Getting around: Public transport in Munich

Bas

Sep 18 • 5 minute read

Munich is a beautiful place, with an even more beautiful public transport system. It’s well connected with timely and frequent departures. So let’s take a look at how it works, so you can explore Munich as soon as you arrive from the airport!

general tips

- Find a place close to the U-Bahn or S Bahn In all major cities, the U-Bahn metro lines and the S-bahn train systems are the arteries that connect the various districts of the city, and Munich is no exception! So, in order to make sure you won’t spend extra money by living close to whatever district your new place of education or employment is based (unless this is what you want, of course), making sure you have ready access to transportation means you can live in a cheaper district and still be on time for class or work every day! How do you check? More on that in the next tip.

- Digitally scout ahead around your new place Before you find your new home away from home in Munich, you need to know what kind of neighbourhood you want to live in and, more importantly, which districts are great for your housing budget. So, if you spot an appealing place while browsing our extensive list of apartments, rooms or studios in Munich, hop on Google Maps and make sure you use the following queries:

  • ‘Public transport near < address >’ this will highlight all public transport nodes, like bus-stop and U-bahn stations near your intended (or current) address.
  • ‘Supermarkets near < address >’ Do you see the pattern? Use queries like this to check for whatever facilities you will need close at hand while starting your new life in Munich.
  • ‘Where can I have lunch near me’ Another variation of the query above, but great when you‘re out in the wild, exploring Munich. Google maps will use your GPS position to help you find whatever it is you’d like to do, from finding the nearest S-Bahn station to checking where you can find a nice ice cream parlour in the summer.

- Install the most useful travel apps on your phone. Lucky you! The Münchner Verkehrs- und Tarifverbund GmbH (MVV), the people running the show in Munich’s public transport have their own free app that allows you to plan your journeys, check departure times, check delays and disruptions and as of recently, allow you to purchase virtual tickets. Unfortunately, as of late 2020, the reviews of the app aren’t very good. So, make sure you download the app but check with your employer (HR could help you) or school to make sure you set up your virtual subscription (if you have a set commute) properly, to avoid getting a €60 euro fine for travelling without a valid ticket. The app is available for iPhone and Android. If you’re running into issues using the MVV app, the popular Öffi app (Reviews say the locals love this app!) is a good alternative, although it doesn’t offer virtual tickets.

Tickets and transport zones in Munich

If you’re not using the app for the virtual tickets, chances are your ticket will be not much more than a piece of paper. Yep, even your longer-term tickets are a piece of paper that could easily be snatched by the wind, so be careful! Also, make sure you always bring your ID when you’re on public transport, in case you get checked by a ticket inspector.

Munich has 7 different transport zones, but if you’re in or near the city centre, the large M zone is the most important. If you’re moving to- or from the Airport, you’ll be going into zone 5, for example. Actually, seeing is believing, so check out this map of the different zones, and try not to be too intimidated, it’s simpler than it looks.

Since you’ll probably be staying for a semester or the duration of your contract, a weekly or monthly ISARcard will be the best and most affordable option for you, if you regularly use public transport to get around Munich. For students, the ISARcard is also available as a semester card. Thankfully for you, the MVV has a handy zone calculator for the ISAR card, showing you exactly how many zones you’re traversing and how much money you’ll save. So, enter your point of departure, such as the closes S-Bahn station, and your destination, the closes bus stop to work, and the calculator will work its magic!

If your use of public transport is more sporadic, a one-way or day ticket might be more down your alley. You can buy these at pretty much any ticket machine in Munich. Oh, if you’re using a day-ticket, make sure you validate them at the validation machines on any platform.

S-Bahn

The Munich S-Bahn, active since the ‘70s is the train system that connects Munich and its districts with outlying towns. IT services over 150 stations over 8 S-lines, carrying over 850.000 people a day! On weekdays, most trains run until 1 AM, and start up again in the morning as early as 4 AM. On Fridays, Saturdays and the nights before public holidays, trains are available all night. The only exception is the connection to Munich airport, which runs 24/7.

S-Bahn Frequency:

The S-Bahn trains are available every 20 minutes, down to every 10 minutes during peak hours. For the more outlying stations, the times might be different, with less frequent trains and wait times between 20-40 minutes.

U-bahn

The Munich U-Bahn is the city’s underground metro system made up of lines U1 through U8 (only U5 and U6 have sections that are above ground). It has close to 100 stops and runs from 4 in the morning up until 1 AM on weekdays. On weekends, the lines run until 2 AM, with exceptions for special holidays like new year’s eve.

U-Bahn frequency

Most U-lines will see a train at intervals of every 5 minutes during peak hours, but because some lines overlap, you can find a train to your destination as often as every 2 minutes during peak hours. Outside peak hours and in the evening your wait can increase to up to 20 minutes, so be sure to check your travel planner! Due to its frequency and availability, the U-Bahn is probably the most flexible way to get around Munich over medium to long distances.

Bus & Trolley system

In the northern part of the city, you’ll find Munich’s famous bus and trolley tram system! The Munich tram network is made up of 14 daytime routes and four-night routes servicing over 173 stops. With that many bus- and tram stops, this system is ideal if you need to get somewhere in the city with pin-point accuracy! So, get to the right district using the U-Bahn and then hop on a tram on bus to take you within a few minutes of your destination!

Bus and tram frequency

The 13 daytime tram lines operate from 4:45 am to 1:30 am, departing every 10-20 minutes and the 4 additional nighttime routes run daily from 1:30 am to 4:30 am at a much-reduced frequency. The Munich buses follow a similar schedule, operating between 5:00 am and 1:00 AM, with night buses covering the main arterial routes outside regular hours.

In short

So, now you know what options you have to make your way around Munich. Let's summarise:

  • For longer trips between towns or across districts: The S-Bahn train line is your best option!
  • For medium- to long trips across Munich itself: The U-Bahn metro line is a great option to move around the city in no-time.
  • Bad weather, or need to get close to a specific area? Hop on one of the many buses or trams, to get within a few streets of your destination. Buses and trams also have an excellent night schedule to get you home from your party!

Couple this with a monthly or annual ticket for the lines your travel most, and you're all set to navigate Munich, even as an expat fresh from the airport!

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