Berlin is a big, lively and very diverse city. It has everything: historical buildings and points of interest that tell its long-standing story and tall, modern, innovative towers. It is a sought-after and much-loved tourist city, a city that is suitable for all ages and for any type of vacation. There are those who choose to come there for a day or two, and there are those who prefer to stay there for a long period if only to absorb everything it has to offer.
Befitting a city like this, its public transportation is very comprehensive and it covers all its corners. It connects its various suburbs to the city center and between the city itself and other destinations, outside of it. It consists of a tram, an elevated and underground train, and of course also buses. A single travel card gives access to a variety of transportation options, which is very popular with locals and tourists alike. Almost half a million people use Berlin’s public transport every day.
Although it is an orderly, spacious, safe and quite punctual system, it is very massive and it takes some time to understand it and use it properly. But if you prepare in advance and learn a little about what’s going on, you can succeed in the task and reach different points in the city with the variety of efficient means of transportation that Berlin has to offer.
Berlin’s subway (U-Bahn)
The means of public transport in Berlin
The subway – U-Bahn
This is an underground train that first started operating in 1902 and has undergone quite a few upgrades and changes since then. Signs with the letter U in blue and white throughout the city mark the entrance to the stations, and on them is also written the name of the station, which appears in a variety of options. You must enter the station / platform with a relevant ticket, which you purchase in a dedicated machine, stamp it and only then board the train. The station maps can be found on the platforms themselves, where innovative electronic boards inform and update passers-by about the next trains and their estimated time of arrival (which is much more accurate than a gate). The U-Bahn contains over 170 stations on ten lines, including the famous U2 line (and no, it has nothing to do with the famous band…).
Berlin’s U-Bahn runs from 5am to 1am during the week. On weekends and holidays, the train operates 24 hours, but less frequently. The trains in the city center leave for their destinations every 3 to 5 minutes. After 20:00 in the evening, the trains leave every 10 to 20 minutes. These trains are supplemented by night buses.
Light city train – S-Bahn
This is Berlin’s city train, which runs above ground. The distance between its stations, unlike those of the U-Bahn, is greater and this is the fastest way to travel around the city and also go to its suburbs and neighboring, nearby destinations. The same tickets that are relevant for the U-Bahn are also relevant for it, as well as for the other means of public transport in Berlin. The stations of the S-Bahn can be identified by the letter S in green and white. This train system includes 15 lines in total with almost 170 different stations. During the week, the train operates between 04:30 in the morning and 01:30 at night, and on weekends and holidays it operates 24 hours a day. Trains depart every 10 minutes, when off-peak every 10 to 20 minutes and in the evening and night every 30 minutes.
For an interactive map of the U-Bahn and S-Bahn routes and stations, click here
Buses in Berlin – MetroBus / ExpressBus
Berlin’s buses cover the city impressively and serve as a perfect addition to the other means of transportation it has to offer. Although compared to the trains (upper and lower) they are slower, they are an ideal solution for all those who want to cover the great distances of Berlin. They can be a great way to tour the city, as they stop near well-known attractions and pass through the special landscapes of Berlin and they connect different points in it and also pass through places where the old tram lines used to pass.
Berlin’s bus stops are marked with a round sign with the letter H in green. They usually have a shed as well as an electronic sign that updates about the timetables and regular bus routes. The bus tickets can be purchased at the U-Bahn and S-Bahn machines or directly from the bus drivers themselves. There are more than 350 lines and over 2,634 stations throughout the city. The buses are numbered 100 to 399, with MetroBus lines beginning with the letter M and the express bus service, the ExpressBus, is marked with the letter X. This service connects the city with its two airports: X7 with Schönfeld and X9 with Tegel. Lines 100 and 200 are great lines for tourists and connect Alexanderplatz to Zoologoscher Garten. Berlin’s night buses come into operation when its other means of transport are less active or not active at all and are marked by the letter N. They depart every 30 minutes.
The Berlin tram – MetroNetz
The Berlin tram operates mainly in the eastern part of the city and you can see it between the different streets. Tram tickets can be purchased in advance or at the machines on the train itself. The MetroNetz is marked with the letter M and it arrives relatively frequently (every 10 minutes) and operates 24 hours a day continuously. At night the tram leaves every 30 minutes.
Tickets for the various means of transportation and costs
The fares are determined according to the duration of the trip and also to the regions where you travel. Berlin is divided into three main areas: A, B, C. Most of the city is in area A and B, where areas B and C form a kind of ring that includes an area of up to about 15 km around Berlin.
Normal travel tickets allow the use of the city’s means of transportation in areas A, B, but you can buy A, B, C tickets which are mainly needed when you want to get from the city to Schönfeld Airport or Potsdam. The travel tickets can be purchased through a dedicated application of the BVG company, at the train platforms and also at the various stores. In any case, this must be done before boarding the chosen means of transportation. The purchased card must be valid, and those who do not present such a card or do not have a card at all, will be required to pay a fine of 60 euros.
Normal travel tickets for a single trip cost €2.80 and allow travel on all means of transport in the city. They are valid for two hours and you can travel with them without limitation in one direction, but you cannot return them on the same route. Children under the age of 6 do not need to show a travel card, and children between the ages of 6 and 14 are offered a travel card at a reduced price.
Special travel tickets
Tourists are offered the option of purchasing a special card – Berlin Welcome Card, which offers access to public transportation and discounts on attractions for 48 hours to 6 days. The ticket is particularly affordable and can be purchased in the same ways as listed above.
The Tageskarte card allows unlimited travel in areas A, B at a price of 7 euros, between the hours: from the moment the card is purchased until 03:00 am the next day. The ticket includes the travel of up to 3 children (aged 6-14).
The Wochenkarte offers unlimited travel during the week for €30 and the Monatskarte card offers unlimited travel during the month for €81. Each such ticket is relevant for an adult and the possibility of traveling with up to 3 children under the age of 15 after 20:00 in the evening (all days of the week).
10-Uhr-Karte is an alternative to the monthly card. You can use it to travel on Berlin’s various means of public transportation after 10 am and it costs 59 euros (additional passengers, including children, cannot be added to this trip).
Kurzstrecke is suitable for stopping at 3 (or less) train stations (S-Bahn and U-Bahn) or 6 bus and tram stops without changing. It costs 1.70 euros.
The Fahrradkarte card allows you to take your bicycle on the train or tram (but not on the bus) for €1.90 per ticket.