Berlin is famous for its excellent public transport facilities. It has one of the best underground systems in Europe. Lots of trains and buses complement the underground and allows you to get virtually anywhere. That’s why so many people in Berlin only use their personal cars during their holidays.
The underground in Berlin (called U-Bahn) is simply great. It has a huge number of stations, covering not only the city center, but also the suburbs. It is fast and reliable. Some underground lines also operate during the night. Digital displays in the station will show you how much time to wait for the next underground.
In addition to the underground, Berlin also has a large number of trains, called S-Bahn. These run very frequently. Trains are an excellent option for those with bicycles, as there are special marked areas inside where you can take your bike.
Despite Berlin’s perfect underground and train network, buses are also very popular, both in the city center and in the suburbs. Some of them are double-deckers. Drivers seem to drive fast and crazy. You should get used to, they are very skilled and know what they are doing. Just be prepared for this and hold yourself well. Buses are extremely useful during night to get home after a party. Some of them follow the underground routes, so they are easy to find.
Trams are not so common in Berlin. Most of them have been removed to facilitate car traffic. Tickets can be bought even in the tram if you don’t already have them.
The public transport in Berlin uses the same tickets for underground, train, bus and tram. You can buy single journey tickets or a large variety of passes (daily, weekly, monthly). There are two special passes for tourists, Berlin WelcomeCard and Berlin CityTourCard. These include free transport for a number of days and discounts to various attractions. All stations have automatic vending machines that sell tickets. These accept only coins and banknotes. Some larger stations also have ticket counters, where you might be able to buy tickets with your credit card. Since ticket validity is based on journey duration, you must validate your ticket on the platform or in the bus when boarding.
Berlin is organized in three public transport zones: A, B and C. Zone A covers the inner city, up to and including the urban rail ring. Zone B covers the outside urban rail ring, up to city boundary and zone C covers the area called Greater Berlin, including the Potsdam area.
The simplest option is of course the single ticket. The price ranges from €2.30 to €3, depending on the zones included. As a tourist, you will probably use only the cheapest one, unless you travel to Potsdam. The single ticket allows you to change the means of transport as much as you like, up to its maximum validity of 2 hours. Returns and round trips are not allowed however. There is a convenient pack of 4 single tickets, which costs €8.20, so the price per trip is lower than paid individually. Additionally, there is another short trip ticket which costs only €1.40, allowing you to travel no more than 3 subway or train stops or 6 bus or tram stops.
The day pass is a convenient ticket for those travelling more than about three times per day. Its price varies between €6.30 and €6.80, depending on the covered zones. You can use it for unlimited travel from the moment you validate it to 3am the following day.
Berlin public transport also offers you weekly, monthly and annual passes. The price for a weekly pass covering zones A and B is €27.20. As a tourist, you will probably not need monthly or annual passes, so there is no point in going into details here.
Bicycles can be taken in the means of transport in Berlin, but you have to pay a ticket of €1.50. There is also a daily pass of €4.50. Note that these fees have to be paid in addition to the normal tickets that cover you as a person.
As a tourist, you can also choose from one of the two special cards that include unlimited transportation and discounts at many attractions in the city.
Berlin CityTourCard offers you unlimited travel within the whole city (zones A, B and optionally C). Its price is €15.90 for 2 days, €21.90 for 3 days and €28.90 for 5 days, considering only zones A and B. It includes some nice discounts to a lot of attractions in the city. As a bonus, you get a map of the city center and a map of the public transportation network. You can buy it from either ticket counters or vending machines. You get the brochure with discounts only at the ticket counters. If you buy the ticket from a vending machine, you can present it to a ticket counter to get your free brochure and the vouchers.
Berlin WelcomeCard is very similar to the CityTourCard. The principle is the same, but the list of discount partners is a little bit different. It is offered in the same 2 days, 3 days and 5 days flavors, each one costing with €1 more than the CityTourCard. It has a very extensive list of discounts. You can buy it in the same way as the CityTourCard.
How to choose between CityTourCard and WelcomeCard? We recommend you to check the list of discounts for each of them and choose based on the attractions that you actually want to visit.
Now that you know everything about the public transportation tickets, you can already plan your journey. The official BVG website has a very good journey planner in English. Public transport in Berlin offers an excellent punctuality, so you can trust the indication on the BVG website.