With the completion of the inner-city-encircling Ringbahn in 2002, the former East and West Berlin transport systems were finally sewn back together, though it can still sometimes be complicated travelling between Eastern and Western neighbourhoods. Even within one half of the city, journeys can involve several changes of route or mode of transport. But services are usually regular and frequent, timetables can be trusted, and one ticket can be used for two hours on all legs of a journey and all forms of transport.
Public transport in Berlin
The Berlin transport authority, the BVG, operates bus, U-Bahn (underground) and tram networks, and a few ferry services on the outlying lakes. The S-Bahn (overground railway) is run by its own authority, but services are integrated within the same three-zone tariff system.
The BVG website (www.bvg.de) has a wealth of information (in English) on city transport, and there's usually someone who speaks English at the 24-hour BVG Call Center (194 49). The S-Bahn has its own website at www.s-bahn-berlin.de.
BVG information centres
- Tegel airport 6am-10pm daily
- Turmstrasse U-Bahn U9: 6am-10pm Mon-Fri; 8.45am-4.15pm Sat
- Zoo Pavillon, Hardenburger Strasse, Bahnhof Zoo: 6am-10pm daily
The Liniennetz, a map of U-Bahn, S-Bahn, bus and tram routes for Berlin and Potsdam, is available free from info centres and ticket offices. It includes a city centre map.
A map of the U- and S-Bahn can also be picked up free at ticket offices or from the grey-uniformed Zugabfertiger – passenger assistance personnel – who wander about the larger U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations.
Fares and Tickets
The bus, tram, U-Bahn, S-Bahn and ferry services operate on an integrated three-zone system. Zone A covers central Berlin, zone B extends out to the edge of the suburbs and zone C stretches into Brandenburg.
The basic single ticket is the €2.10 Normaltarif (zones A and B). Unless going to Potsdam or Flughafen Schönefeld, few visitors are likely to travel beyond zone B, making this in effect a flat-fare system.
Apart from the Zeitkarten, tickets for Berlin's public transport system can be bought from the yellow or orange machines at U- or S-Bahn stations, and by some bus stops. These take coins and sometimes notes, give change and have a limited explanation of the ticket system in English. Once you've purchased your ticket, validate it in the small red or yellow box next to the machine, which stamps it with the time and date. (Tickets bought on trams or buses are usually already validated.)
There are no ticket turnstiles at stations but if an inspector catches you without a valid ticket, you will be fined €40. Ticket inspections are frequent, and are conducted while vehicles are moving by pairs of plain-clothes personnel.
Single ticket (Normaltarif)
Single tickets cost €2.10 (€1.40 for children between the ages of six and 14) for travel within zones A and B, €2.30 (€1.60) for zones B and C, and €2.80 (€2) for all three zones. A ticket allows use of the BVG network for two hours, with as many changes between bus, tram, U-Bahn and S-Bahn as necessary travelling in one direction.
Short-distance ticket (Kurzstreckentarif)
The Kurzstreckentarif (ask for a Kurzstrecke) costs €1.30 (€1 concessions) and is valid for three U- or S-Bahn stops, or six stops on the tram or bus. No transfers allowed.
Day ticket (Tageskarte)
A Tageskarte for zones A and B costs €6.10 (€4.40 reductions), or €6.50 (€4.80) for all three zones. A day ticket lasts until 3am the morning after validating.
Longer-term tickets (Zeitkarten)
If you're in Berlin for a week, it makes sense to buy a Sieben-Tage-Karte ('seven-day ticket') at €26.20 for zones A and B, or €32.30 for all three zones (no concessions).
A stay of a month or more makes it worth buying a Monatskarte ('month ticket'), which costs €72 for zones A and B, or €88.50 for all three zones.
The first stretch of Berlin's U-Bahn was opened in 1902 and the network now consists of nine lines and 170 stations. The first trains run shortly after 4am; the last between midnight and 1am, except on Fridays and Saturdays when trains run all night on lines U1, U2, U5, U6, U7, U8 and U9. The direction of travel is indicated by the name of the last stop on the line.
