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Getting around: A beginner's guide to public transport in Brussels

03:03 01/10/2019

Public transport in Brussels is run by Stib/MIVB, whose network comprises the metro system, tram and bus services. If you want to make a connection beyond Brussels’ borders, you can also use De Lijn (the Flemish bus service), TEC (the Walloon bus service) or SNCB/NMBS (the national rail network), but you’ll need a ticket that covers these regional services. Stib operates from 5.00 to midnight, and the Noctis bus service (11 lines) runs at weekends from midnight to 3.00, every 30 minutes from Brussels Central.

In Brussels, you can use the same ticket whether you’re travelling by bus, tram or metro. There are a number of transport hubs – Midi, Central, North and Schuman - and these offer all or most of the services: metro, tram, bus, regional bus, national trains, international trains, coach services and car- and bike-sharing.

Real-time displays are standard on all metro lines and more and more bus and tram stops are fitted with screens that display expected waiting times. You can download an app (available from all operators) which calculates the quickest route and provides information on delays in real time. Some also allow you to buy tickets.

TICKETS

Public transport in Belgium is moving towards a fully integrated ticketing system, and plastic Mobib chip cards loaded with an MTB subscription can now be used on all major networks - Stib/MIVB, SNCB/ NMBS, TEC and De Lijn within Brussels as well as for car- and bike-sharing outfits Cambio and Villo. Though the old magnetic strip tickets have been discontinued, occasional travellers can still buy a contactless paper ticket for a single journey, the 24-hour ticket and airport line ticket.

There are two types of chip card: Mobib or Mobib Basic. Mobib is for season passes, while the Mobib Basic card can be topped up with a limited number of journeys. To obtain your chip card, go to one of six Bootik outlets in Brussels (Rogier, Porte de Namur, De Brouckere, Gare de l’Ouest, Gare du Midi, Roodebeek) and pay €5 and hand over two passport photographs.

Cards can be topped up at the Bootik sales outlets or one of the smaller kiosks, at one of the many vending machines, through selected retailers or through your MyBootik account online. For complete information on tariffs, see the Stib/MIVB website.

Don’t forget to validate your ticket when you board the vehicle, which means swiping your plastic card against the red Mobib machine. To prevent fare-dodging, entrance and exit barriers are being erected at all underground stations, making it impossible to get in or out without a valid ticket. Inspectors have also become more zealous; the Stib/ MIVB website provides a list of the lines that will be checked each week, but surprise inspections (sometimes accompanied by police) are common. You can be fined between €107 and €214 for not having a valid ticket. For failing to validate your Mobib card you can be fined anything from €10 to €107, and using someone else’s Mobib card carries a €408 fine.

TAXIS

Taxis can be found in all main cities and towns. The tip is included in the meter price, but most people round up the fare to the nearest euro. In Brussels, taxis must be able to provide printed receipts. Watch out for unlicensed taxis, which can be overpriced at best, and dangerous at worst. Licenced taxis are black with yellow squares along the side.

The city also runs a shared taxi service called Collecto that runs from 11.00 to 6.00 and costs €5€6 per person. Book by calling 02.800.36.36, and go to the pickup point at one of 200 Stib/MIVB stops.

Uber operates in Brussels, but its cheap and cheerful UberPOP option was declared illegal following a court order in 2015. In response, the company introduced UberX and UberBlack, with professional drivers and higher prices. They continue to lobby to be allowed to operate in the capital so keep an eye out for developments in the local news.

RAIL TRAVEL

Belgium’s rail network is run by SNCB/NMBS and is made up of Local (L), InterCity (IC) and Suburban (S) services. Regular passengers can buy discounted passes and season tickets, students can get a school pass, and there’s 50% off all tickets at the weekend and on public holidays. Tickets can be bought online and printed, or loaded on to your national ID card. Alternatively, you can use your Mobib chip card.

Written by The Bulletin