How To Navigate Berlin Public Transport Like a Pro

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If you’re planning a trip to Berlin, say a weekend city break for instance, you’ll need to plan on using public transport. The BVG operates the public transport system in Berlin and it is an easy, efficient, and comfortable way to get around the city with very good system coverage. There are several options for tickets to get you around the three zones of the city, but we have rarely had need to venture out of the two central zones. Still, it’s a good idea to take a look at the zone map when considering the ticket you’ll need. After that, you’ll need to decide which ticket will give you the most bang for your buck, or euro as the case may be!

If we’re not planning on using any public transport and just need to get to and from the airport and our hotel then we’ll buy the “single ticket 4-trip-ticket.” While the name of this ticket is a bit confusing, it is actually just four, single trip tickets that are good anytime you need them for two hours of travel within their specified zones. You can share the four tickets–so one person could ride four different times, two people could ride two times, and four people could ride once. The two hours don’t start until you time stamp the ticket in the little yellow box at the entrance to the station (or on the bus or tram) You can get on and off, transfer, stop for a snack, as long as you finish your journey before the two hours is up, your good. But, and this is important, you can’t go back towards your starting point–it’s a one way ticket. The 4-trip-ticket for the Berlin Public Transport will save you nearly the cost of one ticket so it’s worth going that route if you know you’ll be making four trips spread out over a few days.

For those days when you’ll be on and off the trams, buses, and trains more often, a day pass is the way to go. With a day pass you can get on and off as many times as you’d like, in any direction you’d like, all day long until 3:00 AM the next day. If you are planning on taking more than three or more trips in a day then this is definitely a good way to go. The day ticket also needs to be time stamped before using it and only one person may travel on a ticket. You’ll need to buy one day ticket for each person in your party over the age of six, and remember to buy the reduced fare tickets for those between the ages of six and fourteen.

How to Navigate Berlin's Public Transport

If there are three or more people in your group (over the age of six) then you have yet another option to save money. The small group day ticket is one ticket that covers a day of unlimited travel for up to five travelers. This isn’t just for families; it can be used by any small group. And you don’t have to always travel together. As long as the traveler(s) have the ticket with them they are OK. The kids can be hanging out in the hotel while mom and dad are out for the evening (or vice versa)! One small group day ticket costs less than three regular day tickets.

Of course, like any other big city, packed with tourist attractions, there are tourist tickets available to cover two, three, four, five, or six days of unlimited travel. These tickets are good for one adult and up to three children (6-14) and include reduced entry to a variety of attractions. For a single parent traveling with three or fewer children, this may be the way to go depending on how much travel you’ll be doing each day. Unlike many other cities we’ve been to, these cards are a real good deal if the conditions are right. The 48 hour Berlin WelcomeCard is only two euros more than one small group day pass and provides discounted entry to most of the major sights in Berlin on top of the unlimited travel for forty-eight hours.

Phew! You think the Berlin Public Transport is confusing? Wait till we tackle London’s tube next!


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About the Author

Jim Vail, cofounder of Reflections Enroute, is a perpetual traveler who loves writing, photography, and learning and sharing more about the world around him. He's visited more than 80 countries and has lived outside his home country for over half his life in Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Germany, and the Netherlands. Least favorite question--Where are you from?

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  1. Great hints and tips for Berlin. I found their public transport system to be of a good standard and easy to navigate – and as you say, Berlin is quite compact in that almost all places of interest can be reached within zones 1 and 2. We also saved on accommodation by staying out in zone 2 and traveling into the center each day.

  2. I have not been to Berlin and this guide will certainly help! Teaches me to look for lodging in the outskirts of Zone 2 and still do well with the day trips to well-known attractions!

    1. Ruth, It’s not easy. Not only are you coping with a place you’ve never been, but it’s a different language, and there are so many options. I hope this helps.

  3. thanks for this, Corinne. We will make use of your tips as Berlin is on our bucket list.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. What is valid for Berlin is valid for many other European cities and I am so bad at these things!

  5. I thought Berlin public transport was easy too! My favourite part was checking out the train cars that were ex-Eastern vintage (the benches didn’t have arm rests and were generally a bit more Soviet looking).

  6. Thanks for the tips & tricks! I prefer to use public transport when visiting a new place but it can often be confusing.

  7. I’m always scared of learning how to work a new public transport system, so I always read up about it online first so this will be super helpful!

  8. This is really helpful, as public transport in a strange city can be quite intimidating! Thank you.

  9. What a great guide Corinne! I always find that figuring out the local transport in a new city or destination can be one of the more daunting tasks of travelling and it’s tips like these that can help people save money and use the local transport system a lot easier! Can’t wait to see what you say about London’s Tube. I find it pretty easy to navigate but I recently visited with my friend from Ireland and got to see that figuring out the pricing system and Oyster card isn’t as easy as I’d thought, especially for those who aren’t too familiar with the tube!

  10. Thanks for the tips Corinne. I wish I had something like when before visiting Tokyo – I was horribly lost and frustrated those first few days.

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