Welcome to Ghent! Whether you came here for your bachelor, masters, PhD or internship, congratulations on making a very good choice. Belgium is a great country and this city in particular has a lot to offer.
My name is Lilas and I used to be an Erasmus student in Ghent.
One day, while I was looking for advice about buying a bike, I came across The Square.Gent and got all the information I needed, for bikes and much more. Now is my chance to share what I’ve learnt so far about living here as an exchange student.
I came here to finish my bachelor of communication sciences at Ghent University – which just celebrated its 200th birthday and reached place 66 in the Academic ranking of World’s Universities. But this city is full of other good schools, such as HoGent, Artevelde, KASK, Vlerick, Odisee…
In addition to offering a great education, Ghent also provides an amazing student life, whether you are here on Erasmus or another program. Here is information, tips and advice, that I hope will make your student time here easier and more fun.
ERASMUS STUDENT NETWORK
If you are an Erasmus student, you should get your ESN card right away. Buy it for 15€ at the ESN office, which is open every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 to 9pm. I know for a fact that the office can be hard to find, but fortunately, the staff made a video showing how to get there.
Once you have your card, you should immediately register it on the ESN website and find out all of the discounts, vouchers, and partners deals there are.
Low-cost flights company Ryanair is one big partner of ESN. Together they offer a 15% discount on 8 flights and a free check-in bag (20kg) for each.
My advice: register on Ryanair as an Erasmus student as soon as possible. Log in, go to “dashboard” and you will find an “erasmus” tab. It takes a bit of time to get a confirmation, so don’t wait!!
Most ESN parties in Ghent are happening in Overpoort where your card can get you some nice discounts on drinks. Every semester bigger events such as pub crawls, bowling, paintball and a brewery tour are also organized. Weekly agendas are posted every Monday on their Facebook page – don’t forget to follow it. You can also attend ESN events from other cities! For example in Brussels most parties welcome everyone.
If you occasionally use public transport, know that the cheapest option is the 10-journey ticket for 15€. Click here to learn everything you need to know about De Lijn’s buses and tramways.
You can purchase 10 tickets for 15€ on your phone, with the Delijn app.
13% of Belgians uses their bike daily, and you may have noticed it, Ghent is full of cyclists. Because it is such a bike-friendly city, it’s very enjoyable to ride around. Almost all of the roads have bicycle paths and lights. It’s practical, cheap, healthy for you and good for the environment. Are you convinced already? Click here to find out where to get a bike, how to prevent theft, and so much more.
My tip: you can find cheap accessories (locks, lights, bell, bags, basket…) at Action or Colruyt.
The legend says that it rains a lot in Belgium… it might be true, but when it’s not, you should definitely use your legs! It’s free and it’s a good way to pay attention to what’s going on around you, to enjoy every bit of this beautiful city. Look up!
If you are hesitating about getting a SIM card here, you should really take a moment to do a comparison according to your needs. Do you text, call, or use data the most? Since you’re an exchange student, getting a prepaid SIM card is advised.
Here are some good reasons to get a Belgian SIM card:
- You may need it for administrative and/or professional purposes.
- Some Belgian websites might require a Belgian number to sign up.
- The data, texts and calling time are usable everywhere in Europe (which is very good if you come from outside Europe).
- If you need a last minute De Lijn ticket, you can get it by text (2€ will be taken from your credit) or with the app “4411” (you will have to pay 1,80€ per ticket at the end of the month), which only works with a Belgian phone number.
I am personally pretty satisfied with the student restaurants in Ghent. They are spread out over the city, offer varied menus – sandwiches and hot meals – with vegetarian options, and you can pay with your student card using “epurse”. See here for more information.
As a French person I should be all about gastronomy but honestly, I am more into fried food than a fancy boeuf bourguignon.
You must have seen them everywhere: the frituur. Some of the Belgian frituur specialties are the “american”, the “mitraillette”, the “Julientje” and the very famous “bicky burger”. And of course, fries and croquettes…
Most frituurs also have vegetarian options and student deals. But don’t eat there everyday! Seriously.
Check out the other food & drink articles by The Square.Gent here.
This is for athletic and for not-so athletic people. Living abroad doesn’t mean you have to give up on your habits, and living abroad also means adopting new habits! Especially if, like me, you are being seduced by the frituur…
- Take a look at the gyms and fitness centers. Most of them have student discounts.
- Are you a swimmer? See the top swimming pools in Ghent.
- You can find everything you need to know about running in Ghent here.
- If you are into outdoor activities, read this to learn about places like Blaarmeersen and other great outdoor areas in and around Gent.
- For you who like watching more than doing sports, stay up to date with what’s going on at the stadium.
