Berlin and the surrounding areas are divided into three fare zones (A, B and C). Tickets are available for two fare zones (AB or AC) or the entire fare zone (ABC).
Timetables, routes and maps can be downloaded here (in English).
If you are registered as a doctoral candidate at Freie Universität Berlin and have paid the semester fee, you will automatically receive a student ID which counts as your BVG-ticket and entitles you to use the local public transportation free of charge.
For the Berlin public transportation network (BVG) regular tickets can be purchased at ticket vending machines at the stops, train stations, in streetcars or directly from the bus driver. After purchasing your ticket, it must be validated by inserting it into the stamp machine located next to ticket vending machines.
Depending on your destination, the number of persons accompanying you, and the duration, you have different options for tickets. In the following passage, you will find a short overview on available tickets.
After validating your ticket it can used on the trains and buses for 2 hours transferring as often as you wish as long as the direction of your travel remains the same.
Please note: If you want to take a bike with you, you have to buy an additional ticket for it.
Within the entire public transportation network “short distances” are defined as follows: 3 stations with the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, and regional trains or 6 stops by bus or streetcar. Only train-to-train transfers are allowed. If you want to take a bike with you, you have to buy an additional ticket for it. The ticket costs € 1.30 (bike € 1.00).
If you move around in Berlin a whole day using public transport, you can buy a day ticket which allows you to travel around by bus, streetcar, U-Bahn, S-Bahn and regional trains within Berlin until 03:00 a.m. the day after validation.
Visitors who stay longer than a month in Berlin and often use public transport are advised to purchase a monthly pass (Monatskarte). This is more effective and less expensive than buying single tickets. You can purchase the monthly pass either monthly or make a yearly subscription which is cheaper as it costs the price of 10 months. If you pay the amount for a whole year at once, you get another discount. You can apply for subscription at the main train stations (Hauptbahnhof, Alexanderplatz, Zoologischer Garten, Ostbahnhof).
Standard (price per month):
Reduced rate if you pay only once for a whole year:
Tourist Ticktes are available at Berlin’s tourist information offices and at the ticket counters of Berlin’s transportation authority (BVG). The tickets have to be validated at the beginning of your trip and are not transferable after validation.
If you purchase the Berlin CityTourCard you can travel free of charge for 48 hours, 72 hours or 5 days using all public transport services within Berlin’s fare zones. It also gives discounts on about 50 tourist highlights in the city. The Berlin CityTourCard comes with a brochure containing an inner city map together with a map of the public transportation network.
If you purchase the Berlin WelcomeCard you can travel free of charge within Berlin’s public transportation network and get up to 50% discount on more than 130 highlights in Berlin. It comes with a city map, a map of the public transportation network and a guide.
Berlin is ideal for cycling. Nearly all big streets are featured with a bicycle lane. There are also lots of nice bicycle paths along the many waterways in the city and on the outskirts. But caution is needed especially on streets without bicycle lanes and in the dark. Reflectors and helmets are recommended. Generally, it is possible to take your bike with you in the subway and the regional trains. Please note that you have to buy an extra ticket for your bike.
The German bicycle club in Berlin provides information about cycling, travel guides and route descriptions, maps, tours, and equipment. You can find a wide selection of maps and travel guides as well as coffee corners at Berlin's many bookstores.
Taxi cabs have a pale yellow color. You can stop one on the street if the light on the cab’s roof is lit or go to the nearest taxi stand. A taxi ride is relatively expensive in Germany. Therefore, taking a taxi might only make sense in exceptional cases, e.g. if you miss the last train or bus at night or if you have a lot of luggage with you. Here are some Berlin Taxi companies:
*The short distance rate is only available if you stop a taxi on the street. It is not valid when calling a taxi by phone or getting into a taxi at a taxi stand. Furthermore, you have to tell the driver beforehand that you want to use this rate. If the distance exceeds 2 km, the rate will automatically switch to the normal rate.
