Using Berlin Public Transporation

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. 

Back to Top

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

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

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)

Back to Top

Lake Tahoe: Road Trip from San Jose

Ski Run Marina

Lake Tahoe is all about beaches. Well, mostly! All you need to do is park yourself at one of them and you’re set for the day/afternoon/evening. In summer months, as everyone flocks to the cool waters of the lake, all beaches and Vista points close to water can get pretty crowded and it can become nearly impossible to get an official/decent parking spot. Some folks do manage to park on the side of the highway and walk miles with their entire beach gear (tents, chairs, food) to their spot of choosing. Probably best to visit Lake Tahoe in an off season to steer clear of the crowd.

Continue reading

Getting Canada Visitor Visa (via Online Application)

While it was a breeze to create an account and generate a GCKey on the http://www.cic.gc.ca/ website (that is the first step), we did face a lot of confusion while collecting the documents we had to submit as part of the process. The website is not always explicit in stating the documents they expect from us, such as for a category called “Purpose of Travel”. We did not want our visa application to get rejected just because we missed submitting something.

Continue reading

We finally made it to Twin Peaks!

Trip Date: 14 February, 2016

We finally made it to the much sought-after Twin Peaks in the most unplanned way. We’ve always been very skeptical about a) driving through the San Francisco city and b) finding a parking spot in the city. So Twin Peaks, which are right in the middle of the city, have always been one of those elusive spots that one can only drive to but seemed inaccessible because of the petty parking problems. After all, the satellite map showed only a handful of legit parking spots between the two peaks.

On top of one of the Twin Peaks

Continue reading

Bheemeshwari: Cauvery Fishing Camp

17th July, 2010

The Drive

We started from Bangalore at around 9.15 am, a good two hours behind schedule. All was well as we could still make it to the destination by the check in time; only now we would have to face the Saturday office hour rush. This is the route we took: Old Madras Road – Sarjapur Outer Ring Road – Agara Lake – Silk Board Junction –  Jayanagar – Banashankari Bus Stand – METRO – Kanakpura-NICE Junction – NH 209 – Harohally – Left towards Sathnur – Halaguru – Arrive at the destination towards left. ~120 km in 3 hrs, including at least one short stop.

The traffic and roads let us breathe easy only past the Kanakpura-NICE Junction on NH 209. The cool and cloudy weather helped to make it a great drive, at least for as long as we were on NH 209. There were characteristic, yellow road signages at regular intervals indicating the remaining distance and route to the Cauvery Fishing Camp; they were just not there where we needed them the most, though. Past the Kanakpura village and some distance ahead, we luckily spotted the left turn we were supposed to take. We were now off the NH 209 and entered the village areas (Sathnur). The Airtel network gave up on us here.

Continue reading