The quickest and generally cheapest way of reaching Berlin from outside Germany is by air, and the city is linked to dozens of European destinations and gets daily flights from New York with Continental Airlines. Berlin transportation planners are in the final stages of replacing several airports with one, and all of them already share the same website. Thus, until 2011, Tegel Airport (TXL), 7 km northwest of the city center, will be served by major airlines, including Air France, British Airways, KLM, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Iberia and Lufthansa; while Schönefeld (SXF) airport, 20 km southeast of the city center, is served by budget carriers: Ryanair, EasyJet and Germanwings, among them. In 2011 Schönefeld will be incorporated into the new Berlin Brandenburg International (BBI) airport, which will also start getting all of Tegel’s traffic. Until then, Tegel is served by the frequent TXL bus to the city center run by BVG; while Schönefeld has its own train station. From here an Airport Express train and the BVG’s S-Bahn take around 30 minutes to reach the Hauptbahnhof (main station); the same ticket is valid on either service. A taxi to central Berlin from Tegel costs around €18; from Schönefeld it’s about €35.
Traveling to Berlin from outside Germany by train rarely saves money and takes far longer than flying. Within Germany the situation is different, and major intercity trains can be as fast as flying, especially when taking into account transfer and check-in times. Prices are competitive. Long- distance trains all drop passengers at Berlin’s sleek Hauptbahnhof, or central station, though some also stop at other mainline stations such as Bahnhof Zoo, Alexanderplatz and the Ostbahnhof. All are on the S-Bahn network.
Berlin travel by bus is barely cheaper than by air and journeys are a lot longer and less comfortable than by train. Most long-distance buses stop at the Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof or ZOB (central bus station), Masurenallee in Charlottenburg. From there several local BVG buses, including the frequent #M49, serve the city center in about 15 minutes.
Berlin transportation in all sectors shows the efficient and inexpensive work of BVG, which is based on a network of underground (U-Bahn) and rapid suburban (S-Bahn) trains, supplemented by buses and trams on the streets. The Berlin transportation network operates virtually non-stop: Trains run frequently from around 4AM to around 1AM and all night on Friday and Saturday; but when they do stop, night buses take over along many routes. U- and S-Bahn stations have digital ticket machines with optional instructions in English. The ticket system is divided into three concentric circular zones: A, B & C, and the most useful tickets for visitors tend to be standard singles (€2.10) and day tickets (€6.10) for A & B, the two most central zones. Also available are 48-hour and 72-hour tickets. After buying a ticket from a machine, be sure to validate it before you jump on a train by punching it in one of the obvious red or yellow platform machines. You’ll find these, and digital ticket machines, on trams, too; on buses tickets can be bought in person from bus drivers. Safety is rarely an issue on the network, since there are almost always plenty of people around.
Berlin’s cream-colored taxis are plentiful and as safe. Always metered, prices are €3.10 plus €1.70 per kilometer for the first 7 km, then €1.20 per kilometer. Fares rise slightly between 11PM and 6AM and on Sundays. Taxis congregate at useful locations, generally around major train stations, but can be hailed by a wave of the arm when they are cruising the streets with their taxi sign illuminated. Short trips of up to 2 kilometers or 5 minutes are called a Kurzstrecke and cost €3.50 if you request this on getting into the taxi.
With public transport very good and traffic often pretty bad, visitors rarely need a car in Berlin. But if you do rent one, remember: drive on the right. Yellow diamond signs on main roads indicate a right of way; and, where no signs exist, you must yield to traffic coming from the right. Always yield to trams. Finding parking spaces in central Berlin can be tricky and fairly expensive—expect around €2 per hour at most parking meters or parking garages. Berlin car rental options include all the major international car rental agencies, although the best deals are often found through local operators. Local car rental firms are listed in the Yellow Pages under “Autovermietung”; you should be able to get something for under €30 a day.