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Save money in Brussels – tips for living on a student budget in Brussels

This may be your first time abroad on your own and sticking to a budget might turn out to be hard to take on, even if you’re not a big spender. I propose you should tackle this challenge by having a look at the areas enunciated below. Who knows? You might save some pennies on the way.

Student ID card

Although Brussels isn’t the most student-card-friendly city unlike other ones where you will show your card and shops will fall over to offer you a 10% discount, you might still want to have your student card in your pocket and not hesitate to ask anywhere you go if there’s a student discount. For example, at UGC cinemas, you get a significant discount for your student ticket or in McDonald’s, they will give you a free cheeseburger on displaying your student card.

ESN Card

ESN is starting to develop in Brussels, they offer deals to travel with them and get to know other Erasmus students, they also organize and even offer their own special ESN card which costs around 5 €. Since it’s still growing, you should definitely check their website or ask your Erasmus coordinator to know more about the association. However, it is noteworthy for talk about their special partnership with Ryanair that results in 15% off 8 flights and 20 kg free baggage.

Museums

Numerous museums offer free admission on specific days like the first Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday of the month. E.g. the Magritte Museum, the Toy Museum or the Sewers Museum. Check here for more. Moreover, during the first semester every year, the Brussels Museums Nocturnes take place every Thursday night to make you discover about 5 museums for 1.50 € (under 26 years old) or even for free in certain places. Find out schedules and more about this here.

Festivals and folklore

Whether it is the Binche Carnival and its “Gilles de Binche” or the “24h Vélo”, which is the biggest student party in Belgium, Brussels, and to a greater extent Belgium, are very well known for its folklore. These are opportunities to get out at a lesser cost. Go “guindailler”, or party hard, with friends and enjoy Belgian culture at the same time. As they are popular events, the festivals usually have a free attendance. Of course, if you want to get a drink or some food, that’s where your money will come in handy but those expenses should be more limited than if you had to go to a club.

Libraries

Brussels holds the greatest number of public libraries in Belgium. You can borrow a book for free (even if you sometimes have to register by paying a modest fee) there. A large variety of those libraries have sections specialized in scientific research. And some of the collections are amongst the best and most exhaustive in their domain. How about writing your thesis over here?

Transport

If you are going to stay in Brussels as a student and you are under 25 years old, you only need one thing to enjoy the public transport services: your proof of school attendance that you can get at your university’s administration department. It will allow you to obtain a year-long access to the STIB for 50 € instead of 500 €. If you feel you’ll only be an occasional user, you might want to go to a counter and ask for a MOBIB Basic card which you will be able to fill with trips; a 10-trip refill costs 14 €.

Where to eat and drink

If you attend the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), you can enjoy a daily meal for 5 € only at the cafeteria of the university. In many sandwich or pizza/pasta places, they have loyalty cards that can get you a free item when the card is completed, so don’t hesitate to ask one. But if you really want to save money, I’m afraid you’ll have to learn how to cook. However, street food in Brussels turns out to be somewhat cheap and it could immerse you in Belgian traditions. Lots of kebab places are savory and cheap (usually between 3 € and 4 € for a dürüm). You can also have a “cornet” of Belgian fries at your local frietkot for about 2.50 € or you can dare to swallow some “caricoles” (snails without their shell) or “escargots” from Chez Jef et Fils aside the Bourse downtown, it is served in a delicious warm peppery broth for 5 € and this is 100% Belgian. Trust me, it really is delicious. Last advice would be to keep an eye on the “meals of the day” of any brasserie or bistro, if you see “stoemp saucisse” written on display, then get a plate because they usually cost about 10 € (instead of the usual 15 €) and will keep your stomach full for an entire day as the dish consists of sausage and mashed potatoes and vegetables.

Also, between March and April, be sure to check La Fourchette website, they organize a Gastronomy Festival in Brussels which will give you access to the a series of restaurants’ menu with a discount of up to 50%.

In regard to drinks, you just need to avoid touristic places (on the Grand-Place, for example) and you’ll be alright. The places to go are definitely Celtica or the Big Game in the city center if you want to enjoy a rightly priced beer. Still downtown, at Floris, you will find delicious cocktails at a fair price (from 5 € to 10 €) and for the spirits lovers, you can find exceptional varieties of rum as well as vodka and gin from 6 €.


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