Munich’s network of U-Bahn and S-Bahn trains is modern, clean, reliable, and… very difficult to buy the right ticket for. Once you have the hang of it it’s easy, but the first time at an automated ticket machine can be a bit daunting. Below are some very helpful tips to make navigating the network map and purchasing your tickets a breeze. First though a couple tips for when you arrive.
At the Airport
If arriving by air, you’ll only have the S1 and S8 lines to choose from. Both lines end at the airport, so you can’t go the wrong direction back in to the city. Heading in to the center of town, both lines will take about the same amount of time as well. Perhaps the S8 will be a few minutes faster to Marienplatz and the city center, but it’s not worth waiting over. Unless you’re traveling specifically to the western or eastern parts of the city, picking between the S1 (western route) or S8 (eastern route) doesn’t really make a difference. Pro tip: the lines for tickets right before descending to the S-Bahn platforms in the main terminal can be long. If you’re waiting for your luggage at the baggage claim, there are generally a couple ticket machines there and buying a ticket while waiting for your luggage is a good way to kill time.
At the Main Train Station
If you’re arriving by rail, the Munich main station (Hauptbahnhof) makes a busy impression. It is indeed one of the busier stations in Germany. Here there is rarely a line at the various automated ticket machines, but do remember to buy and validate your ticket before descending the final set of escalators to your train. There are separate entrances for the S-Bahn, the U4/U5 U-Bahn lines, and the U1/U2 U-Bahn lines. Just make sure you’re heading down to the right set of tracks.
Understanding the Pricing
It’s the honor system here so if you get caught without a ticket it’s an on-the-spot €60 fine. Ticket checks are the norm, so buy your ticket; playing clueless tourist usually does not work! Get tickets in buses and trams, and on the S - and U-Bahn platforms. Don’t forget to validate tickets in the little blue boxes near the ticket vending machines or stairs.
The public transport network is divided into color zones. Travel within a color is a one-zone ticket. Travel to one different color is a two-zone ticket. And so on, with a max of four zones. Prices for one-way adult tickets are: 1 zone: € 2,90; 2 zones: € 5,80; 3 zones: € 8,70; 4 zones: € 11,60. Kids under 6 travel free, and kids 6 – 14 years old pay € 1,40 regardless of how many zones they travel.
Here are a couple examples: From our shop at Karlsplatz to the Olympiazentrum you’re staying in the white zone, so it’s just €2,90 each way. To get from our shop to Dachau you’re going to the green zone, so that’s € 5,80. To the airport from our shop is 4 zones, so that’s € 11,60. If you’re traveling quite a bit during a day or are with multiple people, consider a single or group day ticket as they’re good buys. Prices do change from time to time, so you can always check the current price before you purchase. There are too many options to list, but know that “Innenraum” means just the white zone, “XXL” means the white and green zones, and “Gesamtnetz” means all four color zones. Admittedly it’s not the world’s easiest payment design, but the network is fantastic and the trains and trams generally punctual and very clean.
Here’s the official link to the MVG Munich metro service with more information about the fares and from where you can download a network map.