Living in Belgium – A Guide for PhD Students |

Living in Belgium – A Guide for PhD Students

Written by Chris Banyard

Belgium may be a small and relatively quiet country, but it has plenty to offer students who live there to study for a PhD. Famed for its chocolate, beer and artworks, Belgium is also an important hub of Western European culture and politics.

This guide provides useful information for students thinking of moving to Belgium for doctoral study. It covers accommodation options, work permits, transport and banking.

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Student life

Belgium is made up of two regions: the Flemish-speaking Flanders and the French-speaking Wallonia. The Belgian capital Brussels is also the home of many European institutions such as the European Parliament, Council and Commission and international institutions like NATO, along with many multinational companies. Despite all this, Belgium maintains a friendly and relaxed atmosphere and welcomes foreign students.

Culture and tourism

Belgium has a lot to offer its visitors, including many museums, medieval towns and churches, vibrant cities and a picturesque countryside.

You may also be able to see the work of the Flemish Masters Rubens, Bruegel and van Eyck, as well as other famous artists. It’s not just ‘high culture’ though: Belgium is renowned for its comics and cartoons like Tintin and The Smurfs.

Tourism is an important part of Belgium’s industry due to the amount of businesses and business events it hosts. As the country is used to welcoming international visitors, you will have access to plenty of help and guidance to help with your stay.

Sport and leisure

Cycling is very popular in Belgium; the rural routes through scenic villages and towns have been the locations for huge cycling races over the years.

The hillier Wallonia region has some opportunities for walking and hiking, particularly in the beautiful Ardennes forest area.

Food and drink

In addition to the finest chocolates and traditional beers, Belgium is also famous for its fries, fricandelles (deep-fried sausage patties) and waffles. There’s also a significant influence from neighbouring French, Dutch, and German cuisines.

Find a PhD in Belgium

Ready to start browsing some current PhD opportunities in Belgium? Alternatively, you can look at our other guides to PhD study abroad.


There are several forms of accommodation you can choose during your PhD in Belgium. The best one for you depends on your student status, your place of residence and your budget. Overall, accommodation is easy to find, although it is trickier in Brussels.

Accommodation types

Types of available student accommodation in Belgium include:

  • University residences – these are usually single rooms offered by the university (also known as a kot). Often these with have communal kitchen, bathroom and lounge areas, studio room-flats or flats may be available
  • Kots-à-projets – these are a Belgian creation, a reserved university residence for groups of students working together on a related project. The accommodation is very similar to the standard kot, but your flat-mates and neighbours will be your research group colleagues
  • Managed public / private residences – these are managed by private companies or local / regional authorities
  • Private sector – standard rented accommodation from a landlord / letting agent

Accommodation costs

The cost of accommodation is generally slightly cheaper in the UK. You can expect to pay around €350 and €500 per month, and this varies depending on your accommodation type, size, and location.

Living costs

The overall cost of living for a PhD student in Belgium is comparable to the most countries in Western Europe and may often be slightly cheaper.

You can expect to pay between €1,000 and 1,200 per month.

Prices in Belgium

The following table gives an indication of prices for some common expenses during a PhD in Belgium:

Student Cost of Living in Belgium - 2024
Restaurant Meal €18.00
Cinema Ticket €12.00
Monthly Travel Pass €49.00
Monthly Utilities €189.37
Based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.

Working during your PhD

EU / EEA / Swiss students are free to work in Belgium if you are enrolled on a full-time PhD and have a valid residence permit.

Other international students will require a valid Type-C work permit in order to work in Belgium during the academic year. Applications should be made to different portals, depending on if you’re are living / working in Brussels, Flanders or Wallonia.

Employment contracts with your university

As a PhD student, you may have employed status at your Belgian university. If this is the case and you are a non-EU / EEA / Swiss student, you may also require a valid work permit. This may also affect your ability to carry out additional work You should contact your university for more information.


The Belgian currency is the Euro (€). This simplifies the moving process for students from other EU countries and enables easy transfers between neighbouring countries.

Most PhD students will be able to open a Belgian bank account, and this will likely be useful for the 4-6 years of your PhD. The process of opening a bank account in Belgium is relatively straightforward and can be done online, and will usually require the following:

  • Passport / ID card
  • Proof of address (can initially be your home address, and provide the residence permit address later)

Transferring money from abroad into your Belgian bank account will usually incur some fees and processing delays, but this is not normally substantial.


As a central nation of Western Europe, efficient and effective transport links are an important part of Belgium. There are strong connections both within the country and to other major hubs of Europe.

Helpfully, Belgium provides a single MoBIB card for all public transport tickets around the country.

Rail travel

The efficient Belgian Train rail network is at the centre of the European high-speed train network an enables quick travel around Belgium and to the major cities of Europe.

The Student Season Ticket offers large 80% discounts for students under 26 years old.

Air travel

Belgium has five airports, the major one being the Brussels Airport. This airport is one of the most well-connected in Europe, with connections to many major cities around the world.

Inner-city travel

The towns and cities of Belgium have good bus, tram and underground train networks that offer discount cards for students.

Additionally, as a bike-friendly country, Belgium also has many cycle paths and routes perfect for travelling by bike.

Find a PhD in Belgium

Ready to start browsing some current PhD opportunities in Belgium? Alternatively, you can look at our other guides to PhD study abroad.

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Last Updated: 18 December 2023