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EXPLAINED: What to know about Berlin’s extended €29 ticket

Berlin is set to extend its reduced-cost public transport deal. Here's what you need to know, whether you live in Berlin or are visiting the capital.

A Berlin S-Bahn train.
A Berlin S-Bahn train. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

What is the ticket anyway?

The offer allows people to use Berlin’s local public transport network, such as buses, trams, the underground and S-Bahn network in the ‘AB’ service area for €29 per month.

The card is a follow-up to the Germany-wide €9 ticket that was in place across regional public transport networks in June, July and August – although it works in a different way (more on that below). 

A regular monthly ticket in Berlin can cost anything from around €46 to €86, depending on the subscription or ticket. The Social Democrats in Berlin said it results in savings for people of €31 to €57 per month compared to a monthly AB ticket. 

What’s happening now?

The €29 ticket, which was introduced in October, was to run until the end of December. But the Berlin Senate has announced it will carry on until at least the end of March 2023. 

This was agreed by the Berlin governing coalition – made up of the SPD, the Greens and the Left Party – during talks on a supplementary budget in the Senate session on Tuesday November 1st.

“The €29 ticket will be extended until the end of March,” Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) said after the meeting.

READ ALSO: Berlin to extend €29 travel card, and offer €9 ‘social ticket’

The Senate also announced plans for a special ‘social ticket’ in Berlin that will cost €9 a month and last until at least the end of March next year.

At the moment, Berlin’s “Sozialticket” is €27.50 and is available to those who qualify for the Berlin Pass, including benefits claimants and asylum seekers. 

According to the Senate, the group of those who qualify for the ticket will be expanded, so that around 650,000 people will be entitled to the new ticket for €9 a month. That would amount to one in six Berliners, regional newspaper the Tagesspiegel reported. School children already travel for free on the capital’s buses and trains.

The total aid package from the local government to combat the energy crisis will amount to €2.6 billion, with the planned local transport concessions accounting for €500 million of this amount. 

What if I’m already a subscriber or ‘Abo’ holder?

People with a subscription ticket automatically benefit from the promotion.

“The reduction of the fare to €29 for the months of October, November and December 2022 (which is now set to be extended), and the associated refund or settlement will be made automatically by the respective transport company holding the contract,” Berlin transport operator BVG says. 

“Your monthly debit amount will be reduced to €29; in case of subscriptions with annual payment, the respective difference will be refunded after the end of the campaign. Your VBB-fahrCard is valid as before.”

A spokesman from the BVG told The Local that the details will “of course be updated with details about the current extension”.

Can tourists visiting Berlin use it?

The €29 ticket is a an attractive offer – especially given that a standard 7-day ticket costs €36. 

However, keep in the mind that the €29 ticket is a subscription. That means that it will run until the end of the promotional period at a cost of €29 per month. After that point, “the subscription contract for the selected fare product will run for a total of 12 months”, according to the BVG, one of the transport operators in Berlin. 

“Unlike the €9 ticket, the €29 special (deal) is not a new type of monthly ticket,” a spokesman for BVG told The Local.

“It is a regular 12-month-subscription, but with a reduced price of 29 Euros/month for the months of October through December. (To be extended until the end of March as announced by the Senate).

“However, it is possible to end the subscription at the end of December (updates regarding the extension will be communicated).”

Furthermore, the spokesman added that it is currently not possible to get the ticket for the month of November.

“While we made it possible to start an October subscription until well into the month of October, for November, the usual deadlines applied,” the spokesman said.

“Therefore, at this very moment, you cannot start a subscription for the month of November. Your earliest start would be December. We a working on a solution for those who want to start their subscription earlier.”

Can it be used across Berlin and Brandenburg?

One of the drawbacks of the €29 travel card is that it is only valid in Berlin’s AB zone, which includes the inner city and most of the suburbs. It means, though, that the C area – which includes the BER airport and Potsdam, Brandenburg’s capital, are not covered. 

This is the case because the Berlin and Brandenburg government were not able to reach an agreement on a public transport ticket.

If you have the €29 ticket and want to travel to the airport for example, you need an ‘add-on’ ticket to do so. 

The graphic shows the ABC zones in Berlin. The €29 ticket is for the AB zone. S

The graphic shows the ABC zones in Berlin. The €29 ticket is for the AB zone. Screenshot: BVG

What about the €49 nationwide ticket?

As The Local has reported, there are plans for a Germany-wide successor to the €9 ticket, which is likely to cost €49 per month. 

Berlin mayor Giffey said that it isn’t clear that the €49 ticket will be introduced in January as originally planned, but may come later. 

Giffey said she thought the ticket could come in April instead. 

Berlin Transport Senator Bettina Jarasch (Greens) described the Berlin €29 extension as a “bridge solution” until the nationwide ticket comes on the market. 

In the meeting, the SPD had pushed to extend the €29 ticket until the end of 2023, but was unable to get its way – at least for now. 

Jarasch is now tasked with negotiating what happens from April in Berlin.

