There are many ways of getting to Berlin: by car, by train, by bus and by plane. Each of these has advantages and disadvantages, so let’s sort them out for you, so that you can decide on the best way for you to get to Berlin.
Driving to Berin
Transportation in Berlin. Image deningures via Flickr
Driving to Berlin makes sense if you are coming from a nearby city, and are either renting a car or driving your own. Berlin is well signposted from nearby cities, and although there is often congestion in the city, it is manageable. Following a map or a GPS is a good idea, but it’s worth knowing that the roads in the city are made up of ring roads, in concentric circles, and highways cutting through them, from the center outwards. Berlin has a low-emission zone throughout most of the center of the city, and you will be fined if your car does not carry a green sticker. You can order the sticker online, or ask your hotel to arrange it for you.
If you don’t have your own car, Germany has a very popular online carpool system called Mitfahrgelegenheit (known as MFG). You can check out their website and find someone driving to Berlin at the same time you want to get there. They will post their contact details on the site, as well as the price they are asking for. Free rides to Berlin are not very common, unfortunately, but MFG is still a great way to save money when traveling.
Train to Berlin
There are a couple of train companies that run to or through Berlin, and it’s a good, quick way to get around Germany, and around Europe too. Train prices vary according to time of day, season and distance. One of the cheapest deals are the night trains, coming in from all over Europe. It’s not always easy to sleep on these trains though, so be aware that you might have a sleepy first day in Berlin if you ride through the night. The main station in Berlin is the Hauptbahnhof near the city center, and from there you can get nearly everywhere in the city by S-Bahn or U-Bahn. The other main stations are Ostbahnhof, in the East, and Südkreuz in the South.
Bus to Berlin
Buses are a good way of travelling, and although they are slower than trains and planes, they are cheap and accessible. Buses to Berlin come in from hundreds of cities around Europe, and are especially popular in Eastern Europe. The central Bus Station (Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof) is located in Charlottenberg, a neighborhood in the far west of Berlin. From there, you can take a bus, U-Bahn or S-Bahn to everywhere in the city.
Flying to Berlin
Berlin has been talking about building a new airport in Brandenburg for years, and it’s delayed construction has become something of a citywide joke. In the meantime, there are two functioning airports in the city: the main Tegel International Airport for most major carriers, and the smaller Schönefeld airport, mostly for budget airlines. Tegel airport is about 25 minutes drive from the city center, and the best way to get into town is with the Airport Express buses that leave every ten minutes towards the Zoo or to Alexanderplatz. There is no train to Tegel Airport, even though there is a railway station named Tegel! From Schönefeld, the best way of getting into the center of Berlin is with the Regional Express trains. The S-Bahn runs to the airport fairly frequently, but is ultimately slower because it stops a lot on the way.