How to navigate Berlin with Public Transport

This post is a how to guide to public transport in Berlin.  S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses, Tram trolleys – there are so many possibilities to move around in Berlin and the neighboring cities.  Let us explain the different means of transport and the different tickets you can buy.  


Tip: You don’t need different tickets for all these different means of transportation.  Many visitors will chose the Berlin Welcome Card.  The Welcome Card offers a choice of the number of days you want and whether you want to travel within Berlin (public transport Zone AB) or Berlin and the surrounding areas (public transport Zone ABC). The card also gives you great discounts for countless tourist attractions.


 

 

 S-Bahn, U-Bahn, Tram, and Bus

Don’t be taken aback by the different types of transportation. They are all covered under the BVG (Berlin Transportation Service), so with a valid ticket you can ride them all and transfer between them and you don’t need to worry that you will need a special S-Bahn ticket, a special U-Bahn ticket etc.  A good way to plan your trip is online the Journey Planner to give you some idea of the different travel options.

 


Berlin Fare Zones A, B, and C

Berlin’s transportation network is divided into 3 fare zone: zone A in the center, zone B surrounding outer urban ring, and zone C the greater Berlin area. If your accommodation is rather central and you are looking to see the main typical sights in the city, an AB ticket usually suffices. The BC or ABC tickets are necessary if you are travelling e.g. from or to the airport Schonefeld, to Oranienburg/Sachsenhausen, or to Potsdam. Take a look at the BVG map, every train station has these maps on their platforms, usually at the information booths and banners, or ticket machines.

 


Tickets and fares

Be sure to have a ticket! There are random ticket checks on the trains, and these lads who check, work on commission, so they won’t care much that you just didn’t know better. Getting caught without ticket will cost you €60 and some hassle.

You need to purchase a ticket before you board a S-Bahn, U-Bahn. Ticket machines are located on the platforms and usually accept small bills, coins, but no international credit cards.  When riding a bus, enter at the front door and if you already have a valid ticket show it to the driver when you enter. You can buy a single ticket with the driver as well in cash, again not with credit cards. Trams usually have their ticket machines located in the front tram car and might give no change, so make sure you have the exact fare ready.

Which ticket do I need?

Berlin S-Bahn trainFor occasional travel the single ticket for €2.80 (AB) is fine, but it’s better to buy the 4-trip-ticket, which are actually 4 single tickets costing you only a total of €9.00 (AB). For these single tickets applies a strange rule, that allows you to only travel one-way, meaning for a round trip you actually need 2 single tickets even though your trip might last less than 2 hours.

Tip: You don’t need different tickets for all these different means of transportation.  Many visitors will chose the Berlin Welcome Card.  The Welcome Card offers a choice of the number of days you want and whether you want to travel within Berlin (public transport Zone AB) or Berlin and the surrounding areas (public transport Zone ABC). The card also gives you great discounts for countless tourist attractions.

Since you are probably spending all day sightseeing, it might be worth getting a day-ticket for €7.00 (AB), or even the 7-day ticket for €30.00 (AB).

If you are travelling with a group of 5 or less, you might consider the group-ticket for up to 5 people, (€17.30 AB). You will have to stick together though, as there is only 1 ticket.  For more info click here.

Day and Night

Berlin’s transportation system works day and night. The trains and buses run at least every 20 minutes during the day time, in the center trains run more frequent. At night the service is more limited. S-Bahn trains of the “ring bahn” run all night every 30 minutes. U-Bahn trains usually don’t run on weekday nights, but there certain night buses that take on that route. On weekends, the night service is a little more available, e.g. U-Bahn trains run every 15 minutes on weekend nights.

Best Apps for Berlin public Transportation

The most comprehensive and free app to navigate public transportation in Berlin is the BVG FahrInfo Plus Berlin. It’s available for both iPhone and Android users.  This app helps you to find directions and connections between two locations in the city.  You can also access tram and train maps for the city.

 


S-Bahn

The S-Bahn is an elevated train system to master long distances in short time – like an express subway. There is the ring-line, the East-West-corridor, the North-South-line (underground) and the lines that go to the outer neighborhoods or cities outside Berlin like Potsdam, the capital of the state of Brandenburg.

