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how-to series

How to: Getting a tarjeta de transporte transport card in Sevilla

In this post, I’ll be covering how to get the famous green transport card in Sevilla (or tarjeta de transporte) for use on the buses and metro for your commute to school as an auxiliar de conversación or simply someone living in Spain! Also in this post, you will read about my trial and error struggles on conquering the bus system as a girl from a small, suburban American town without public transport.

Issues that I encountered that I will talk about today:


Related reading: NALCAP Series: How to teach English in Spain with NALCAP


Acquiring & recharging the tarjeta de transporte in Sevilla

First: what is the tarjeta de transporte?

The tarjeta de transporte is a rechargable transport card that you fill up and use for the buses and metro in Sevilla. For an initial purchase fee of 1.50€, you add between 5-500€ to the card for use on the transport options. Without this card, your trips are much more expensive and entering the buses is slower without the card since you have to count your coins to pay the fee and get change back.

Where can you get the card?

Option 1: You can get them at any of the bus stations and some metro stops. There are customer service kiosks that provide it in exchange for cash. The kiosks and windows in Plaza de Armas would not provide the card to me without cash. Since I had not yet set up my Spanish back account and was trying to avoid the hefty ATM fees that the ATMs enforced for out-of-network banks, I asked the customer service woman for advice. She pointed me to Option 2.

A girl with a pink wallet strapped to her wrist scans a green Sevilla transport card over a machine to pay her fare
Photo by J. J. ÚBEDA

Option 2: Any of the Tabacos shops sell them. But whether or not they accept card for purchasing them is something up to the individual shop. The Plaza de Armas woman told me to go to Tabacos La Cava de Arjona in particular, which is a Tabacos shop that is a 2 minute walk from the station. I arrived quickly and the lady at the counter knew exactly what I meant when I stuttered out something along the lines of “la tarjeta de transporte– el verde.” I paid a total of 21.50€ for the card– 1.50€ for the initial purchase fee, and then 20€ of transport credit. Easy peasy!

What’s the cost for each trip?

With my tarjeta de transporte, I have paid around 0.24€ for the green pueblo buses and between 0.32-0.78€ for the Tussam buses depending on the time of day. In two weeks, I have only spent a little over 10€ of my card balance!

If you need more information on las tarjetas de transportes, here is a PDF made by the transport agency. However, it’s from 2013 and it’s in Spanish, so use it as a base idea.


Google maps can be your enemy or your best friend

This is a heads up for my fellow Android users (or iPhone users who prefer the Google experience over Apple Maps).

Google Maps lies! At least, sometimes…

As I’ve taken my journey into learning the public transport system, I have learned that Google doesn’t know shit about the green pueblo buses running in and out of Sevilla through Plaza de Armas.

I teach in a gorgeous pueblo outside Sevilla’s city limits called Tomares. Google will tell you that the green buses running from Tomares or other pueblos back to Plaza de Armas will pick you up at a certain time. That time is almost always wrong.

For example, Google Maps tells me every single time that my bus from my Tomares stop back to Plaza de Armas picks me up at 3:10, or 3:30, or 3:50, etc. It is incorrect. My first day, I showed up at the bus stop at 3:03, proud that I was 7 minutes early and could catch the next bus. That is, until 3:10 rolled around, and the bus was nowhere in sight. Then 3:15. Still nothing. I thought, surely the one bus system this town has wouldn’t be this late.

A gif of a little blue blob guy staring confusedly at a map and moving the map to make sense of it.

So I asked another girl– a Tomares local who had just shown up at the stop– and she was very confused. She said the bus was last there at 3:00 and then will be there again at 3:20. She pulled out her phone. Her iPhone’s Apple Maps said 3:20. Mine remained at 3:10 and then refreshed for the next bus at 3:30. Another Android-toting girl told me Google Maps is always wrong. The buses indeed come on the hour, then 20 past, then 20 til, and the cycle continues. She pointed me to a paper schedule taped to the stop. Sure enough, she was right, and Google was wrong. It’s so frustrating now to plan my commute home since the time I have to leave is always 10 minutes off of what it should be, which interferes with which bus I need to get after arriving at Plaza de Armas!

Another Google Maps inaccuracy issue

The green buses hardly ever pick you up in Sevilla anywhere except inside Plaza de Armas. So when Google told me my commute to work was only 40 minutes, and that I could catch the M-115 on Calle San Juan de Ribera to Plaza de Armas station and then M-161 to my school from the station, I was relieved. Until I pulled up at the supposed stop for M-115 on San Juan de Ribera and the driver refused me entry. Apparently, the M-115 only drops off throughout Sevilla from Plaza de Armas. They don’t pick up passengers on the street like Google suggested! My fellow veteran auxes confirmed this.

