Brussels lockdown: Will I be able to travel safely?

  Brussels' Atomium by night - it reopened on Tuesday. Image credit:  Niels Mickers /Flickr

Brussels' Atomium by night - it reopened on Tuesday. Image credit: Niels Mickers/Flickr

Unless you’ve been living under a rock on the outskirts of Pluto for the past couple of weeks, then you’ll probably be aware of the horrific attacks than have happened in Paris and the subsequent aftermath.

It is thought that the ringleader of those attacks, Salah Abdeslam, fled from the French capital in the following hours and was dropped off outside King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, Belgium.

As a result of his suspected presence in the region and a suspicion that a Paris-style attack is imminent by the militant Islamic State group, the city has been on lockdown for the past four days.

Armed soldiers have been patrolling the streets, local schools and universities have remained shut this week, Metro services were cancelled with only overground trams and trains operating, while some offices remained open, yet were quiet.

Tourism

Although the safety of everyone in Brussels is, and should be, the main priority, there is no doubt that the recent lockdown has caused plenty of disruption to tourists going there.

Following the Paris attacks, attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre shut their doors, whilst the metro system – which makes it handy to get around the city – closed down. If you were going for a short break, say for three days, it could well and truly ruin the experience.

The tourism sector in Brussels has been hit hard, with tourists finding many bars, restaurants, cafés shops and cinemas shut.

Flights, on the other hand, have been less affected, and both Brussels Airport and Brussels Charleroi Airport both remain open with flights continuing as normal.

This has angered some passengers, especially Ryanair customers who have been unable to reclaim a refund.

Ryanair themselves have said: “our flights are operating as normal and flight changes can be made on manage my booking.”

British Airways have also come under fire, who say that the ‘don’t have a policy for Brussels,’ and that they are following guidance from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) as to how they continue operations.

Whereas Aer Lingus and easyJet are offering full refunds to anyone due to travel to Brussels this week, and customers are advised to contact their customer service teams.

Is this going to be an ongoing problem?

Hopefully not. Many places in Brussels are expected to resume service today, and things should be running as normal by the end of the week.

However, the Belgian government is unlikely to relent on protection until they feel that the area is properly secure.

I, myself, am travelling to Brussels at the end of March. I actually booked it as a present for my Dad’s birthday (which was back in October) and we are flying with Ryanair. I have reached out to the hotel that we are going to be staying in to check their current and presumed future status, but they are yet to respond to my contact.

Fingers crossed the threat disappears as soon as possible.

Should you go to Brussels?

If you have flights and a hotel booked, and perhaps you can’t get a refund, then it all depends on whether or not you want to take a risk.

Chances are nothing will happen. The city is on lockdown after all and they are prepared for an imminent attack. This means lots of armed forces, quick response times, and heightened security which should make it extra safe.

Museums and tourist attractions are starting to open, although some remain closed. For a complete list of what has reopened and what hasn’t, click here. Public events could also be cancelled at short notice, so if you are going for something along those lines then be prepared to have it scratched from your itinerary at the last minute.

If you are travelling to Belgium at any point in the next few weeks from the United Kingdom, then it is best to keep tabs on the FCO website. They will have up-to-date travel information and guidance, and the precautions they advise should be followed.

The threat level in Brussels remains at its highest (level 4), and is level, and the country are urging everyone to be vigilant – especially those travelling in large crowds.