Name any form of urban transportation and there is a big chance it exists in Berlin. Underground subways, trains, trams, e-scooters and much more make it one of the best connected cities in the world.
And while all these options might seem overwhelming when you first arrive, once you spend a couple of days in the German capital you will be thankful for the city’s efficiency and ease. There is a reason why Berliners often say, “No matter where you are, everywhere in Berlin can be reached within 45 minutes.” Here are the best ways to get around Berlin.
With subways running every 5-10 minutes during the day, 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 ten different lines, 173 stations and 91 miles (146km) of track reaches almost every corner of the city. Locals love it for its efficiency, connectivity and frequent connections, while visitors find it the most comfortable way to explore without having to plan too much.
The U1 and U2 lines are good for east-west connections, while the U8 is the favorite for party goers at night. Furthermore, with the recent expansion of the U5 between Brandenburger Tor and Alexanderplatz, travelers can visit Berlin’s key attractions using only a single line.
Even though it is less frequent and not as well connected as the U-Bahn, the S-Bahn is the preferred choice for travelers wanting to cover longer distances or visit the outskirts of Berlin.
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 can give you a good overview of Berlin’s bustling urban vibe.
The S-Bahn is particularly good for day trips to destinations just outside Berlin, such as the city of Potsdam or the beautiful Lake Wannsee.
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. 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.
Looking to see Berlin’s key spots on a budget? Take the double decker buses 100 or 200. 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.
After becoming extremely common in large cities all over the world, electric scooters are the latest way to get around in Berlin. Small, easy to use and fun, they are a good method of transportation for covering small distances or simply sightseeing.
Since e-scooters can use the extensive cycling paths of Berlin, locals and visitors find it an easy way to get around in a safe way, while getting some fresh air as a bonus. Berlin’s most popular e-scooter companies are Lime, Bird, Tier and Bolt.
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. Berlin’s most popular car sharing companies are WeShare, ShareNow and Miles.
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 sometimes the easiest way to get from A to B. Fortunately, apps like UBER, FREENOW or Bolt offer their service 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 apps are CleverShuttle and BerlKoenig.
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 385mi (620km) 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 are NextBike, Lime, Jump and Donkey Republic.
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.
Also, since each district in Berlin can be considered completely independent from the others, you can simply walk within your own “Kiez” in order to find everything you need, and later can use one of Berlin’s transportation methods if you want to visit a different area.
Tickets 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, one single ticket is valid for all forms of public transport, and tickets are available for zones AB, BC or ABC.
Single tickets are valid for 120 minutes after the moment of purchase. Tickets bought at the vending machines in any station must always be validated by having them stamped by machines on the station platforms themselves. However, tickets purchased with the BVG app or on trams or buses do not need to be validated further.
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.
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 provide public transport every 30 minutes.
On the weekend (Fridays and Saturdays), like the city itself, Berlin’s public transportation doesn’t sleep, as 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.
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