In Berlin public transport is a really good way for tourists to get around. You can get from most any place to another part of the city at any time of the day. With one ticket of the Berlin public transport you can use buses, trams, subways, city trains, regional trains and even ferries. Yes, Berlin also offers public transport ferry lines crossing lakes and rivers in some places.
Berlin public transport - how does the ticket system work?
The ticket system for the Berlin public transport is not very complicated, but you better know a few things about how it is structured. The first thing you will notice is that neither the subway nor the city trains have any kind of ticket barriers. Even though you need to have a valid ticket, you can freely get on and off the Berlin public transport without having to show or swipe it every time. The only exception from that is the bus, where you will have to get on at the front door and show your ticket to the bus driver or buy one directly from him or her. (And as you will experience, Berlin's bus drivers are renowned for their great charme...)
Tickets for the Berlin public transport can be bought in different places. In any subway or city train station you will find at least one ticket vending machine, usually on both sides of the station, if it has two exits. These machines can be switched to English, Spanish or French. The machines always accept coins and debit cards, however not credit cards. In every station you will also find at least one machine accepting bank notes. Because the ticket machines for the Berlin public transport return only coins, you can only use 5€, 10€ and 20€ notes. And the machine will only accept the note with the next higher denomination than the ticket price you will pay. If you only have a 20€ bill you can use the "buy more tickets" option to buy more tickets at the same time. This way you increase the price and will be able to use the larger bills.
All tickets have to be validated (=stamped)
One very important thing for the Berlin public transport is that all tickets need to be validated at one of the yellow-and-white stamping machines. They can be found at the exits of any station at subways and city trains. On buses and trams, they are always inside the vehicle. So, do not forget to stamp your ticket before you get on the subway or train or - if you take a bus or tram - directly after boarding it.
On the other hand, if you buy a ticket on the bus from the driver or on the tram at the ticket machine, the ticket will already be validated. You do not stamp it again.
Once your ticket for the Berlin public transport is validated, you do not validate it again when you change lines or (in case of a multi-day pass) on the next day.
The stamping machines in the subway and city train stations print the name of the station in addition to the date and time of stamping. On buses and trams, only a code for the line number is stamped, but not the stop you got on.
Adults and kids
There are two fares for adults and children: adults pay the full fare and kids aged 6 to 14 years qualify for the reduced fare. Children up to 5 years and under travel for free. And you may take one stroller on Berlin's public transport for free. The reduced child fare is mostly around 40% cheaper than the full fare. In the remaining paragraphs, only the full prices for the Berlin public transport will be stated.
AB, BC, ABC
Berlin and its surroundings are divided into three zones: A, B and C. The inner city zone A is defined as everything inside the city train ring. Most of Berlin's important sights and interesting places are located in that A zone. The B zone surrounds the inner city A zone and extends until the city borders. Together, the A+B zone comprise the entire area of the city of Berlin. The C zone is another ring around the A+B zone. Some smaller villages and extended suburbs can be reached in that zone. The beautiful city of Potsdam with its famous castle Sanssouci and Oranienburg with the Sachsenhausen concentration camp are located in the C zone as well. Note that the Schönefeld Airport (SXF) is located in the C zone as well, although technically it is still within the city limits.
You can buy tickets for either AB, BC or ABC. The AB ticket for the Berlin public transport will most likely be your standard option to explore all of the city. You need to buy an ABC ticket, if you stay in the center of Berlin and want to explore Potsdam, Oranienburg or any other location outside the city limits. The BC ticket is most likely not relevant for tourists.
If you already have an AB ticket - for example you have a 72h-ticket for AB - and you just want to visit the C zone once, you can buy an extension ticket for that C zone. It is valid for a single ride and can be very useful when you make just one excursion outside of Berlin in addition to your multi-day ticket.
Single ride ticket - just one way up to 2h
The standard single ride ticket for the Berlin public transport is valid for up to two hours. You can change modes of transport as often as you like (subway, city train, bus, tram, ferry). You can even make a break and go shopping or have something to eat and then use the rest of the two hours. However, this ticket may only be used to go in one direction, so no round-trips are allowed. Even to Berliners it is not entirely clear, how strict this rule is enforced. You can e.g. apparently take a trip West first and then go South or North (or further West). But it will not be accepted if you are going back in the direction of your departure station (which is printed on the ticket's stamp).