Especially useful in Eastern Berlin, the S-Bahn covers long distances faster than the U-Bahn and is a more efficient means of getting to outlying areas. The Ringbahn, which circles central Berlin, was the final piece of the S-Bahn system to be renovated in 2002, though there are still temporary disruptions here and there.
Berlin has a dense network of 150 bus routes, of which 54 run in the early hours. The day lines run from 4.30am to about 1am the next morning. Enter at the front of the bus and exit in the middle or at the back. The driver sells only individual tickets, but all tickets from machines on the U- or S-Bahn are valid. Most bus stops have clear timetables and route maps.
There are 21 tram lines (five of which run all night), mainly in the East, though some have been extended a few kilometres into the Western half of the city, mostly in Wedding. Hackescher Markt is the site of the main tram terminus. Tickets are available from machines on the trams, at the termini and in U-Bahn stations.
Other rail services
Berlin is also served by the Regionalbahn ('regional railway'), which once connected East Berlin with Potsdam via the suburbs and small towns left outside the Wall. It still circumnavigates the city. The Regionalbahn is run by Deutsche Bahn and ticket prices vary according to the journey.
For timetable and ticket information (available in English), go to Deutsche Bahn's website at www.bahn.de.
Travelling at night
Berlin has a comprehensive Nachtliniennetz ('night-line network') that covers all parts of town via 59 bus and tram routes running every 30 minutes between 12.30am and 4.30am. Before and after these times the regular timetable for bus and tram routes applies.
Night-line network maps and timetables are available from BVG kiosks at stations, and large maps of the night services are found next to the normal BVG map on station platforms. Ticket prices are the same as during the day. Buses and trams that run at night are have an 'N' in front of the number.
On lines N11, N35 and N41, the bus will take you to your front door if it's close to the official route. The BVG also operates a Taxi-Ruf-System ('taxi calling service') on the U-Bahn for women and people with disabilities from 8pm every evening until the network closes. Ask the BVG employee in the platform booth to phone, giving your destination and method of payment.
Truncated versions of U-Bahn lines U1, U2, U5, U6, U7, U8, and U9 run all night on Fridays and Saturdays, with trains every 15 minutes. The S-Bahn also runs on weekend nights, with lines S1, S2, S3, S5, S7, S8, S9, S25, S26, S41, S42, S46, S47, S75 in service.
Getting about by water is more of a leisure activity than a practical means of navigating the city, but the BVG network does include a handful of boat services on Berlin's lakes. There are also several private companies offering tours of Berlin's waterways.
Reederei Heinz Riedel
Planufer 78, Kreuzberg (693 4646/www.reederei-riedel.de). U8 Schönleinstrasse. Opening times vary, check website for details. No credit cards.
This company operates excursions that start in the city and pass through industrial suburbs into rural Berlin. A tour through the city's network of rivers and canals costs €4.50-€18.
Stern und Kreisschiffahrt
Puschkinallee 15, Treptow (536 3600/www.sternundkreis.de). S6, S8, S9, S10 Treptower Park.Open 21 Mar-5 Oct 9am-6pm Mon-Fri; 9am-2pm Sat. Credit Amex, MC, V.
Offers around 25 cruises along the Spree and around the lakes. Times vary. A 3hr 30min tour costs €17.50.
Taxis in Berlin
Berlin taxis are pricey, efficient and numerous. The starting fee is €3 and thereafter the fare is €1.50 per kilometre (about €3 per mile) for the first seven kilometres, and €1 per kilometre thereafter. The rate remains the same at night. For short journeys ask for a Kurzstrecke – up to two kilometres for €3.50, but only available when you've hailed a cab and not from taxi ranks. Taxi stands are numerous, especially in central areas near stations and at major intersections. You can phone for a cab 24 hours daily on 261 026. Most firms can transport people with disabilities, but require advance notice. Cabs accept all credit cards except Diners Club, subject to a €0.50 charge.
