Berlin is big. Very big. While it’s a pleasure to stroll around much of it (there are under four million people here, so it never feels massively crowded like London or Manhattan), there’s also an excellent and well-integrated transport system that includes the U-Bahn (underground rail), buses, trams, S-Bahn (suburban rail) and ferries.
Using this system you can pretty much get anywhere in the city 24 hours a day and certainly to any sights or attractions easily and cheaply. There are maps everywhere and the system is easy to use.
BVG, the main operator, has an information kiosk (Hardenbergplatz; 6am-10pm) outside Zoo station, where you can get free route network maps as well as tickets. Or call the 24-hour hotline (030 19 449) or book online at the BVG website (www.bvg.de).
You can usually find a Reisezentrum (Travel Centre) inside most train stations, for info on S-Bahn, RE and RB connections. If stuck call 030 11 861 or 0800-150 7090 or go online at www.bahn.de.
Getting around by S-Bahn
The S-Bahn is often the fastest way to cover long distances. To figure out in which direction a train is going, check the name of the final destination on the sign hanging above the track. There are three main S-Bahn lines in central Berlin:
The Cross-Town runs east and west across the middle of Berlin, passing through stations such as Zoo and Alexanderplatz, and is commonly traveled by visitors. It connects former East and West Berlin, as well as the main international train stations. It also stops near most of Berlin’s major museums and attractions.
The Outer Ring encircles the city centre (Zone A), and is an important link between outer districts like Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain.
The North-South express is rarely used by visitors, but the S1 train is the one to take to get to Potsdam, or to KZ Sachsenhausen (direction: Oranienburg).
The S-Bahn system runs until 1:30am on weeknights and 24 hours on weekends.
Getting around by U-Bahn
This is the easiest way to move around town, since you can get into most areas of the city using one or both of these services. There are three tariff zones: Zone A, surrounded by the S-Bahn ring, covers the city centre; Zone B ends at the city limits of Berlin; Zone C encompasses nearby surrounding areas (like Schönefeld Airport, Potsdam and Oranienburg).
Combined tickets for AB, BC or ABC are available from the machines at the stations. Normal tariffs are valid for adults, the reduced tariff for children from six up to and including 14 years. Children under six don’t require a ticket.
The best way to buy your tickets is at one of the many BVG and S-Bahn sales centres or from the machines at the station. The machines are open around the clock and can be translated into English (as well as other languages including French, Spanish, Turkish and Polish). Free maps of the network are available at most stations, hotels and airports.
U-Bahn trains run until 12:30am on weeknights, and most lines run 24 hours on weekends. The U2 is commonly travelled by visitors as it connects Zoologischer Garten, the skyscrapers of Potsdamer Platz, the Friedrichstraße shopping boulevard, and the popular nightlife district, Prenzlauer Berg.
Ticket prices range from 2.10 euros for an einzelfahrschein (single ticket) - one journey, valid for two hours - to 5.80 euros for a tageskarte (day ticket), which is valid all day until 3am. If you’re just going a couple of stops (up to three), buy a kurzstrecke (short trip ticket) for 1.20 euros. Other group and tourist tickets are also available.
Getting around by bus
Buses are also regular and efficient. There are seven MetroBus lines (which run 24 hours) and 196 regular bus lines, including 65 that run every 30 minutes throughout the night. Tip: the number 100 and 200 drive past many famous Berlin sights en route from Zoologischer Garten to Alexanderplatz, so are a cheap alternative to a sightseeing tour.
Berlin has almost 7000 taxis. You can usually find them easily on the street (in the central areas), or call one in advance. The yellow light on the top shows the cab is available, so you can flag them down - or find a taxi rank. If you're not going far - under 2km - ask for a kurzstrecke (short trip), though this is only applicable if you hail one from the street. Most drivers speak enough English to get you to your destination without much problem.
Tourist travel passes
The 14.80 euros kleingruppenkarte (small group ticket) is a day ticket for five people. For tourist cards try the CityTourCard 48 (14.90 euros) which gives unlimited travel in zones A and B for 48 hours, or the CityTourCard 72 (19.90 euros), which gives the same thing for 72 hours.
VisitBerlin.de also have a Welcome Card, which lets you combine free admission to all of the attractions at (UNESCO World Heritage Site) Museum Island with 72 hours of travel around Zones A and B (31.50 euros) and other offers.
Zille tourist buses
If you’d like to experience Berlin with a spot of nostalgia, try the Zille buses, which were a hallmark of Berlin city life from 1916 to 1928. These three buses have been decorated in the style of the 'Golden Twenties' - a driver in period uniform will chauffeur you around the most beautiful parts of Berlin. For a 50-minute ride it costs €5 for an adult and is free for children up to 10-years-old. Tickets can be bought on the bus and at ticket machines on the underground (www.bvg.de).