BERLIN - GETTING AROUND
Berlin is one of the largest and most complex cities in Europe, covering some 60 square miles. For visitors, this sprawling metropolis can be difficult to navigate and you'll definitely need to depend on public transportation. Despite the Wall being down for more than 20 years, the simplest way to understand Berlin is still to think in terms of the old boundaries of West and East. That being said, individual neighborhoods, with their grand avenues, leafy green parks and riverside promenades, are best explored on foot.
Note: When walking, try to avoid bike paths (indicated by red bricks on the pavement or white sidewalk markings) unless you want to have Berlin cyclists, known for their high speeds, ringing their bells at you.By Public Transportation
For such a large city, Berlin has an excellent and efficient public transportation network. The S-Bahn (elevated train), U-Bahn (underground), and/or bus will get you anywhere you want to go; and they all use the same fare system. Berlin is divided into three fare zones (A, B and C), but you are unlikely going beyond zone A and B, except on trips to Potsdam or to Schonefel Airport. The border between zones A and B is the S-Bahn Ring. Tickets: AB (€2.80 for a single fare) and ABC (€3.40 for a single fare). Buy your tickets at any U-Bahn or S-Bahn station and validate them in the station machines before you board; tickets are good for 2 hours. The best deal if you plan to travel around the city extensively is the Tageskarte, which is good for unlimited transportation within the zones you purchase it for. The day pass for zones AB is about €7 and zones ABC is about €7.70.
S-Bahn (light rail) train service is made up of 15 routes, which are part of three main lines going east - west, north - south, and circling around central Berlin. Some S-Bahn lines intersect with U-Bahn lines, so you can transfer from one to the other. The S-Bahn operates from 4am to 12:30am, later on the weekends. S-Bahn entrances are marked with an S in a green background. You must purchase and validate your ticket at one of the red or yellow ticket-validation machines on the platform before boarding. The S-Bahn is of particular use if you are traveling from Bahnhof Zoo in western Berlin to Mitte in eastern Berlin or southwest to Grunewald and the lakes.
U-Bahn underground trains have ten lines that run to more than 170 stations from 4am until midnight, later on the weekend. U-Bahn entrances are marked with a U in a blue background. Again, you must validate your ticket in one of the validation machines before boarding.
Buses are a great way to get around while enjoying the views, especially from the upper deck. Routes 100 and 200 are quite scenic and travel from Bahnhof Zoo east to Mitte, passing many Berlin landmarks along the way. Buy your ticket before boarding, not on the bus.
Traveling at Night: No matter what time it is, there`s always a way to get around Berlin. U-Bahn lines run every 15 minutes all night long on Friday, Saturday and public holidays (all but the U4 and U55). From Sunday to Thursday, night buses (n1, N2, etc.) run along the U-Bahn routes between 12:30am and 4am at 30-minute intervals. Metro Buses (designated M11, M19, etc.) and MetroTrams (M1, M2, etc.) run nightly every 30 minutes between 12;30am and 4:30am.
Warning: Spot checks for validated tickets are common. Inspector`s will fine violators around 60€ to be paid on the spot whether you are a tourist or a local!
Berlin has no steep hills and offers many bicycle paths throughout the city (although not all are very smooth). It is a great city for biking with an extensive network of cycling trails, usually indicated by red bricks on the pavement or white markings on the sidewalks. Bicycles are a very popular method of transportation among Berlin residents, and there is almost always a certain level of bicycle traffic.
Seeing Berlin by bicycle is a great way to get acquainted with the big tourist sites, as well as the less visited areas of the city. The probably most famous bicycle path is the Mauerradweg, a bike path along the former Berlin wall. Although it`s good to carry your own map, you can also always check your location at any U-Bahn station and many bus stations. You can create your own bicycling maps on-line, optimized by less busy routes or fewer traffic lights or your favorite paving. Bike tours are another great way to explore the city if you`d rather have a guide finding your way through the city or you want more explanation of the sights you visit.
Berlin also has a bike sharing program, LIDL-BIKE (formerly Call a Bike) making bikes available all over the town to pick up and leave anywhere you like. The bikes are grey/green and can be found across the central districts of Berlin. Follow the instructions on the bike touchscreen or use the mobile app. Rentals cost, basic annual fee of about €3, then €1 for each 30 minute up to a maximum of €15 a day. You may however prefer to pay the monthly fee of €9 or a yearly fee of €49 and get the first 30 minutes of each rental for free, even right after returning your previous bike.
For Bicycle rentals, check out Fahrradstation (tel. 030/2151566) where you can rent a bike for about €15 per day or around €35 for three days and €50 per week; ID is required. And be sure to pick up the Berlin biker`s atlas, which is available at many bike rental stores. The same traffic laws apply to bicyclists as motorists, and the police will issue tickets to violators. Also note, you can take bikes on most S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains, but you must board the correct carriage (look for the bike sign on the doors) and buy an extra bike ticket (€1.90 within zones ABC, €4.80 day ticket within zones AB and €540 within zones ABC).
Taxis can be found outside major hotels, stations and airports 24 hours a day. The base rate for taxis is 3.90€, plus 2€ per kilometer. If you`re going less than 2km (1 1/4 miles) and you`ve hailed a cab on the street, ask for the Kurzstreckentarif (short route fare), which costs no more than 4€. You can also call for a cab at no additional fee. U-bahn employees will call a taxi for passengers after 8pm. Reputable companies include TaxiFunk Berlin GmbH (tel. 030-44-33-22) and Funk Taxi Berlin (tel. 030-26-10-26). Most drivers speak some English.By Car
There`s no need for a car in central Berlin since the city`s public transportation network is so efficient and affordable. If you must have a car in Berlin, then be aware that all cars entering downtown Berlin inside the S-bahn ring need to have an environmental certificate. Failure to have one can result in a fine of about €40. You should park your car in a secure lot or garage; daily parking fees at hotels can run up to €18 per day. Vending machines in the city center dispense pay-and-display parking tickets that cost approximately 2.50€ per hour from 9am to 6pm or 8pm. Clearly display your ticket on the dash.
That being said you may wish to make some day trips outside the city. Driving in Germany may seem a daunting prospect when you think about the autobahn, but provided you take appropriate care your trips will be safe and result in enormous pleasure. Germany is a country that takes its driving very seriously and German drivers tend to drive fast and aggressively. Roads are generally excellent and there are almost no toll roads in Germany, other than a few Alpine mountain passes. Germany has over 80 themed highways for tourists. The most well-known is the Romantic Road (RomantischeStraße), a 180-mile route through small, picturesque Bavarian villages from Würzburg to the foothills of the Alps at Füssen. Other popular routes are the Castle Road (Burgenstraße) from Heidelberg to Nürnberg and the Fairy Tale Road (Märchenstraße) from Frankfurt to Hannover.
Please note: The blood-alcohol limit for driving in Germany is very low (.05%). Seatbelts must be worn at all times by both front and back seat passengers; and you may not use a handheld mobile phone while driving.