Current prices of single ride tickets:
- AB for EUR 2.70
- BC for EUR 3.00
- ABC for EUR 3.30
4x single ticket
A slightly cheaper and more convenient option is to buy four single ride at a time. Ticket machines in stations offer this option. You save EUR 1.80 on four tickets compared with the price for four separately bought tickets. If you are in a group, this option is perfect for you as you actually get four separate single tickets that you can hand out to everyone, so there is not even the need to stay together. If you are only one or two people, you still have a few tickets at hand when you quickly need to get on an approaching subway for example.
The 4x single ticket for the Berlin public transport is only available for the AB zone. But then again, that will be your most important ticket option.
Current price for four single ride tickets:
- AB for EUR 9.00 = per ticket price of EUR 2.25
Short trip ticket / 4x Short trip ticket for EUR 5.60
If you just want to take a very short trip, this ticket might be right for you. The short trip ticket for the Berlin public transport can be bought as a single ticket or (slighly cheaper per ticket) four at a time. With the short trip ticket you can take the city train and subway for up to three stops. You can even change lines there. Alternatively, it is valid for up to six stops on a bus or tram, no line changing allowed here however. You can not change between bus and subway or tram and city train with the short trip ticket.
With the short trip ticket the A, B and C zones do not matter, so you can go from zone A to zone B, or B to C or just stay in one zone.
The short trip ticket is perfect if you only need to cover a short distance that you do not want to walk.
Current price for the short trip ticket:
- single short trip ticket for EUR 1.70
- 4x short trip ticket for EUR 5.60 = per ticket price of EUR 1.40
Day pass for the Berlin public transport
The day pass allows you to take any mode of public transport within the zones you paid for on the day of validation until 4:00 am at night. It is a very convenient way to explore the city as you only need to buy it once and never have to think about the 2h-limitation or the question of round-trips that you have with single tickets. It is also definitly cheaper to buy a day pass than to buy four singles. If you expect to only use three rides, then three singles bought in 4x-pack are actually a tiny bit less expensive, but the EUR 0.25 that you save for AB tickets are probably not worth the hassle.
Current prices for day passes for the Berlin public transport:
- AB for EUR 7.00
- BC for EUR 7.30
- ABC for EUR 7.60
Small group day pass for up to 5 people travelling together
If you are planning to stay in a group of at least three and up to five people for the entire (or at least most of the) day, the small group day pass might be an excellent choice. Compared to the prices of singles and day passes - especially for the entire ABC zone - it is quite a bargain. When you use it for an excursion into the C zone, it costs actually only slightly more than 5 single tickets. So as long as you stay together (you only get one physical ticket), this is already a saver for three people going from A zone to C zone and back. And then you still have a ticket valid until 4:00 am for your group or anyone still going out together at night.
Current prices for this group ticket for the Berlin public transport:
- AB for EUR 17.30
- BC for EUR 17.60
- ABC for EUR 17.80
WelcomeCard / City TourCard
For tourists, there are additional tickets available that offer 48h, 72h, 4d, 5d or 6d of riding the Berlin public transport. They are called City TourCard and WelcomeCard. They both offer full access to the AB or ABC zone for the entire validity of the ticket. The difference between the two ticket types is the number and selection of sights that you get a discount to. But the difference is minimal. The reductions to the attractions usually amount to between 25 and 50 percent. Both tickets can be bought at regular ticket vending machines or ticket offices of the public transport operator BVG.
Modes of transportation in Berlin
Berlin has six different modes of transport. They range from regional trains that you can use to quickly cover longer distances within the city limits to ferry lines that cross just one river. Regional trains, city trains (S-Bahn) and subways get you around the fastest. The bus and tram lines often connect the empty spaces between the subway and city train stations. In the outer districts of Berlin, there are a few ferry lines that are operated as public transport service as well, however none of the touristic river boats in the city center are part of this.
Subway lines in Berlin
There are 9 subway lines in Berlin as part of the Berlin public transport. The touristically most important subway line is the U2 line that connects the Eastern city's center Alexanderplatz with the Western part's Zoologischer Garten and Ku'damm. Depending on where you stay, all other lines can be important, too. Lines connecting more East and West are the U1, U2, U7. The North-South connecting lines are the U6 and U8. U3 only operates in the South-Western part of Berlin. The U4 only has five stops. However, even shorter is the U55 line that connects Berlin's main train station Hauptbahnhof with the Brandenburg Gate. The U5 takes you from Alexanderplatz to the Eastern parts of Berlin. In a few years, the U55 and U5 lines will be joined, but until then Berlin still has a big construction site in its center.
