The network you will probably make the most use of during your stay here is the RMV, the German acronym for the Rhein-Main Transportation Association. This extensive network comprises streetcars, buses, underground and aboveground rapid transit trains. The RMV website (www.rmv.de) has multi-lingual information and offers a trip planner, network maps as well as articles on special events in the area and how to get to them.
The system is efficient and reliable. Though not exactly cheap, it is not expensive when you consider the services provided for the money. Let us take a quick look at each part of this network separately.
The fastest way of traveling within the city of Frankfurt is the U-Bahn. The term is the short form of Untergrundbahn or underground train. There are seven U-Bahn lines, and they cover a large swath of Frankfurt, particularly the central, northern and eastern areas. The lines are designated by numbers, as in U1, U2, all the way up to U9. This designation by number is likewise used for the S-Bahn (see below).
The S-Bahn, or Schnellbahn (fast train), covers much of the area the U-Bahn misses, and runs over some of the U-Bahn territory. It also serves many outlying areas, including the Taunus and other western or northern suburbs.
In fact, two S-Bahn lines each go all the way to the cities of Wiesbaden, the Hessen state capital, Mainz, the capital of the neighboring state of Rhineland-Palatinate in the west, and Offenbach, the town that borders Frankfurt to the east. One of the Offenbach lines proceeds further east to Hanau, while another line travels south all the way to Darmstadt. One line, the S6, can even take you to Friedberg in the extreme northeast, where you can visit the old US army base where Elvis Presley was stationed. By the way, Eurail passes and other special fares offered by the German Railway are valid on the S-Bahn, but not on the U-Bahn, trams or buses.
Straßenbahn is the German word for streetcar or tram. It is for those travelers who want to travel some stretch not covered by the U-Bahn or S-Bahn, or who have the time and inclination to take the scenic route. It covers a number of areas within the city, with some lines going all the way to downtown Offenbach. During demonstrations or large festivals in the city, the Straßenbahn is usually the first form of transit to suffer delays and cancellations.
The local bus system also takes you to areas that the rapid transit trains do not. Some of them stop at every street or so, bringing you very close to the door of your destination. However, buses are also the slowest mode of public transport, as they must operate on the same streets as private cars and trucks.
In the wee hours of the morning, buses are the only form of public transportation available. A number of special night buses ply the streets between midnight and dawn, designated by 'N' before their number. These buses do not service regular bus stops. To find out which stops these buses use, look for signs with an "N" surrounded by stars. In addition, on weekends and the night preceding public holidays, special night buses leave from Konstablerwache in Frankfurt City every half hour between 1:30 and 3:30 a.m. Twelve different lines take you to all the major Frankfurt suburbs (Oberursel, Höchst, Bad Homburg, Offenbach, etc.). For more information visit www.nachtbus-frankfurt.de.