Transportation Essentials: Basel Transit 101
Basel’s public transportation system is simultaneously easy to use and complicated to understand. The simple part is that there is an excellent network of buses and trams in the city. The complicated part is knowing the ins and outs of all the different ticket types, the different ways to buy tickets and connecting to neighboring France and Germany.
Generally speaking, Basel buses and trams are on time, clean and safe to use at any time of day. Most routes run every 7 to 15 minutes with less frequency at night. People of all ages rely on it and you will see children as young as 6 riding without an adult. Even dogs and bikes are allowed (though bikes are frowned upon during rush hours). You can definitely rely on public transit alone to get around the city.
Basel transit operates on an honor system, which means you are required to buy your ticket before boarding, but only occasionally will anyone ever ask you to see it. However, if you do get asked for a ticket you better have it or it’s CHF100! (In the case where you have a monthly or annual pass and forgot it you can contest the ticket at the Barfusserplatz BVB office and they will likely refund you less a service fee).
At first you may just be interested in learning how you get from house to work or school but over time you will come to appreciate that the transit system is part of the TNW regional area and links into a country wide network of transit.
There must be 50 ways to buy your ticket...
Figuring out how to buy a ticket is a little like that Paul Simon song, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.” There seems to be an endless variety of ticket types and multiple ways of buying them.
TNW ticket machines at tram and bus stops
Multiple journey paper tickets must be validated by the kiosk machine
SBB ticket machines
the BVB Customer Service Centre at Barfüsserplatz (Barfi) 061 685 14 14
the BLT ticket counter at Heuwaage 061 406 11 11 or 061 406 11 99
Paper tickets at BVB Customer service Centre
Photo ID is required
Linked with credit card to purchase single tickets, multiple single tickets as well as single-day and multiple single-day tickets for the whole of TNW including TriRegio (Germany) and RVL (France)
Can select full or half priced tickets
Links to BVB for departure times and transfers
Can send and receive tickets
Monthly/yearly passes not available – see U-Abo
Scheduling, departure and transfer times for the whole TNW area
Maps of the entire TNW network including night transit
Written directions to nearest tram stop (no map)
Maps of transit network for Germany and France (not live)
Link to TNW for ticket purchase
Scheduling and departure and transfer times for the whole TNW area
Finds the nearest stations based on your current location
Purchase monthly and yearly tickets
Transfer Paper Abos
Refund unused monthly Abos (before the first day of use)
Scheduling, departure and transfer times within the country in which you are standing (not so great with cross border travel)
Live maps to tram stops etc.
Single tickets allow for one-way travel within the period indicated on the ticket from the point of departure to the destination in one direction only. Single tickets can be purchased using a destination or by zone.
Short Journey Ticket
A short journey ticket has a validity period of 30 minutes including any changes of lines. It is valid one way only for four stops after boarding or up to 2 km on SBB trains within the TNW region.
Multiple Journey Ticket
A multiple journey ticket is valid for six journeys and offers a discount of 10% when compared to single tickets. The price for the multi-journey card is based on the number of zones in use and must be validated at a ticket-cancelling machine before the journey begins. It expires after 3 years from first validation.
The day ticket allows you to take as many journeys as you want within the zones specified from the time purchase until 5.00 am on the following day. Day tickets can be are purchased in advance but must be validated before the start of the first trip. You can purchase a day ticket up to one year in advance. Day tickets are not valid for cross-border travel.
Multiple Day Tickets
Multiple day tickets are valid for 1, 2 or 7 days from the start time stamped at a ticket machine (or through an app) until 5am on the last day of validity. Multiple day tickets are also available in a 6-pack. They are not valid for cross-border travel.
The U-Abo is a monthly or yearly transit pass that allows unlimited travel within the entire TNW network including some cross-border travel. To obtain this card you must apply in person or online with photo ID. U-Abo cards that are lost or stolen can be replaced for 30CH.
Children Under 6 (accompanied)
Accompanied children under six years travel free of charge. The accompanying person must be at least 12 years old and hold a valid ticket. They may take up to four children with them free of charge. From 16 years of age, up to eight children may travel with them for free. For each additional child, half-price tickets must be purchased or any designated minimum fare paid.
All Unaccompanied Children
All unaccompanied children (to age 16) have to purchase a half-price ticket or pay any designated minimum fare.
Children’s Day Ticket (SBB no Junior Card)
When accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket, children aged 6 to 16 years can travel 2nd class for CHF 16 for the whole day. The 1-day travelpass for children costs CHF 32 for 1st class.
Junior Travel Card
The Junior Card is available for children ages 6-16 (accompanied by parents) and includes unlimited travel on Swiss public transit and the entirety of SBB (not just the TNW region). The Junior Card costs 30CHF per year and is available at all SBB ticket counters. A passport or other official ID is required. If you have more than 2 children the Junior Card is free for all children after the first 2, simply show the other 2 Junior Cards with purchase. If you have forgotten your Junior Card at home you can buy a replacement card from any SBB counter for 5CHF. ID is required.
