Both of Berlin's international airports have good public transport links. If you read my arriving into Berlin Schönefeld Airport post, you'll know that a new mega airport, Berlin Brandenburg Airport, is in the works and is expected to open in 2014. It will also come with its own train station that will be located directly beneath the terminal. Until then however, here's how to get to the city from Berlin Schönefeld Airport by train and bus.
Two plusses about using public transport in Berlin for me is that it's pretty cheap to use with day tickets (including the city centre) from €6.50. It also works 24 hours a day! Obviously the middle of the night will not see the same level of frequency as peak daytime hours but I'm still impressed you can catch a train at 4am. Great for people wanting to enjoy some of Berlin's famous nightlife... And being Germany, you feel fairly confident it'll be run efficiently!
You'll see the airport as 'Flughafen Berlin-Schönefeld' (flughafen means airport) on Berlin's train network map... find it at the bottom of the map towards the right side.
Berlin has an underground and overground train system. The S-Bahn is Berlin's overground train network and stations are marked with a green sign with a big S on it. The city's underground network is called the U-Bahn, (stations are marked with a blue sign with a big U). Train lines are indicated with either an S (for S-Bahn) or U (for U-Bahn) and a number. There are regional trains too (see train lines on the map indicated with an R)... You'll likely need one of these if you're travelling by train beyond the city.
Germany's capital has an extensive network of trams and buses too! Get the low-down on all Berlin's Transport Services by visiting: www.bvg.de. Do also make the most of the journey planner on the website to help you plan your travel in Berlin. If you look at column in the righthand side of the screen, you'll see links to download network maps.
There are several options of tickets you can buy. All can be used on all forms of Berlin's public transport system (not the bike hire though!). The city and surrounding area is split into three zones: A, B and C with zone A covering the city centre. The airport is just about in zone C so, travelling to and from the airport, you'll need a ticket that includes zone C.
Obviously depending on where you want to go, you'll be wanting either a zone BC ticket or zone ABC ticket.
You can buy single tickets, day tickets (if you know you'll be doing more than two journeys, it's worth getting a day ticket) as well as a four-trip ticket if you're just travelling within zones A and B, which work like four single AB tickets. Remember that if you do choose this option, they won't be valid to any trip to or from the airport. They work out a bit cheaper than buying four individual single tickets so may work out as a better option if you're doing several journeys over a couple or more days. Single tickets are valid for journeys up to two hours with as many changes as you need within that period to make your journey.
Travel using public transport isn't expensive and relatively easy to use. You just need to remember to validate a ticket before you use it. If you're using a bus, you can pay for your journey with the driver so enter at the front doors of the bus (the bendy buses with different exits may not have been popular by lots of people in London but they've been a long-time institution in German cities!)
There are ticket machines just outside the airport by the bus stops as well as at the airport's train station. Touch the screen to start. Once you've done that, look for the language symbols (you'll see four different flags including the Union flag for English) - it's usually on the bottom of the screen either on the right hand side or in the middle. Once you've chosen which language you want to use, follow the instructions selecting what type of ticket you want under the relevant zone. Make sure you have some Euros on you (there is a cash machine and currency exchange desk inside the airport) as I couldn't get either my Visa debit or Mastercard to work when I bought a ticket at a machine at one of the train stations. They do, however, accept notes and give out change.
If you're planning on visiting several or more attractions whilst in Berlin and travelling between them on public transport, it may be worth you buying a Berlin CityTourCard or a Berlin WelcomeCard (if you're travelling with kids, the WelcomeCard may well be worth your while as their travel is included in the adult ticket. Check the website for the full details).
Both include free public transport and discounts or free entrance to a range of attractions and museums. You can buy these at the ticket machines too as well as get them online so you have it ready on arrival.
You'll find machines like this at all train stations too.
Tickets need to be validated before you start your journey (if you're using a day ticket, it only needs to be validated before your first journey on it). Berlin has a trusting system meaning there aren't ticket barriers at stations. Ticket checks are done by roving conductors so you'll need to show a validated ticket when you see one or get a hefty fine.
Berlin Schönefeld Airport has an S-Bahn and regional train station (for the Airport Express) about five minutes away along a sheltered walkway. When you leave the airport, start walking towards your left. Past the taxi rank, you'll soon see what looks like a really very, very long bus shelter on your right. Cross the road and start walking it… the train station is on the other side.
The quickest way to the city centre - the Airport Express
There are two express regional trains (RB14 and RE7) that go from the airport to Berlin's Central Station (Hauptbanhof) that takes 30 minutes and stops at a few places on the way. This is an especially great option if you're taking an inter-city train elsewhere. Trains leave every 30 minutes. Check the train timetable for both trains to help you plan your journey.
Taking the S-Bahn
The airport is accessed by lines S45 and S9 - both of which connect to a station on the S-Bahn ring line (like the circle line on the London Underground system) as well as other S-Bahn and U-Bahn stops.
The closest underground station to the airport is Rudow (sometimes stations are referred to as U and then the place name like U Rudow) about 10 minutes away by bus. To get to Rudow, you'll need to get a bus from right outside the airport.
There are a couple of bus stops right outside the airport (use the exit by the Marché Bistro and K Presse + Buch)
You'll find a bus stop in Berlin by looking for a big H. The bus stops at the airport do also have bus on them so easy to find too! Buses X7, 171 and N7 all go via U Rudow and each bus will say which stop is next as well as which direction is going to (look towards the front of the bus and you'll see it).
At Rudow, you can pick up line U7 and connect to other U-Bahn or S-Bahn stations further along the trip.
It might also be easier to get a bus all the way to your destination. I was going to Sonnenallee in the south-west part of Berlin's city centre so it is worth doing a journey planner or asking where you're staying for your best travel options. It was also a really lovely way to see my first glimpse into a very wintry looking Berlin city.