Moving Around in Berlin Using Public Transportation


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)

  1. What are the types of transport available in Berlin?
  2. What are BVG and VBB?
  3. Where can I buy tickets?
  4. What are the different types of tickets?
  5. Are there any apps I can use to plan my route or buy tickets?
  6. What rules should I be aware of?

PS: Cheatsheet of German words

1. What are the types of transport available in Berlin?

U-Bahn
/ metro / “U”
S-Bahn
/ commuter rail / “S”
Bus
/ “M”
UntergrundbahnStadtschnellbahn
OPERATORBVGDBBVG
TRAIN COLORyellowred and yellowyellow
LOCATIONunderground in city center, over ground near suburbsmostly above groundon ground
STATION IDENTIFICATIONblue sign with a white “U”round green sign with a white “S”round yellow sign with a green “H”, for Haltestelle
FREQUENCYevery 5-10 minevery 10-20 minutesevery 10 minutes
WEEKDAY TIMINGS4 am – 1 am4:30 am – 1:30 am24×7
WEEKEND TIMINGS24 hrs, 15-min intervals24 hrs, 30-min intervals24 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.

U-Bahn Station sign on the ground level and the stairs that take you underground to the station platform
Haltestelle“, the bus stop

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. 

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2. What are BVG and VBB?

AGENCY ACRONYM EXPANDED NAME FUNCTION
BVGBerliner Verkehrsbetriebe– Public transport provider
– Maintains bus and trams lines
– U-Bahn is operated by BVG and is part of VBB.
VBBVerkehrsverbund 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
DBDeutsche BahnNational railway

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3. Where can I buy tickets?

Ticket vending machine at a U-Bahn station

Tickets can be bought at any of the following places.

PANDEMIC-RELATED DEVIATIONS
Train Station There are multilingual ticket vending machines where you can also use your credit card
BusYou 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 AppJelbi, 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).

Ticket validating machine at a U-Bahn station

There are no turnstiles for getting on the U-Bahn or S-Bahn.

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4. What are the different types of tickets?

By Fare

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.

One PersonKurzstrecke

Short distance ticket
S/U-Bahn: Maximum three stops, you can change trains (~20 minutes)
Bus/Tram: Maximum six stops, no changing allowed
Regular: €2.00
Einzelfahrkarte, Einzelfahrschein

Single trip ticket
Valid for 2 hoursRegular, AB zone: €3.00
Tageskarte

Day ticket
Valid for 24 hoursRegular, AB zone: €8.80
7-Tage-Karte

Weekly ticket
Valid for seven consecutive daysRegular, AB zone: €36.00
Monatskarte

Monthly ticket
Monthly flexible passRegular, AB zone: €86.00
Jahreskarten

Annual ticket
Subscription available onlineRegular, AB zone: €903.00
GroupTageskarte, Kleingruppe

Day Ticket, 5 people
Valid for 24 hoursRegular, 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.

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5. What rules should I be aware of?

Follow the honor system and buy a ticketDo not be a “Schwarzfahrer
Validate the ticketYou 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 windowA 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.

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6. Are there any apps I can use to plan my route or to buy tickets?

BVG Apps

  1. BVG Ticket app – buy tickets quickly
  2. 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.

VBB App

Bus & Bahn app

  • 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.

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Cheatsheet for German Words

German WordMeaning
Ausstiegexit (get off the bus using the back door)
Einstiegenter (board bus using the front door)
Entwerterticket validating machine
entwertento validate
fahrkarteticket
Haltestellebus stop
Schwarzfahrera person who rides without a ticket
SchwarzfahrenTo ride without a ticket
Stadtschnellbahn
(S-Bahn)
city express train
Untergrundbahn
(U-Bahn)
subway
Verkehrsbetriebe
(as in Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe for BVG)
transport company
Verkehrsverbund
(as in Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg for VBB)
transport association
Fahrkarten, bitte!”“Tickets, please!”
Zurückbleiben, bitte!”“Stand back, please!” (announcement before train doors close)

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