From the beloved yellow subways to the highly efficient short-distance and regional trains, and the panoramic double-decker buses, Berlin's public transit system is a well-choreographed symphony of movement. But wait, there's more!

While many consider Berlin's public transport among the world's finest, the city takes its accessibility up a notch with e-scooters, bike rentals, and car-sharing options, all perfectly complemented by green and beautiful walking areas.

Berlin's reputation for efficiency and ease is well-deserved, and it's no wonder why Berliners proudly say, "No matter where you are, everywhere in Berlin can be reached within 45 minutes." Here are the best ways to get around Berlin.

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See a glimpse of Berlin’s subcultures by riding the U-Bahn

With subways running every 5-10 minutes during the day, and every 15-20 minutes until late at night, the Berliner U-Bahn is a symbol of the city and by far the best way to get around. Easy to catch almost everywhere you are, this network of 9 different lines, 175 stations and 155km (97 miles) of track reaches almost every corner of the city. Locals love it for its efficiency, connectivity and frequency, while visitors find it the most comfortable way to explore without having to plan too much.

The U1, U3 and U2 lines are good for east-west connections, while the U8 is the favorite for partygoers at night.

Additionally, with the newly opened "cultural line," U5, there is now a dedicated subway line for travelers seeking to explore Berlin's prominent cultural attractions. Starting from Berlin's main station (Hauptbahnhof) and extending eastward to Honow, passengers can conveniently hop on and off at key landmarks such as the German Reichstag, the Brandenburger Tor, the Museum Island, and Alexanderplatz. This is particularly ideal for those rainy Berlin days when you want to explore the city's cultural gems without much hassle.

Passengers moving through modern main railway station at Berlin Hauptbahnhof. An S-bahn train is waiting on the platform for people to board and disembark.
Passengers moving through modern main railway station at Berlin Hauptbahnhof as the S-Bahn train waits for passengers to board © Nikada / Getty Images

Get from A to B within minutes using the S-Bahn

Even though it is less frequent and not as well connected as the U-Bahn, the S-Bahn remains the preferred choice for travelers seeking to cover longer distances or venture to the outskirts of Berlin. With 15 lines operating on elevated and underground tracks, the S-Bahn offers the fastest way to traverse from east to west and north to south.

Take the Ring line to reach different neighborhoods without going through the busy center, or take one of the connecting trains between Zoologischer Garten and Ostbahnhof to get some beautiful glimpses of the city above ground. They might not be as picturesque as when taking the bus or cycling around but the S-Bahn give you a good overview of Berlin’s bustling urban vibe.

The S-Bahn is particularly convenient for day trips to destinations located just outside Berlin. It provides easy access to the cosy and historical district of Spandau, the neighboring city of Potsdam, and the beautiful lakes of Wannsee, Müggelsee, and Schlachtensee.

Observe Berlin from the windows of buses and trams

Although they are known for being slow and sometimes unreliable (of course, only by German standards!), buses and city trams not only take you to the most remote parts of the city, but also offer a different view of Berlin.

While trams mostly run in the former East Berlin, busses reach every single corner of the city with their massive network of 152 lines. Even though they are not as efficient as the U-Bahn due to traffic at peak times, some buses (M11 to M85) and trams (marked with an “M”) run 24/7 and won’t let you down.

Tip for seeing Berlin's key spots on a budget: Take either the 100 or 200 double-decker bus. They pass through Berlin’s most famous landmarks. If you are quick getting on at their first stop, Alexanderplatz, you might get a front window spot on the upper floor. A different kind of bus tour for just a few euro!

People on E-scooters ride along Friedrichstrasse in Berlin
People on E-scooters ride along Französischestrasse in Berlin © Omer Messinger / Getty Images

Glide through the German capital on the e-scooter

Love them or hate them, e-scooters can be incredibly convenient for getting around Berlin. These small, user-friendly vehicles are practical and fun, making them a great transportation option for short distances and sightseeing.

You'll find e-scooters stationed almost everywhere in the city, and since they can use the extensive cycling paths of Berlin, locals and visitors find them an easy way to get around in safely, while while enjoying a breath of fresh air.

With over 9 different companies to choose from, make sure to become familiar with the cost of renting an e-scooter in Berlin. Some companies charge a flat fee to unlock the scooter, and then a fee per minute of riding. Others charge a monthly subscription fee, which gives you unlimited rides.

Among the most popular e-scooter companies in Berlin are Lime, Bird, Tier, Voi, and Bolt.

Use a car share app rather than bringing or hiring your own

Just like in any other metropolis around the world, driving a car can sometimes be a nightmare. Still, we can’t deny that sometimes having your own vehicle is the most convenient way to get around.

Luckily, you don’t need to bring your own car to Berlin. Car sharing companies are very popular among locals – almost everywhere within the city limits you can use an app to rent a car in seconds. You then pay for the distance driven.

Remember, when you sign up, car sharing companies will require you to submit your driving license and verify your identity, so be sure to plan ahead.

Just like the e-scooter culture in Berlin, there is a wide variety of car sharing companies to choose from. However, keep in mind that the signup process for car sharing may take a bit longer compared to e-scooter rentals. If you prefer convenience and already have a car sharing account in your home city, it's recommended to use the same service in Berlin to avoid any unnecessary hassle.

For newcomers to car sharing or those who wish to open an account before arriving in Berlin, the most popular car sharing companies in the city are ShareNow and Miles.

Stay safe at night with a taxi

It is true that Berliners rarely use private transportation to move around the city. However, hailing a taxi or ordering a ride with an app is safer late at night and after a couple of drinks. Fortunately, apps like UBER, Sixt, FREENOW or Bolt offer their services all over the city, and even tend to be slightly cheaper than the traditional taxi cabs.

