Recently I wrote an article on traveling by bike in Stuttgart, which is one of my favorite modes of transportation. Almost the same day it came out, I was asked, “How do I take the train? Boy, this would be a helpful article.” That was a few months ago.
I, too, was a little intimated with the sophistication and elegance of the Stuttgart rail and bus system, so I empathize with those a little hesitant to give it a try. However after researching, exploring, getting help from my friend Maureen and asking lots of questions, I have a few tips to share. I truly hope this article helps you decide to try out the transit system in Stuttgart and in Europe.
The Stuttgart Bahn (or S-Bahn)
The S-Bahn is the regional zone train system and is an “end-of-line” train system. If you have travelled in Washington D.C. or other large cities in America, it’s very similar. For example, the train number S1 is the end of line at Herrenberg or Kirchheim Unter Teck. The end/beginning for all trains is Schwabstraße. If you follow this all the way to the end, you will find yourself like me (at the end of the line) and be asked politely to depart.
The other official website for the S-Bahn (Suburban Bahn) is SSB. This very helpful site gives information on tickets, specials, and important train detour announcements.
The U-Bahn (Underground Bahn) is the underground train and has some of the original train lines for the transit system. It’s also worth pointing out that some trains are underground and some are not.
Tickets may be purchased at kiosks at each train stop or a main station ( i.e. Vaihingen or Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof). One of the most helpful options is selecting the English speaking button at the kiosk. So, if you struggle with Deutsch like I do, there is a little British flag available for translation in the bottom of the screen.
It’s also worth noting that tickets can sometimes be purchased online.
The best place I have found to receive English-speaking help is at the VVS “i” Center, located in the main station (Hauptbahnhof) in downtown Stuttgart. Although some friends have had luck at the Vaihingen station, I really haven’t. They typically say they don’t speak English and I’ve had a stall despite knowing quite a bit of German.
Most Popular Ticket Options
1) Daily ticket is a daily ticket that covers all zones is €14.80. This is a good deal only if you know you will be traveling all day alone and/or throughout the Stuttgart region. This is typically my last choice.
2) Zone ticket covers specific areas, in which the counting of zones begin with your initiating station and continues to your final destination. Click here for available maps of the Stuttgart region. Although I had a hard time reading the super small print on this site, there is probably a readable one available at the main office. Zone maps are also at every station too.
3) 5 – Person Daily Pass (group ticket) is pass is for 5 people, an all-day ticket, for 6 zones is €19. Because this is quite the deal, this is the one my family uses when we all travel together.
4) 4- Journey Ticket is a ticket a single person may use for four journeys or it can be shared as it’s not assigned to a particular person. For example, it can be used for an out and back trip, four one ways or a combination. The important tip to know about this ticket is to “validate” it. There are little orange machines at each train station (not at U-Bahn stations). Sometimes the orange validation machines are found on the bottom of the stairs before going to the platform. You will need to insert the card like punch card into the machine, which will stamp the date and time. It’s worth noting that a 4-Journey ticket is good for one year until validated. Two other things to note about this ticket is that this is not the same as a group ticket and you need to make sure to purchase all zones you will require.
Additional Helpful Ticket Info
2 and 3 zone tickets: My German friend Maureen keeps a 2 and 3 zone ticket (4-journey ticket) with her all the time. This way she has to validate it and hop on the train. If you are at a fest or traveling in large groups, sometimes the kiosks will be very crowded and you’ll miss the train. *Great tip!
14 Uhr Junior Ticket is a pass for youths up to 21 years old. This was one of my favorite tips yet, in which I purchased for my 17 year old son. So a thanks go out to Heather! This ticket is good after 2 p.m. on the weekdays, weekends and German holidays. It cost under €20/month and can be automatically debited from my account.
Bike and Pet Tickets
Taking your bike on the S-Bahn is quite simple. The train for bike travelers have a logo of a bike on the side. It is good to really look over this page before taking a bike. Child tickets must be purchased for your bike as well as sometimes bikes are not allowed during rush hours.
Pets are allowed on the S-Bahn, but you must purchase a child’s ticket for them also.
Plain clothed officers will randomly check tickets on the S-Bahn and U-Bahn. I have traveled twice now and been asked to see my valid ticket. Maureen has had her ticket checked three times in a year. The officer will scan or check the date and time. This is very important. It’s a €40 fine for having no ticket, so be careful.
Stuttgart Bus System (Bus Stop – Haltestelle)
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.
Can I take the bus and the train, and do I need separate tickets? The answer is yes, of course and no you don’t need separate tickets. Purchase a zone ticket or one with an ending destination. You can find this by typing in your last stop.
What ticket and where should purchase my ticket? Don’t fret.. When entering the bus, you should have €2.30 ready and be prepared to tell the driver the final destination. Most times they will let you know if your ticket is full-ride (meaning no charge) or you owe the money.
Place the coin on the shelf and allow them to insert it in. I always let someone go before me and watch what they do. Similar to the in the U.S., some drivers are particular in how they take the money and want to be sure the change is correct.
Here you will find an incredible helpful brochure including a map in English. Though the map is a little outdated, it is still quite helpful for most stops. You can also pick up a pocket/wallet size map at the SSB/VVS “i” information center located at the Hauptbahnhof.
Closest Stations to Post
This is information that I needed almost the minute we landed. Although there is transit close by, I don’t think anyone would say they are super convenient to any post. A healthy walk is involved, so allow yourself more time and wear a good pair of shoes (no pumps). So here you go…
Kelley Barracks: U3 Landhaus
This is approximately a 15 minutes walk to post from the station.
Patch: S1, S2, S3, U3, U12, U1, or U8 Vaihingen
This is also quite a healthy walk from the station to post. However, the bus depot and ticket station are right here. You can take the 84 bus – Vaihingen ZOB, which will drop you off close enough to walk the short distance to post.
Panzer: S1, Goldberg
Even it is quite a walk (kilometers) to post, this is the closest station to Panzer There is also the S60 or S1 to Böblingen, then take the 722 bus. Again quite a walk, but I like that. They both go to the main gate.
Robinson Barracks: U6 Pragsattel to Bus 57 Alter Gasthof to Robinson Barracks (close to pedestrian gate); another option is U7 to Mönchfeld, then walk to Schnarrenberg, (closest to main gate)
Another helpful tip is putting the destination in Google Maps, then change the mode of transportation to train and the route will include the trains (direction), buses (numbers) and stops.
So I have figured out it out! If I can understand the S-bahn, U-bahn and bus in Stuttgart, I’m all set for Europe. All aboard…
Author’s Profile: Wendy Payne is a military spouse and lives with her family in Stuttgart, Germany. She is a freelance writer, blogger and photographer. She also enjoys gardening, hiking, yoga and sharing Europe with people.
Featured Image Photo Credit: © Wendy Payne