Navigating Munich's Public Transportation System
Pocket guide to taking the public transport
· 4 min read
Munich is a bustling city known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture. Exploring all that Munich has to offer is made easy by its efficient and extensive public transportation system. It is easy and convenient to get around Munich, but if it is your first time to the city, you could possibly feel slightly overwhelmed by the public transportation system. This pocket guide to Munich's public transportation system will help you navigate the system with ease.
Public Transportation Options in Munich
There are four main public transportation options in Munich: the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, Tram, and Bus. Of course, these four options aside, there are also other options for you to get around, including bike or car sharing.
U-Bahn and S-Bahn
When you are searching up public transportation options in Munich, you will almost definitely come across the terms U-Bahn and S-Bahn. But what exactly does U-Bahn and S-Bahn refer to?
The U-Bahn and S-Bahn are essentially train lines, but with slight differences. The U-Bahn are rapid transit systems that are mostly underground, similar to a subway; whereas the S-Bahn are commuter trains that connects Munich with its suburbs and neighboring towns. Stations on S-Bahn lines are clearly marked by a capital “S” on a green background, and stations on U-Bahn lines are marked by a capital “U” against a blue background.
If you are traveling from the airport to the city center, the S-Bahn will be an excellent choice; and if you are traveling within the city itself, chances are you will be using the U-Bahn, though it is definitely possible to also be using trains on the S-Bahn.
Trams are an integral part of Munich's public transport network and offer another way to explore the city. They are designated by numbers, and their extensive network covers a wide range of destinations within Munich. There are a total of 13 lines that cover a route network of over 80 kilometers, and its network interconnects with the U-Bahn and S-Bahn to make commuting much easier.
Munich's bus routes are well-organized and cover areas not served by trams or the U-Bahn. Bus stops are marked with clear signs, and many feature digital displays showing real-time arrival information.
Tickets and Fares
Now that we have an understanding of the various public transportation options, let's take a look at the ticketing and fare calculation.
Before we can get into the ticketing and fare calculation proper, we need to understand the concept of zones in Munich's public transportation system.
Munich's public transport system is organized into various zones, with the city center designated as Zone M. Beyond Zone M, zones radiate outward from the city center starting from zone 1 - 6, and your ticket price depends on the zones you will travel through. Of course, fares will be cheaper if you were to travel within a single zone; and the more zones you cross, the more expensive it will be.
Always check the zone map and purchase a ticket that covers your entire journey.
Tickets can be purchased at ticket machines located at most tram and bus stops, as well as train stations. Tickets are valid across all transport modes, meaning you wouldn't need to get separate tickets if you were to transfer from a S-Bahn to a U-Bahn, or from a U-Bahn to a bus or tram for instance.
For convenience, you can also purchase tickets online using the MVG Tickets app, the MVV app, or the DB App. The main difference between the apps are that they belong to different companies, but tickets purchased on all three apps are valid. We recommend using the DB app for a better user experience, and for ease of comparison of various routes to help you get to your destination.
When purchasing your tickets, you should also consider potentially getting a transport pass, as these passes would usually end up cheaper than single-trip tickets if you will be taking at least 3 rides per day.
- Single Ticket: The Single Ticket is for a single trip in the direction of the destination. You are allowed to change and interrupt your trip. Return trips, however, are not permitted.
- Stripe Ticket: A stripe ticket is more flexible, and can be used for multiple journeys. It can also be shared amongst multiple people. Each stripe ticket comes with ten stripes, and depending on your destination, one or several of the ten stripes are validated. Transfers are allowed but return trips are not permitted.
- Single Day Ticket: The Single Day Ticket can be used within the selected area of validity for as many trips as you like on one day. If you will be taking at least 3 trips in a day, the single day ticket is likely to add up to be more cost-effective.
When purchasing your tickets online, also be mindful of the validity of the tickets. Tickets are usually valid immediately from the time of purchase; if you are planning to purchase tickets in advance, make sure to check if there is the option to validate your ticket at a later date.
There are also tourist cards that you could consider. These cards typically include bundled discounts with tourist attractions in the city and surrounding area.
- CityTourCard: The CityTourCard includes a day ticket for use on public transport within the selected area of validity. It also offers discounts for more than 80 tourist attractions in Munich and the surrounding area.
- München Card: The ticket contains a day ticket for the public transport within the selected area of the MVV network and discounts of up to 70% at numerous sights, attractions, tours, shopping and gastronomy partners.
Now that you have purchased your tickets, it is also useful to know how to validate your ticket. If you buy a paper ticket, make sure that they are stamped and validated at the entrance before you start on your journey. Single Trip Tickets, Stripe Tickets and Day Tickets must be stamped prior to the start of your journey.
If you purchased a single trip or day ticket at the ticket machines in trams and buses, these tickets are immediately validated. That also means that you wouldn't be able to purchase 'advanced tickets' from these ticket machines.
Be aware that ticket inspections are common on Munich's public transport, and fines for fare evasion can be hefty. Always ensure you have a valid ticket for your journey. If you purchased your ticket online or in the app, simply show the valid ticket to the ticket checker during inspections.
And if you are thinking of trying to only get the ticket when you see the checkers, be mindful that if you are purchasing a ticket online or on the app, there will be a few minutes where the ticket will not be valid. And if your ticket is being checked during this time, it will not count as a valid ticket. This period of invalidity is exactly to prevent people from buying the tickets only at the point of inspection.