One of the most important parts of living in or visiting Berlin is being able to navigate your way from one place to another. In fact, the easiest way to do this is with public transport. In Germany, a staggering 30 million people use public transport every day, according to the German Partnership for Sustainable Mobility. To help you get started, we have put together a short guide for public transport in Berlin. We hope you find it useful!
The transport system is surprisingly simple when you’re used to it! When I first started working here, it took me 3 days before I managed to get to and from work without any hiccups along the way! Once you’ve worked out which ticket is the best for you, and got yourself in the routine of jumping on trains whenever possible, your journey will be easy!
How to buy a public transport ticket in Berlin:
This is probably the least stressful part of a public transport journey in Berlin. You’ll be very lucky if you can get from A to B without having to change to a different mode of transport along the way. The cost of a ticket varies depending on which zone you’re travelling in, a ticket for zones A, B and C will be the most expensive. The advantage of this huge network of all types of vehicles is that each ticket you buy is valid for buses, trams, the S-Bahn and the U-Bahn, meaning you don’t have to buy new tickets for each part of your journey. Simply download the BVG (Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe) ticket app, buy the most suitable ticket, and you’ll be on your way!
Ticket types (for zones A&B):
(Discounted tickets are also available in certain circumstances)
- Single Trip Ticket: 3.00€
- 4-single trip ticket: 9.40€
- 24-hour ticket: 8.80€
- 24-hour-ticket small group: 25.50€ (this is a ticket for a group of up to 5 people)
There are also weekly and monthly tickets available for those who use public transport every day. Weekly tickets are 36.00€, and montly tickets are 86.00€.
If part of your journey involves cycling and you need to take your bike onto the public transport, you will also need to buy a ticket for your bike, which costs 2.10€ per trip, or you could get a 24-hour bike ticket for 5.00€, for example if you’re on a nice romantic getaway together.
All tickets are valid for exactly 2 hours after their purchase. If you decide that the 4-single trip ticket is the one for you, remember to activate a new ticket each time you travel. It is not possible to activate them if and when you see a guard coming to check tickets (this is the oldest trick in the book), as they take 2 minutes to become live, and are not valid before this.
As you may have heard, the public transport system in Berlin is extremely punctual and well-organised.
The waiting time between services running on the same line is usually 10 minutes (at the most). 22 different tram lines cover a combined distance of almost 200km and serve over 400 stops in Berlin. There are timetables at every single stop, which show the arrival time of the trams to the exact minute, and each one is exactly on time. Many tram-stops are located right outside S-Bahn or U-Bahn stations, which means that your journey to and from your destination is not likely to include much walking. However, if you do like a bit of fresh air to break up the trip, the distance between tram stations is easily walkable.
The trams which are marked with the prefix ‘M’ are MetroTrams and are the only ones which operate 24-hours a day.
S-Bahn and U-Bahn
These railway lines are the ones you’ll most likely use to get into the heart of Berlin. Together, the S- and U-Bahn systems have an average of 924 million passengers per year, and have a total of 339 stations.
The S-Bahn (Stadtbahn – literally ‘road train’) passes through the biggest stations in the city, such as Friedrichstraße, Alexanderplatz, Berlin Ostbahnhof and Berlin Zoologischer Garten, and stops off at Berlin Hauptbahnhof for regional and international rail travel.
The Berlin U-Bahn (Untergrundbahn – literally ‘underground train’) is the largest underground metro system in Germany and the fifth-largest in Europe, making it easy to get anywhere you want in a short space of time.
They both run until approximately 1a.m. Monday – Thursday, and operate a 24-hour service over the weekend, with an interval of 30 minutes between each train after midnight. But don’t worry! If you need to get home or to your next stop after this time, there is always a way with Berlin’s public transport system! Read on to find out how!
The Berlin buses are also an essential part of the city transport system. They run not only in the middle of Berlin, but also on the outskirts, meaning it is easy to get into the centre, whether that be to explore the capital or catch a connecting trip elsewhere. You can buy your tickets on the BVG app, and use them for up to 2 hours after purchasing.
Night buses run 24-hours a day and are recognisable as they carry the prefix ‘N’ before their number. These buses create a safe, fast and cheap way to get home from late shifts at work or a night out in the centre.
Etiquette at the stations:
When waiting at any of the hundreds of stations in Berlin, there are a few unwritten rules which must be followed, just to avoid any unwanted or negative attention from (usually) rushing passengers.
- Don’t stand too close to other people (this rule also applies to times outside of the Coronavirus pandemic!) – this will likely result in a few funny looks from fellow travellers, followed by an attempt to be discreet in moving away. To avoid this, my advice would be to try and find a space where you could do some star jumps without hitting other people!
- If you’re on the phone, whether that be through headphones or not, make sure to keep your voice to a minimum level, as even the slightest loud noise will add an immense amount of stress to most Berlin public transport users.
- When waiting to embark onto a train or tram, make sure to move to the side and allow other people to get off first. For many people this is common sense, but here in Berlin, it is almost a daily competition to see how many people knock you over when getting off the train. To avoid any unwanted takedowns, move out the way.
*It is also important to remember to wear a mask which covers both your mouth and nose, not only on the train, but also on the platform and in the stations. Although it is a rare occurrence, being spotted without a mask in the station can lead to a hefty fine*.
How to plan a route:
A typical journey through Berlin will likely consist of a combination of walks or cycles, trams, buses or trains. Whilst waiting at most public transport stations, the electronic board on the platform will also show you the main stops along the way, which should give you an initial idea of where to get off. Additionally, if you are using the tram, you will also be able to see which other useful Berlin public transport links are near the next stop.
Nowadays, it is very easy to plan your route through the Maps app on your phone, or through the BVG Route Planner App. This is not the same as the BVG Ticket app, but is just as useful to have on standby.
If you really are stuck, don’t hesitate to ask any of the guards or staff members at the stations, as they will know Berlin like the back of their hands and be able to tell you which way is the best to go!
The no. 1 public transport rule in Berlin:
Finally, there is one thing which you must NOT do when travelling with the BVG (public transport) and that is panic! The frequency and efficiency of the services make it easy to go back a stop or two within minutes if you go wrong (or even back to where you started in particularly disastrous situations!). This means that your time exploring the city will only be shortened by a few minutes, and if you’re travelling for work, all your colleagues will most definitely have encountered the same issues several times, and therefore will fully understand your reasons for being slightly late!
To conclude, travelling on public transport through Berlin can be quite daunting to start off with, especially when you’re in and amongst some of the world’s finest rush-hour travellers, who always seem to know precisely when the next service will arrive and which door of the train or tram is the best to get on at, as that will bring them closer to the exit of the station at their destination.
BVG Route Planner:
If you ever have a small query, or if you need your whole route planning, the BVG staff will always be on hand to help…as it says in one of their finest adverts, it doesn’t take much to make them happy – “Wieder Fashion Week? Wir sind ja schon froh, wenn unsere Gäste eine Hose anhaben” (“Fashion Week again?! We are just happy if our guests have trousers on”). To see some of the best of their witty marketing campaigns, click the link below.
If you would like to enhance your German experience and be able to fluently navigate your way through public transport in Berlin, check out our range of German courses here.