Children’s Co-travel Card
A Children’s Co-travel Card is the same as a Junior Card, but the accompanying adult does not have to be the child’s parent. The accompanying person and child must be specified upon purchase. A separate travelcard is needed for every combination of child and accompanying person.
A maximum of four children with valid Children’s Co-Travelcard can be accompanied by one person. The Children’s Co-Travelcard is not valid for schools, institutions, associations, companies, institutions and organisations etc. that are travelling as a group.
Passengers with Reduced Mobility
At the bus/tram stop, signal to the driver to let him/her know you want to travel. They will help you get on and off and assist with folding access ramps if needed.
The VöV identity card for visually impaired passengers is valid with the BVB, BLT and in zones 10, 11, 13 and 15. This gives you the right to travel, as well as to take an accompanying person and a guide dog, free of charge. The card is available at the counter at Barfusserplatz.
Cats, dogs and other small, tame animals can be taken on the transit provided they do not bother anyone. Animals under 30 cm shoulder height that can be carried in bags, baskets or cages, are free of charge. Animals that exceed this size require a 2nd Class half-fare ticket (this option is available on apps and at ticket machines). Medical assistance animals are exempt.
Each passenger is allowed to transport 1 bicycle or e-bike on trams and buses and should use the doors marked for these purposes. Bikes require a 2nd class half-price ticket and should not be longer than 2m. Bikes that are more that 2m long; tandems and 3-wheel bikes with kid carriers require two 2nd class half-price tickets. Transport is generally possible only outside busy times and provided sufficient space is available Bikes with motors are not allowed on transit.
Year, day and multi-pack tickets for bikes are also available.
When travelling on SBB a bike reservation is required from April to October. Failing to reserve will result in a fine of 10CHF
Bikes are free for children under 6 and are also included in the GA card.
SBB, the Swiss wide transit organization, offers a variety of tickets that provide holders with discounts for local transit. The GA card allows you to travel on public transportation in Basel and countrywide. The Halb Tax (or Half Fare) card entitles holders to have price tickets on single or multiple journey tickets.
A single ticket to the airport must include the Greater Basel area (zone 13). This zone is included in monthly and yearly transit passes (U-Abo).
Visitors - Basel Card
All guests of hotels and B&B’s in Basel-Stadt are provided with a Basel Card when they check in. In addition to discounts on museums and attractions the Basel Card includes travel in TNW zones 10, 11, 13 and 15. The Basel Card is not valid for cross-border journeys. Baselland hotels also provide complimentary travel cards upon check-in. For transfer from Basel airport to the hotel, guests can ask hotels to annotate their reservation confirmations with the words "Mobility-Ticket", which allows for valid travel upon arrival at the airport.
Park and Ride
Park and Ride allows for free parking for 1 hour in a designated parking lot if a transit ticket is purchased. The designated parking lots are: Parkhäuser City, Storchen, Elisabethen, Steinen and St. Jakob. You can redeem your combined ticket before leaving the car park and, as usual, pay for your public transport ticket when you pick up the vehicle.
Lost and Found (Transit)
Basel has a truly impressive system for lost and found! I have heard amazing stories of people who have lost wallets and passports and had them returned intact. So if you lose something make sure to check it out!
Contact the Customer Service Centre in person at Barfüsserplatz
call 061 685 14 14 (Monday to Friday, 8:00 to 17:00)
If your lost item is found, you will be notified and can pick it up at Barfüsserplatz. Fees may apply.
File an online report here
Contact the BLT ticket counter at Heuwaage personally (5CHF fee applies)
File an online report here
If you need a lost item urgently you can submit a search request for a fee of 50CHF.
Traveling To and From the Tri-country Area
Figuring out how to travel to France and Germany can be a little confusing; the best way to do it depends on how long you plan to be there and who is going with you.
The ticket triregio is a day ticket valid for 24 hours covering the following areas:
Germany: whole district of Lörrach, RVL area (train/bus)
Switzerland: Northwestern Switzerland, the entire TNW area
France: SNCF stations between Basel SBB and Mulhouse as well as the whole area covered by the Distribus (Saint-Louis Agglomération).
The mini triregio, also valid for 24 hours, covers:
Germany: RVL zones 1, 2, 3 and 8 (train/bus)
Switzerland: TNW zones 10, 11, 13, 14, 15 and 40 (Swiss Rheinfelden)
France: the SNCF route from Basel SBB to Bartenheim, as well as the whole area covered by the Distribus (Saint-Louis Agglomération).
If you hold a U-Abo or GA card then then you can bring children 14 and under free of change. Without a U-ABO/GA card you can bring up to 2 children free of charge.
Phew! Well that should get you on your way. See something that is missing or incorrect? Have a helpful tip? Please leave us a comment!
Co-Written with Ariana McBride