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Munich - Travel by Bus


Trams and buses run every ten minutes. S-Bahns run every 20 minutes, although at further distances from the city this may only be every 40 minutes as every second train terminates at set stations along each route. U-Bahns run every 10 minutes and every 5 minutes in peak hour. If you are lucky enough to live on a double U-Bahn (as is the case with the favourite expat area to live - Schwabing) then U-Bahns come every 2-3 minutes in peak hour. S-Bahns are often ridiculously late, particularly if trackwork is in progress.

Due to heavy peak hour traffic and expensive and hard-to-find parking, public transport is the best way to get around Munich. People often give directions to offices, language schools, etc by giving the nearest U-Bahn station. Listen closely to the directions on how to get from the station to your destination, as exiting the station from the wrong end of the platform can add several minutes to your walking time.
The one confusing thing about the train system is working out which direction you want to travel in when you get to the platform. Underground platforms do not necessarily run parallel with any of the streets above, and more often than not you have to walk a long way underground and turn multiple corners on your way to the platform. Adding to your feeling of disorientation is the fact that most stations are symmetric.
So what do you do? Underneath the signal boards (that only light up when the train is actually approaching!) there is a sign saying "Richtung blah", where Richtung means direction and blah is an nominal destination. I say nominal, because there is absolutely no consistency in the labeling of the Richtungen. Sometimes it's the next station, sometimes the next "big" station, sometimes the next junction. Luckily there are big billboards with the entire U-Bahn and S-Bahn network drawn on them at every station, so you can always trace the path of the train from the station you're at to the station you want to go to, and work out which Richtung this corresponds to.

Tickets work on a zone system. There are 4 zones with 4 rings in each zone, so 16 rings in total. Rings 1-4 make up the "Innenraum" (inside zone). The rings 5-16 make up the "Aussenraum" (outside zone). All 16 rings together are the "Gesamtnetz". Rings 1-6 make up the Muenchen XXL.

As well as the zone system, tickets work on a time basis. Monthly tickets are valid for the calendar month, and weekly tickets are valid Monday through Sunday. Monthly and weekly tickets are called IsarCards. It is also possible to buy a yearly IsarCard.
Three-day tickets are available. These are valid until 6am on the 4th day after you stamp the ticket. Daily tickets also last until 6am the following day. You can buy single tickets or group tickets "Partnerkarte". Group tickets can be used by up to 5 adults. Children aged between 6 and 14 count as half an adult, and children under 6 travel free. Prams and pushers for the children are also free, although if you carry a bike on a train (you are not allowed to do so on trams or buses) you will need to stamp a "Streifenkarte" twice for each journey for the bike, or buy a daily bike ticket "Fahrrad-Tageskarte". Additionally, bikes are never allowed on trains between 6am and 9am Monday to Friday (public holidays excluded). Bikes are also not allowed on trains between 4pm and 6pm Monday to Friday apart from public holidays and school holidays. There are no travel restrictions for collapsible bikes.

If you are just traveling one way, buy a single trip ticket "Einzelfahrkarte". This ticket allows a break in the journey (for example to change trains or to change from tram to bus, etc) but it does not allow return trips or round trips.

Similar to the "Einzelfahrkarte" is the strip ticket "Streifenkarte". The Streifenkarte is the most flexible ticket, and it's a good idea to always keep one handy in your wallet. You must validate the Streifenkarte before you travel in one of the blue boxes with a black "E" on a yellow background on trams and buses, and at train station entrances. Fold the ticket along the fold line for the number of stripes you wish to validate, and insert it into the machine. You only need to stamp it once per journey. The general rule of thumb is that a single stripe is valid for one adult for up to two train stations or four tram or bus stops. Two stripes are valid for a single zone (four rings). So, if two people are travelling for 7 bus stops, they need 2 stripes each, making a total of four. Fold the ticket down to the fourth stripe after the previous stamp, and stamp this fourth strip once.

Discounts: When buying a single ticket, children aged 6-14 purchase a child ticket, "Kinderkarte", and youths aged between 15-20 pay half the adult fare.

There are initiatives to make both public and private transport easier for parents with small children. Most car parks have special "Frauenplätze" (parking spaces for women) which are close to the door, for easy manouverability of prams and strollers. Public transport is free for children under 6, and there is no extra charge for prams or strollers.

Like everywhere in Bavaria, apart from churches and some sections of lawn, dogs are permitted on public transport, although they must be on a leash. A single dog is free, but if you take more than one dog (per person) you need to buy a child ticket for each dog.

Buying tickets
Tickets can be bought from personnel at the larger stations (Hauptbahnhof, Ostbahnhof and most stations along the S-Bahn rainbow that runs through the city), and from bus drivers. If you would prefer to buy your ticket from a machine rather than a person, coin-operated machines are available at train stations, some tram stops and on trams. Some of the coin-operated machines also take notes, but be careful. In typical German style the machine will spit out notes it doesn't like (and by spit I really mean spit - be ready to catch them!). Most machines won't accept anything larger than a 10 euro note, particularly if more than 10 euros change has to be given. Coins are often also rejected. Luckily these aren't fired back at you, but fall through to the "change" dispensing window. Apart from their pickiness about the actual coins and notes they will accept, the normal machines are quite straightforward to use, and some even allow you to choose a different language.

If you have an EC card (see the Money section) you can buy your IsarCard ticket from touch screen machines (these are not at all stations). You select the length of time and number of rings you want your ticket to be valid for, and your EC card is directly debited.

Be very careful when choosing a ticket, as pricing is not completely consistent. For example, if you have a monthly ticket that only gets you half the distance you want to go and you're traveling with someone who doesn't have a ticket at all, it may be cheaper to get a partner card for the entire distance, rather than an extension ticket for yourself and a single ticket for the other person.

If you travel without a ticket you are a "Schwarzfahrer" (black traveller). If you are caught, the fine is not substantial (40 euros), but your name does go onto a central registry and you will face a more serious penalty if you are caught more than once. On average, you will encounter ticket inspectors once a month. I have seen them at peak hour, in the middle of the day, Sunday afternoons and on the first U-Bahn of the morning, so they could appear at any time!


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