When we found out we were moving to Berlin we were really excited to have the opportunity to use public transit more often. We wanted to experience living in the city like Berliners do. So we made the commitment to use public transit as much as possible and to change our lifestyle a bit to accommodate this.
I have to admit I was a bit wary about conquering public transit in another country, in another language that I don’t speak, with a child and one on the way. It seemed like a daunting task, especially as I pondered the thought of it before we moved here. However, now that we’ve been living here for 6 full weeks, I have learned the ins and outs of traveling via trains and busses with a toddler. I hope the following tips help you as you try out public transit in Berlin with kids.
In order to get from your home or hotel to a bus or train stop, you’re going to have to walk or ride your bike. As we just received our bikes in our household goods shipment, we have yet to bike as a family around Berlin, so I don’t have many tips for bicycle safety. However, we have done a lot of walking and it’s important that you follow the rules as a pedestrian here in Berlin to get to where you need to go safely.
One of the first things that Papa Bear taught me was bike lanes versus pedestrian lanes. On most sidewalks bikes have their own lane, marked with red bricks. Unless there is a very large barrier in your way in the pedestrian lane, you DO NOT walk into the bicycle lane. This is for your safety as well as the cyclists.
Jaywalking is not tolerated in Germany. You must find your way to a crosswalk or intersection in order to cross lanes of traffic. The bus station closest to our house doesn’t have a lit crosswalk but there is a sidewalk built into the median so that traffic knows pedestrians cross there.
I was particularly nervous about taking the public bus. Mostly because I have very little experience with public busses. I took a few in DC when I interned there, but it was not my favorite mode of transport. I worried about how I would get my stroller on and off the bus. Where would my stroller go? Where would I sit with my stroller when I got too pregnant to stand during the ride?
I actually watched a woman with a stroller as she got on a bus on our first day living here in Berlin. I watched as she strode to the center of the bus and a special door with a huge stroller and handicapped sign on the side opened up and she popped her stroller onto the bus. I was like, well that looks easier than I thought!
It actually is pretty easy. You can wait for the bus under an awning at the bus stop and I use Google Maps to track the bus schedule. When the bus comes you can wait at the center of the bus for the stroller/handicapped door to open. However, be aware that this is also the exit for everyone getting off the bus. So you need to wait for them to exit first.
You can then pop your stroller up into the bus much like when you pop a curb. The closer the bus is to the curb the easier this step is. When it’s far away you may need assistance from someone in the bus to get your stroller up.
Directly inside the doors you will find stroller and wheelchair spaces as well as fold down seats for the elderly, handicapped and pregnant moms. When this space is not too crowded I will park Goldilocks’ stroller and fold down a seat to sit in. If the space is crowded I will park her stroller and hold on to it and a handrail for stability. Often there is also a close seat where I can sit and also keep an eye on the stroller. I have yet to board a bus that was too crowded for my stroller to fit. Granted, we did buy a double stroller with its size in mind. I plan to do another post about this brilliant stroller, but for those interested, we bought the Mountain Buggy Duet, which is the same width as a single stroller.
When your stop is approaching you can press either the “STOP” button or the round handicapped/stroller button. Whichever is closest. This notifies the driver that you are getting off at the next stop. When you arrive at the stop I suggest exiting backward. This approach is much easier than trying to push the stroller out first.
The trains are both easier and harder than using the busses in different respects. There is much more room on a train, so I’m never worried that I won’t have space for my stroller. However, most train stations require the use of an elevator which can be tricky. We’ll talk about elevators first.
If your train is above ground or below ground you will require an elevator to get your stroller to the platform. This is where baby wearing is absolutely heavenly, because there’s no need for an elevator. Now that I’m pregnant, though, I rarely baby wear for long trips if I don’t have Papa Bear to switch with me. There is usually only one elevator per station, if there’s an elevator at all. That’s where the tricky part comes in. Not every station has an elevator, so you have to be aware of that before making your train station selection. I use this map to make sure my station has an elevator.
I have gotten stuck many times in a station that doesn’t have an elevator. Luckily strangers have offered to help me carry my stroller multiple times, but that doesn’t happen every time.
When you do find your way onto the appropriate platform, try to wait either toward the front or back, instead of the middle of the platform. On each train there is a bike car that allows for much more room to park strollers. I usually try to make my way into that car. That way I can sit with my stroller. If you are unable to get into that car, every car has room for strollers, you may just not find a seat nearby.
Different from the bus, the train stops at every station, but every door may not open. So you can press the lighted button on the exit doors to get them to open. Again, exit backward.
Remember to use your city transit map to ensure your exit station has an elevator. If not, find a station nearby that does and allow Google Maps to reroute you.
I know, this post ended up being a lot longer than I expected, but public transit in Berlin really is easy once you’ve tried it once or twice! Have you travelled with kids via public transit in Berlin? What are some tips I missed?
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