The sound of the underground…
We arrived in Berlin during the summer – a perfect time to be outdoors cycling or walking. However with only four days in two months without guests, we had no time to wander around our local area, let alone buy bikes. So we did the normal thing you do in London: we bought daily travel cards and discovered this fabulous city. If only we’d known how many options there are for buying train tickets in Berlin – we would have saved so much money and since we love you all so much, we are going to share what we have learnt.
Tickets can be used on the U-Bahn (underground), S-Bahn (overground), trams and buses. Berlin is split into zones AB and C – as tourists zones A and B should suffice unless you are going to Potsdam for the day.
The most important question is: how many are in your group?
1 person: Are you taking more than three trips in one day? If not – grab 4 Einzelfahrkarten – single tickets (€9 for four). This is much cheaper than a daily pass and if you are going in one direction but stopping off for a short time, you can use the same ticket for two hours – so this is a great way of saving some cash! Plus you don’t need to use them on the same day – perfect for keeping a couple in your wallet for future trips. This also saves a load of time buying tickets, as the machines are so unbelievably slow…
2 people staying for over a month: Jason and I buy one monthly pass (€79.50) and share it. The major bonus of this ticket is that you can take another person along with you for free all weekend and after 8pm on weekdays.
3-5 people: Group Tickets!! Up to five people can travel on one ticket – much much much cheaper than buying a load of daily tickets. Wish we had known this when we arrived in Berlin, as even with three people it’s worth it!!
What’s that? You want some more advice?
If you are going just three stops or less, get the €1.60 Kurzstrecke – a ticket for short journeys, also valid for two hours after stamping your ticket.
If you are sticking around, grab an annual pass – you get 2 months for free, but it has your photo on it so no sharing possible. This ticket also gives you the possibility to take someone along with you for free after 8pm on weekdays and all weekend.
Are you a student? You get FREE travel included with being an officially registered student – this is an amazing deal and you can even travel all over Brandenburg too. It’s such a good deal that I’ve thought about becoming a student and dropping out, just for the freebie 😉
OR… You can just risk it and do the ‘Berlin thing’ called Schwarzfahren – basically it means ‘travel black’, ie: without a ticket. There is no ticket barrier into or out of any of the stations and no staff on the platforms to check your tickets. Instead, plain-clothes ticket inspectors will hop onto an unsuspecting carriage at the last minute and shout out ‘tickets please’ as the doors close – so there’s no escape. The current fine is just €60 and if I’m totally honest we would have saved money by getting caught a few times instead of buying a ticket every time we travel, but the stress isn’t my thing. I wouldn’t recommend Schwarzfahren, but everytime we see ticket inspectors randomly jump into the carriages, at least one or two people are caught, so it seems a pretty normal way to save some money. I have never been checked on a bus and the bus drivers don’t even bother to look at the passengers getting on the bus, let alone the date on your ticket.
A final word of warning – stamp those tickets!! If you forget to push your ticket into the yellow date/time machines dotted over the platforms, then you might as well not bother buying a ticket in the first place, as you will still get fined.
I feel like Berlin isn’t the easiest city to navigate – the exits are not normally clearly marked and the station names could really be posted more often on the stations, so keep your eyes open. I’ve found the BVG App really helps to get me around the city with up-to-date information, including any possible strikes or line closures. Do check before you travel, as there are often lines closed for refurbishment or drivers striking. Also, the ticket machines have the option of changing the language, so no need to brush up on the Bahnhof lingo.
I hope this is useful – we wasted so much money before we realised how to travel cheaply over here – after all, the more money you save, the more money you can spend on sausages!!!