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Public transportation in Berlin Part 1

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

At first sight Berlin's public transportation network can seem quite overwhelming:

24 different train lines with 301 stations over- and underground, 22 Tram lines on the streets and 149 bus lines to finish it all off – Berlin's network is large.

But once you get used to how it runs it will become invaluable during your stay!

So how does it work?

No matter what kind of transportation you use, you will always only need one ticket, be it in the bus, the tram or any of the trains.

More important are the questions where and how long you use your ticket.

The whole network is split up into three different zones: A, B and C.

The A zone is the whole center of the city surrounded by the circle line, including this important line as well.

The B zone consists of the outskirts of Berlin, including the Tegel airport.

The C zone is the surrounding area of Berlin, including the Schönefeld airport, the city of Potsdam and the town of Oranienburg with the former concentration camp Sachsenhausen.

Berlin public transportation zones

Tickets always cover either two zones (AB or BC) or all three zones together (ABC).

Since BC tickets will not be relevant for the vast majority of all visitors I will not explain them any further.

When it comes to the type of ticket you have quite a number of different tickets to choose from.

Let's list from short to long time use:

1. Short-trip tickets

These tickets for 1,90 € will allow you to ride three stops on any train or 6 stops in a bus.

As the name indicates only useful if you have to cover short distances and don't have a longer-lasting ticket.

2. Single tickets

With these standard tickets for 2,90 € (AB) or 3,60 € (ABC) you can use the whole network for up to two hours, switch between lines as often as you want, but only as long as you go in one direction. For some reason beyond my comprehension you are not allowed to use such a ticket to go back to the place where you started from, even if you could do it within the two hours!

Which means that for any trip back and forth you would already need two of those tickets. Luckily though there are other options!

3. Day tickets

As a tourist you tend to get around quite a bit during a day, so these tickets are the ideal way to explore the city. For 8,60 € (AB) or 9,60 € (ABC) you can use the public transportation network unlimited until 3am the next morning. Worth it from the third trip on during a day.

3.1 Small group day tickets

It gets even cheaper if you are in a small group like a family. For 23,50 € (AB) or 24,90 € (ABC) up to five people can use the network together until 3am the next morning just like with a normal day ticket. Worth it if you are three or more people, but the disadvantage is that you have to stay together.

4. 7-Day-Ticket

Rarely used, but a good option for people staying more than two or three days, this ticket will get you around for a full week for the price of 34,00 € (AB) or 41,00 € (ABC).

While this is of course cheaper than getting individual day tickets it is actually more expensive than buying small group cards for a full group of five people, especially if you only stay five or six days.

I also would recommend to not buy the ABC version unless you arrive and leave from Schönefeld airport, visit Potsdam and the Sachsenhausen concentration camp during your week. You'll see why in the next point.

5. Extension ticket

With this ticket for 1,70 € you can extend your other tickets to use in an additional zone.

If you buy a 7-Day-Ticket AB and want to visit Potsdam in the C zone, you buy this ticket and use them together.

But there is a catch: Just like the standard single tickets you are only allowed to use them for two hours in one direction. A visit to Potsdam would therefore require two of those tickets with a total cost of 3,40 €.

Since the 7-Day-Ticket ABC cost 7,00 € more than the AB version it normally is still cheaper to get this version together with extension tickets.

But I've kept the best for the end!

6. Welcome Cards

The Welcome Card is not only a public transportation ticket, it also gives you discounts in many places in Berlin!

Once more you can choose between AB and ABC, but the tickets duration is more flexible than with the normal tickets, flexibly ranging from 2 up to 6 days depending on your needs. Furthermore the ticket allows you to take up to three children until the age of 14 with you for free! Ideal for families of all sizes.

The tickets are more expensive than normal transportation tickets, but saving money starts when it comes to the discounts:

Museums, attractions, shows and even some restaurants will give you up to 30% of a discount with the Welcome Card! That might only be 2-3 Euros when it comes to a museum ticket, but can easily amount to a couple of dozen Euros when you want to see an opera or visit a show somewhere in Berlin.

Which means that only you can properly calculate which of those tickets might be the best for you and your itinerary.

For more detailed information, especially about the discounts, check out the website of the Welcome Card:

This covers all the ticket options you have while travelling in Berlin. If you want further information on how the system works and how to use it step by step, take a look at Part 2 published soon!

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