Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday, August 27th, 2009:
How to take a train from Helsingborg to Malmö
(buying a ticket)

What I think:

According to a survey of Helsingborg residents a couple of years ago, the best thing about Helsingborg is that it's easy to get away from.

I think people probably meant that it's a decent travel hub, with its trains and ferries offering easy access to mainland Europe via Denmark, and coaches heading to great Swedish cities like Gothenburg, Stockholm and Kågeröd. But this particular survey result gave me a nice little gut-splitting, laugh-till-you-puke chuckle nonetheless.

Since my move to Malmö in March, I've travelled to and from Helsingborg quite a bit, as many of my friends, and my band (CSI: Helsingborg), are there.

Last time I was leaving Helsingborg, I thought I'd take the opportunity to snap a few shots to show you how to buy a ticket to get to Malmö. Ready? Here goes...

Step One: Get to Knutpunkten
Knutpunkten is a Swedish word meaning "The Junction" (in the context of railways). It's also the name of the large terminal building to and from which the aforementioned ferries, trains and buses arrive and depart.

It's located in the city centre (such as it is) right on the narrow strait between Sweden and Denmark, called the Öresund or "The Sound" (oh, by the way, there's a band called The Sounds who come from Helsingborg. They're pretty good; have a look/listen on YouTube.).

This is what Knutpunkten looks like on its northern side:
This is where the main entrance is. There's also a taxi rank here (see the silver cars there). By the way, if you ever need to take a taxi in Helsingborg, be sure to get in one that has 180 200 on the side. Most of the others will rip you off (especially if you're a tourist or new to town). You can order these cabs locally by dialling 042 180 200.

There are a few other entrances, on the main road side (to the left of this photo), and on the bus/coach terminal side at the southern end of the building.

Step Two: Enter Knutpunkten
Upon entering and to your right, you'll see the escalators heading up to the ferries. Don't go up there; they go to Helsingör (Elsinore) in Denmark. We're going to Malmö, remember. Stay focused, please. Anyway, I covered the ferries here, if you're interested.

Step Three: Go to the ticket machines
Just take a few steps straight ahead and you'll see the ticket machines. Above them, you'll see information on upcoming train departure times - you'll want the screen on the left. It also shows the platform number. There are only four platforms, so you can't go wrong (although I did once, when I had a few too many nasty Swedish beers in town. But I realised in time, dashed off the wrong train, fell over, and got on the right train. But I digress...). Go to one of the touch-screen machines. These are quickest to use, if you know what you're doing. Oh yeah, I should have mentioned that we'll be paying in cash, so make sure to have a 100-kronor note (US/CAN: bill) with you. If you haven't got any Swedish money, there are two bureaux de change in the building - and a couple across the street, near the 7-11.

Step Four: Choose the "Quick-choice" ticket
When you approach the machine, and possibly touch the screen if it's been idle for a while, the bottom half of the screen gives you the option using Snabbval. This basically means "Quick-choice". You'll want to use this, otherwise you'll just be shown 17,466,493 other stations that you don't want. Malmö's here, so let's just go for that, shall we?I should point out here that you can't get return tickets; they're single (US/CAN: one-way) only. To translate the above: 1 VUXEN enkel standard means "1 ADULT standard single".

Step Five: Choose "cash"
Kontant is Swedish for cash, where methods of payment are concerned, so touch that option.You're supposed to be able to pay by credit/debit card, but this hasn't always worked for me. When it has actually worked, I've often had to swipe my card several times, then it might ask for my PIN number, then it would ask me to swipe again, etc. I gave up when it started asking for my star sign, favourite film (US/CAN: movie), and most often used position.

Step Six: Transaction confirmation
The next screen shows you what you're about to purchase, and the amount (Pris) you'll have to pay. As you can see, at the time of writing, the price was 96 kronor (about £8.30 / €9.40 / CAN$14.70 / US$13.55) Confirm this choice with a resounding Ja.Step Seven: They want you to pay
The next screen is similar to the last one but, towards the bottom, they seem to be hinting that you should insert money. And this is indeed what they want you to do.
And since you have that nice crisp 100-kronor note I asked you to get earlier, you're all set to insert it into the slot provided below. Go for it; slide that baby in there. Ooh yeah, etc.You then collect your ticket and change from the red compartment at the bottom. If the fare hasn't changed since I wrote this (yeah, right), you should get four nice shiny 1-krona coins.
(Swedish lesson: One krona, several kronor. Krona is Swedish for crown, and the plural form is kronor. Here endeth the lesson.)

Step Eight: Take your ticket
Don't forget your ticket! They almost always check for valid tickets during your journey. It is actually possible to buy your ticket on the train, but there is a real chance that you'll be severely tutted at by impatient fellow passengers, as it takes forever for the ticket guy/girl to issue tickets on board.

And here is your ticket! Well done!
As you can see, I've underlined a couple of bits here. GILTIG TILL means "VALID UNTIL". The ticket was issued at 18:33 (or 6:33 p.m.), and it's valid until 21:40 (or 9:40 p.m.).

This is good to know because, depending on the train, the journey time to Malmö from Helsingborg is usually less than an hour. These tickets are also valid on Malmö's city buses. So hang onto that ticket if you need to take a bus at the other end.

Now you just need to go to your platform and get on your train. Or, if you've got some time to kill, there are a few pubs in the terminal building. There's the Crom Bar on the ground floor and The Shakespeare (and two others, I think) upstairs - just below the ferry departure floor.

I didn't take photos of these interesting venues this time, but perhaps I'll treat you with some at a later date. I usually go to Crom, because there's an outdoor bit where you can smoke. Plus it's closer to the platforms.

So there you go; you now know how to get a ticket from Helsingborg to Malmö. I just think it's a shame that the portable ticket machines that the poor staff on the train have to carry are so crap. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it.

That's what I think.

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