The network you will probably use the most during your stay here is the VRN, the German acronym for the Rhein-Neckar Transportation Association. This vast network is comprised of buses as well as underground (U-Bahn) and above ground (S-Bahn and Straßenbahn) rapid transit trains and on-call taxis. The VRN website (www.vrn.de) has multilingual information and offers a trip planner, network maps and 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 too expensive when you consider the services provided. Let's take a quick look at each part of this network:
The Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region is served by a strong network of regional trains, which includes the S-Bahn, RegionalBahn and the faster RegionalExpress. These trains connect most of the major cities and towns in the region and are linked with the national train system. The busy Mannheim Train Station is the most important railway station in the region, and the second-largest in Germany for the high speed ICE trains. Frankfurt's international airport can be reached in about 40 minutes by high-speed train, and a trip to the Stuttgart Airport takes about 70 minutes.
The S-Bahn Rhein-Neckar is one of the most ambitious public transportation projects in Germany with 96 stations and covering more than 370 kilometers. The S1 and S2 lines run every 30 minutes and connect Homburg/Saar, Kaiserslautern, Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Ludwigshafen, Mannheim, Heidelberg, Eberbach and Mosbach. S1 also has an hourly connection to Osterburken. These connections are particularly important for commuters but also to those wishing to connect to the national rail network. In addition, the S1 and S2 connect important tourism and recreational areas such as the Palatinate Forest, German Wine Route, Neckar Valley and Odenwald.
The S3 and S4 lines connect Germersheim and Speyer with Ludwigshafen, Mannheim and Heidelberg. These lines are also important for commuters because they stop in Wiesloch-Walldorf, Bruchsal and Karlsruhe. The S5 and S51 connect Heidelberg with Sinsheim. Additional stations are currently being planned in Worms, Biblis, Weinheim/Bensheim and Schwetzingen/Karlsruhe.
The Rhine-Neckar Region enjoys a broad network of buses, which are all part of the VRN ticketing network but are operated by the city or regional authorities. In the wee hours of the morning, when buses and trains are not running, the VRN offers an innovative on-call taxi service (AnrufSammelTaxis or AST). Basically, taxis take passengers to the same stops as the bus route and charge regular bus ticket price (plus a nominal extra fee). It is important to note that the service must be ordered ahead of time, so check the VRN website for more details.