This post is a how-to guide to public transport in Berlin. Berlin's public transport system is extensive and can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be.
We include tips on tickets, tourist travel passes, an explanation of the zone system, and an overview of transport options.
- Tourist Travel Cards
- AB vs. ABC Zones
- How to Buy Tickets
- S-Bahn, U-Bahn, Regional-Bahn, Bus + Tram
- Hop-On-Hop-Off Buses
- How to Get to/from BER Airport
(Read this post auf Deutsch).
TOURIST TRAVEL PASSES
In the following sections, we detail the various ticket options available to you for access to Berlin's trains, buses, and trams.
However, most visitors to the city probably end up with a tourist discount pass.
Several Berlin tourist discount passes, most notably the Berlin Welcome Card, include either AB or ABC-zone travel cards as a part of their packages.
Some discount passes offer the transportation portion to be an add-on purchase.
Regardless of which pass you might choose, you will be entitled to unlimited travel for the duration of your pass and you won't have to worry about buying any transportation tickets during your stay.
These passes also offer the holder either free or discounted entry to popular Berlin attractions and tours and also include discounts on restaurants.
Particularly discount cards, such as the Berlin Welcome Card, are almost as inexpensive as buying daily unlimited travel passes.
We recommend that you consider one of these options.
Berlin’s transportation network is divided into 3 fare zone, which you could see on the map below.
Zone A, where the overwhelming majority of tourist sights are located, makes up the center of the map.
The zone is essentially formed by the S-Bahn Ring lines.
Click on the map to enlarge it.
Zone B (the grayish-blue shaded area) surrounds the outer urban ring.
Zone C, covers the greater Berlin area, including the State of Brandenburg.
If your accommodation is rather central and you are looking to see the main typical sights in the city, an AB ticket usually suffices.
However, there are 3 reasons a visitor might purchase the ABC or the BC tickets.
First, if you are traveling e.g. from or to Berlin Brandenberg Airport (BER), you will at least need to have Zone C on your ticket to and from the airport.
Be sure to read our post on ground transportation to and from BER.
First things first, if you are planning to use Berlin's mass transit at least 3 times in one day, you will probably be better served to have a pass.
Passes can be for one day, one week, or one month.
We recommend the tourist passes, as they include unlimited rides for just a slightly higher price than the daily unlimited travel cards listed below and you won't have to ever buy a ticket in Berlin.
Single Tickets One-Way (2 hours)
- €3.00 (reduced €1.90) for zones AB
- €3.50 (reduced €2.40) for zones BC
- €3.80 (reduced €2.70) for zones ABC
Children aged 6-14 ride for a reduced rate, and children under 6 ride for free.
For occasional travel, the single ticket is fine, but it's probably better to buy the 4-trip tickets, which are actually 4 single tickets costing you only a total of €9.40 (AB), a savings of €2.60.
But more importantly, it will save you from stopping at the machines each time you ride.
There are cheaper short-trip-tickets called Kurzestrecke Karten, which allow you to ride the S and U-Bahns for 3 stops and buses and trams for 6 stops and cost €2.00 (€1.50 reduced) per ticket.
However, the savings may not be worth the risk if you decide you want to travel further.
Since you are probably spending all day sightseeing, it might be worth getting an unlimited travel day or multiple-day pass. Passes run from the date of validation until 3 am of the next day.
As we mentioned above, you could also get a tourist discount card for about €5 more than the passes listed below.
- €8.80 (reduced €5.60) for zones (AB)
- €9.20 (reduced €5.90) for zones (BC)
- €10.00 (reduced €6.10) for zones (ABC)
- €36.00 (no reduced fare) for zones (AB)
- €37.00 (no reduced fare) for zones (BC)
- €43.00 (no reduced fare) for zones (ABC)
1-Day Group Ticket (up to 5 people)
- €25.50 (no reduced fare) for zones (AB)
- €26.00 (no reduced fare) for zones (BC)
- €26.50 (no reduced fare) for zones (ABC)
There are a few things to keep in mind before riding.