Unless you bring your own car with you, you should consider whether it is worth incurring the rather high costs involved in buying a car in Germany, particularly if you come alone. For stays of up to six months, bringing your own car causes practically no problems as regards to the validity of your driver’s license or, if you drive a car registered abroad, car documents and German registration regulations, motor vehicle tax, and third-party insurance. If you stay longer, you must deal with time-consuming and expensive bureaucratic hurdles to comply with the regulations concerning driver’s license, car registration, motor vehicle tax, and insurance. So you should consider whether you really need a car in Germany very carefully.
This is quite a cheap way to travel in Germany and it is therefore relatively popular among young people. If you own a car and know when you are going to take a certain trip, you can offer a lift to other people going to the same destination and they pay you some money for the gas. On the other hand, you can look for someone going to the same destination and catch a lift with that person. Usually, you pay about € 5 per 100 kilometres.
You either advertise your offer or you search for one on the following websites:
For all information contact the Driver's Licensing Department (Führerscheinbüro)
License holders from an EU or EEA country can use their home license in Germany permanently. Only drivers with less than two years’ experience must register with the driver’s licensing department.
For other foreigners their driver’s license is valid for six months once they have registered with the local authorities but may need a translation. The automobile club (ADAC) or a certified translator will do this; cost is around € 50. You may prolong this period up to a year at the licensing department prior to expiration of the six months, if you can prove that you will leave the country permanently within twelve months.
If you intend to stay longer than twelve months, a German license is required. The process should be started early, since the paperwork itself can take two months. It might be that you have to pass the German driving test with a practical and a theoretical part (traffic rules), which can be done in other languages as well.
Please bring the documents with you:
You can bring your own car to Germany free of customs duties if you have lived abroad for at least one year and used the car abroad for at least six months and if it is used for personal needs only and re-exported later. For stays of less than one year, an international or foreign car registration certificate (with a German translation) is sufficient.
If you buy a car, either new or second-hand, from a dealer in Germany it will be registered for you by the dealer. New cars only have to be tested by the Technical Control Board (Technischer Überwachungsverein, TÜV) three years after the date of registration. Used cars bought from dealers bear a TÜV sticker valid for two years. If you buy a second-hand car privately, you must register it yourself immediately. Check when the next main TÜV test is due because it can be expensive to repair defects discovered by the test. We strongly recommend you to obtain expert advice before making a purchase.
If your stay in Germany is not only temporary (a stay of more than one year will be considered as “not temporary”) your car must be registered at the Motor Vehicle Registration Office (Kraftfahrzeug-Zulassungsstelle) at your place of residence in Germany. Prior to registration, the Technical Control Board must check whether your type of car is basically eligible for licensing in Germany. Furthermore, your car will be tested for safety defects. The annual special exhaust emission test (Abgasuntersuchung, ASU) is also carried out by the Technical Control Board. When approved, you are issued the TÜV certificate which is valid for two years and required for registration.
You must present the following documents at the registration office:
At the registration office you complete an application for allocation of German number plates and issue of a car ownership certificate. If no difficulties arise, you will be given a registration number and a certificate to be taken to a nearby shop issuing authorized number plates. With the number plates you return to the registration office to collect your German car documents.
Fees are payable at both the Technical Control Board and the registration office. In addition, you must buy the number plates.
Before you can register a car in Germany, you must have proof of coverage for all damages or injuries to another person, car, or object by an insurance company. Contact an insurance company before you first pick up the car, you need insurance coverage for the trip to the registration office (Versicherungsdoppelkarte).
For a stay of up to one year you are not required to take out a German car insurance policy if you possess an international “green insurance certificate” or if your car has a registration number from one of the following countries: EU member-countries, Greenland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, the Vatican.
For stays exceeding one year, i.e. when your car must be registered in Germany or if you buy a car here, you must take out a third-party insurance policy with an insurance company in Germany. If appropriate, you should submit a no-claims certificate from your own insurance company at home. Depending on the no-claims duration, premiums can be reduced considerably (by up to 65% of the normal rate).
