Munich is an excellent city for using public transit, featuring a comprehensive network of subways, trams, buses, and commuter trains that take you to virtually anywhere you need to go within the city and its outlying suburbs (though transit is more limited out in the ‘burbs). Though a couple of aspects might be a bit confusing at first to those new to the city, it’s relatively simple to navigate and get where you need to go.
How to Ride the U-Bahn
Munich’s U-Bahn, or underground subway system, is probably the transit system utilized most by visitors and also regularly by locals. It’s fast, easy to navigate, and the underground stations tend to be clean and safe- some of them even pipe in classical music!
The main disadvantage to Munich’s public transit system is the price, as it’s expensive. A single ticket within the central zone is 2.90 Euros. You can save money by buying a “Streifenkarte” (striped ticket) for ten individual rides, a daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly pass if you will be using transit frequently. There are also group tickets than can be used by multiple people for certain amounts of time.
Munich has a wide variety of ways to pay for tickets. You can buy tickets from machines at stations, as well onboard trams and buses, using cash, and in some cases also credit card or debit card. You can also opt to buy tickets on your cellphone using the MVG or Deutsche Bahn App, depending on what form of transit you are taking.
The U-Bahn doesn’t operate frequently in the hours of the early morning, so it might be worth looking into the night tramlines if you need to get somewhere at 2 am. During the daytime it is usually reliably frequent and in rush hours additional trains run. Generally speaking, you won’t have to wait more than 10 to 15 minutes max for a subway, usually much less.
If you buy a ticket from a blue MVG machine, make sure to validate the ticket by stamping it in in the stamping machines at subway stations and on buses and trams. Controllers do periodic sweeps to check tickets and if you have not validated your ticket, you will be fined. The other important thing to note is to check your travel zone. Munich transit is divided into rings. Look on the map at the subway station to see where your stop falls into in the ring zones (if you’re staying within central Munich, it’ll be just the first two rings).
You will have to pay extra for a ticket that goes further or stamp more stripes on your Streifenkarte if you need to go somewhere, say, in ring six. A one-way ticket in one direction is valid for two hours. You can use it to transfer from, say, a subway to a bus, as long as you stay within your ring zone.
For the most part, Munich subway stations are very accessible for the handicapped or those using strollers or the elderly. There are elevators and escalators and spaces for wheelchairs. Strollers are supposed to be parked near the doors of the subway.
Other Forms of Transit in Munich
Munich is hardly limited to the U-Bahn, with a vast network of buses, trams, and commuter trains. The ticketing system for buses and trams is the same for the U-Bahn, and you can typically buy tickets directly on the bus or tram from a machine, though most take cash only. Note that if you have a stroller or wheelchair, there are designated spots marked on bus and tram doors.
Munich’s bus lines are the primary way to get around in the suburbs and areas not reached by U-Bahn or tram, but there are also a fair number of buses in the city center as well. If you need to get somewhere in a hurry, there are a number of “Express Bus” lines that make only a few stops to prime locations.
Perhaps the most romantic of Munich’s transit options, the trams are another convenient and scenic way to get around town and also serve some of the more far-flung neighborhoods as well as central routes.
S-Bahn (Commuter Train)
Munich’s S-Bahn lines run through the city center and serve the suburbs of Munich, making it a great option for suburban commuters and day trips to some of Munich’s most visited out-of-center sites, such as Lake Starnberg, Dachau, and Andechs monastery. Bear in mind that an S-Bahn ticket to the airport is a separate ticket than the typical ring zone format and make sure you have the appropriate ticket. While the S-Bahn is generally quite convenient and reliable, since it currently has only one central track, there can be significant delays or cancellations if there is construction or bad weather.
The MVG bike rental system allows you to rent bikes short-term and return them to stops around U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations. There are a variety of other bike sharing programs in Munich as well, or you can rent bikes long-term from many bike stores across the city. Munich is an extremely bike-friendly city with bike lanes everywhere, it’s a great way to save on time and get some exercise.
Taxis and Ridesharing Apps
It’s easy to hail a taxi in the central parts of town, especially near major train and bus stations; otherwise you’ll need to call for a taxi service. Taxis in Munich are reliable and safe, if a bit pricey. Don’t try to take a taxi to the airport from the city though; it’s very expensive — either take the S-Bahn straight to the airport, the Lufthansa airport bus, or reserve a shuttle or special taxi in advance if you really don’t want to take public transit. Uber also operates in Munich.
Renting a Car
If you’re primarily going to be in Munich and not doing any extensive travel around Bavaria, it honestly doesn’t make a lot of sense to rent a car — it’s expensive, Munich can have bad traffic, parking can be hard to find in some areas and gas is not cheap. However, there are many options for car rental agencies around Munich, and it can be a good option if you are using Munich as a base and venturing into some rural areas around the region. That said, train connections in Bavaria are excellent and you will likely be able to go car-free if you don’t have any significant mobility issues.
Tips for Getting Around Munich
- Avoid driving if you can. Rush hour in Munich can be painful, and certain sections of the city have constant traffic. The city center is small and easily navigable, and the public transit and bike network is excellent.
- Remember that there are no turnstiles. Buses, trains and trams don’t have turnstiles; remember to stamp your ticket in the event a controller makes a random sweep. Exceptions are weekly and monthly tickets that are time-stamped, or tickets purchased from a Deutsche Bahn machine.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Sometimes certain elements of the Munich system, such as ring zones, can be a bit confusing; don’t be afraid to ask someone or a transit worker if you’re confused when buying tickets.
- Check for bargain “combo” tickets. For some destinations, like Therme Erding, you can get a combo ticket that gives you both a discount on transit and on attraction admission. A City TourCard can get you discounts to 80 different Munich attractions combined with transit costs.
- At night, the tram lines switch to “night lines.” Late at night, tram lines often condense to slightly different, less frequent routes. Every tram stop should have a map displaying the night routes.