First, be sure to have a ticket and validate it before getting on board an S-Bahn, U-Bahn, or Tram! If using an app, validation is a press of a button.
If using paper tickets, there are small validation machines on the platforms next to the ticket machines (see the image below) where you can stamp your tickets to activate them.
There are no validation machines on U and S-Bahn, but there are on buses and trams.
The BVG (Berlin Verkersbetriebe - Berlin Public Transport System) has a ticket app where you can buy and validate your tickets.
But, you might prefer the Jelbi App, which combines ticket purchasing and navigation, including bus, train, e-moped, e-scooter, bike, car, taxi, and ridesharing.
There are random ticket checks on the trains, and these lads who check, work on commission, so they won’t care much that you just didn’t know better.
Getting caught without a ticket will cost you €60 or more and some hassle.
Second, the ticket machines for S and U-Bahn look different.
The S-Bahn machines are blue and red and the ticket machines for the U-Bahn are yellow and white (see the image above).
But the user experience is the same and it's very easy to figure out. There are multiple languages to choose from including English.
It is possible to buy a ticket on a bus from the driver and there are vending machines on Berlin trams.
But, be sure to have either exact change or small bills for the bus, as there is a limit on how much change you will get.
On trams, you can only pay with coins.
Second, some machines do not accept international credit cards, and sometimes they don't accept any credit cards.
So, be sure to have cash with you as a backup (or take our advice and use one of the apps or get a tourist pass).
80% of S+U stations have an elevator or handicapped access, and getting onto a bus or tram with a wheelchair or stroller is not a problem.
Don’t be taken aback by the different types of transportation. There are many, but it's really not hard to grasp after some exposure.
And in addition to the 4 we highlight here, you can also use the Regional Bahn (RB) and Regional Express (RE) suburban trains inside of Berlin. They are also included on any Berlin public transport ticket.
The only types of trains not included are Intercity Express (ICE) and Intercity (IC) trains, which connect major cities in Germany.
As we mentioned already, they are all covered under the BVG (Berlin Transportation Service).
Berlin’s transportation system works day and night.
The trains and buses run every 10 - 20 minutes during the daytime, and in the center, trains run more frequently.
At night the service is a bit more limited, with waits of 20 - 30 min between trains and buses.
On weekdays, S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains run from approximately 4:30 am until 1:00 am the next day, but there are certain night buses that take on the U-Bahn routes.
On weekends both run 24 hours.
The S-Bahn is a train/subway system to master long distances in a short time – like an express subway.
There are 16 S-Bahn lines and 166 stations in the system.
The lines are marked e.g. “S1” and stations are marked with a large green S.
It operates from roughly 04:30 am until 01:30 am on weekdays and 24 hours a day on weekends.
Trains run at 5, 10, or 20-minute intervals depending on the time of day. Overnight on weekends means 30 minutes between trains.
And to best understand its routes, you should think of it in 3 parts, especially when it comes to central Berlin travel.
First, there is the ring line (or the circle line) that encircles the heart of Berlin.
This ring line essentially forms the structure of Zone A, which is where probably 80% of tourist sights are located.
Second, the S-Bahn has an east-west corridor, which connects the western and eastern ends (Westkreuz + Ostkreuz) of the Ring and extends out in both directions.
This east-west corridor travels through the center of Mitte and includes stations such as Hauptbahnhof, Friedrichstrasse, Alexanderplatz, and Charlottenburg.
And third, the S-Bahn has a North-South corridor, which connects the southern and northern ends of the Ring (Sudkreuz and Gesundbrunnen) and extends in both directions.
This north-south corridor includes the S-Bahn lines that go underground in Mitte.
Once outside of the Ring, the lines from all corridors go to the outer neighborhoods or cities outside Berlin like Potsdam, the capital of the state of Brandenburg.
The U-Bahn is the classic subway (sometimes elevated though) for more local travel.