You would usually get a basic insurance that covers damages caused by the driver of your car but not self-caused damages on your own car (Teilkaskoversicherung). There is also the possibility to have comprehensive coverage including collision, covering all damages or injuries done to your own car, another car, or a person or object (Vollkaskoversicherung). As this insurance is much more expensive than the basic coverage, it is generally only advisable for new cars or very expensive cars.
A foreign-registered car is not subject to taxation provided the driver is a foreign national residing in Germany for less than one year, and the car has been imported and is used for personal needs.
Otherwise you must pay motor vehicle tax. The amount of tax is charged according to the cubic capacity and the emission of the respective car. The tax has to be paid for one year ahead and fiscal authorities will get in contact with you in due time. If you return to your home country before the end of a tax year, the tax paid in advance will be refunded proportionally.
There is no general speed limit on German motorways, however in many sections the maximum speed is limited by traffic signs and the following basic rules apply:
Near pedestrian precincts in the city center and residential zones, there is often a maximum speed limit of 30 km/h.
Here you can find information about German Traffic Signs and Signals.
Vehicles without an environmental badge may not pass through the environmental zone. In Berlin the whole area within the S-Bahn circle i.e. the whole city center is classified as the green environmental zone. That means that every vehicle - no matter whether registered in Germany or in another country – needs to display an environmental badge (Umweltplakette) which dan be ordered online.
For the procedure copies of all registration documents of the vehicle are required. For vehicles registered within the EU, this service is offered for € 29.99, for vehicles registered in other countries the price is € 39.90.
You can also purchase the environmental badge in Germany at the vehicle registration office (Kraftfahrzeug-Zulassungsbehörde), the engineers’ associations, such as the Technical Inspection Authority or DEKRA, and at all agencies in Germany licensed to do an emission’s inspection (Emissions-Inspektion).
Drunk-driving in Germany is heavily punished, possibly with revoking the driver’s license. With the blood alcohol level of 0.5 per mill or 0.25 mg/l “breath alcohol level” (Atemalkoholwert), you will incur a penalty. Above 0.8 per mill, you will lose your driver’s license for several months. Even below the limit of 0.5 per mill you can be punished if you have been caught in combination with other offences.
In case of an accident, it is absolutely necessary to stay at the scene of accident until the police arrive. A hit and run offence will be heavily punished. Insist on the police coming to the scene. In order to have your personal liability insurance pay for the damage, the accident has to be recorded by the police. Do not sign a promissory note. Inform your insurance company immediately. If the accidental damage exceeds € 3,000, the police must be called.
This is a “must have,” if you travel abroad. It can be bought at the STA travel shop on Taku Street near the university campus and is valid for 15 months. On presentation of the card, you benefit from discounts in museums, theaters, and some hotels. The fee for the card also includes an international travel insurance for the duration of the trip.
If you travel abroad, you should make sure that your health insurance covers the medical costs in case of illness in the respective country.
For members of a statutory (public) health insurance company, the European Social Security Agreement (Europäisches Sozialversicherungsabkommen) provides basic health care to the extent regularly covered by the respective national health system in the entire EU and some neighbouring countries: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iceland, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Macedonia, Norway, Switzerland, Serbia and Montenegro, Tunisia, and Turkey. As a rule, return transport in cases of severe illness is not included.
More information on the countries included in this scheme can be found here.
Starting 2008 insurance cards issued by insurance companies already include this European protection (European Health Insurance Card) and you do not have to take further action when travelling. Holders of older cards must either apply for a new card or contact their insurer for the E 111 form prior to departure.
For members of private health insurances, protection for trips abroad is sometimes – but not necessarily – included, depending on the company and the rate chosen. Please read your contract carefully before travelling abroad.
Depending on the country to be visited and the extent of protection provided by your regular health insurance, it might be advisable to take out an additional health insurance for travelling abroad. An international health insurance is generally valid for all foreign countries except your home country. Most banks provide this type of insurance, and also e.g. the Automobile Club of Germany (ADAC):
The contract is normally concluded for one year, however, single trips abroad must not exceed 45 days respectively. Rates vary between € 12 and € 40 a year.