Most cabs are Mercedes. If you want an estate car (station wagon), ask for a combi. As well as normal taxis, Funk Taxi Berlin operates vans capable of transporting up to seven people (ask for a 'grossraum Taxi'; same rates as for regular taxis) and has two vehicles for people with disabilities. Call 261 026.
Cycling in Berlin
West Berlin is wonderful for cycling – flat, with lots of cycle paths, parks and canals to cruise beside. East Berlin has fewer cycle paths and more cobblestones and tram lines.
Cycles can be taken on the U-Bahn (except during rush hour, 6-9am and 2-5pm), up to a limit of two at the end of carriages that have a bicycle sign. More may be taken on to S-Bahn carriages, and at any time of day. In each case an extra ticket (€1.40) must be bought for each bike. The ADFC Fahrradstadtplan, available in bike shops (€6.50), is a good guide to cycle routes.
With a credit card and a mobile, you can rent one of the thousands of DB Call-A-Bikes you'll see in summer parked near stations and major intersections. Call the number on the bike (07000 522 5522) and follow the instructions to register and get the unlocking code. You ride the bike where you want to go, then lock it back up and log off. It costs €0.8 per minute up to a maximum of €15 per 24 hours, and an initial €5 registration fee is taken off your first bill. After the first time, all you have to do is call in your customer number. Details at www.callabike-interaktiv.de
The companies below rent bikes, or see Fahrradverleih in the Yellow Pages.
Dorotheenstr.30, Mitte (2045 4500/www.fahrradstation.de). U6, S1, S2, S5, S7, S9, S75 Friedrichstrasse.Open 9am-8pm Mon-Fri; 10am-6pm Sat; 10am-4pm Sun. Rates Per day from €15; 3 days €35. Credit AmEx, MC,V.
Other locations: Bergmannstrasse 9, Kreuzberg (215 1566); Hackesche Höfe, Mitte (2838 4848).
Grossbeerenstrasse 53, Kreuzberg (5515 3270/www.pedalpower.de). U1, U7 Möckernbrücke. Open 10am-6.30pm Mon-Fri; 11am-2pm Sat. Rates Per day from €9. No credit cards.
Other locations: Pfarrstrasse 115, Lichtenberg (5515 3270).
Driving in Berlin
Despite some congestion, driving in Berlin presents few problems. Visitors from the UK and US should bear in mind that, in the absence of signals, drivers must yield to traffic from the right, except at crossings marked by a diamond-shaped yellow sign. Trams always have right of way. An Einbahnstrasse is a one-way street.
The following garage offers 24-hour assistance at a rate of about €65 an hour. But it won't take credit cards.
Bundesallee 29-30, Wilmersdorf (0180 222 2222).
Both of the places below are open 24 hours a day.
Holzmarktstrasse 12, Mitte (2472 0748).Credit AmEx, MC, V.
Kurfürstendamm 128, Wilmersdorf (8909 6972). Credit AmEx, MC, V.
Parking is free in Berlin side streets, but spaces are hard to find. On busier streets you may have to buy a ticket (€1 per hour) from a nearby machine. Without a ticket, or if you park illegally, you risk getting your car clamped or towed.
There are long-term car parks at Schönefeld and Tegel airports. Otherwise there are many Parkgaragen and Parkhäuser (multi-storey and underground car parks) around the city, open 24 hours, that charge around €2 an hour.
Flughafen Schönefeld Car Park
0180 500 0186. Rates Per day €17-€25. Per week €40-€100. Credit AmEx, MC, V.
Flughafen Tegel Car Park
0180 500 0186. Rates Per day €19-€22. Per week €39-€95. Credit AmEx, MC, V.
Car hire in Germany is not expensive and all major companies are represented in Berlin. There are car hire desks at both of the city's airports. Look under Autovermietung in the Gelbe Seiten (Yellow Pages).
Walking in Berlin
Berlin is a good walking city, but it's spread out. Mitte is most pleasant on foot, but if you then want to check out Charlottenburg, you'll next need to take a bus or train.