Transportation in Berlin: How to get around in the capital

Marle

Updated on Aug 04 • 6 minute read

When you spend some time out drinking a few beers from your Späti with your new mates, you don't want to be worrying about catching the last train home. Did you know that almost two-thirds of the respondents in our last survey mentioned that transportation within a city was one of their biggest challenges? No doubt, as a newcomer to a city, you’ll find it difficult at first to get a sense of the distances within a city or get a grasp of the transportation system.

We’ll show you some easy tips that you might consider before you choose accommodation in Berlin. After this, we’ll walk you through the transportation system in Berlin; in no time at all you'll be just like a true Berliner that always finds the smartest way to get around in Berlin, day in and day out. We promise: Berlin isn’t as chaotic as the concrete jungle first might seem!

Get a sense of your new accomodation’s accessibility

We know, we know: Getting a grasp of a strange neighborhood in a foreign country requires a pinch of imagination and a handful of orientation. Nor will we neglect to bear in mind that relocation abroad is quickly connected with a slight feeling of insecurity, as we subconsciously fear starting off our new experience without shelter. Relax, we’ve got your back!

Before jumping onto the next-best accommodation, try to take these tips into account:

1. Proximity to your activity hub: Unlike most cities, there isn't one city centre in Berlin. Instead, life is spread over the various neighborhoods. Base your search on your personal central point within Berlin such as the location of your workspace, your internship in Berlin or university campus. As an expat with a family, you might consider an accommodation close to Berlin-Mitte as this neighbourhood is home to international schools such as Cosmopolitan School and Metropolitan School.

2. Connectivity of your area: Get out Google maps and see how well connected your new home is. How far is the nearest train or bus station? And more than that, how often and long do they run day and night? As said before, life in Berlin is spread over various areas and you can easily count with a daily travel time of 40 to 60 minutes.

3. Stay within the S-Bahn line: So, you're here to experience firsthand the nightlife in Berlin? Got it. Try living inside the S-Bahn ring then. That way you won't have to worry about how to get home at night; the S-Bahn is always there for you at all times, day and night.

Smartest ways to get around in Berlin

Let’s be honest: Berlin’s public transport system might feel overwhelming at first glance but once you get the hang of it, you’ll appreciate it’s efficiency. Did you know that public transports in Berlin is considered one of the best in the world? It’ll take you for a summer swim to Wannsee or on a hunt for vintage treasures at the flea market in Mauerpark. Trains, trams and buses in Berlin will take you literally anywhere, any time.

We’ll walk you through the smartest way to get around in Berlin. Public transport is likely to be your constant companion in Berlin, but to tell the truth, a trip by car gives you some extra freedom at times. You'll be showered with a selection of means of transport in Berlin: From bikes to e-scooters, it's all yours.

U-Bahn, S-Bahn & busses: This is how the public transport system works in Berlin

Public transport in Berlin is easy to use as long as you meet two conditions:

  • you know your destination and
  • you are able to read.

Each stop will be announced and additionally displayed on electronic boards. So, chances you’ll miss your stop are low.

Good to know: You got a bus to catch? Hop on the front door of the bus. Unless a passenger leaves the bus, the bus driver usually doesn't open the back doors - and you could accidentally miss the bus.

Underground (U-Bahn)

The yellow coaches of Berlin’s subway take you to every corner of the city. Odds are that you'll find one of the 173 tram stations of this gigantic network nearby your home.

Suburban Train (S-Bahn)

And if you happen to live in the suburbs of the city, the train with the green and white symbols is likely to be your local shuttle. So as long as you live within the circle of the S-Bahn, your designated driver will get you through Berlin day and night. On weekdays, the train will take you from 4.30 in the morning to 1.30 at night every five, ten or twenty minutes and every 30 minutes during the night. On weekends, the trains operate continuously for twenty-four hours.

Busses

Three different types of buses will take you around Berlin: daylines, metro busses and night busses. You’ve guessed it right: daylines (number 100 to 399) take you from the suburbs to the center of Berlin during daytime. During nighttime, the night busses N10 to N97 take over this job and on top, replace the tram lines U1 to U0 from Monday till Friday night. You’ll recognize the night busses with an “N”. Metro busses (M11 to M85) run seven days a week ten-minute intervals.

