As I took four times the CCIE lab exam in Brussels, I am happy to share my experience of the exam location, the test room, how to get there and the nearby hotel.
No, I will not share any information about the exam content, so please don’t ask about it.
Book your exam, your flight or train, and your hotel well in advance!
Like at any Cisco exam your identity will be verified at the entrance, so be sure you have two IDs with you. Take also a written copy of the exam confirmation. At my last attempt even I made the registration months before the exam, I was not on the list. So, I needed to show my confirmation. They told me this could happen sometimes.
My advice is also to take ear plugs with you. In the exam room, there are also candidates who take the CCIE collaboration exam and they must play around with phones and make them ring a few times. It can help you to isolate yourself.
Except if you live close to Brussels, I would not recommend to go by car to the exam. First, because you never know what can happen in the morning: flat tire, car breakdown, accident, traffic jam, and you cannot arrive late at the exam! Furthermore, for this very special day, you should make your best to have nothing to worry about except the exam itself, this is very important! And after the exam you will be totally exhausted, so drive is not safe.
Travel Airport – Hotel
As I live close to Italy, I took the plane to go to Brussels. There are many direct flights to Brussels but be sure you arrives to the Brussels international airport. Be careful because there is a second airport in Brussels: the Charleroi Airport, and it is really far away from the Cisco building.
From the airport, if you book a room at the NH hotel, they have a free shuttle service. Call them or visit the website to know the schedule. This is a very good service; they pick you up in the front of the airport and let you at the entrance of the hotel. It takes around ten minutes and you don’t have to look around for a taxi.
If you book another hotel near the Cisco building, and they don’t have a transfer service, do NOT take the train from the airport! I made this mistake at my first attempt: after I bought the ticket, I discovered there is no train from the Airport to Diegem. Even the Diegem stop is 5 minutes from the airport, the only why to go to Diegem is to take a direct train to Brussels-Midi, and change with another train to come back to Diegem. Total travel time: one hour! So it is much better to take a taxi.
Like most of the people, I stayed at the hotel NH Brussels Airport. The cost was between € 80.- and € 200.- for one night, depending of the season. It seems the hotel is much cheaper in summer, because it’s a business area and it’s a very quiet period there. The room are quite big, modern and clean, no noise at all, so perfect for relaxing before the D-day. There is a free Wi-Fi service and the Internet speed is quite good.
I ate at the hotel, again this is a business area so I don’t think there are many restaurants around. The food was good, nothing spectacular but good, for a reasonable price.
Travel to Cisco building
The Cisco building is at 3 minutes walk from the NH-Hotel, so don’t go too early, otherwise you must wait too long there and begin to stress.
When you arrive at the entrance, the main door is maybe closed, ring the bell and the receptionist will open and check your ID and registration. Then you can wait for the proctor in the lobby and see the stress on the faces of the others candidates…
Then the proctor arrives and take the entire group to the exam room.
If needed, there is a YouTube video explaining how to get from the NH Hotel to the Cisco building here.
The exam itself
First, the proctor explains the exam schedule and rules. Then, you must leave all your personal belongings in a locker. You can close it by key and keep the key during the entire day. The only thing you can take with you at your desk is this key and your ID. You have to let your ID on your desk and the proctor will check it again later.
Then, I am not sure I’m allowed to give too many details here: outside the room there is water, a coffee machine and the toilets for the candidates. At each seat, there are two 24″ screen and an US keyboard. On the PC, there’s an IE browser, the terminal is a customized putty and you have paper and pens.
The exam interface is fast and very responsive. The annoying point is the putty terminal; there is no tab like on SecureCRT for example, so after a while you have maybe 20 terminal windows open and then it is difficult to navigate between the devices, the topology and the questions.
At lunch time, the proctor take all the candidates to go to lunch together. The lunch is very good, you eat at the Cisco restaurant with the other employees and the proctor. You receive a voucher to take a main dish, drink and dessert. But do not eat too much! Otherwise the digestion will slow you down for the afternoon.
The exam is finish at around 4:30 PM, so you left the Cisco building at maximum 5:00 PM. If you stayed at the NH hotel, you can use the shuttle-bus to go back to the airport. If everything goes well, at 6:00 PM you are at the airport, so there is absolutely no problem to take a flight at around 7:00 PM.
The official Cisco information about the Brussels exam location are on this page: https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/training-events/training-certifications/certifications/pop-exam-locations/brussels.html
Good luck for your future exam!