My husband and I have booked rental cars through Europcar several times, and each experience has been very pleasant. You can book online/over the phone/in person, and English speakers will be glad to know that every attendant we've worked with has been fluent in our language. The Kafertal location (we really recommend this one!) is open 24 hours, which is great when you only need a car for one day and want to catch a late movie before returning it. If you use the Kafertal location, it's conveniently next to the strass stop "Kaftertal Sud" on line 5, so you can take the tram home after returning your vehicle. (Or, if you're coming into the city by train, you can take the 5 from the strass stop right outside the main station and arrive at this location in about 10-15 minutes.) Prices are reasonable.
(Website listed below; you can find phone numbers and addresses for all the different Europcar locations in Mannheim on the site.)
Since several train lines come together in Mannheim and then split up again, this is a place that lots of travelers know because they have changed trains here.
If all goes well, your new train will be on the other side of the same platform, with the 1st class opposite the 1st class and the 2nd class opposite the 2nd class. (Sometimes they mess up, but in general it works pretty well.)
In the photo we are facing south. The train on the right has just come from Berlin via Frankfurt, and will continue on to Stuttgart, Ulm, Augsburg and Munich. The one on the left has come along the Rhine River and will continue on to Karlsruhe and Basel.
They might seem to be the wrong way around, since Basel is straight ahead and Stuttgart is off to the left, but in fact the two lines go along together for a few minutes and then the Stuttgart train starts gaining altitude and crosses over the Basel line on a bridge.
Usually the two trains leave a minute or so apart, but sometimes they leave together and go right next to each other on parallel tracks for several minutes before splitting up, so you can establish eye-contact with some nice person in the other train, then your train gets a bit ahead so you lose her, but then her train speeds up so you see her again for a minute before she disappears irrevocably in the direction of Basel, sniff, she was so lovely....
Second photo: Inside the main railroad station in Mannheim.
End of last year (2007) the bus station finally moved from outside Mannheim to the downtown area. It's now right next to the train station, much more convenient.
This is the place where the buses to Hahn airport leave, as well as the international buses.
There is now a waiting room, a bakery and a place to get some coffee and cold drinks, alltogether it's a much friendlier place than the old bus station.
The website is in German only, they're still working on it and I suppose an English version will soon be available.
To get there from the train station, just keep on walking down platform 1.
From March 2008 on any car travelling inside Mannheim must have an environment sticker which indicates how much particulate matter - that's what the dictionary says, I'd call it dust -, anyway how much of this stuff your car exhausts. If it is lower than a certain level, you get a green sticker and can drive into Mannheim whenever you want.
If it's more, the sticker will be red and you won't be allowed to drive into the city.
I checked and learned there are no exceptions for foreign cars, it's the same law for anybody. Fines will be 40 Euro if a car without a green sticker is inside the city.
You can get the sticker at many garages, the TÜV, also online at the link below.
By the way, it's not only Mannheim that introduces this sticker, also several other cities in Germany - Berlin, Cologne, Hannover -have started this year. Heidelberg will follow soon.
To get around in Mannheim and vicinity without a car it's best to get a day pass for the streetcar/bus/local trains.
There are two types:
ticket 24 - for one person
ticket 24 plus - for two to five people
Both tickets are valid for 24 hours, on a weekend Saturday and Sunday,also on any public holiday that happens to be a Friday or a Monday. So one ticket is valid for the whole of Easter, from Good Friday to Easter Monday.
They can be used on all public transportation, buses, streetcars, also the local DB trains.
Important: they have to be validated before the first use by stamping them on a machine inside the bus/streetcar.
Prices depend on how many fare zone will be crossed , for example:
Inside the area Mannheim/Ludwigshafen it's 5 Euro for the ticket 24, 8,50 Euro for the ticket 24
Tickets covering the whole network are 13 Euro for the ticket 24 and 19 Euro for the ticket 24 plus.
Some stops are request stops, so you have to push a button to tell the driver you want to get out. If you don't and if nobody is waiting at the stop, the tram/bus/train will not stop.
In 2006 more towns joined the transportation network, so that now you can travel from Wissembourg in France to Zweibruecken up to Wuerzburg on the same ticket.
Update in February 2008: Prices are from 2008, I usually have to update this tip once a year , when they've gone up once again.
Mannheim Hauptbahnhof is a real big train station! Express trains to all over Germany stop here, but also slow trains that take you to the surrounding places.
For timetables and train connections, do have a look at www.bahn.de.
Watch out: at some platforms you might have two different trains going in very different directions, so note if your train leaves from section a or b!
There are some ferry boats over the Neckar river, over the Rhine river. The ferries are for cars, bikes and pedestrians. Near Grosskraftwerk (Altrip on the left Rhine side) is a ferry, there is another one which goes from Edingen to Ladenburg over the Neckar river, and one to the so called Friesenheimer island (you have to use this ferry when you make the Rheintalweg by bike). This is the one you see on my pic
Mannheim is a place where the ICE (Intercity Express) and the IC stop and you can change here the direction. So lots of people come to Mannheim, most of them stay at least 2 minutes in the main station. The so called S-Bahn (regional trains) stops as well in the main station and outside, just in front of the station, stop the trams and a bus.
Mannheim Train Station is big crossing in the Germany Train Network. ICE Super Fast trains here crossing from north to south and east to west. You can go south Karlsruhe-Freiburg-Basel (Swiss) or Stuttgart-Munic-Salzubrg-Vienna. North direction the Trains goes Frankfurt (Airport) in 30 min, and then Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, or via Frankfurt-Kassel-Hannover-Hamburg or Kassel-Magdeburg to Berlin. Also Frankfurt-Erfurt-Dresden is one of the ICE Tracks.
In the Mannheim HBF is also the new Rhein-Neckar-S-Bahn trains stopping. which connectiong the Rhein-Neckar Area from Karlsruhe in the south, Kaiserslautern in the west, Ostberburken in the east and Worms, Darmstadt in the north.
The first thing I noticed about the city centre was the unusual street layout. Each block has a letter and number (N6 for example) initially very confusing, but once I understood how it worked, very easy. The thing to remember is there are few street names and the block the same number all the way around, all blocks appear to be different sizes though - so maybe it's not so simple - but different!
Mannheim has a very modern main station which is a hub for ICE and EC-trains.
Autobahn A5 connects Mannheim with Frankfurt and Basel, A6 with Nuremberg and Saarbrücken and A656 with Heidelberg.
Several times a day there is a LUFTHANSA-operated bus service between the airport in Frankfurt an the LH City Center in Mannheim.
Catch the bus (reservations required thru travel agent or LH) outside the arrivals hall at Terminal 1, Hall B in Frankfurt.
YOU CAN TAKE A TRAIN OR DRIVE, IT'LL BE LISTED ON EVERY MAP OF GERMANY.
TRANSPORTATION HERE IS GREAT, DRIVING IS EASY ONCE YOU LEARN THE AREA A BIT, THERE ARE BUSSES THAT GO EVERYWHERE, THE TRAIN IS AN EASY RIDE, THEY HAVE GREAT WALKING & BIKE PATHS, & MY PERSONAL FAVORITE IS THE STRAS.
You can get to Mannheim from most German cities by the ICE train, this is the high speed train...as you would expect, punctual and efficient.
If you are arriving by air, Mannheim does have an airport but only for local traffic and links to Munich. Most travellers arrive via Frankfurt, which is about an hour away on the autbahn.
By car and by train.
There is a little airport with flights to Berlin and Hamburg for example. But there is also a big railway station where you can go on the direct way to all the big german towns.
And there are lots of motorways around Mannheim.