Moving around in (and from) Mannheim

One of the nice things about Mannheim is that the connections inside and to and from the city are good. What about a trip to Heidelberg? 20 minutes by local train. Paris? Three hours by train. Strasbourg? Two hours in a car. Frankfurt? Half an hour by train or an hour by bus. Berlin? From Frankfurt, a 1,5-hour flight. Many things can be said about the punctuality of Deutsche Bahn or Flixbus, but the local public transport VRN runs mostly on time. 

In Quadrat, the city center, everything is within a walking distance. You get your daily steps and have a chance to come across a new restaurant. To make it interesting, there are signs telling about the history of the buildings and people who lived and worked in Mannheim sprinkled all over the city.

Cycling is quite popular in Mannheim. It is a quick (and fit) way to get around if you live just outside the city center. Mannheim has a good amount of city bikes (“Nextbike”) scattered in key locations at an affordable price for the first half an hour. Bikers are generally well considered in the road network, the separate bike lanes are extensive and clearly marked.

For public transport, there are several options. For short distances, trams are convenient. Less traffic lights, no getting stuck in the rush hour traffic jam. In my experience, the trams are generally in time. My line runs through the night, but that is not the case for all of them. If there is no tram line available, there will be buses. And for commuting to further away, S-Bahn, the local train, might be the fastest option. If you are going to use public transport every day, I’d highly recommend buying the Rhein-Neckar area semester ticket that costs 170 euros. It ends up being so much cheaper than buying single tickets for 2,60 euros. And if you stay for two semester, you can get the semester ticker for free!

Some technical notes:

  • Download the VRN app (or similar). Timetables, nearest stops, transport options, even alarms to step off always on hand. No chance of getting lost in an unfamiliar city.
  • Trams and buses have signs telling the name of the next stop, which helps keeping track on when to get off.
  • Tram tickets have to be bought before stepping in. Most of the stops have a ticket machine that accepts both cash and card payments. Inside the tram, the ticket has to be validated by sticking it in another machine. If you have a semester ticket, it only has to be shown by request. Ticket inspectors are seen rarely, but they definitely do exist.
  • The semester ticket can be bought on the ecUM student card so that you only have to carry one card around.
  • With the semester ticket, you are entitled to ride all the buses, trams and S-Bahns inside the Rhein-Neckar area which covers much more than only the city of Mannheim.

For trips outside the VRN area, a new ticket has to be bought. You might want to check which is cheaper, buying one ticket for the entire trip or only for the part that is not covered by the local ticket. For longer trips, the faster and more expensive ICE-trains are the most comfortable choice. Because of the salty prices, I often turned to Flixbus which costs only a fraction of the train tickets but correspondingly also takes a longer time to reach the destination. I found out that it was actually way cheaper to fly from Frankfurt to Berlin than to take the train, which is a shame from environmental perspective.

+ Mannheim has its own airport, but judging on the prices, it is targeted to rich and busy business people. Frankfurt airport(s) are close by and offer a wider and a more affordable selection for more price sensitive travelers.