Language: The official languages are Dutch, French and German. Dutch is slightly more widely spoken than French, and German is spoken the least.
Time Zone: Central European Standard Time = GMT+1, Central European Summer Time = GMT+2
Tipping: : Tips are not compulsory and in Belgium there are no generally established rules, although it is common practice to leave a sum amounting to around 10% of the bill if you are satisfied with the service you have received.
Ostend (Ostende) is one of the largest cities along the Belgian Coast which is one of the reasons why it is affectionately known as the 'City by the Sea'. The resort offers visitors on coach holidays over five and a half miles of sandy beaches to explore, sunbathe or take a dip in the cool waters of the North Sea.
The city also has a cosmopolitan feel with its beautiful harbour filled with yachts, over 50 hotels and of course Ostend airport where visitors will begin their tour should they decide to fly into Belgium. Life is never boring here with a variety of activities suitable for every day of the year and if you buy the Ostend City Pass, you will have access to a variety of museums and other attractions as well as making use of some of the discounts available in the city. Visit Ostend's PMMK Museum which is home to the work of 20th century Belgian artist James Ensor who used to live in the city. Most of his famous work is in Los Angeles but you can still see the artist's family home. There's a plethora of medieval buildings in Ostend including the Napoleonic Fort and Nieuwpoort, not forgetting famous ships The Mercator and Amandine which have both been transformed into museums.
Ostend is home to a variety of wonderful events so make sure you book your coach tour so that it coincides with either the Ostend Christmas Market where you can try your hand at skating on their huge ice rink and Carnival Weekend with the world famous Dead Rat Ball – a fabulous masquerade affair for all to enjoy! The Dead Rat Ball is a party that attracts thousands of visitors every year where the locals dress up in amazing fancy-dress outfits and there are all sorts of other events including the rumoured clog-throwing event in the Town Square which will be a sight to see! The Ball takes place in the Ostend Kursaal Casino but if you are unable to get tickets, you can still enjoy the party atmosphere in the city's bars and clubs when the parades and carnivals come to town.
Whatever takes your fancy, Ostend certainly has it. But one thing's for certain, don't leave without sampling the local delicacies, such as shrimp croquettes, and washing it down with a Belgian Beer.
Coach holidays to Ostend start from £89 per person and typically include; return coach travel or flights, transportation whilst in the resort, accommodation in good standard hotels, meals and a variety of included or optional excursions so you can explore further should you wish to.
To help you have an enjoyable holiday in Ostend, take a look at these useful tips and advice provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO):
Health and Travel Insurance
Local Laws and Customs
Health and Travel Insurance
When visiting Belgium, you should always obtain a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) prior to leaving the UK. The EHIC isn't a substitute for travel insurance, but it will entitle you to state provided medical treatment should it become necessary throughout the duration of your trip. Any treatments provided are on the same terms as that of Belgian nationals. The EHIC won't cover the costs of a medical repatriation, on-going medical treatment or non-essential treatment, so you must always ensure you have the correct travel insurance and can access funds which will cover the costs of any medical treatment and possible repatriation.
Petty crime rates in Belgium are similar to those in the UK, but appear to be on the increase. Always take sensible precautions that will protect both yourself and your belongings.
When you go out, only take the minimum amount of cash which is needed and be sure that any additional credit cards and personal ID are essential before carrying them with you. If possible, leave any jewellery, valuables and important documents somewhere secure such as in a hotel safe. Try to spread your personal items to avoid carrying your money, your passport and bank/credit cards all in the same pocket or bag. Before leaving the UK, take a photocopy of your passport and leave it with a friend or family member at home just in case you misplace yours whilst away, means they can always provide a copy for you should you need it. Always fill out your next-of-kin details in the back page of your passport.
Should you become a victim of theft, always contact the nearest police station to get a police report. If you are unfortunate enough to lose your passport, you must also contact the British Embassy located in Brussels. If you are struggling to report the theft of your cards to your card issuer in the UK, you can contact the Belgian group 'Card Stop' (telephone: +32 (0) 70 344 344) who will send a fax to your UK card issuer telling them to block your card.
Always be vigilant and take extra precautions when in major railway stations or when travelling on public transport, particularly when it is late at night. Thieves and muggers often operate around Brussels Gare du Midi/Zuidstation (the Eurostar terminal), Gare du Nord and also Schuman (the EU quarter). Pickpockets operate on a number of international trains, mainly Amsterdam-Brussels and Paris-Brussels.
Never leave your luggage unattended. There have been a number of reports of luggage being taken from the racks located at the end of carriages on high-speed trains (TGV and Thalys), usually just before the train doors close.
Never leave valuable items on show in your car, even when you are in it. Always keep car doors locked and windows secure. It has become more common for thieves, who are normally on motorbikes, to break a car window and snatch valuables from the passenger seat when a vehicle is stationary at traffic lights. As ever, carjacking, especially of high cost vehicles, remains a risk.
Local Laws and Customs
According to Belgian Law, you must carry some form of identification with you at all times.
The possession of drugs and also trafficking are serious offences. It is illegal to wear clothing which covers or hides a person's face largely or completely in a public place (such as in parks, on public transport, when in the street or in buildings).
People who wear such clothing (for example a burka and nikab) risk being fined of up to €137.50 and/or being detained for up to 7 days. Tourists are not exempt from this Law.
British passport holders endorsed as a 'British Citizen' do not need a visa when entering Belgium. If you are intending to work or stay in Belgium for more than 3 months, you must apply for a residence permit from the local communal authority.
Those with differing types of British nationality should always check entry requirements with the Belgian Embassy located in London.
When staying for up to 3 months, your passport should always be valid for the proposed entirety of your stay; you will not need any additional period of validity beyond this.
Any other nationality looking to visit Belgium, must contact the local embassy to check visa requirements.
For further information about Ostende, you can visit the official tourist board website at visitoostende.be
There are so many fabulous sights to see when visiting Ostende, it'll be worth tearing yourself away from the beach, just take a look at this:
Atlantic Wall Museum
Located close to the beach and ferry terminal, the Atlantic Wall Museum is situated inside the old German Headquarters where you can see photographs and documents concerning its construction. Discover the Grand Bunker, the former German Headquarters which were used to plot strategy for the Second World War.
Dead Rat Ball
Possibly the most celebrated festival in Ostende, the 'Bal de Rat Mort' takes place on the first Saturday of March every year. The festival is a creation of James Ensor, Ostende's greatest painters following a visit to Paris to see the cabaret performance of 'Au Rat Mort'. Immerse yourself in a fabulous evening of entertainment with extravagant costumes at this celebrated event.
A polygonal fort occupied by German forces in World War I and was used as accommodation for German troops. The Germans positioned a heavy coastal artillery battery nearby for defence. There are audio guides available so you can wander around the attraction at your own pace (however please contact the attraction if these are available in English before travelling)!
Most importantly Ostende is a seaside town, so a trip to the beach and the seafront is a must!Popular with day tourists during July and August, the beach can become busy with the locals most likely to occupy the larger beach 'Grootstrand'. Meanwhile, the majority of tourists on day trips tend to set up camp for the day on the nearer beach 'Kleinstrand'.