Which meant that I either had to bike with a Sevici bike to the Plaza to get my M-161, or wake up an hour earlier and take a C Tussam bus to the Plaza. So frustrating! Advice: don’t base your commute on getting on a green line to the station or directly to your destination unless you’re getting on the bus inside the station. :’)

How to use Sevici, Sevilla’s public bike system
Technical problems with Google Maps – the straight-line glitch

I’ve had occasional issues with Google Maps where I enter a desired commute and it gives it to me as a perfectly straight line from one coordinate to the other. This means I don’t know what streets to turn down and when in order to get to my destination on time. This is especially frustrating when I’m in a hurry! Closing or force stopping the app rarely works, and sometimes, restarting my entire phone doesn’t work. Going to one of my alternative apps as a backup in the case is always a relief.


Alternatives to or pairings for Google Maps

Citymapper

Citymapper is an app for both Apple and Android and you can use it in your browser. It has a really nice design and is fairly reliable. Unlike Google Maps, it doesn’t recommend you take a green bus that’s impossible to enter! You can use this as a pair with the Google Maps app– use Google Maps as your primary and double check your commute with Citymapper to see if the recommended buses are the same. This app is the best option of this section.

Rome2Rio

Rome2Rio is an app for both Apple and Android that is actually better for travel between cities via buses, subways, and trains. I personally wouldn’t recommend this one for your school commutes, but it’s an option if you don’t like any of the other choices. However, recommended commutes on this app are longer than the commutes recommended on other apps. For example, Rome2Rio says my commute to school requires the metro and takes about an hour and 15 minutes. I’ve never had to use the metro before to get to Tomares and my commute has been under an hour.

Moovit

Moovit is similar to Citymapper and is also for Apple and Android. However, it uses some of Google Map’s information as a source. This means that it also recommends buses that you can’t enter, like my M-115. I recommend this app for your walking commutes, but not for buses. It might lead you astray like Google Maps.

Tussam

The Tussam app is good for viewing Tussam bus routes that you commonly use. You can see the lines on a map or in plain text format. This is a good option to verify a consistent commute to school with Tussam. Head’s up, though: the Tussam app does not show information for the green pueblo buses. This is strictly for Tussam’s buses. It pairs well with verifying your Google Maps commute or looking for bus line alternatives.


Related reading: The Great Escape: How I decided to leave the USA for Spain


Interesting experience: my pueblo bus driver skipped me!

One of my school days, I was starting my commute home. I walked 16 minutes in the heat to get to the bus stop for my M-161 bus home. After 10 minutes of waiting, my bus was here! I could see it coming down the street. Another few girls at the stop and I stretched our hands out and waved at the driver to stop. But he slowed down, stared at us waiting expectantly and looked a bit off, and then sped up and drove away. Me and the two local girls waiting were flabbergasted. One girl spoke up and asked if we could believe it.

A gif of someone using a hair dryer to melt a chocolate bunny. The bunny's head melts and flies off in the hot air.

I assumed that was normal, since I’m from a small American suburban town with no local public transport. The other girl shook her head and said absolutely not, that she gets on that bus at this time of day every weekday at the same stop. The first ‘can you believe it?’ girl glanced at me and told me that there’s a chance he skipped because he doesn’t like foreigners. As a blonde girl with a backpack on my back and clothes that are a little American in style, I stuck out pretty obviously.

We had to wait another twenty minutes in the 98F heat for another bus to come around and get us. We bonded over my introduction to Tomares and how I was finding the city to be. I was practically a puddle when I arrived at Plaza de Armas and got on my Tussam bus home!

Recap:

  • Get your tarjeta de transporte at bus stations, metro stops, or Tabacos shops. For using cash, seek out a Tabacos shop and see if they accept cash payments there.
  • It costs 1.50€ initially for the purchase of the card plus a minimum of 5€ to add as a balance. Then you can refill it with any amount between 5-500€.
  • The information for the buses on Google Maps is not always accurate, and sometimes the app glitches and provides you with a commute that requires you to phase through buildings to get there!
  • Citymapper, Rome2Rio, Moovit, and Tussam are all good supplements (or even alternatives) for the Google Maps app if you know how to use them right.
  • To avoid xenophobic bus drivers skipping you, try to dress and behave like a local. Learn basic Spanish phrases and practice your accent to blend in. Discrimination doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen.

Thanks for reading!

Thank you for supporting a small writer. I appreciate it and I’m so glad to help. Catch you in the next post!

Beka

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