outside. Smoking in any public enclosed space is a criminal offence subject to a fine.


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Waste Management

Recycling is important in Belgium. Rubbish is sorted at the source – in other words, in the household – into specific coloured sacks that must be purchased at local supermarkets, or into similarly coloured bins (depending on accommodation). Rubbish crews collect the sacks from the curb or trash bin outside residences on specific days – leaving rubbish out on the wrong day is subject to a fine.

The three basic categories of waste are:

  • Paper and cardboard
  • Plastic, metal, aluminium-lined cartons (e.g. milk) (often in blue sacks)
  • Non-recyclable waste (often in white sacks)

Recyclable glass is taken by residents to one of the many public bins for clear and coloured glass found throughout every commune. Throwing out recyclable glass in the white or any other sack can be subject to a fine.

Depending on the commune, additional sorting collection may be available:

  • Food waste/compost
  • Garden waste

Bebat offers collection points to recycle batteries.

For specifics about what exactly can and cannot be recycled, visit Fostplus, which also includes an interactive collection calendar. Alternatively for collection days, check with the commune, whose website will also offer more information on recycling electronics and batteries, collecting bulky items, and much else.

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Doctors, Hospitals and Pharmacies

Belgium’s health service functions well. Financed by the state and national and private insurance, its many hospitals are modern, well managed and offer high-quality care and treatment. Bills are paid immediately (for insurance, see ‘Healthcare’ in 'Administrative information' section). Healthcare related to hospital admissions are billed directly to the health insurance funds and the patient is only billed for the patient’s contribution. Pharmacists are highly professional and an excellent resource for advice and remedies for minor aches and pains. Pharmacies are generally open 9am to 6pm Monday through Friday, and increasingly Saturday mornings, and particular pharmacies (pharmacies de garde) are open nights and weekends.

Your GP is the first person to contact if you are ill. He or she is interested in the health of the whole person, and will provide treatment, offer personalised advice and may refer you to a specialist if needed. You can contact a GP at any time, even at night and at the weekend, using the organised on-call system. On-call medical doctors (médecins de garde) are available for non-emergencies; contact information is available on commune websites, e.g. Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve (02 38 50 500). Options in Brussels include La Garde Bruxelloise and SOS Médecins.

At some point in the future, dialling 1733 anywhere in Belgium will connect callers to the nearest on-call doctor.

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Emergency numbers

For emergencies, from any phone in Belgium:

  • ambulance, medical and fire: 100
  • federal police: 101

From any phone in the EU: 112.

Other emergency contacts:

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Religions

Freedom of religion and separation of church and state are guaranteed by the Belgian Constitution. Belgium’s religious tradition is Catholic, although Protestant churches, mosques, synagogues and temples are found in most cities. About 65% of the population is Christian, of which 58% are Catholic. Members of Protestant, Eastern Orthodox churches and other Christian denominations make up 7%. Muslims account for about 5%. About 27% are agnostic or atheist. Practitioners of Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism have a small presence.