During the day, all subway lines of the Berlin public transport operate at least in 10-minute-intervals. Some lines as the U2 even offer 3/4-minute intervals during rush hours. On weekends the subway lines even operate at night in 15-minute intervals (see further below).
During rush hour on a weekday, the subways do get quite crowded, so it might be best to avoid these times if possible. On a hot summer day, the underground network of subways offers some cool air even though Berlin's subway trains are usually not air-conditioned. In winter, both the stations and the subway trains are usually much less cold (stations) respectively warm (trains).
In general Berlin's subways are very safe. Pickpockets do operate there, but violent crimes are very seldom. A little more attention might be necessary at deserted subway stations at night. But mostly the Berlin public transport is safe so you do not have to worry too much about safety.
City trains (S-Bahn) in Berlin
The S-Bahn system extends even further than Berlin's subway network. There are also 9 main lines, but many of these feature variations that have two-digit line names. The first digit is the same as the main line and the color code is identical. However, the start or finish stations may vary. For example, the S2 line runs North to South. The S25 line shares the S2's central part, but features a different track at the Northern as well as Southern end. In case of the S7, its variation S75 has a different starting point in the East. The central part of both lines is identical. The S75 then already ends at Westkreuz, whereas the S7 continues after Westkreuz to its terminus in Potsdam.
One other special line of the Berlin public transport is the ring line. The clockwise running trains are referred to as the S41 and the counter-clockwise running trains operate under the S42 designation. The ring line forms the boundary between A zone and B zone. According to the rules of the single ticket, one may not make an entire round-trip of the ring line.
On the main East-West axis between Ostkreuz and Westkreuz you can take any city train of the lines S5, S7 or S75 to go to any station, so there is no need to look out which line you are getting on.
Most city trains of the Berlin public transport system operate in 10-minute intervals during the day and in the the inner parts of the city. The further out you go, the longer you will have to wait for your next train.
Regional trains in Berlin
Within the limits of your ticket for the Berlin public transport (AB or ABC) you may also take one of the regional trains that run through Berlin and into the surrounding Brandenburg (the short trip ticket is not valid on regional trains). Regional trains cover long distances of between two and twenty S-Bahn stops at a time and thus shorten your trip considerably. Regional trains are advisable for trips to Potsdam, the Schönefeld airport (SXF), Oranienburg or any other destination in the Brandenburg area. Even for quickly getting from Zoologischer Garten to Ostkreuz, a regional train may be the better choice than a normal city train.
The decreased travel time comes with a longer interval between trains, which is usually 30 minutes during the day. But is it definitely worth to check if there is a regional train departure soon if you want to travel between the larger stations along the main lines.
Tram lines in Berlin
A great number of tram lines connects the empty areas between the subway and city train network, mostly only in the Eastern part of Berlin. There are tram lines designated with an M plus a number and some tram lines only have a number and no "M". The M-lines are supposed to have a higher frequency and connect more subway and city train stations of the Berlin public transport. The non-M-lines connect minor destinations and may run less frequently. However, to many Berliner's the extra M in these tram lines feels more like a PR stunt of the public transport company and less a tangible advantage. The only real advantage is that the M-lines also run at night - see further below for that.
Tickets can be bought inside each tram wagon, but they can only be paid with coins. The tickets that you buy in the tram ticket machines are already validated and can thus only be used for that specific time.
There are no tram lines in the C zone (except for the Potsdam-only tram lines that you can also use with your ABC ticket). So if you are on a tram line, you do not need a C ticket.
All over Berlin, you will find bus lines as part of the Berlin public transport. Again, there are some bus lines that feature an M in front of their two- or three-digit line number. This again means, that it runs more often (10-15 minute interval during the day) and connects major subway or city train stations along its itinerary. The other bus lines run in more or less frequent intervals according to their importance. Some bus lines of the Berlin public transport only run a few hours per day, some even only on some days of the week.
In addition to the M-lines, there are the express X-lines. They actually run alongside other regular bus lines and skip a number of less important stops. Therefore they are actually much faster than the respective regular bus line. If you have a short trip ticket, you will have to count the number of bus stops along the regular line. It may not exceed 6 stops (even if there are only one or two stops of the X-line), or else you will need a regular single ticket.
When you get on a bus, you can usually only do so in the front of the bus. You will have to show your valid ticket for the Berlin public transport to the bus driver or buy a ticket directly from her or him. All tickets bought this way will already be validated, so you can only use them for this time.
Most buses are regular street buses, but on some busy lines you can also ride double-deckers. Be aware that the ceiling on the upper level of such a double-decker is quite low.
Ferrys as part of the Berlin public transport
There are five public ferry lines that can be used with a regular ticket for the Berlin public transport. The longest line is the F10 line, which crosses the Wannsee lake on its 20-minute journey. It operates in 60-minute intervals the whole year. There are two more lines that operate throughout the entire year and another two which only run between April and October. As a curiosity there currently is Germany's only rowing boat ferry in public service, the F24. It covers a distance of only 36 meters in the South-Eastern part of Berlin.
Night lines of the Berlin public transport
The Berlin public transport boasts a very good system also at night. On Friday and Saturday nights as well as on the nights before public holidays, the subways and city trains (S-Bahn) run the entire night. During the night hours, the interval between two city trains will be 30 minutes. For subways this is even down to only 15 minutes, so you will have no problem getting around the city quickly. (The mini lines U4 and U55 do not run at night, but these are hardly useful anyway.)
In addition to the subway and city train lines of the Berlin public transport, there is tram service by the M-lines during the entire night in 30-minute intervals. And during the night, a number of bus lines all starting with an "N" replace the most important day lines. Also, there are the night bus lines N1, N2, N3, N5, N6, N7, N8 and N9 which follow approximately the itineraries of the corresponding subway lines U1 to U9.
Again, all of the above is true for Friday and Saturday nights. But what about the Berlin public transport on all the other nights of the week?
On week days, city trains only operate until about 1:00 or 1:30 am and subways finish their service at about 1:00 am. After that time, they do not operate until around 4:30 when the morning service begins. However, during the night you can take one of the great number of night buses as described above. The M-trams also run through the entire night in 30-minute intervals. So there is no lack of Berlin public transport even on a week night.
One convenient mode of transport in Berlin is of course the taxi. There are around 7,500 taxis in Berlin and you will usually get one if you need one. You can recognize the taxis in Berlin by their distinctive, but very unobstrusive light color. They are clearly marked by a taxi sign. If the sign is illuminated, then the taxi is empty. If it is not switched on, then it is either transporting a passenger or on its way to pick someone up. In either case, you will not be able to hail it when the sign is off.
Taxis can be hailed as you would normally expect to hail one. Just wait at a bigger street and make yourself seen. Taxis are mostly very comfortable as Mercedes-Benz still sells a lot of cars to that industry. But other car brands are gaining so expect your taxi to be any halfway decent car. If you get a taxi from a taxi stand where they are waiting for customers, you are actually allowed to choose any car you like. This might be necessary if you are travelling with little children and are looking for a taxi with a child seat. Or you are a with a larger group and need a mini-van. If there is no special reason to choose another taxi, however, it is still customary to go to the first taxi in the line.
Within the city limits, taxis will only operate using their meter. You will not be able or asked to negotiate a price. The price that taxis are allowed to charge using the meter is always the same: it starts with a base fee of EUR 3.90 and a kilometer price of EUR 2.00 for the first 7 kilometers. After that, the price per kilometer goes down to EUR 1.50. Every minute of waiting (that means also not moving in traffic) is charged with EUR 0.50.
You will be charged + 1.00 Euro for every bulky piece of luggage that you might bring along. If you want to pay by card on a taxi, you can finally do so, but expect to pay an extra EUR 1.50 for that. Taxis are expected now to accept VISA and Mastercard. Ask the driver beforehand, if you have any other card that you would like to use. If you are using a mini-van taxi with a group of five or more people, there will be an extra charge of EUR 5.00.
Only if you are going into Brandenburg, i.e. outside of the city limits of Berlin, you can negotiate a price with the driver beforehand.
