Tickets for public transportation in Berlin are relatively cheap but for the best savings buy special discount travel passes or cards for bus, tram, and train rides.
Tickets for Berlin’s excellent public transportation system may be bought on buses or from vending machines when using trams or trains (S-Bahn and U-Bahn). Most tourists in Berlin will find the best value and savings when using day tickets, travel cards, and special discount transportation passes. Families should consider various ticket versions – the most logical travel card is not necessarily the cheapest option when traveling with children.
Tickets for Berlin’s Buses, Trams, and Trains
The most complicated part of using Berlin’s excellent public transportation system is probably deciding which ticket to buy. Over 30 types of tickets and travel passes are sold, which are furthermore usually available in two to seven different zone versions, while many people qualify for the discounted version of the same tickets.
Fortunately, tourists to Berlin need not consider the most detailed complexities of the ticket system of Berlin’s public transportation system. However, visitors have to decide which tariff zone the ticket should cover and whether to buy individual tickets, day travel cards, or tourist discount passes.
Tariff Zones and Berlin’s Public Transportation System
Berlin is divided into three basic tariff zones for public transportation ticket purposes. For tourists to Berlin, only zones AB and ABC are generally of interest.
Almost all the major sightseeing spots in Berlin are in the AB zone, which covers the center of Berlin as well as travel to Tegel Airport (TXL). Zone ABC covers the whole of Berlin as well as some outlying places including Berlin-Schönefeld Airport (SXF), eventually the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER), Potsdam, and Oranienburg (Sachsenhausen).
Buying Cheap Bus, Tram, and Train Tickets in Berlin
Berlin’s public transportation system is very comprehensive and tickets are relatively cheap, especially when travel cards or passes are used. Ticket prices are the same irrespective of where a ticket is purchased or the method of payment.
Bus tickets may be bought directly from the driver, from various transportation offices, or at major stops from vending machines, which are multilingual but frustratingly fickle and slow. U-Bahn and S-Bahn train stations often have only vending machines and no ticket offices. Furthermore, tickets cannot be bought on the U-Bahn or S-Bahn trains in Berlin.
Tickets need to be validated before the first use. Simply insert the ticket face up into the slot of the validating machine on buses and trams or on platforms at train stations. The validating stamp must be on the top front of the ticket, not on the back or the bottom of the ticket. Do not insert the ticket a second time into a stamp machine, except when the first stamp was in the wrong position.
Savings for Families Traveling on Berlin Buses, Trams, and Trains
Families may often save when traveling on public transportation in Berlin. Children up to six years travel free with adults – usually up to three children are allowed per adult. Children six to 14 years (and dogs!) pay the reduced fare (Ermäßigungstarif), which is around a third less than the standard ticket price.
The German capital has a great public transportation system with Berlin’s double-decker buses offering particularly good views of the city’s top sights.