We arrived at quite possibly the worst and luckiest time in French rail history. Planned strikes by disgruntled staff at the SNCF, France’s premier rail company, had brought the whole rail network to a standstill in the weeks before and after our trip. Here’s where the luck comes in – the only day this strike action affected was our journey between Colmar and Basel, leaving every other day free of transport hassle.
I had previously tallied up the cost of a trip to Strasbourg on the SNCF website at a price of €50 (£43) return for two of us on the same day. Approaching the rather complex TER ticket machines to try and purchase two returns resulted in failure so we headed to the ticket counter.
The kind gentleman, who spoke very good English, offered us a ticket similar to those used in Germany on the weekends. The ALSA + 24hr ticket permits up to five people to travel in that region on the same day for just €36.50 (£31), bargain! Just remember to validate the ticket at the starting point of the journey by stamping it at the machine on the platform.
From the joy of the ticket, to the despair of the train. This two-carriage job was completely unsuited to the large number of passengers boarding at Colmar. We squeezed into the back of the last carriage and endured the short 40 minute trip to Strasbourg. This did come as a surprise because larger trains often commute between Basel and Strasbourg, sadly not this time around.
We entered Strasbourg around mid-morning. The station here is very impressive, especially on a sunny day. The glass panels revealed a gorgeous blue sky only darkened by a reminder of the times – the French army walking around with guns. After stepping off our train we needed to get into the city centre, onwards to the tram!
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Only writing this now do I realise that we could have just used our ALSA tickets for the tram, as the price was inclusive. Luckily, I make these mistakes so you don’t have to! If, however, you DO want a tram ticket, it’s easy to pick one up from the machines. Simply select your language, a single ride and pay €1.70 (£1.47) – you know, like I didn’t have to…
If you are coming to Strasbourg and you are standing outside the station entrance wondering why your map says that there are trams and reality is telling you something different, it’s because the trams at the central station are underground. Follow the signs and the escalators all the way down to the platforms, both lines A and D for the city centre are here so feel free to take any tram and you’ll get there.
Tickets also need to be stamped prior to boarding, use the little red machines on the platform just before you hop on the tram. Strasbourg’s beauty revealed itself soon after we emerged from the dark tunnels under the main station. A beautiful river and architecture reminiscent of a fairytale land. Not to mention the smell of top class Alsacian patisserie….
On the return to the station after a wonderful day in Strasbourg, we discovered that you can also get a rechargeable ticket. This ticket, we happened to buy, with a credit card. So possibly that’s why we received a different kind of ticket. Either way, if you end up with one of these, there are contactless points at each end of a tram stop to validate your journey at.
Strasbourg is well worth dropping into. The beauty of the Petite France area, the quality of the patisseries and the picturesque cathedral overlooking the city are all worth making the extra miles for. The people here are wonderful and the transport network allows you easy access whenever you fancy, or whenever they are not on strike..
Tickets and Information on Strasbourg plus the ALSA ticket ( English)
SNCF train ticket advance bookings (English) https://www.sncf.com/sncv1/en/passengers