For those who have recently arrived in Berlin, just looking at the Berlin public transport map can be a shock. Its numerous lines, services and routes are not exactly helpful for newcomers trying to get their bearings.
However it isn’t as complicated as it might first appear. I am going to try to provide some general information regarding the different types of transport that exist in Berlin, especially those differences that quite often cause confusion.
The public transport in Berlin and its surroundings is managed by the public transport company BVG. The best and most popular options are the “U-Bahn” (metro) and the “S-Bahn” (fast train), as well as the bus service. BVG also runs the “Tram”, “Metrobus” and several other services.
The S-Bahn and U-Bahn operate from Monday to Thursday normally between 5am and midnight, although there may be slight differences depending on the line. The “Ringbahn” (or circle train), for example, runs later than the other lines. At weekends and the evening before a bank holiday the “S-Bahn” and “U-Bahn” run 24 hours a day.
The S-Bahn always causes a little confusion among visitors at first, since they tend to relate the term to the word S-trassenbahn (or tram), when it actually refers to Schnellbahn (the fast train). Plus the S-Bahn operates both over and underground and it can often be confused with the U-Bahn (the metro). In Berlin there are currently 13 S-Bahn lines in operation. We’ll look specifically about the lines S41 and S42 on the Ringbahn (circle train).
Its name in German refers to the fact that it circles the city of Berlin. Line S41 circulates clockwise, while S42 runs anti-clockwise. Many of its stops are important connecting stations for travelling out to other parts of the city and the most outlying districts. The S9 circulates from Pankow directly to the Airport at Schönefeld.
For visitors, the metro in Berlin can often be quite puzzling. Like the S-Bahn, it runs both over and underground, but it is just these little differences that make Berlin unique. The U-Bahn in Berlin has 10 different lines All lines except the U4 and U55 run over the weekend and the evening before bank holidays.
Every day over 1,300 buses operate their services on different lines throughout Berlin. These include the Expressbus, the Tage-Bus (day time) and the Nachtbus (night time). The bus network is explained on the BVG web site which clearly shows the different lines in a downloadable format. The Expressbus is marked with an X, operating on routes both in the centre of the city and in the suburban districts. The bus that runs from Alexanderplatz to the Tegel Airport is also an Expressbus and is marked with the letters TXL. The Berlin night buses are very important during the week since the metro lines don’t run between 00:00 and 05:00. The night buses N1-N3 and N5-N6 largely cover the route of metro lines U1-U9.
The Metrobus lines complement the S-Bahn and U-Bahn network. The Metrobus should not be confused with the Metrotram, which has a similar symbol. The buses that belong to the metro line are marked with an M and a 2-figure number. They operate 24 hours a day and every 10 minutes throughout the day.
The trams on the metro line are called the Metrotram (and are identified (like the Metrobus) with the letter ‘M’. They operate 24 hours a day and have nine lines.
The Berlin Tram is sometimes confused with the S-Bahn. The Tram has 13 lines and, along with the additional nine lines of the Metrotram, makes up one of the largest and oldest tram systems in the world. The Strassenbahn operates chiefly in the Eastern part of the city.
Berlin’s transport service also includes six different ferries, or Fähren, that operate on the Wannsee Lake, the Spree River and the small Mügelsee Lake among others. The ferries are particularly used in the summer months.
Berlin has three different price zones: A, B and C. Visitors to Berlin usually travel in zone A, since it is the area with the greatest number of tourist attractions and fashionable districts. Zone C is the area surrounding BerlinFor BVG fares check out price details. The most common transport tickets for visitors to Berlin are:
- Single tickets: Valid for a maximum of two hours and allow changing lines and connections while travelling in the same direction. Prices: 2.30€ for zones AB; 2.70€ for zones BC, and 3.00€ for zones ABC.
- 4-trip ticket: only valid for zones AB. Four tickets that must be individually validated. Price: 8.20€.
- Ticket for short journeys: ticket valid for a route of maximum three stops on the S-Bahn and U-Bahn, and six for the Tram and bus. Price: 1.40€.
Please note that Schönefeld Airport is in zone C, and therefore a ticket that corresponds to price ABC (3.00€) is necessary.
All transport tickets must be validated at the station where departing to be operational.
You can buy tickets in automatic machines in the stations you’re leaving from, station service areas and in some kiosks which are often located alongside the different transport stops. In the Tram and on board buses, tickets can also be purchased in the wagon or directly from the driver.
It’s important to remember that the automatic machines don’t accept credit cards, although it is possible to use an EC or Maestro card.
The Berlin transport network is well designed and easy to use. After a few trips you will know how it all works. Besides, Berliners are really friendly and are used to helping newcomers find their way around. When in doubt, just ask!.