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Mar 24 2014

Tips for Using the Trains in Berlin

The public transport system in Berlin is great.  I have been to Berlin twice now and have mainly used the rail network to get around.  I had no idea of the complexity of the Berlin train system until I started using it, so I thought it would share some tips with you that I have picked up.

The trains

There are basically two different types of trains: S-bahn (overground trains) and U-bahn (underground trains).  It takes a bit of time getting used to the system but, once you are accustomed to it, it’s a fantastic service.

Types of tickets

There are a number of different types of tickets and passes you can buy, which include single, day,  and weekly tickets.  However, it might be cheaper to buy a Berlin City Tour Card or a Berlin Welcome Card, which gives you unlimited travel on public transport for a specified length of time for Berlin City (Zones AB) or Berlin City and the Greater Berlin Area (Zones ABC).  Whether it’s worth it will depend on where you stay and how much you are likely to use public transport.  There are other benefits with these cards, so it is worth checking them out and comparing the costs.

You can buy tickets from small shops at some of the stations but, most of the time, it’s likely to be from a ticket machine.

You can buy a ticket for zones A&B, B&C or ABC.  The majority of places I have visited in Berlin have been in Zone A, but you will need a ticket for B&C if you are taking the train to and from the airport, Berlin Schoenberg.

Travel with a valid ticket

You need to stamp your ticket when you use it for the first time.  If you buy a single ticket, it is valid for two hours from the time it is stamped, providing you continue to travel in one direction.  I didn’t know that when I arrived in Berlin.  So, if you accidentally get off at the wrong stop or need to stop en route, you can get back on the next train without having to buy another ticket.  Because I didn’t know that, I ended up buying extra tickets I didn’t actually need.

There is no need to show the ticket to anyone unless asked by a ticket inspector, but you do need a valid ticket.  I have been to Berlin twice now and used the trains regularly, but I have only ever been asked for my ticket on two occasions.  The first time, I was staring into space when a man started speaking to me in German.  I looked up at a large man, who was wearing a beanie, jeans and a bomber jacket and said ‘Huh?’.  I had gotten used to people asking for money on the trains, so I thought that was what he was saying.  Then he showed me a card and in English was written, ‘Ticket’.  The penny dropped, so I got my ticket out to show him.  One man mustn’t have had a ticket because, at the next stop, he was escorted off the train. The fact that you don’t have to go through barriers means you can quickly and easily get on and off trains.

Getting around at night

I had never needed to get a train home at night until my last night in Berlin.  I was out with a blogger friend from Berlin and didn’t realise how late it was.  It was midnight and, as it was Sunday, the trains weren’t running throughout the night.

My blogger friend from Low Budget, Big Travels told me the trains run throughout the night when the next day is not a weekday, so Friday and Saturday night.  When the train service stops, there is a bus service that takes over.  I really wanted to get the train back because I needed to take an S and U-bahn and it was easier at that time of night to take the trains I knew rather than trying to figure out which buses I would need to get and from where, especially in the dark.  I was lucky enough to get the last S and U-bahns back, which was a relief.  That was after midnight.

Have your say

Do you have any other tips for using the trains in Berlin that I haven’t mentioned?

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

2 comments

  1. NZ Muse

    Yeah, getting our heads around the S and Ubahn was tough, am not sure we ever fully cracked it! We also got stuck late one night too and it was confusing because the line was closed for repairs but somehow there was one last train for the night at that particular stop that we managed to get on…

  2. Thank you for your comment NZ Muse.

    Using the trains at night with a line closed for repairs would have made it even more challenging. I’m glad you managed to get a train back to where you were staying.

    Best wishes,

    Teresa.

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