My Profile Photo


Paul Adams' Wanderings Around Engineering, Free Software and Berlin

Rush Hour Berlin - A Public Transport Survival Guide

Berliners love to complain about the public transport; it’s in their blood. Within the city there are two major players: the BVG, who operates the buses, trams and UBahn; Deutsche Bahn, who operates the SBahn. The advice I am dropping here is, I hope, an invaluable survival guide.


You can always tell the most experienced users of public transport because they strategically place themselves in the correct position to get straight onto the vehicle they are waiting for. When the vehicle arrives don’t make too much effort to get out of the way of people getting off. Bonus points for standing front-and-centre of the door and blocking their way. If you see some idiots actually waiting at the side to let people off, don’t wait or them. Ultra-bonus points can be earned for barging straight past them as soon as you can, more if people are still trying to get off.

Getting On

Now this is most important. Simply getting onto the public transport is so easy to get wrong. As you board your tram/train/whatever you should look around to see if there is some space for you to stand or sit in. Then (and this is most important) just stand there. Don’t bother to move. Simply huddle by the door with all the other commuters. You get bonus points for blatantly ignoring space further into the vehicle and ultra-bonus points for blocking the entrance of another passenger behind you, who is also trying to get on.

Getting Off

It is rush hour so, inevitably, you vehicle is going to be busy. Don’t let that bother you. When you arrive at your exit there is a simple procedure for disembarking. Firstly, don’t bother to wait. What a complete waste of your time that is! Instead, start pushing your way to the front immediately. Don’t bother to check if the person in front is also trying to get off. If someone is blocking your way, first you should check to see if they are even capable of moving for you. Yes? No? It does not really matter, squeeze past them and squash them into a uncomfortable position regardless.


This is one aspect of the public transport that most people fail to understand at first. In theory, you are supposed to pay. Many people actually get annual passes from their work or school. If you’re one of the other folk that are supposed to pay, don’t bother. Occasionally you might encounter someone with an ID and a tricorder who grunts at you. They probably want to see the ticket you do not have. No problem. Assume your finest non-German accent and in your native tongue (the further away from German, the better) say “Good morrow, sir. By happenstance I have just had my pocketbook purloined. Can you assist me with directions to the constabulary?”

Tarif Zones

Super-simple. Berlin basically only has two zones: Zones A + B and (confusingly) Zone C. Almost any ticket covers you for both Zones A + B. Zone C is special. Why? Because it is home to Schönefeld Airport and the mythical Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Both are side-by-side and are at the first stop in Zone C. That’s right, you need the extra expensive ticket to go one stop when arriving/departing to the airport. Because: fuck you tourists. If you already have a valid ticket for Zones A + B (Why? Did you not read the previous section of this blog post?) then all you need is to buy an Anschlussfahrausweis. In the one stop between the airport and the freedom of Zones A + B you are almost guaranteed to have this magical little ticket checked. The correct procedure is to insert the ticket into the mouth of the person with the tricorder.