When I was in Munich last fall, the one thing that I especially loved about the city was how easily accessible everything was by its transit system. Even though I come from a busy city myself (Toronto), and ride transit regularly, I still find it incredibly overwhelming when traveling to a new country, to try and figure out how to navigate their transit system. Munich, however, was so easy breezy and made it convenient to get everywhere during one of their busiest tourist seasons (Oktoberfest). I thought it is helpful to put together a guide for others planning a Munich visit who want affordable, and convenient ways to travel through the city.
Types of transit in Munich
First things first, let’s address the different types of transit in Munich.
- S-Bahn: Eight lines that travel throughout the city and link Munich to the suburbs. This is what you’ll take from the airport and transferring to the city center is easy on the S-Bahn on lines S1 and S8. You can find S-Bahn stations by looking for a capital “S” on a green background.
- U-Bahn: This is their subway system which has about 100 stations in and around the city. This system is interconnected with the S-Bahn. Stations can be found with the capital “U” on a blue background.
- Bus: Buses also operate in Munich’s metropolitan area. Special night lines also operate and are marked with an “N” in front of the line number.
- Tram: The city has 13 lines that cover a network of over 80km. The tram system interconnects with all other transit options above, and special night lines also operate at night (again marked with an “N” in front of the line number).
How to buy tickets
Tickets for Munich public transport companies MVV and MVG are valid for all means of transport in their public transport system (listed above). For example, if you buy a ticket for the U-Bahn, and need to transfer to the bus on your journey, you don’t need another ticket. Tickets can be purchased at ticket machines that are at all U-Bahn and S-Bahn stops, in buses and trams (often only accept coins on board), and at several bus and tram stations too. You can also buy them online (you must print a copy) and via the MVV or MVG apps. Note that children under six ride for free.
You’ll often find two kinds of ticket machines – electronic with touch screens that you can easily switch to your preferred language, and a vending machine style that makes it harder when you don’t know the language. The key thing is to remember that when you board transportation you need to validate your ticket.
Remember to validate the ticket before you board! Tickets you bought on board are said to be validated already, but double check what your ticket says just in case they’re not, OR just validate it as the validation machine on board if you want to be extra careful.
Types of tickets
There are several different types of tickets and you’ll want to ensure you get the right one.
A single ticket is for a single trip in the direction of the destination. You are allowed to change or interrupt (to other trains, buses, or trams) your trip but this is not a round-trip ticket. The cost is associated with how many zones you are traveling. You can find the zones in the above map. They are the coloured borders labeled 1-6. The main city center is zone M, but if you’re traveling to the airport or outside of the centre you’ll need to make sure you select the appropriate zone (the airport is in zone 5).
Stripe tickets are a bit more confusing but essentially they are tickets that can be used multiple times, by multiple people and have ten stripes each. The number of stripes used per trip depends on where you’re going and you validate it each time you use it. We didn’t bother with this ticket type while we were there and primarily stuck with day tickets or the single trip tickets mentioned above depending on how much we were using transit that day.
If you plan to use transit all day, this is probably the best bang for your buck. There are a few options you can choose from:
- Single Day Ticket: Can be used within the selected area/zone of validity for as many trips as you like in one day
- Group Day Ticket: can be used in the selected area for as many trips as you like on one day for up to five adults (kids 6-14 count as an adult)
- Children’s Day Ticket: Valid for one kid (6-14 years) and you can take as many trips as you like within the whole network
- Airport-City-Day-Ticket: Includes the journey to/from the airport and the city area of Munich (zone M-5). You can get this ticket option as a single or group ticket and is great if you are traveling to or from the airport on the day you also plan to tour around
- CityTourCard: This is a tourist card that acts as both a day ticket within a selected area also offers discounts to more than 80 tourist attractions in Munich
- München Card: Contains a day ticket for public transport within a selected area of the MVV network and discounts of up to 70% of key sights, attractions, shopping, etc.
Tip: Single Trip Tickets, Stripe Tickets & Day Tickets must be validated prior to the start of your journey
We found the Group Day Ticket to be the best for my partner and me. It was the most cost-efficient.
Things to note
- Times of Operation: The U-Bahn doesn’t run frequently during the really early morning hours so you may need to opt for the night lines on the bus or tram
- Navigating: I always download the offline Google Maps of the city I’m in so I can easily switch my directions to “transit” and know what stop I need to get on and off at
- Day Trips: If you plan to go on day trips from Munich, you should look into the Bayern Pass as it’s more cost-efficient and is valid for local transit trains and regional trains
- Use the Apps: It can be less confusing and more confusing to use the systems apps for tracking your route and buying your tickets, however, we found it easy to use the machines at the stops
- Maximum Travel Times: There are max travel times on your ticket depending on how many zones you are traveling aka you have X amount of time to get to your destination. Here is the general rule of thumb: Short Trip Ticket: 1 hour, 1 zone: 3 hours, 2 zones and Single Ticket for children/children (6-14 years): 4 hours
- IsarCard: If you are traveling for more than a week, look into getting an IsarCard as it’s not economically friendly
- Airport: The trip from the airport on either S1 or S8 takes about 35-minutes
I hope you found this guide helpful for navigating the beautiful and historical city of Munich, and if it seems overwhelming, it’s really very easy to figure out once you’re there. We even navigated our way home while drunk from Oktoberfest without any issues!