Moving around Limburg, the public transport system
In previous entries (like this one), we have spoken about bicycles as one of the main transportation in Belgium, being even encouraged by companies to use them. But, what happens if you have to go a little bit further, or if the weather is not favorable? Then, is time to trust in the public transport system!
I have realized that, as you can imagine, the infrastructure in cities like Hasselt and small towns, like the one I live in, is very different. The options of Bus lines, trams and train stations available are lower, making travel times take longer. However, if you are an organized person and have clear where to and how to get there, is easy-peasy!
When I first met my husband, I was living in Brussels, which would mean that every Friday I would leave work and head straight (and as fast as possible!) to the train station in order to get to Herentals, where my now-husband would pick me up to spend the weekend together. So, as you can imagine, the train is my favourite public transportation!
The railway network is just so broad that you can get pretty much everywhere around Belgium...and even to the neighbouring countries!! I have already taken the train to go to London and, believe me, it is a lovely, smooth trip, and sometimes cheaper than a plane! I actually have in mind my next train adventure to Paris, once "the sickness" allows us to travel again.
It may seem that the trains (some of them, depending on the lines and the time of the day) are kind of outdated, but the trip is super smart and smooth.
However, BEWARE! You have to arrive at the station just a bit ahead of time from your train since it will arrive on the exact minute of the timetable and just stop for 2-3 minutes, and if you arrive with more time than necessary, you may get into the wrong train because there are trains stopping at the same platform very often, sometimes being your train, and sometimes not (true story!). In order to avoid mistakes, keep an eye on the screens at the station and listen to the PA announcements. Additionally, the Belgian Rail (NMBS) app will become your best friend in order to organize your trip, get tickets etc.
Moreover, there are several kinds of tickets (like the weekend one or the 10-trips pass) that make it super easy to use the train to discover Belgium and also to commute to work.
Apart from the railway system, there is the bus service of DeLijn, which I am not very familiarised with. I soon learned that living in a small town having your own car is encouraged in order to have some independence when it comes to timetables etc. However, the times I have used it have been pretty satisfactory.
The fleet is very updated and the drivers are generally very helpful when it comes to telling you if you are on the right bus (if you are lucky even in English!), or even in which stop you should get down, which I am very thankful of when you have an hour trip to the nearest city. Only this already compensates the long trips you have to endure.
Another plus point, that I actually haven't seen in Spain yet, is the possibility to get your tickets via SMS. This ticket will give you a certain amount of time to use it and you just need to show it to your driver...super convenient, isn't it?
So, which means of transportation you use to move around Belgium? Let me know in the comments and see you next time!