Before I came to Strasbourg, I spent a fair bit of time looking into how we would get around the city using public transport, and how we would get from the airport to our house. I had rough ideas about this, but there were a lot of unanswered questions, mainly because the information on the various web sites was poor at best, but mainly shit. Hence, I am writing up some notes so that others in the same boat as me can have early info that, in general, the public system is actually pretty damn good. And I say that as a resident of Edinburgh, where the public transport (Lothian Buses, mainly) is excellent, so my standards are high.
First, the trams. There are currently 6 lines, which all generally intersect at one station in the centre, called Homme de Fer. The trams go to most of the places that we have wanted to go, but if they didn’t, there is also a reasonable bus service here too. To use either the bus or the tram, you get a ticket which can be used for both. Now, here’s the first thing that I could not figure out – where to get the tickets from. The web sites suggest you can get them from some shops and some tram stations, but from my experience, you can get them from any tram station, as they all have ticket machines that can sell a variety of tickets to you, and you can pay for them with a credit card or coins.
As there are 5 of us, what we did was use “Trio” tickets, which allows up to 3 people to travel for 24 hours. And we could get these at the tram stops. Alternatively, you can get tickets for individuals, if you are on your own, but if there is more than just you, a trio ticket is the way to go.
The next thing that had me worried was what you did with these tickets once you bought them. What you do is “validate” the tickets at the tram stops before you get on the tram, but unlike London’s oyster card, you don’t validate it again when you get off. Instead, it seems to work on the basis of trust, in that you could jump on and off without having a validated tickets, but I assume they must have conductors who check your tickets occasionally. When you validate your ticket, it prints when the ticket is valid up to, which is quite handy especially if you are running with multiple of the things. So, validate before using it, and that’s all you have to do.
Getting from the Entzheim airport to Strasbourg itself was another concern. Some web sites claimed that you could get an express bus, while others suggested a train. The latter is the truth. And the trip is actually really simple. At the airport, you can get a ticket from the airport building itself for the “TER and Tram” – the TER being the train. The airport is linked to the train “station” by a covered walkway, you really can’t miss it. Before you go into the covered walkway, though, you can get your ticket in the airport building, as there is a machine situated just before you enter the covered walkway. The ticket was 4 euros per person, and it allows you to take the train to the central Strasbourg station (Gare de Strasbourg) from where you can take the tram to your destination without paying any more.
However, finding the tram stop in the Gare was not easy. The signs just stopped and we didn’t find it, instead we ended up outside and headed for a different tram stop. The Gare’s tram stop is under the station, you do not go outside the station to get to it. You do, however, go very close to going out of the station, but just before you exit, you instead go down three sets of escalators to the tram. The tram is signposted initially with ‘tram’ signs, but these then stop and change to just pictures of a tram, which is like a bus with a ‘<’ sign above it. Keep your eyes peeled, and just be aware that you don’t go outside, and you’re looking for escalators that go down, and you should be ok.
So in summary, public transportation in Strasbourg is good, but is let down by shit and contradictory documentation on their web sites.