If you plan to stay abroad for more than 45 days, e.g. as part of your research project, you require a special type of health insurance for long term stays abroad. Most private insurance companies offer this type of health insurance, but also ADAC.
When you are travelling to countries that have joined the so called Schengen Agreement, you do not have to apply for a special visa – provided you have a valid residence permit for Germany. Currently, these countries are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
For all other countries, you require a travel visa which you should apply for well in advance before your trip. Check the visa requirements at the respective consulate.
If you invite a family member or a friend to Germany, you should take out a health insurance for the guest. In some cases, this is even required by the Embassy or the foreigners’ registration office issuing a visa. Insurances are offered by private insurance companies or automobile clubs.
Tourists who live in a non-member state of the EU can be refunded the value added tax (currently 19%) when leaving Germany. The amount of VAT has to be specified on the receipt. The amount in question is paid back at the airport. A student has a residency status and will therefore not be considered a tourist, so do not waste time standing in line to get back the VAT.
Using the German railway system is highly recommended. It is efficient, mostly reliable and can take you almost anywhere in Germany with connections to European destinations. Individual enquiries regarding connections and rates can be made online. You can save money by comparing different rates or making use of special discounts when booking early.
The BahnCard is purchased for one year and provides a discount on the regular train fares. There are two versions:
With the Schönes-Wochenend-Ticket (Happy Weekend Ticket) up to 5 persons can travel together on either Saturdays or Sundays from noon until 3:00 a.m. of the following day. It is only € 37 if you buy your ticket online or at the ticket vending machines, it is slightly more expensive at ticket counters. The Happy Weekend Ticket is only valid for regular trains, not for express trains (ICE, IC).
The Länderticket (ticket for each federal state) is valid for one day of your choice (Mondays through Fridays from 9.00 a.m. until 3.00 a.m. of the following day, Saturdays and Sundays from noon until 03:00 a.m. of the following day) on all local and regional trains including the subway. They are not restricted to certain transportation networks but to the borders of the respective Bundesland (federal state). The federal states of Berlin and Brandenburg have a joint Länderticket which costs € 26. Ländertickets in most states can be either bought for a single person or for groups. In the latter case the group size must not exceed 5 persons. If your train ride goes beyond the border of the respective state, then you have to buy another ticket.
After having registered at the website Deutsche Bahn, you can book your train tickets online and directly print them on your printer or have them sent home to you.
When you print your ticket online, you will be asked to also register either BahnCard or credit card, which will serve as your ID on the train. Do remember to take this ID with you on the trip as the online ticket is only valid in combination with it.
Throughout Germany, there are about 3,000 touch screen ticket vending machines at almost every train station. They offer tickets, timetable information, and seat reservations in self service even a few minutes prior to departure. This service is offered in five languages apart from English. You may pay either in cash, with credit card, or EC card.
The service staff at the ticket counters at train stations sells train tickets and gives you personal advice. You can purchase national and international tickets, receive timetable information, and make seat reservations. For train tickets bought at ticket counters, a service fee of € 2 is added to the ticket price.
You may purchase your tickets on board the long distance trains (IC or ICE fast trains). Train attendants sell tickets for an extra charge. You may pay cash or by credit card. In local and regional trains there is no possibility to buy a ticket from the train attendants.
More and more bus companies offer connections between German and European cities.You can check the timetable, fare information and book almost all connections at Berlin Linien Bus which connects Berlin with more than 350 destinations in Germany and Europe. The overall network consists at the moment of about 30 national and 25 international bus routes. Almost all long distance buses depart and arrive at the central bus station (Zentraler Omnibus Bahnhof - ZOB).
Berlin's two airports, Tegel International Airport (TXL) and Schönefeld International Airport (SXF) together serve 144 destinations, 124 of them in Europe. Tegel lies in the north of the city and within city limits. Schönefeld is situated just outside Berlin’s south-eastern border in the state of Brandenburg. Berlin’s airport authority aims to transfer all of Berlin’s air traffic in November 2011 to a newly built airport at Schönefeld. Flights within Europe can be quite cheap, so checking and comparing offers is worthwhile.
There are a number of airlines that operate national and international routes: