Getting around Brussels: Public Transport and Alternatives

Angelina

Updated on Jun 09 • 6 minute read

Getting around in Brussels is easy, thanks to the extensive public transport network, bicycle or scooter rental options, and compact city centre. To make the most of getting around Brussels smartly, use this guide to know:

  • types of public transport in Brussels
  • types of tickets and travel subscriptions
  • Brussels public transport prices
  • where to buy tickets
  • alternative means of transport in Brussels

Brussels public transport

Public transport is the best way to get around in Brussels due to the city’s chaotic, frustrating traffic scene. Brussels’ public transport network is managed by 4 companies.

STIB (in French), also referred to as MIVB in Dutch connects every corner of the city through bus, metro and tram lines. The integrated ticketing system makes it easy to switch lines between these modes of transport. SNCB operates the trains and connects you to the different cities. De Lijn operates buses in the Brussels and Flanders regions. TEC operates buses in Brussels and the neighbouring Wallonia region.

Brussels metro: STIB (MIVB)

The metro is the quickest way of getting around in Brussels. If you’re travelling within the centre, you’ll be at your destination in a flash. However, things don’t look as good if you live in Schaerbeek or Uccle as the 4 existing metro lines don’t cover all the suburbs.

The metro runs frequently but can get delayed occasionally:

  • during peak hours: every 3 minutes
  • after 8 P.M.: every 10 minutes
  • on weekends: every 5 minutes

Most of the STIB lines run from Monday to Sunday, 5 A.M. to 12 A.M. On Friday and Saturday nights, you can catch a night bus from 12 A.M. to 3 A.M.

To get up-to-date information and easily plan your journeys, download the STIB-MIVB app.

Trams in Brussels: STIB (MIVB)

The 17 tram lines in Brussels stretch over 147 km. Powered by renewable energy, they tend to be slightly faster than buses, though are still far behind the metro. Many streets don’t have separate tram lines, so there’s a big chance you’ll be dragged into a traffic jam during peak hours.

Buses in Brussels: STIB (MIVB), De Lijn, TEC

Buses are a good way to travel to areas not covered by metro lines. However, they’re notorious for being very busy and slow. They don’t run as often as the metro and should be avoided altogether during peak hours.

Keep in mind that buses in Brussels’ suburbs are run by either Flemish De Lijn or Wallonian TEC and they’ve their own ticketing system. So if you need to travel there frequently, buy the right tickets or check if your travel subscription includes these lines.

Buses are also the way to go at night on weekends. On Friday and Saturday nights between 12 A.M. and 3 A.M., you can catch a bus every 30 minutes.

Trains in Brussels: SNCB (NMBS)

If you plan to commute to other cities or make day trips, use the intercity trains. As they’re run by SNCB (NMBS), trains don’t accept STIB (MVIB) tickets.

Trains run frequently with a maximum interval of an hour between each train. You can purchase your ticket from a ticket machine marked with a blue circled letter ‘B’ at any railway station. The tickets aren’t time-specific, so you can use them at any time during the day. The tickets are checked and stamped on the train after boarding.

Brussels public transport tickets, travel cards, and season tickets

In Brussels, you can use the same ticket for bus, metro, tram or a combination. Trains and suburban buses have their own ticketing systems, however, they’re included in certain subscription plans.

If you don’t plan to travel frequently, you can buy a single 1-hour or 1-day ticket when you need one. The countdown begins once the ticket is validated. If not validated, the ticket expires 18 months from the day of the purchase.

But if you’re going to use public transport in Brussels regularly, you should get a MOBIB card. There’re 2 types of MOBIB cards: 1) basic where you can only upload tickets and 2) personal where you can upload both tickets and subscriptions (season tickets).

Season tickets can save you quite some money and hassle if you travel often! The most popular season tickets are:

  • STIB-MIVB: unlimited number of journeys on the entire STIB network (bus, tram, metro in the Brussels urban zone)
  • BRUPASS: unlimited number of journeys on the entire MIVB-STIB network, all De Lijn and TEC buses within the Brussels-Capital Region and the Brussels urban zone, and all NMBS-SNCB trains within the Brussels-Capital Region.
  • BRUPASS XL: unlimited number of journeys on the entire MIVB-STIB network, all De Lijn and TEC buses within the Brussels-Capital Region and the Brussels urban and suburban zone, and all NMBS-SNCB trains within the Brussels-Capital Region and in the suburban zone.

Use the map below to navigate the borders of each BRUPASS zone.

