Getting around Berlin might seem a little daunting, but for my Exchange Student Daughter, Katy, navigating the U Bahn and Bus System is a breeze compared to what she grew up with in the Bay Area of Northern Calfornia. Katy is a veteran city bus rider, and used the BART to get around the Bay Area from an early age, so she was used to the IDEA of public transportation. Still, when they told her that her homestay for the exchange program was an hour from school, she was a bit nervous. After just a few weeks, she’s pleasantly surprised, and really only made one wrong train mistake. Read more about her experiences here.
1.Just LOOK at this System!!
If this wild spider web of a system does not have you believing you can reach every spot in the city you are crazy. I grew up in the Bay Area, and the BART system unfortunately gets complaints because it doesn’t take you everywhere. PLUS this chart doesn’t even include the countless buses that run here. You really don’t need a car to get where you want to go.
2. IT RUNS LIKE CLOCKWORK
Railway Station Clock image- Wikipedia commons by Etan J. Tal (Own work)
This may be where some Germans disagree but my experience with the train times has been nothing but fantastic (knock on wood). Most trains at regular hours of the day run every 10 mins, as do most buses. That means generally if you miss one its only a 10 minute (OR LESS) wait. Especially during Rush Hour periods, major U-bahns and S-bahns run back to back, within 6 minutes or less. So… if you are American, and run a little late, the next train will be along in no time.
3. THEY ARE SO CLEAN
BART and public buses are not known to be the most sanitary, clean places. And the stations tend to smell like unwashed feet. Yes there are exceptions to my experiences, but let me tell you WOW! are these trains clean. At the end of the line some trains even get cleaned DURING THE DAY. I watched this happen, as I stepped onto a train at the end of the line when cleaning crews were stepping off. Also, in general people keep the space clean. Because, it’s a public space. (I’m still scarred by the memory of riding on the train as a child, and a woman yelled at me and my brother because we put our feet on the seat.) A few days ago I saw that someone had left their Brötchen and Salami on the seat, and all I was stunned! The whole train stared in disbelief (and there was some muttering about sloppy people riding trains who should be ashamed). On BART, finding food or other things laying around is completely not out of the norm (despite rules against eating on the train) like it is here.
4. THEY ARE SOOOO QUIET
U Bahn Passengers photo courtesy Wikipedia commons by Jcornelius
Here it is a quiet understanding that public transportation spaces are quiet. The only loud ones are small children and tourists. Even dogs know to be quiet on the trains. And let me tell you my 1 hour commute is exponentially better by it not being ridiculously loud. I actually get a lot of my class reading done on the train!
5. THEY ARE INCREDIBLY EASY TO NAVIGATE
Potsdamer Platz sign- courtesy Wikipedia creative commons by Sergio Calleja
You don’t need to be able to speak German to really figure out the train system. The maps are everywhere and signs constantly tell you where the incoming train is going. As long as you can map out what stop you need to end at, trust me you can find it even if you have to transfer multiple times.
I LOVE the getting around Berlin by Train and BUS!
While this is biased due to my lack of experience, I truly believe that the United States could learn from the Berlin transportation system. I commute everyday on trains and buses for a hour in each direction and it goes by so easily. At this point, I don’t know what I will miss more from Germany, delicious bread or effective transportation system. And I love the Bread..
Need some help Getting Around Berlin?
Katy loves the DK Berlin guide…
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide BerlinLonely Planet Pocket Berlin (Travel Guide)Michael Brein’s Guide to Berlin by the U-Bahn (Michael Brein’s Guides to Sightseeing By Public Transportation) (Michael Brein’s Guides to Sightseeing By … to Sightseeing By Public Transportation)
Camera Graphic Minimalist Berlin Transportation Map
Find it here
Katy attends the University of California in Berkeley where she earning a double major in History and Political Science. This year is spending the Winter and Spring terms studying at the Free University in Berlin and learning to deal with snow. Navigating Berlin is a lot different than Berkeley, but she’s loving the experience.
We will be hearing from her fairly regularly as she shares what’s it’s like to be a California Girl in Germany.