The lines are marked e.g. “S1”.

 


U-Bahn

The U-Bahn is the classic subway (sometimes elevated though) for more local travel. The subway–lines criss-cross Berlin and some lead to places outside the city as well. Subways run 24/7 on Fridays through Sundays and the nights before official holidays.

A subway line is named e.g. “U1” (by the way a famous Berlin musical of the 1980s).

 


Buses

A “Bus” refers to a bus line that runs 6:30 am – 12:30 am, a “Nachtbus” runs  12:30 am – 4:30 am and an “Expressbus” runs express.

The regular  “100” and “200” buses are double deckers and unite many of the interesting sights, and in a way, these buses operate as free tourist buses. The night buses are marked e.g. “N1” and the express lines e.g. “X 11”.

 


Trolleys (Tram)

In the 1950s, people where very optimistic about the future of automobile transportation. So, in the former West-Berlin trolleys were seen as outdated and abandoned. In the former East Berlin, the “capital of the German Democratic Republic”, the authorities were not so fast. The system had failed to provide its people with enough cars anyway and thus public transport was more important and the trolley system was kept alive. In the Eastern neighborhoods you find a dense system of trolley lines “Straßenbahn” that are marked “Tram 12”

 


The Metro System

Some buses and trolleys are marked e.g. “M 1”. They operate 24/7 and complement the U-Bahn/S-Bahn system.

Choose your ticket

You don’t need different tickets for all these different means of transportation.  Many visitors will chose the Berlin Welcome Card.  The Welcome Card offers a choice of the number of days you want and whether you want to travel within Berlin (public transport Zone AB) or Berlin and the surrounding areas (public transport Zone ABC).  The card also gives you great discounts for countless tourist attractions.

The system is divided into three zones:

A = within the S-Bahn-Ring
B = within the city limits of Berlin
C = outside Berlin, into the neighboring places in the state of Brandenburg.

There are two possibilities: pay-per-ride and unlimited ride tickets.

Pay-Per-Ride

You buy either a short-distance-ticket (3 stops in S-Bahn and U-Bahn, 6 stops in buses and trolleys), a single full-fare ticket (2 hours unlimited in 1 direction), or a 4-ride-ticket, full-fare for either regular or short distance.

Children under 6 years of age are free, between 6 and 14 years they pay the reduced fare.

(zones A+B)

  • Full-fare Single Ticket EUR 2.80 (reduced fare EUR 1.70)
    • 4 rides EUR 9.00   (reduced fare EUR 5.60)
  • Short-Distance EUR 1.70 (reduced fare EUR 1.30)
    • 4 rides EUR 5.60   (reduced fare EUR 4.40)

 

You have to validate your tickets before boarding a S-Bahn or U-Bahn or in a bus or trolley. The single ride is good for two hours after validating.

Tickets for the zones A+B+C or B+C are more expensive.

Unlimited Ride:
 Day Ticket (zones A+B)                    EUR 7.00        (reduced fare 4.70)
Group Day Ticket (up to 5 people) (zones A+B)   EUR 17.30
7-days (zones A+B) ( 1 person) EUR  30.00
Tickets for the zones A+B+C or B+C are more expensive.

Special Cards for Visitors:

Berlin combines unlimited ride tickets with discounts for tourist attractions. These tickets are called “Berlin CityTourCard” or “Berlin Welcome Card”. The tickets are for 48, 72 hours or 5 days and allow trips in all the three zones, e.g. to Potsdam with its beautiful castles and parks.

You can check out tickets, time tables and tourist’s specials on the English pages of the Berlin transport authority’s official website.

Buying your Ticket

You can purchase your ticket at a counter or at a vending machine in every U- or S-Bahn station. Pay cash or with a German debit card (EC-Karte). Here is a list of the ticket counters.

This is complex, isn’t it? Well, that’s the way Germans like to engineer their lives…

Need to know how to get to or from the airport, read our post here.

++For more Tips on public transportation check out our other blog post.++

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