Ridesharing is also quickly becoming a popular option, due to its lower cost and environmental impact. Berlin’s most popular ridesharing app is CleverShuttle.

Want to save money on taxi rides? Before booking, compare prices from different ride sharing companies – you can often save up to 50% on your fare.

Cyclists and traffic travel in front of Saint Mary's church and the television tower (Fernsehturm) in the morning
Cyclists and traffic travel in front of Saint Mary's church and the television tower (Fernsehturm) in the morning © RossHelen / Shutterstock

Explore Berlin at your own pace on a bike

Being the preferred method of young Berliners to get around, cycling in the city center is cheap, environmentally friendly and, in many cases, faster than any other form of transportation.

With over 620km (385 miles) of cycling paths all over the city, on a typical day you will see both commuting locals and visitors exploring the city by bike. Although renting a bicycle for a day is very easy at hostels, hotels and rental shops, bike or e-bike sharing is probably the best option when balancing cost and flexibility.

Berlin's most popular bike-sharing apps include NextBike (now Tier), Call a Bike (DB), Lime, and Donkey Republic. Moreover, many hostels and some hotels in Berlin also offer bicycle rentals starting at €5-10 per day.

Wander through the city on foot

Berlin is a city designed to be explored on foot. Large avenues connect to beautiful squares, there are parks almost everywhere, and pedestrian-only areas lead to charming alleys.

And with walking tours being a must for travelers across Europe, Berlin is certainly no exception. The tip-based "free walking tours" from GuruWalk and Sandeman's New Europe are always a good choice, especially for first-timers. These companies offer everything for a traveler wanting to explore Berlin, from historical city tours in Mitte to the alternative tour in Kreuzberg.

For seasoned travelers in Berlin, a private city tour from Airbnb Experiences or Get Your Guide can provide a more personalized experience. However, there's nothing quite like simply strolling through your own “Kiez” and getting lost in the streets – an exploration that often leads to discovering hidden gems, like a new favorite café or a unique boutique.

Transport Passes and travel zones

The public transportation system comprises fare zones A, B and C. Zone A includes the city center of Berlin and the S-Bahn-Ring, zone B begins outside the S-Bahn ring and reaches Berlin’s city limits, and zone C includes the outskirts, BER airport, and the city of Potsdam. Also, each ticket is valid for all forms of public transport, and tickets are available for zones AB (€3), BC (€3.50) or ABC (€3.80).

For first-time travelers visiting Berlin, the AB zone is more than sufficient, as most tourist attractions are located within its boundaries. If you arrive from the airport or plan to explore Potsdam on a particular day, consider getting the ABC ticket just on that particular day for broader coverage.

Keep in mind that single tickets remain valid for 120 minutes from the moment of purchase and remember to validate tickets bought from vending machines by stamping them at the station platforms. However, tickets purchased through the BVG app or on trams and buses do not require additional validation.

If you plan to stay in Berlin for only a long weekend, getting a 24-hour ticket (€9.50 for fare zone AB) is the best choice. For stays between 4-7 days, the 7-day passes (€36 for fare zone AB) are the most cost-effective option, offering unlimited travel within the selected zones for seven consecutive days until midnight on the seventh day. This pass becomes very economical if you plan to stay in Berlin for more than four days. For shorter stays, 24-hour passes or a combination of single tickets and other forms of transport would be enough.

If you are planning to stay longer than 7 days in Germany, purchasing a Deutschlandticket can be a great alternative to maximize your use of the country's public transport system and save money. The Deutschlandticket is a monthly subscription ticket that grants you access to all local public transport throughout Germany. Priced at €49, it offers excellent value for money. You can easily purchase the ticket from most local transit authorities, as well as online or via mobile apps. Cancellation can be done online up to 15 days before the beginning of the next month.

However, if you plan to stay in the country for a maximum of one month, my recommendation is to cancel it just a few hours after purchase. The ticket will still remain valid until the end of the month, allowing you to still make the most of its benefits.

Important to remember: With no ticket barriers and only a few inspectors, travelers can get the impression that public transport in Berlin is free. However, if you ever get caught traveling without a ticket, you will get a fine of €60.

Panoramic view of Berliner U-Bahn with Oberbaum Bridge in the background in golden evening light at sunset
Panoramic view of Berliner U-Bahn with Oberbaum Bridge in the background in golden evening light at sunset © canadastock / Shutterstock

Planning ahead

Unless you are planning a visit to the city of Potsdam, an ABC ticket isn’t necessary to explore most of Berlin’s highlights. Also, depending on how many days you are staying in the city, you should calculate if it’s better to get a single ticket, a 24-hour ticket or a 7-day pass.

Additionally, take into consideration that Google Maps works perfectly for checking connections in just a few seconds, and to see all available public and private transport options. This can be very handy, particularly at night when the public transport schedule changes.

More information about fares, network maps and ticket options is available at the BVG official website.

Traveling at night

If ever there was a city where public transportation works perfectly at night, Berlin is it. No matter what time it is, there is always a way to get around.

On weekdays (from Sunday until Thursday) most U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines run from 4 am until 1 am. But don’t worry; night buses replace all U-Bahn lines and the major S-Bahn lines for their few hours of downtime, and run every 30 minutes.

On the weekend (Fridays and Saturdays), like the city itself, Berlin’s public transportation doesn’t sleep – S-Bahns and U-Bahns run all night long. S-Bahns run at night in 30-minute intervals, while U-Bahns are every 15 minutes.

This article was first published Aug 4, 2021 and updated Jul 31, 2023.

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