©MIVB-STIB

How much does public transport cost in Brussels?

Public transport in Brussels is generally on the expensive side and can eat away from your monthly budget. Here’re the fares for different tickets and subscriptions in Brussels:

Type of ticketPrice
1-hour ticket€2.10 - €2.60
1-day ticket€7.50 - €8.00
MOBIB card€5
STIB-MIVB monthly season ticket€49
STIB-MIVB annual season ticket€499
Monthly BRUPASS€56.50
Annual BRUPASS€583
Monthly BRUPASS XL€78
Annual BRUPASS XL€583
Annual STIB for 18-24-year-olds€12

Note that prices vary depending on the method of purchasing your ticket as well. For example, here’s how much a 1-hour (1 journey) ticket costs:

  • Paper tickets from a ticket shop or vending machine: €2.60
  • On board from the driver: €2.50
  • Contactless payment with your bank card: €2.10
  • Via MOBIB Card: €2.40

Where to buy Brussels public transport tickets

You can buy your ticket or charge your travel card at any:

  • GO vending machines
  • KIOSK or BOOTIK ticket offices
  • Newspaper shops, bookstores and supermarkets

Buying a MOBIB card

©Leona Fujii

To purchase a personal MOBIB card for €5 in a BOOTIK shop or online on MyBOOTIK, you need an electronic ID card or a passport-sized photo.

You can then easily load a ticket on your card in a BOOTIK, KIOSK, GO vending machine and through Go Easy. However, the simplest method is via the mobile app.

Season tickets can only be bought in a GO vending machine, ticket office or via this form (only for BRUPASS and BRUPASS XL).

Tips for using Brussels public transport:

  1. Validate your ticket or travel card. Don’t risk paying a fine of €107.

  2. In most of the public transport in Brussels, doors don’t open automatically. Pull a handle on the door in the metro or press the green button on the door of a bus or tram to open the door.

  3. Trams and buses in Belgium stop only on request. So signal to the driver or press one of those blue buttons on a metal pole close to you to request the next stop.

  4. The signs in public transport are bilingual: French and Dutch. So if you’re not familiar with these languages, memorise the words or translate them online.

  5. Purchase tickets by contactless bank payments to avoid paying more. Optionally, get a season ticket if you travel frequently.

  6. If you buy a ticket directly from a driver, make sure to have the precise amount. They aren’t required to change more than €5.

    • If you use paper tickets, validate them at the little orange machine.
    • If you use a MOBIB card, validate it at the red machine on a bus or tram or scan it at the gates of a metro entrance.

When transferring between vehicles with a 1-hour ticket, you don’t need to pay for your second journey as long as your second validation happens within the 1-hour window.

Alternatives to public transport in Brussels

Biking in Brussels

Biking is the best alternative to public transport in Brussels and the most sustainable way of travelling. Although Brussels is quite bikable, beware of steep hills and cobbled streets. Luckily, the government’s been heavily investing in infrastructure to make cycling safer and easier in Brussels.

Don’t feel like buying a bike? Get a bike-sharing subscription from companies such as Vello, Blue Bike and Billy Bike for one off rides. If you’re in Belgium for a few months, you could rent your own bike from Swapfiets or e-bike to go. For longer stays, it’s more economical to buy a second-hand bike.

E-scooters in Brussels

Electric scooters have gained popularity all over Europe in the past years. They might not be an ideal option for long routes, but it’s surely a convenient way to get around and explore your city.

In Brussels you can choose from Lime, Poppy, Dott, Bird, Bolt, Pony, Voi and Tier scooter sharing options. Many of these apps have cars, e-mopeds and e-bikes for rental too. You just need to download the app, choose a ride on a map, unlock it and you’re ready to go!

Taxis in Brussels

Besides the old-school cabs parked along the streets, you can go for a sharing app like Uber, Bolt or Heetch. You can also explore the Brussels app Taxis Verts which has an option to share your night ride with other people.

To give you an idea of the taxi prices in Brussels let’s take a look at the Bolt standard fares:

  • Minimum fare: €8
  • Basic taxi fee: €1
  • Rate: €1.25/km + €0.30/min

Getting around by car in Brussels

Considering renting a car in Brussels? Unfortunately, getting around by car is far from ideal. Gas and parking prices are steep, the road signs are confusing and Belgian drivers are impatient.

If that wasn’t reason enough, Brussels ranks 3d for the worst traffic in the world! Brussels’ drivers spend about 134 hours a year sitting in traffic.

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