Zones and Fares: Students travel for free in Berlin

With no barriers and only a few inspectors, new residents quickly get the impression that public transport in Berlin is free. But is Berlin’s public transportation really free? Indeed, as a student enrolled at a university in Berlin, you’ll usually receive a student ticket for a small semester fee. Most universities have a contract with VBB and their transportation companies. Check with your university if you’re entitled to this ticket.

For all others, there’s bad news: Despite a few inspections, a ticket must be drawn at the yellow or red boxes on the platform and validated on the train before the journey begins.

Getting around Berlin with the BVG app

BVG app is a real all-rounder: with the most efficient routes it shows you how to get around all of Berlin, and you can easily buy a ticket via the app. Put your calculator aside and let the app find the fastest route and determine the correct zone inclusive of the correct ticket. No need to bother validating your tickets before getting on a train and accidentally risking a fine of 60EUR.

Popular place for beggars

With no barriers, you'll soon find homeless people on public transport in Berlin, asking passengers for some food or coins. So if you've got change or a PET bottle with you, you can easily help them to have a place to sleep. Occasionally, you'll have people selling the newspaper "Motz" or "Straßenfeger". Ideal opportunity to brush up on your German! For a small donation you can use your train ride to read the newspaper in German.

Getting around Berlin without the metro

The enormous public transport system brings you to just about every street in and around Berlin. With some alternative transportation you'll rediscover Berlin. Already tried out eScooters or buzzed through the city on your bike?

Discover Berlin in the most sustainable way: Bikes

With its flat streets and smooth traffic, Berlin is a paradise for every hobby cyclist. What's even better: there's no need for you to invest into your own bike. True to the motto sharing is caring, you’ll find plenty of bike sharing providers all over the city. A convenient and affordable alternative for occasional cyclists! Keep an eye out for these bike-sharing services:

  • Nextbike
  • Donkey Republic
  • Limebike (electric bicycles)
  • Jump (electric bicycles)

An unconventional way to cross Berlin: e-scooters

On the streets you'll notice this kind of ride more and more often: e-scooters. Especially for short distances, this comfortable electronic means transportation will get you where you want to be in no time at all. Jump onto one of these e-scooter services:

  • Cierc
  • Tier
  • Bird
  • Lime
  • Voi

Italian vespa vibes amidst Berlin

  • Emmy: Check the app to see where your next Emmy is. The pricing model is based on the user's frequency, either by kilometre or by minute. You just want to cruise the city once in a while? Then your rate will be calculated differently than for heavy users. Even better: There’s a daily upper limit!
  • Coup: Now part of Tier, you can rent a coup scooter for 21 cents a minute with a minimum rental time of 10 minutes.

Convenience Ride: Car

Grab your backpack and comfortable shoes: Time to discover the woods and waters in Berlin’s surroundings. With Berlin's wide network of public transportation, you can also easily reach the Spreewald by train. Truth to be told, from time to time you might feel at ease and don’t want to depend on public transport. Just grab a CarSharing and get going!

  • WeShare: The car sharing service from Volkswagen gives you the ultimate comfort. With a flat rate of 0.19EUR per minute, you can take a ride with a car.
  • Miles: Prefer to pay per kilometer? Miles offers you convenient pricing rates!

Transportation won’t be your issue

As of now, public transportation from Berlin is a challenge of the past. Promise: The capital's public network connects just about every corner of the city without creating confusion.

Before you move to Berlin, you might want to make sure that your apartment has easy access to your personal hotspots in the city and that there's a bus, train or tram near your new home. Also, try to find accommodation within the S-Bahn ring if you’re into the nightlife.

To find your way around the city, you've got the means to do so: public transport is likely to be your constant companion, though you can easily share bicycles, e-scooters, Vespas or cars in the city.

The BVG app from the Berlin railway service will find the most efficient route for you and - unless you are an enrolled student - you can even draw and validate a ticket on it. Now it's your turn to avail of your opportunities and discover Berlin!

Ready for your adventure?