Getting Around in Berlin
Berlin is a huge, cosmopolitan city with excellent public transport networks and roads. Expats will find that they can get just about anywhere relatively quickly and efficiently, although they should be prepared to get caught in traffic and crowds at peak times.
Most Berlin residents do not find it necessary to own a car. Traffic can be terrible during peak times and parking expensive and extremely difficult to find. Even those that do have a car more than likely opt to use public transport to commute to and from work on a daily basis.
Public transport in Berlin
All modes of public transport in Berlin are interconnected and use a common ticket, with prices varying according to how many zones one travels through. There are a number of ticket options for tourists and commuters, which are very reasonable.
Commuters can buy tickets from vending machines at U- and S-Bahn stations, and then validate the tickets once they climb aboard a bus or train. Both types of trains run all night on weekends and on holidays, but not from 1am to 4.30am on weekdays.
The bus system is extensive and using buses is a good way to travel to any part in the city that is not close to an S-Bahn or U-Bahn station.
Expats can use the same tickets bought at S-Bahn or U-Bahn stations on the trains as long as they are valid within the zone they are travelling in. Simply validate the ticket at the machine inside the doors of the bus (or train).
U-Bahn (underground trains)
The U-Bahn is Berlin’s underground metro system, which functions with characteristic German precision. Commuters can get detailed maps and tickets at all U-Bahn stations (marked by a big blue “U” symbol).
The frequency of U-Bahn services depends on the time of day and the line on which one is travelling. Expats are advised to consult a schedule when planning their journey.
S-Bahn (suburban trains)
The S-Bahn is the quickest way to get to an entirely different area of the city. Lines run in a mostly east to west direction in the city centre, and there is another line that goes in a circle around the whole city. Expats can find maps on the S-Bahn website or at stations.
The tram system was demolished in West Berlin but remains in East Berlin, and is a fun way to get around the area. Tram maps can be found in S-Bahn and U-Bahn stations, and passengers can buy tickets on the tram.
Taxis in Berlin
Taxis are plentiful in Berlin and they are cheaper than many other large European capitals. Most drivers speak English and are generally helpful.
Expats can either flag one down in the street or find a taxistand (taxi rank). While taxis are easy to find in Berlin's city centre, if travelling to or from the suburbs it is best to pre-book a vehicle ahead of time.
Travelling by taxi can be useful late at night, and it becomes a cost-effective method of transport if a single vehicle is shared by a group of people travelling in the same direction.
Cycling in Berlin
There is over 620 miles (1,000km) of bike paths, dedicated bike lanes and combination foot/cyclist paths across Berlin, and many locals find that getting around Berlin by bicycle is a cheap, healthy and feasible way to travel.
Berlin is largely flat and cycling is a pleasant experience, as most drivers are aware of the large numbers of cyclists on the roads and are accordingly cautious.
Expats who wish to cycle in Berlin will find that there are plenty of places where they can hire a bike. Alternatively, it is also possible to buy a second-hand bicycle quite cheaply.
While it is not compulsory, expats are advised to wear a helmet at all times while cycling in Berlin.
Getting around Berlin on foot
Often the best way to explore the centre of Berlin is on foot, and walking is sometimes the fastest way to travel short distances in the city.
While there are plenty of pavements available for pedestrians, be careful not to mistake them for the red-brick cycling paths, which are for cyclists only.
Jaywalking is illegal and most pedestrians in Berlin stick to the rules.
Driving in Berlin
As in any large, bustling city, driving in Berlin can be more trouble than it is worth at peak times or through busy areas where parking is scarce. That said, the road networks have been expanded and streamlined over the course of the city’s long history and driving is for the most part a straightforward experience.
Drivers in Berlin tend to obey traffic laws and give way to pedestrians and cyclists, although in peak times the sheer number of cars and traffic light intersections in the city will inevitably cause congestion. That said, be prepared for the Germans’ famous love of speed on motorways.
Expats moving into inner-city areas or areas with metered parking on the streets can apply for a resident's permit to be exempt from the fees.
All expats can drive in Germany for six months after relocating. Thereafter, it depends on a person's nationality: EU licences are valid in Germany, while American, Canadian and South African expats will need to exchange their licence for a German one. Expats from other countries will need to apply for a licence from scratch and take both written and practical tests.