guide to berlin's public transport

Berlin is far from compact, in fact let’s face it – the city is a sprawling mess. Luckily there is a world class public transport network permeating the city, waiting to whisk you away to adventure. With How to Bahn – our guide to Berlin’s public transport – we’ve put together everything you need to know to set you on your way.

When using Berlin’s public transport network you have at your disposal 151 bus lines, 22 tram ways (Strassenbahn), 10 subway lines (U-bahn), 15 commuter trains (S-bahn) and even 5 Ferries. That’s over 2000 km’s of man-made mobility at your service.

With so much ground to cover the first task at hand is to wrap your head around the system. This may seem daunting, but it’s perfectly logical (aber natürlich) and once you’ve got it sorted the opportunities for exploration are endless.

As Easy as ABC.

The first thing to know is that the network is split into three zones: A, B and Cis the central area within the circle line or Ring Bahn, B lies outside the Ring to the city limits and covers the greater Berlin area.

With regards to these zones there are three categories of ticket: ABBC and ABC

First off, forget entirely about the BC option as that is pretty much useless to virtually everyone.

An AB ticket will cover everything within the city limits and is generally all you’ll need. If you are using Schönefeld airport, or are planning to check out some sights further afield (e.g. Potsdam or Sachsenhausen) you will however need the C zone.

Note: If you have an AB pass and you find you do have to travel into the C zone you can buy an extension ticket for €1.60 (each way) which adds on the extra zone.

Your Ticket to Bahn.

With one ticket in your pocket you can utilise all forms of public transport in Berlin. Tickets can be bought from any U-Bahn or S-Bahn stations using the automated machines or affiliated stores. They can also be bought on-board Buses (from the driver) and Trams (from the coin operated machines). Those with a smart enough phone can use the BVG app to purchase e-tickets. The app also provides (fairly accurate) timetables and directions.

There’s a few different ticket machines, so don’t be surprised if the one you’re using looks a little different to the one above. Wherever you end up buying your ticket, the options and prices will be the same:

a short trip ticket (€2) is valid for one trip of up to six stops with bus or tram, or 3 stops on the U- or S-Bahn regardless of zones.
a single ticket (AB €3, ABC €3.80) is valid for two hours in one direction i.e away from your start point.
a 24 hour ticket (AB €8.80, ABC €10) is valid for 24 hours.
a 7 day ticket (AB €36, ABC €43), is valid for 7 days.
a monthly ticket (AB €86, ABC €107) is valid for four weeks and one day.  

In the Know: A tip for the thrifty is to buy four single tickets for €9.40 AB or €13.80 ABC.  Four short trip tickets cost €6. You can use them as you need, just remember to validate them first. (Not available for purchase on buses or trams).

Important: Don’t forget to validate your ticket before boarding. Without the stamp it’s worthless. If there’s a date on the ticket then it’s already valid. Tickets bought on buses, trams or the BVG app are valid on purchase.

Ticket conductors are a thing. You won’t spot them until the doors close and they produce their i.d. Worse than the 60 euro fine you’ll be slapped with, is having to withstand the barely concealed Schadenfreude from your fellow passengers.

tl;dr if you are using the public transport more than twice in a day then a day ticket offers better bang for your buck. Do that for more than four days and it’s worth buying a weekly ticket, if you’re staying for more than three weeks then Mensch, you may as well buy a monthly pass.

Other Ticket Info:

Children under six travel for free.

Humans from 6-14 can travel on a reduced fare (€1.70 AB €2.50 ABC). Dogs of all ages pay the same rate.

An adult with a day, week or monthly ticket can be accompanied by up to three kids from 6-14, or one dog.

You can take bikes on the S Bahn but only with an additional bike ticket (AB €1.90, ABC €2.50). Look for the carriages marked with the bicycle logo to avoid being scolded at.

When to Bahn.

On weekdays the U and S Bahn lines generally run from 4 or 4:30 AM until 1 or 1:30 AM after which time most are replaced by night buses.

On the weekends the U and S bahns run 24 hrs although become less frequent after 1:30am.

Metro-trams (those with an M before the number e.g. M10) run all night every night although again at limited service after 1:30am.

Most Bus lines are replaced with night buses during the wee hours.

In the Know

Although sadly not as common in Berlin as other parts of Germany, it is polite to offer your seat to elderly, disabled or pregnant passengers and those with small children.

You may also encounter people selling newspapers. These are usually homeless who sell a special newspaper called Strassenfeger which is published as a means of income for the unemployed. Don’t be afraid to buy a paper or offer a few coins.

So, you’re all set: Berlin is a jelly filled donut resting in the palm of your hand. Sink your teeth in with some of our In the Know itineraries here.