- And last but not least, UGent offers access to sport facilities for a reasonable price.
Looking for a student job, but you don’t speak Dutch yet? Check our article “How To Find A Job In Ghent Without Speaking Dutch” here.
If you have free time, you should consider volunteering. Find a cause you believe in, and you will meet new people you have something in common with! And I find that if your courses are a bit scattered through the week, volunteering somewhere might bring you a better pace of life. Click here for more information.
Also, volunteering with pets might be one of the coolest things to do in Ghent.
More than 28 million people in the world speak Dutch. So, why not you?
If you are interested read this article and look out for the section on learning Dutch for students.
You will learn basic things such as numbers, which is practical if you need to order more than one beer!
TRAVELING IN BELGIUM
We should always take advantage of being in a new country to discover all of it! Lucky for you, Belgium is quite small and you can easily see the main big cities in one semester.
You can travel for pretty cheap thanks to the Belgian rail and their “Go Pass 1” for people under 26 years old, and weekend tickets deals. You can also go unlimited during the holidays. My tip: get the SNCB app on your phone to check trains timetables and itineraries anytime.
Now where to go? Brussels, Bruges, Ostende, Leuven, Antwerp, Liège, Mons… Just pick one, go on an adventure with your new friends, or by yourself. Traveling alone is a great way to get to know yourself better, to gain in confidence, autonomy and maturity.
At many hostels you will find cool maps of the major big cities in Belgium, check Use-It.
Go for a free walking tour, or make your own itinerary, walk around all day long… And in the end, treat yourself with a local Belgian beer in Bruges, a waffle in Liège or the best fries in Brussels.
Read this article for the best brewery tour and tasting day trips from Ghent!
TRAVELING FROM BELGIUM
They say Belgium is the capital of Europe, and I agree! This may be your chance to go to countries that are usually too far from your home.
By coach: I went to Germany, the Netherlands and United Kingdom from Belgium by bus. It takes longer than flying but you can travel by night and the prices are unbeatable. Come on, did you know how close London is from Ghent?
My tip: get the Flixbus app, you will get a notification whenever they are doing promotional offers!
Where will you stay? Youth Hostels are the cheapest and safest way to stay abroad. I am always using HostelWorld to book my stays. The website makes it easy to compare value and allow free cancellation. They also have an app that is very practical. Don’t forget to look at the ESN partnerships for hostels.
OTHER HACKS AND TIPS
- Before going anywhere else, visit Ghent properly by taking an awesome free walking tour!
- Here are a few Facebook groups you might want to join: ESN Ghent, ESN second hand market, ESN culture, Expats in Ghent. And of course like the FB page for The Square.Gent !
- To find your nearest laundromat just type “wassalon” into Google Maps.
Wasbar is a popular laundromat chain in Ghent where you can brunch, or enjoy a hot drink while your clothes are being washed. But it’s a busy place and not the cheapest.
- Be responsible and learn about the recycling policy!
Night shops are one of my favourite things about Belgium – you can get snacks or a beer at anytime! But it doesn’t mean that you should throw your empty can on the ground or in the water. Seriously, don’t be that person.
- Here’s a list of the cheapest stores for food, cosmetics and/or domestic equipment: Lidl, Match, Colruyt, Action, Kruidvat, Zeeman, Blokker, Albert Heijn.
If it’s free, get a loyalty card wherever you go, it’s full of advantages, you won’t regret it. For example: at Albert Heijn, and Kruidvat, the cards get you promotional offers every week.
- If you shop 1 or 2 hours before the store closes, you might find some food at a reduced price because it will expire soon.
- Many stores don’t take Mastercard or some American credit cards, so before shopping, ask if your card is accepted there.
- There are only a few ATM in the city and their locations aren’t necessary convenient, if you decide to withdraw a lot of money at once, make sure to find a good spot to hide it at home.
- Overpoort is a lively place for sure, but the nightlife here is amazing thanks to great bars and clubs all around the city! My personal favourites are Blond, Bar des Amis, The Alchemist, Missy Sippy, Hot Club Gent, Charlatan, Waterhuis, Dreupelkot, Speakers Corner, Het Spijker, Backdoor Café… Take a look at our article “Where to party in Gent” .
- Check out the markets for fresh food and flowers/plants.
- Are you loving Ghent so much that you want to get some (affordable) merchandise and souvenirs ?
- You need a bit of decoration for your room and you’re on a serious budget? The free newspaper of UGent has posters in it.
- If you’re a cinema lover, your cheapest option is to get a student cinema card at Kinepolis.
- Under 26 years old? The city offers great discounts on most visits.
Do you have a tip to make life easier for students? We’d love to hear it in the comment section – or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org