What you need to know before organizing your trip to the Belgian Grand Prix. The next race takes place at Spa Francorchamps on August 26-28, 2016.
Belgium is part of the Schengen zone, a group of 26 European countries (the UK and Ireland excepted) with a common visa policy and no internal borders. If you are travelling from the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, or the UK, you should be granted visa-free entry upon arrival for up to 90 days.
The Kingdom of Belgium, a small country in northwest Europe with a population of 11.2 million, is a country of two halves. The northern Flanders region is Flemish speaking (a language similar to Dutch), whilst the southern region of Wallonia is French speaking. The capital of Brussels (Bruxelles in French) is an important center of international politics, home to both the main institutions of the European Union and NATO.
In common with its neighbors in Western Europe, Belgium uses the EURO. Spa is a fairly expensive F1 destination (see Budget Planner), especially when considering the cost of race tickets, accommodation and trackside food and drink. Tipping is not a big requirement in Belgium, as bills for restaurants, taxis and the like include a service charge. Feel free to reward good service with a tip of up to 10%.
Belgium is generally a safe country, though it has been in the press for the wrong reasons lately. The perpetrators of the recent Paris terror attacks were based in the Belgian capital of Brussels, which was on high alert during the last weeks of 2015. As with anywhere, you need to be more aware of your belongings and surroundings on public transport and around places such as train stations. You shouldn’t have any particular issues at Spa Francorchamps, though we don’t recommend leaving valuables in your car or tent next to the circuit.
If you have been watching F1 for a while, you will know that it rains a lot in Belgium, especially in the hilly Ardennes region where the Spa Francorchamps circuit is located. The weather can change very quickly here, so you need to be prepared for storms with good quality wet weather gear and waterproof shoes. By the same token, the weather can also be very sunny and warm in the late European summer (like most of the 2015 F1 weekend), with temperatures around 25-30ºC (77- 86ºF) not uncommon.
Need to Know
- Belgium is a first-world country with excellent healthcare. If you are a European citizen, get yourself an EHIC card so you access local health services if the need arises. All fans travelling to the track should also have travel insurance in place, in case of an emergency.
- Spa Francorchamps is located in the French speaking part of Belgium, though Dutch, German and English are also widely spoken, especially at the track.
- Belgium is on Central European Summer Time (CEST) when the Grand Prix is held in August; this is equivalent to GMT +1 hour (or UTC + 2 hours)
- Belgium uses type E power plugs (230 V / 50 Hz) – carry a travel adapter if you are travelling from the UK, Australia or USA.
- Tap water in Belgium is safe to drink, which is good to know if you don’t want to pay €3 for a small bottle at the track
- In case of an emergency, the main number to dial in Belgium is 112. Operators should speak French, Dutch or English (sometimes German). Alternatively, you can dial 100 for medical emergency and fire or 101 for the police.
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