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Big City Transit: Munich

A tribute to German engineering, the Munich city transit system is fast and efficient. Pretty much every place that tourists and short-term visitors will want to see (except for the airport and Dachau) is found in the inner zone (Innenraum), which is marked blue on Munich’s public transit maps. This keeps transport costs down and minimizes the need for transfers and complicated routes.

Tickets are valid across all platforms – U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses. However, they have to be validated (i.e. time stamped) before you board. Machines on the U-Bahn and S-Bahn platforms can take care of this, as can drivers on buses on trams. Failing to validate your ticket puts you at the mercy of the plainclothes inspectors that you probably didn’t even know you were traveling with. They dole out €40 fines with that world-famous brand of German efficiency. Don’t test the system.

There are three types of tickets available for Munich’s public transport system, which are valid on the U-Bahn and S-Bahn as well as on buses and trams:

  • Einzelfahrkarten – single-journey tickets that offer point-to-point transport
  • Streifenkarten – so-called ‘stripe’ tickets that are cheaper than single-journey tickets because they can be used for multiple trips (or shared by multiple people)
  • Single-tageskarten and partner-tageskarten – single and partner day tickets that allow for unlimited rides from the time they are activated until 6 a.m. the following morning

Short-term visitors may also want to purchase a CityTour Card instead. These allow for unlimited rides on the public transport system in blocks of one or three days along with discounts to some of the local attractions and museums.

Read on for specific information on public transit options in Munich:

U-Bahn: Munich’s subway system operates a network of eight lines across the city. This is a practical mode of transport for tourists. Many of its stations are located within easy walking distance of the most popular hotels in Munich, including those around bohemian Schwabing district, Oktoberfest grounds, the Allianz Arena, the BMW museum and several city parks.

S-Bahn: The light-rail system serves the city and its suburbs, so it is more practical for commuters and residents than short-term visitors. However, the S-Bahn does connect the city’s two main railway stations, and it also provides fast service to and from Munich International Airport. Likewise, visits to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial can be coordinated on the S-Bahn.  

Tram: The tram fills in the gaps between U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations around Munich’s city center. Here in the city’s inner districts, they rival the U-Bahn and S-Bahn in numbers of lines and stations served. Trams stop upon request when passengers press a button inside the car. Likewise, they will stop to allow new passengers to board from stations.

There’s even a party-tram concept in Munich. Organizations – often student clubs – will rent out a whole tram, load it up with beer and take a tour of the city. And no, the party trams will not stop to pick you up no matter how hard you wave.  

Buses: There are plenty of buses connecting the secondary roads and side streets of Munich. They’re there if you want them, but the average visitor rarely needs to supplement the city’s rail services with a bus ride.

Taxis: Munich taxis are beige with a yellow-and-black ‘Taxi’ sign on the roof. They queue at stands around the city, as well as at train stations and the airport. You can hail them street-side when they are not not occupied. Taxis aren’t cheap, but they make sense when you’re trying to get back to your hotel after hours or simply can’t be bothered to jockey for space at a rail platform. 

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