Berlin is a big city. Although many areas are easy to see on foot or by pedal power alone, at some point or other you’re going to want to venture to a neighborhood further afield – and in so doing, tackle the Berlin public transport system.
But just how easy is it to get around Berlin? Luckily for us, it’s pretty damn easy. Berlin is well serviced by an efficient and affordable infrastructure that puts many other capital cities to shame.
Bus, Tram, U-Bahn and S-Bahn
Berlin’s public transport – which includes buses, trams, the U-Bahn (underground) and S-Bahn (overground railway) – is organized by BVG. Visit their website to look up routes and prices or plan journeys (the English language version of this site is very good if you don’t speak German).
Because BVG organizes all of the public transport in Berlin, this means that one travel ticket can be valid across all of the different services – so a day travel ticket can be used on any of the city’s bus, tram, U-Bahn or S-Bahn routes.
In the Zone
Berlin is split into three zones (A, B and C). Unless you’re traveling to Potsdam or Schönefeld Airport, you’ll generally only need to stay within zones A and B.
Tickets for zones A and B are charged as follows:
- Kurzstrecke (short trip) : €1.50 – valid for short journeys (3 stops on U-Bahn or S-Bahn, six on bus or tram) without a transfer
- Normaltarif (standard single): €2.60 – valid for up to two hours, including transfers, when traveling in a single direction
- 4 Fahrten Karte (quadruple card): €8.80 – valid for 4 single trips
- Tageskarte (day card): €6.70 – valid from day of purchase until 3am following day
- 7-Tage-Karte (7-day card): €28.80 – valid for seven days
- Monateskarte (monthly card): €77 – valid for either calendar month or 30 days from purchase
In addition to these standard tickets, the following options are available and are definitely worth considering, as they may work out more cost-effective:
- The Berlin CityTourCard: €16.90 for 2 days; €23.90 for 3 days; €30.90 for 5 days – this covers all public transport across the zones, and also gives the holder discounts to many of the popular tourist attractions as well as a handy route map
- The Berlin WelcomeCard: €18,50 for 2 days; €25.50 for 3 days; €32.50 for 5 days – unlimited travel, up to 50% off over 200 tourist attractions, and free pocket guidebook, city plan and route plan
- The Berlin WelcomeCard Museum Island: €38.50 for 3 days – includes unlimited travel across zones A and B, free entry to all museums in Berlin’s famous Museuminsel, and free inner city map and route plan
- Small-group day ticket: €16.20 – available for up to five people
Buying and Validating Tickets
Tickets can be bought from vending machines, which allow you to select from a number of different languages (including English), using either bank cards or cash. Larger stations also have staffed ticket counters.
If it important that you validate each ticket before travel, either using the machines provided on the platform or as you get on the bus. This stamps a time on the ticket, thus showing the time it is valid for. Being caught traveling without a validated ticket can earn you a €40 fine, as can riding without any ticket at all (easy to do, as there are no turnstiles in Berlin). Ticket inspections by plain-clothes inspectors are fairly frequent, so ride without a ticket at your own risk.
Traveling at Night
Public transport keeps running in Berlin all through the night, albeit on a reduced service. The U-Bahn and S-Bahn run until 12.30am and 1.30am respectively on weekdays, then all through the night at the weekends on a truncated service.
As for buses and trams, look for the Nachtliniennetz (night-line network) services, which have an ‘N’ in front of their number and runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
For added safety, it’s worth knowing that buses N11, N35 and N41 will take you straight to your front door during the night provided it’s not too far off their official route.
Additionally, the BVG operates a Taxi-Ruf-System (taxi calling service) for women and people with disabilities after 8pm each night until the network closes – simply ask the employee in the booth to book you a taxi and provide them with your destination and payment method.
What’s your favorite way of getting around Berlin? Share your stories or tips below.