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Public Transportation Germany

Public Transport in Germany: The Expat Guideline


Let’s learn about public transport in Germany! Being an expat in Germany can be a bit perplexing when it comes to understanding the public transport. After getting accustomed to it, though, you’ll find out that Germany has one of the most reliable transportation systems in Europe, and many people rely on public transport for commuting, especially in urban areas.

Five common types of transportation are: S-Bahn, U-Bahn, regional trains, trams and buses. Let’s find out more about them!


The hybrid urban-suburban rail lines that serve a metropolitan region are referred to as S-Bahn. It connects the suburbs and commuter regions to the city centre and the main railway station. The S-Bahn—short for Schnellbahn or Stadtschnellbahn (city rapid rail)—is the quickest public transportation option in Germany. It offers second class only, and tickets are not need to be reserved in advance. To locate an S-Bahn station, just look out for signs featuring a white “S” on a green background at any Hauptbahnhof.


In Germany, there are only 4 U-Bahn systems that we can find in larger cities: Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and Nuremberg. In Germany, the U-Bahn (short for Untergrundbahn) is the local term for subways, “Tubes,” and underground systems. With many stations offering transfers from the S-Bahn to U-Bahn (or vice versa), it’s easy to spot a U-Bahn station as they are marked with a blue sign featuring a white U. Plus, both S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains operate all night on weekends making them incredibly useful if you’re out late!

Regional trains

It is certain that, even if you have only been in Germany for a short time, you know of the famed Deutsche Bahn (DB). Regional trains in Germany are cost-efficient and offer travellers the means to explore the country with ease – despite their tendency to be late. Two varieties of trains are offered by DB: RegionalBahn (RB) with multiple stops and RegionalExpress (RE) with fewer stops but at a faster rate.

If you travel by train quite often, we recommend you to download the Deutsche Bahn app on your phone. This way, you can have access to your tickets and up-to-date departure information at all times. You have the option of buying a BahnCard, which can provide you with a 25% or 50% discount on your overall fare when travelling in Germany, thereby making it much more cost-effective.

Buses and trams

Trams and buses are an integral part of Germany’s public transport, unlike other cities. They have a lot of stops in the city centre and many German towns use them to link places that are far away, and they continue running even when other forms of public transportation aren’t operating anymore. Tram and bus stops are usually linked, with the same identifying symbol – a yellow circle enclosing a green H.

 Buying tickets for public transport

Acquiring tickets is usually done at station ticket machines. You must then validate them with the ticket validator (Entwerter) on the platform prior to boarding the train. When it comes to buses and trams, you have the option of getting your tickets from either the driver or from a ticket machine that is on-board. Likewise, you need to validate it as soon as you get on them. Don’t forget to do this, otherwise, it will be the same as if you didn’t pay for your tickets.

The absence of any ticket check or other barrier to entry on German public transport can be appealing to some, though it is necessary to purchase a ticket in order to use the service. Nevertheless, you never know when a controller might swing by to check that everyone has a valid ticket. A fee of 60 € is imposed if one is found to have not acquired a ticket. So it is definitely not worth risking it!

Ticket prices

In German cities, a zone system is often used to establish the cost of tickets: Berlin is split into three zones (A, B and C) for this purpose. The further out of the city that you go to (zone C), the more you have to pay. You can find the different zones on the S-Bahn and U-Bahn maps online or at the stations.

It is tricky be to become familiar with the way that public transport works in Germany. We sincerely wish that the information in this article was beneficial, and you won’t experience difficulty trying to navigate around the cities! Find out more about what its really like Moving to Germany.