Here are answers to some of the questions I had while trying to understand how I, as an English, non-German speaker, could best use public transport in Berlin. This article currently focuses on options around the city center.
(Sources of info: The German Way, Wikipedia, Wikivoyage, berlin.de)
- What are the types of transport available in Berlin?
- What are BVG and VBB?
- Where can I buy tickets?
- What are the different types of tickets?
- Are there any apps I can use to plan my route or buy tickets?
- What rules should I be aware of?
PS: Cheatsheet of German words
1. What are the types of transport available in Berlin?
/ metro / “U”
/ commuter rail / “S”
|TRAIN COLOR||yellow||red and yellow||yellow|
|LOCATION||underground in city center, over ground near suburbs||mostly above ground||on ground|
|STATION IDENTIFICATION||blue sign with a white “U”||round green sign with a white “S”||round yellow sign with a green “H”, for Haltestelle|
|FREQUENCY||every 5-10 min||every 10-20 minutes||every 10 minutes|
|WEEKDAY TIMINGS||4 am – 1 am||4:30 am – 1:30 am||24×7|
|WEEKEND TIMINGS||24 hrs, 15-min intervals||24 hrs, 30-min intervals||24 hrs, 30-min intervals|
“Night buses are marked with an N and operate all night. The night bus lines N1 to N9 replace the U-Bahn lines U1 to U9 from Monday till Friday night. The other night buses N10 to N97 replace the most important day lines.“
Berlin also has Trams and Metrotrams.
There are three zones in Berlin to determine ticket fares: A (center), B (between A and city boundary), C (outskirts)
The term “Ring” /S-Bahn Ring / Ringbahn describes the region around Zone A, the central part of Berlin, where S-Bahn connects with other S- and U-Bahn lines.
The S-Bahn covers 27 stations along the Ringbahn and takes 60 minutes to complete one round. Lines S41 and S42 form the Rignbahn: S41 moves clockwise and S42 moves anticlockwise.
2. What are BVG and VBB?
|AGENCY ACRONYM||EXPANDED NAME||FUNCTION|
|BVG||Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe||– Public transport provider|
– Maintains bus and trams lines
– U-Bahn is operated by BVG and is part of VBB.
|VBB||Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg||– Transport association of public transport providers in the states of Berlin and Brandenburg|
– S-Bahn is a subsidiary of DB and is part of VBB.
– VBB maintains the common public transport tariff
|DB||Deutsche Bahn||National railway|
3. Where can I buy tickets?
Tickets can be bought at any of the following places.
|Train Station||There are multilingual ticket vending machines where you can also use your credit card|
|Bus||You can buy the ticket on the bus from the driver (cash, preferably exact change)||In the pandemic world, you cannot buy a ticket on a bus. You will need to purchase it in advance from a ticketing machine or a smartphone app.|
|Smartphone App||Jelbi, Bus & Bahn|
After buying a ticket, you need to validate the ticket at the Entwerter (yellow or red boxes) before riding a train (or after boarding a bus if the ticket is not already validated).
There are no turnstiles for getting on the U-Bahn or S-Bahn.
4. What are the different types of tickets?
Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Annual tickets are quite self-explanatory. When buying, you will need to consider both the duration for which you need the ticket and the zones in which you will be traveling. These are the terms you will frequently come across when selecting a ticket.
Short distance ticket
|S/U-Bahn: Maximum three stops, you can change trains (~20 minutes)|
Bus/Tram: Maximum six stops, no changing allowed
Single trip ticket
|Valid for 2 hours||Regular, AB zone: €3.00|
|Valid for 24 hours||Regular, AB zone: €8.80|
|Valid for seven consecutive days||Regular, AB zone: €36.00|
|Monthly flexible pass||Regular, AB zone: €86.00|
|Subscription available online||Regular, AB zone: €903.00|
Day Ticket, 5 people
|Valid for 24 hours||Regular, AB zone: €25.50|
You can carry a bicycle only on marked cars of a U-Bahn or S-Bahn and it costs an additional €2.00 in AB zone.
More details about the types of tickets at BVG or VBB.
By Mode of Transport
There are no separate or different tickets for buses or U-Bahn/S-Bahn.
With a validated ticket, you can access all modes of public transport: S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses, and trams.
5. What rules should I be aware of?
|Follow the honor system and buy a ticket||Do not be a “Schwarzfahrer“|
|Validate the ticket||You will be fined even if you just forget to validate your ticket.|
Note: Ticket inspectors are dressed in plain clothes and will not make any exceptions for tourists. Those who get caught have to show an ID, otherwise the police will be called.
|The 2-hour window||A validated, single-trip ticket can be used, one per person, across S-Bahn, U-Bahn, and bus if used within 2 hours of purchase “in one direction”.|
DO NOT USE THE SAME TICKET FOR RETURN JOURNEY.
6. Are there any apps I can use to plan my route or to buy tickets?
- BVG Ticket app – buy tickets quickly
- BVG Fahrinfo app – get route information
3. Jelbi – get all features in one app. This is the one I am currently using.
- It has a friendly interface. You can choose the language as English.
- The first time you add your payment details, the app will make a €1 charge that you will need to approve at your bank or card.
- You can check out public transport routes and buy tickets (U, S, Bus, Tram, Ferry). The ticket you buy is validated effective immediately (the 20-minute or 2-hour counter starts right after you buy the ticket).
- Using this app, you can even book a car share (license required), scooter share (license required), bike share or book a taxi.
- There is a tutorial within the app, but it is in German.
- You can register on the app as well as add a payment method. The app will make a €0-1 charge that you will need to approve at your bank or card.
- You can set home and work addresses as well as save any other frequented addresses.
- You can plan your trip and buy tickets. Mobile tickets are usually valid immediately.
- For your trip, the app will suggest the modes of transport available and also tell you the tickets you need to buy for the trip.
- You can specify the mode of transport the app should use to suggest a route. For example, you can choose only U-Bahn and S-Bahn and no buses or trams will be suggested for your chosen trip.
- You can save future trips and also set an alarm.
- Some parts of the app, like the ticket name, are in German.
- The coolest feature perhaps is that you can view a live map of the various public transports. You will see the trains and buses move in real-time.
Cheatsheet for German Words
|Ausstieg||exit (get off the bus using the back door)|
|Einstieg||enter (board bus using the front door)|
|Entwerter||ticket validating machine|
|Schwarzfahrer||a person who rides without a ticket|
|Schwarzfahren||To ride without a ticket|
|city express train|
(as in Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe for BVG)
(as in Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg for VBB)
|“Fahrkarten, bitte!”||“Tickets, please!”|
|“Zurückbleiben, bitte!”||“Stand back, please!” (announcement before train doors close)|