The public transport in Karlsruhe is provided by the Karlsruher Verkehrsverbund (KVV) (schedule information are available on their website). If you print out your “KVV-Bestätigung” from the KIT Campus Management System, you can use all busses, city trains and trams for free between 6pm and 5am, as well as on weekends and public holidays (you have to have your KIT card with you as well).
If that is not enough for you, and you would like to travel before 6 pm on weekdays (e.g. because you live far away from Uni), you might want to have a look at the “Semesterticket”. The Semesterticket is currently priced at around 140€ and is valid for 6 months (October to March, or April to September). The Semesterticket is being sold at all official KVV offices, e.g. the one at the main train station (Hauptbahnhof), or the one at Marktplatz (which is the closest one to the Uni campus).
Construction work in Karlsruhe
You have probably noticed it already, but there is a lot of construction work going on in Karlsruhe right now. This is because of the Kombilösung (“dual solution”): Parts of the tram system are being turned into a subway now, to allow the inner city to become a real pedestrian area, and a car tunnel is being built under the city to reduce the pollution etc. due to traffic. Unfortunately that means that trains are not always on time, and connections may change because stops get temporarily cancelled, so this is something you might want to keep in mind!
The KIT library
The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology operates a system of libraries across the countries, which do not only provide a quiet place to study, but they also – surprise! – have books for borrowing. In fact, they usually have dozens of copies of all the popular books in every field, so you most likely won’t have to buy any books at all during your studies in Karlsruhe. Isn’t that nice?
Before you can use the library to borrow books, you have to create and account online. This does not take long and can be done here. Once you have a library account, you can also use it to extend the lending (usually books can only be borrowed for 30 days at a time, but multiple extensions are possible) or book group rooms online!
Interactive Campus Map
Having troubles finding your Hörsaal (lecture hall) or your Seminarraum (seminar room)? Here is an interactive map of the KIT Campus.
Cycling in Karlsruhe
The best way for students to get around in Karlsruhe is by bicycle.
Finding a bike is actually very easy. The so called AStA (Allgemeiner Studierendenausschuss) for example organizes each semester a flea market where you can buy bicycles by auction. In addition, many students offer their bikes cheaply in various Facebook groups or on eBay.
Another way to get a bike is to rent one. Swapfiets rents bicycles online or in their shop at Herrenstraße 38 for less than 20 Euros per month, which is very practical and easy for short stays in Karlsruhe.
The course catalog provides a list of all lectures that are being offered at the university during the semester. The official course catalog can be found here.
Tired of the long queues at the Mensa to manually put money on your KIT card? Well, there is a better way: Autoload is quite a comfortable way of paying in the Mensa without caring how much you have on your student card. You need to register for it at the information center at Studentenhaus. The idea is the following: If you pay with you KIT card, and your balance falls below a certain threshold, the cashier will ask you if you want to autoload you card. If you agree, money will be automatically withdrawn from your bank account and added to your KIT card.
Sports and language classes and HOC/ZAK
Besides the regular lectures, you can attend also take sports classes (competitive and recreational), learn a new language, participate in some “soft skill” training, or do creative working. For more details, have you look on the respective websites of the SPZ (Sprachenzentrum, “Language Center”), HOC (“House of Competence”), ZAK (Zentrum für Angewandte Kulturwissenschaft, “Center for Applied Cultural Studies”) and the Sports Center. The websites provide detailed information about where, when and how to sign up for classes:
Sports classes cost a small fee (usually around 25€ per semester) to cover material costs and insurance. Language classes and cultural courses are free, and you can earn between 2 and 4 ECTS points with them.
Beware: Especially for the sports classes, you have to be very quick when it comes to signing up. The sign up date is usually in the week before lectures start again, and most popular courses are fully booked in a matter of seconds once the registration is open! So you better find some spot with fast internet, and keep refreshing the website.
Opening a German bank account
If you are an Erasmus student and have a bank account in a country of the European Union, you might not even need a German bank account. Your card from home should work just fine, and often you don’t even have to pay fees to use your card here. This might even be true if your home country’s currency is not the Euro (e.g. Great Britain, or Scandinavian Countries). For details, you might want to check with you bank at home though.
However, please be aware that credit cards are not widely accepted in Germany! People in Germany usually use EC-cards (“electronic cash”), where anything you pay for is directly withdrawn from your bank account. Credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard or American Express are not accepted in most stores (yes, not even in big supermarkets!) or restaurants, so if this is the only form of “plastic money” you have, you might want to consider getting a German bank account.
If you are not from a European country, you will most likely be required to get a German bank account to be able to pay the registration fee at KIT during the Immatrikulation (enrollment). You will have to go to a branch of the bank of your choice (e.g. Sparkasse, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank or Volksbank – they all offer very similar conditions for the kind of account that you will need) and make an appointment. Ask them what documents you are required to bring! After you have opened the account, it usually takes about a week until you receive your card in the mail.
You can print your scripts, slides and anything else at the SSC (Steinbuch Center for Computing, also known as “Rechenzentrum”). They provide instructions for printing on their website. The process is unfortunately a bit cumbersome, so you might want to ask somebody at the SCC for help to transfer money from your KIT card into your “printing balance”.
Some faculties, such as the Faculty of Physics, also provide computer pools of their own, where you can print things for free! (Usually with a limit on the amount of pages per month, though.)
Flunkyball is probably the most popular “sport” among German students. It is a game played by two teams, and it is somewhat similar to the Scandinavian game of “kubb”, if you are familiar with that one. Flunkyball, however, combines the art of precision throwing with the age-old German tradition of drinking beer! Especially if you are here for the summer semester, there is pretty much no way you can escape this game, so you better make yourself familiar with the rules.