There are 175 U-Bahn stations, and the 9 subway–lines crisscross Berlin and some lead to places outside the city as well.
The lines generally run either north-south or east-west.
Though a few lines zig-zag almost diagonally.
U-Bahn trains run 24/7 on Fridays through Sundays and the nights before official holidays.
They run every 2-5 minutes at rush hours and then roughly every 5-10 minutes at other times.
U-Bahn lines are named, for example, “U1” or "U2" and so forth.
And U-Bahn stations are marked with either a standalone U or a U followed by the name of the station, as in the image below.
Some stops have both a U-Bahn as well as an S-Bahn station, and these are usually connected to each other on the inside.
Also operating within Berlin's public ABC zone transport system are regional trains, Regional Bahn (RB), and Regional Express (RE).
These are the red trains that run express routes into and around Berlin and are intended as commuter trains for suburban residents.
These trains usually only stop at big stations such as Hauptbahnhof, Ostkreuz, and larger commercial areas, so if you are headed to one of these, these trains will be your fastest option.
As long as you are within Berlin's 3 zones, any ticket or pass that you buy will include these trains.
This also includes the Flughafen Express (FEX) train, and the airport express train from BER Airport.
Berlin runs an extensive, efficient, and reliable bus service throughout the city.
Berlin buses run from 6:30 am – 12:30 am when the “Nachtbus” runs 12:30 am – 4:30 am. There are also express buses.
Bus routes generally cover areas not well serviced by other forms of public transportation, and they supplement the U-Bahn and S-Bahn systems by stopping at these stations.
None of the following details really matters much for visitors to Berlin, since navigation apps will tell you what bus to take, but it's still good to know.
Buses that start with the letter M are called Metro Buses. These 17 bus lines run the most per hour.
Metro Bus lines operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, generally at 10 min intervals, and even more frequently during peak times.
The buses don't have an M and are "regular buses" usually with lines numbered in the 100's or 200's, for example, 155.
These buses don't run as frequently, usually every 10-20 min during the day.
At night, some of these regular bus lines are replaced by night buses marked e.g. “N1”.
All night buses (including the M lines) run at 30 min intervals. Some of the night buses are replacements for the U-Bahn lines when those stop for the night.
There are also express bus lines in Berlin, which make fewer stops than regular or metro buses.
Berlin express buses are denoted with the letter X, such as the X7 to U-Bahn Rudow in the image above.
There are 13 express bus lines, but only a few that might be of interest to visitors to Berlin.
These are the X7 and the X17. These are the buses that service the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport.
Note: There are no bus options that take you directly from the airport to Berlin city centre. We go into more detail about them in our BER Airport post.
Tourist Bus Lines
Bus 100 and Bus 200 are two lines (often double-deckers) whose routes unite many of the interesting tourist attractions in Berlin.
Both lines connect Alexanderplatz and Berlin Zoologischer Garten.
We have a post where we explain how these two lines can be used as do-it-yourself hop-on-hop-off bus tours.
Trams (Street Trains/Light Rail) - Die Strassenbahn
In the 1950s, people were very optimistic about the future of automobile transportation.
So, in the former West Berlin trolleys were seen as outdated and abandoned.
In the former East Berlin, the “capital of the German Democratic Republic”, the authorities were not so fast.
The system had failed to provide its people with enough cars anyway and thus public transport was more important and the trolley system was kept alive.
In the Eastern neighborhoods, you find a dense system of trolley lines “die Straßenbahn”.
Like with buses, there are regular trams and metrotrams, and both generally operate routes that have limited access to U and S-Bahn lines.
There are 13 regular tram lines. Regular trams generally run every 10-20 minutes.
The metrotrams (marked with M) operate 24 hours a day and run more frequently than regular trams, roughly every 10 min during the day.
After 00:30 (12:30 am), metrotrams operate every 30 min.
The Strassenbahn works on the same ticket information we provided above and you can use all tourist passes as well.
But you can also purchase tickets inside of the trams from automated ticket machines. Be sure to have exact change in coins.