It is likely that the state premiers will agree on a nationwide standard ticket this week. After this is agreed, Jarasch is to sound out the possibilities for the future in the Berlin-Brandenburg Transport Association (VBB) area. 

For more information on where to sign up for the ticket, check out the the BVG website.

UPDATE: ‘Deutschlandticket’: What you need to know about Germany’s new €49 ticket

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‘Double processing time’: Austria and Germany fear non-EU travellers face border delays

Germany, Austria and another of other countries in Europe's Schengen area admit they fear delays and insufficient time to test the process ahead of new, more rigorous EU border checks that will be introduced next year, a new document reveals.

'Double processing time': Austria and Germany fear non-EU travellers face border delays

Schengen countries are tightening up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens in May 2023.

The EES will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. It will register the person’s name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit. The data will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that is re-set at each entry. 

What the EES is intended to do is increase border security, including the enforcement of the 90-day short-stay limit for tourists and visitors. EU citizens and third-country nationals who reside in a country of the Schengen area will not be subject to such checks.

READ ALSO: Foreigners living in EU not covered by new EES border checks

But given its scale, the entry into operation of the system has been raising concerns on many fronts, including the readiness of the physical and digital infrastructure, and the time required for border checks, which could subsequently cause massive queues at borders.

A document on the state of preparations was distributed last week by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties.

The paper contains the responses from 21 (out of 26) member states to a questionnaire about potential impacts on passenger flows, the infrastructure put in place and the possibility of a gradual introduction of the new system over a number of months.

This is what certain the countries have responded. Responses from Denmark, Spain and Sweden do not appear in the report but the answers from other countries will be relevant for readers in those countries.

READ ALSO: What the EU’s new EES border check system means for travel

‘Double processing time’

Austria and Germany are the most vocal in warning that passport processing times will increase when the EES will become operational.

“The additional tasks resulting from the EES regulation will lead to a sharp increase in process times”, which are expected to “double compared to the current situation,” Austrian authorities say. “This will also affect the waiting times at border crossing points (in Austria, the six international airports),” the document continues.

“Furthermore, border control will become more complicated since in addition to the distinction between visa-exempt and visa-required persons, we will also have to differentiate between EES-required and EES-exempt TCN [third country nationals], as well as between registered and unregistered TCN in EES,” Austrian officials note.

Based on an analysis of passenger traffic carried out with the aviation industry, German authorities estimate that checking times will “increase significantly”.

France expects to be ready for the introduction of the EES “in terms of passenger routes, training and national systems,” but admits that “fluidity remains a concern” and “discussions are continuing… to make progress on this point”.

Italy is also “adapting the border operational processes… in order to contain the increased process time and ensure both safety and security”.

“Despite many arguments for the introduction of automated border control systems based on the need for efficiency, the document makes clear that the EES will substantially increase border crossing times,” Statewatch argues.

‘Stable service unlikely by May 2023’

The border infrastructure is also being adapted for collecting and recording the data, with several countries planning for automated checks. So what will change in practice?

Austria intends to install self-service kiosks at the airports of Vienna and Salzburg “in the course of 2023”. Later these will be linked to existing e-gates enabling a “fully automated border crossing”. Austrian authorities also explain that airport operators are seeking to provide more space for kiosks and queues, but works will not be completed before the system is operational.

Germany also plans to install self-service kiosks at the airports to “pre-capture” biometric data before border checks. But given the little time for testing the full process, German authorities say “a stable working EES system seems to be unlikely in May 2023.”

France will set up self-service kiosks in airports, where third-country nationals can pre-register their biometric data and personal information before being directed to the booth for verification with the border guard. The same approach will be adopted for visitors arriving by bus, while tablet devices such as iPads will be used for the registration of car passengers at land and sea borders.

Italy is increasing the “equipment of automated gates in all the main  airport” and plans to install, at least in the first EES phase, about 600 self-service kiosks at the airports of Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, Venice and in those with “significant volumes of extra-Schengen traffic,” such as Bergamo, Naples, Bologna and Turin.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen area, is also installing self-service kiosks to facilitate the collection of data. Norway, instead, will have “automated camera solutions operated by the border guards”, but will consider self-service options only after the EES is in operation.

Gradual introduction?

One of the possibilities still in consideration is the gradual introduction of the new system. The European Commission has proposed a ‘progressive approach’ that would allow the creation of “incomplete” passenger files for 9 months following the EES entry into operation, and continuing passport stamping for 3 months.

According to the responses, Italy is the only country favourable to this option. For Austria and France this “could result in more confusion for border guards and travellers”. French officials also argue that a lack of biometric data will “present a risk for the security of the Schengen area”.

France suggested to mitigate with “flexibility” the EES impacts in the first months of its entry into service. In particular, France calls for the possibility to not create EES files for third-country nationals who entered the Schengen area before the system becomes operational, leaving this task to when they return later.

This would “significantly ease the pressure” on border guards “during the first three months after entry into service,” French authorities said.

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