Your second day in Brussels, you’ll be given a magical key to most of Brussels: a MOBIB Card. STIB is the equivalent to the SEPTA in Brussels and MOBIB is like a super SEPTA Key. STIB is similarly comprised of a bus, subway and tram line. Then there is a regional rail system that requires you to purchase tickets.
The MOBIB card is an amazing tool for discovering Brussels. Here, if you are a student, you get to ride the STIB for free! That means you are not constrained by how much money you can load on the card and you can roam as far as you please at no cost. The initial cost of the card is included in your fees for EPA and will be given to you during orientation, officially marking the true beginning of your Belgium adventures.
There are a few things to note about the MOBIB Card and STIB in general to keep you from getting too lost. Most important of these is to make sure you get on the right buses!
My first day with the MOBIB Card, I was a little adventurous and decided I would venture out to IKEA to find some coat hangers. I couldn’t figure out why my card was being rejected by the scanner on the bus until a kind Englishman informed me that I had actually boarded a De Lijn bus. These white and yellow buses run through Brussels into the Flanders regions of Belgium and do not operate on the same system. You can still ride these buses, and may have to depending on where you’re going, but you’ll need to pay.
The lines can also sometimes be confusing. I learned the hard way that Brussels isn’t planned in as straightforward a fashion as Philly or even Paris and Berlin. You can walk straight without turning and still changed street three times from how criss-crossed roads are here. This sometimes makes the maps hard to understand. For example, I take the train to Elisabeth every morning to come to work. However, I could take the train to the train to Simonis… which is just across the street. I do not know why or how these two lines exist and go essentially to the same place and neither does anyone I’ve asked. These lines will also loop back around to take me home but many others that I’ve been on only operate in a straight line back and forth. Play it by ear!
At the end of the day, just make sure to explore. You will only be in Brussels for a few months and you won’t be able to have so much mobility when you go back home. Get out there and see the world!