From Spring to Fall you can also ride short distances in the main tourist hotspots using a bike taxi. The drivers of these modern rikshas will wait for customers around Brandenburg Gate, along the boulevard Unter den Linden and other main tourist attractions. They offer a per-kilometer price or can be booked for a set amount of time as a private city tour.
Bikes on the Berlin public transport
Generally, bikes can be taken on most of the public transport in Berlin. It is possible to take your bike on the subway, on a city train, the regional trains and trams. On buses of the Berlin public transport however, bikes are generally not allowed. The only exception is the night bus lines N1 to N9 which will take only one bike on the nights between Sunday and Thursday. In any case, if you bring your bike, there is limited space and a person in a wheelchair or someone with a pram wants to get on, then you might be asked to get off and offer the space to that person. Please be aware of the signs next to the doors of the wagons that indicate where you should (and should not) get on with a bike. Usually also, it is not allowed to take your bike into the first wagon of a subway or city train as this would block the entry and exit for the driver.
For taking a bike with you, you will also have to buy a special bike ticket. This bike ticket for the Berlin public transport is available at any vending machine. It costs EUR 1.90 for the AB area and EUR 2.50 for the entire ABC zones. If you intend to take your bike with you more often during one day, you can opt for a day pass for EUR 4.80 for the AB zones or EUR 5.40 for the entire ABC grid. For very short trips, there is the option to buy a short trip ticket for EUR 1.20 which you can use in combination with the regular short trip ticket.
If you are travelling with young kids and have them in a trailer, you can also take this with you if the available space permits. However, bulkier cargo bikes are not allowed to be taken on the Berlin public transport. You will have to ride (or push) it to your destination...
None of the above rules is true for folding bikes. If you have a folding bike and you actually fold it, you can take it on any mode of transport of the Berlin public transport free of charge.
Dogs on the Berlin public transport
Smaller dogs and other small pets may be taken on any public transport in Berlin for free. They must travel with you in an adequate bag, cage or container. If your dog is not small enough to fit into a bag or cage, then you can still take it on board of the public transport in Berlin. But then it must be muzzled. The dog may not sit on a seat, which are reserved for human passengers.
As to the fare for a bigger dog, you need to buy a reduced fare ticket when you travel with it on Berlin's public transport. However, if you already buy a day or multi-day pass for yourself, the dog will travel for free. So for dog owners wishing to use Berlin's public transport buying a day pass makes even more sense. On the other hand, if you are the proud owner of several dogs, the aforementioned is only true for one dog. You will need a reduced fare ticket for your second, third etc. dog. Guide dogs for blind people are always allowed to travel on all modes of transport, may be taken free of charge and do not have to be muzzled.
Strollers / prams and lifts
You may take your pram or stroller with you on any mode of public transportation in Berlin. Buses have spaces reserved for strollers where you can use belts to secure it. If you travel with a stroller, you may get on the bus at the rear door. Secure your pram and go in front to the driver to show or buy your ticket. All other modes of the Berlin public transport also feature spaces reserved for you and your pram. So getting around in Berlin by public transport is easy even with a baby in a stroller. The only challenge may be the subway stations, because not all of them have lifts. And the lifts may be out of order or just (like in case of the Alexanderplatz) frustratingly slooooooooooooooooow.
Tourist bus lines 100 and 200
The most attractive bus lines of the Berlin public transport are the lines 100 and 200. They are in fact half intended as cheap alternatives to the commercial bus tour operators. Of course, they do not have any announcements and mostly just carry Berliners wanting to get from here to there. But their itinerary actually takes them along a very interesting route and you will see a lot of the most important sights.
Both lines start at the western city center of Berlin, at Zoologischer Garten. The density of sights there is not yet very high, but after some time you will arrive at the Brandenburg Gate. From there, both lines follow the grand boulevard Unter den Linden. There you will need to keep looking both left and right so that you do not miss the many sights. Both lines end at eastern Berlin's center at Alexanderplatz.
The Berlin public transport is great
As you can see, for tourists and locals the Berlin public transport system is a very convenient way to get around the city. With so many modes of transport running almost 24/7 you will never have to wait long. And prices are affordable
If - on the other hand - you travel with young children and would like to experience the city riding a bike, please do check out our family cargo bikes for your stay. They are a great way to take your kids around Berlin in a classy and active way. Book one right now!