How to Ride the Berlin Metro

How to Ride the Berlin Metro

The big news in Berlin is that school kids can now ride the metro for free! All they need is a Schülerticket. This new city initiative got us thinking about how great Berlin’s public transportation system is. The Berlin Metro system covers a vast network of underground trains, elevated trains, trams, and buses that shuttles passengers from Tiergarten to Treptower Park, Wedding to Warschauer Straße, and even Prenzlauer Berg to Potsdam on 770-kilometers of track. And that’s not even counting the bus routes.

The U-Bahn and S-Bahn form the bulk of Berlin’s transit system. U-Bahn trains run mostly underground, hence the “U,” and S-Bahn trains generally run above ground, with the “S” standing for “Stadtbahn” or “City Train.” 

In addition to the S-Bahn’s scenic cross-city routes that run high above Berlin’s leafy districts, there’s a “Ring Line” — a circular route that goes all the way around the city. It’s a fun way to see Berlin from its outer edges.

Then there are the trams that run along the streets of the former East Berlin. Interestingly, the Berlin Metro system started with horse-drawn trams in 1865. Sixteen-years later, the horses got a break and Berliners became the very first citizens of the world to ride on electric streetcars.

Photo by Julia Joppien on Unsplash

One ticket is all you need

With all these different modes of transport, you might be wondering, do I need a separate ticket for each one? Nope. Even if you’re transferring from the S9 to the U2 at Alexanderplatz, or hopping on a bus at Zoologischer Garten, all you need is one ticket when you’re riding the Berlin Metro. 

Tickets can be purchased at a machine on the train platform (S-Bahn & U-Bahn), on the train itself (Tram), from the driver (Bus), or in the BVG app. Once you’ve bought your ticket, stamp it in the little machine next to the ticket machine (or on the tram) so it’s properly validated (electronic tickets bought in the App validate automatically). You’ll now have a full 2-hours to ride to your heart’s content. Just remember that these are meant to be one-way tickets, so don’t go back and forth on the same line.

Just one ticket? That sounds easy, right. Well, the thing is, there are lots of different types of tickets. The first thing you’ll need to know is which area you’ll be traveling in. Berlin is divided into three fare zones.

  • Zone A

The city center, up to and including the S-Bahn ring

  • Zone B

Outside the S-Bahn ring up to the city boundary

  • Zone C

Greater Berlin area (approx. 15 km around the city of Berlin), including Potsdam and Schönefeld Airport

So unless you’re commuting outside the city center every day, you’ll probably only need an AB ticket, but passengers traveling farther afield, to Schönefeld Airport for example, will need to buy an ABC ticket. Children aged 6-14 ride on a reduced fare, unless they already have their Schülerausweiss, and then they ride for free, along with kids under 6 who have always been free.

Berlin Metro Map

Here’s the breakdown for single tickets:
  • AB €2,80; €1,70 (reduced)
  • BC €3,00; €2,10 (reduced)
  • ABC €3,30; €2,40 (reduced)
  • AB day ticket €7,00; €4,70 (reduced)

*TIP* — 4-Fahrten-Karten

You can save €0,45 per ticket by purchasing four tickets at a time. These are called 4-Fahrten-Tickets. AB €9,00; €5,60 (reduced) Keep them in your wallet and validate them as you go. You can also buy them on the app.

*TIP* — Kurzstrecke 

If you’re not going far (3 stations on the S or U-Bahn; 6 stops on the Tram) and you don’t need to transfer, buy a Kurzstrecke (Short Trip Ticket) for €1,70; €1,30 (reduced). Or buy a 4-pack of these for €5,60; €4,40 (reduced).

 

Commuting in Berlin? You’ll want to get a BVG-ABO Monthly Subscription

If you are riding the rails every day, commuting to work or taking the kids to school, consider ordering a BVG-ABO, which you can do here (https://www.bvg.de/abo) (in German) or in the BVG App.

  • VBB-Umweltkarte (one month) — €81
  • VBB-Umweltkarte Subscription Ticket — €63,42/month payable monthly or yearly.
  • VBB-Umweltkarte Annual Ticket — €761

A perk of the monthly Berlin metro card is that ticket holders can take their spouse and children younger than 15 with them on weekends (Saturday + Sunday), public holidays, and late night on weekdays (8pm-3am). Technically you can bring 4 people along, only one of which can be older than 14.

There are also discounted subscription tickets for seniors…

  • VBB-ABO 65plus Subscription Ticket for €51.

…as well as special monthly tickets for passengers who only use the trains after 10am.

  • 10am Ticket — €59,10 (one month)
  • 10am Ticket Subscription — €45,58 (monthly recurring)

And if you only need to ride the trains for one week, a good option for conferences, art shows, film festivals, or other professional or leisure events that take you outside your neighbourhood, go for the 7-Day-Ticket for €30.

Berlin Metro

Photo by Peter-Paul Moschik on Unsplash

 

What do I do with my Berlin Metro ticket after I’ve purchased and validated it?

In contrast to the New York Subway, the London Underground, or the Paris Metro, the Berlin BVG runs on a trust system. There are no places to swipe your card, tap your chip, or turnstiles to spin. It’s simply you, your sense of integrity (in the form of a paid-for and validated ticket), and the ticket-control man or woman who comes around once in a blue moon asking to see everyone’s ticket. So make sure you put it in a safe, easily accessible place! 

And don’t even think about riding the train without a ticket. Because you just never know when the ticket-controllers will pop in, and the last thing you want is a €60 fine.

 

What else do I need to know about the Berlin Metro system?

Spacious, and relatively comfortable (except on the hottest days, when the air conditioning is a little lackluster), the Berlin metro is a great way for families to get around the city. Many stations have lifts for easy transport of buggies, and when the train pulls up, simply roll right in and find the space reserved for “Kinderwagen,” or just stand with it by the door.

Bicycles are also allowed on board and most trains have reserved bike cars at the front and back. Just be sure to buy a separate ticket for your bike (AB €1,90). Kids with the Schülerticket can bring their bikes on board for free, but remember to make room for people in wheelchairs, they have priority.

Now that you know everything there is to know about riding the Berlin metro, go ahead and plan out your route. There’s so much of this great big city to discover!

 

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Archer Relocation has been providing relocation services to families, individuals and companies in Berlin since early 2015. Managing Director, Emily Archer, founded the company desiring to use her first-hand experience as an expat to make the relocation process as smooth as possible for others moving to Berlin. Read other useful information about moving to and living in Berlin, such as ‘How to Find a Berlin Apartment’, on our Berlin Blog.  

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