Is the Transportation System in Berlin, Germany Wheelchair Friendly?

weekend in Berlin

*This is a guest post from Grace Kestler*

My relationship with the Berlin, Germany transportation system is complicated. Some days we really click and it feels like we’re meant for each other. I take a smooth trip on the bus, then transfer to the train via a swift elevator. But, some days we don’t get along. I withhold my inner annoyance that yet again, It’s running late and the elevator to the platform is broken. If anyone reading this has used public transport in a major city, you know exactly how I feel. For this post I will write about the occasional tough realities of public transport, but also the extreme satisfaction that one feels after traveling around the city without a car.

What can I ride?

The Berlin transport system consists of four forms of transport – bus, tram, U-Bahn (underground train) and S-Bahn (above ground train). All of these options have wheelchair accessible capabilities; each one is just a little different. All transport options have designated wheelchair areas on the vehicle that allow for plenty of maneuverability.

In addition it is fairly cheap to ride the train compared to taxis or car rental. For a little more than 7 euro a day, one person can ride unlimited on all types of transport. There are also tickets for groups up to 5 people for only 17 Euro a day! You buy your ticket on the platform and put it in a little machine to get a timestamp. On trams and buses you buy the ticket inside the vehicle. Unlike cities in the states, there are no gates to pass through. There are undercover ‘Ticket Checkers’ that will walk through the trains checking tickets. Often I won’t see a ticket checker for weeks, but sometimes I’ll see multiple in one day. If you don’t have a ticket the fine is 60 Euro! So, don’t forget to buy a ticket before getting on the transport.

Berlin is also known for having transport through the late hours of the night. On the weekends, the trains run 24/7. During the week they run till after midnight. Trams and buses have night options that run through the entire night as well. It’s true that you can get anywhere at any time, it just may take a while, so plan ahead to ensure you have the perfect weekend in Berlin.

 berlin public transportation wheelchair accessible

U-Bahn and S-Bahn

Both of these trains systems operate very similarly. Many stations in Berlin have elevators, but not all. Check out the train MAP to see which stations have an elevator. You can pick up a paper map in any of the big stations. You will need to take a look at the LED-signs on every platform. The sign says which train is coming next and where it is going. The place listed is the last stop it will make. You can use your map to then determine which way you want to go and ultimately which side of the platform to be on.

The train system has been around for many years and thus there are a variety of trains. About half of the trains have a flat entrance into the train from the platform. So it is easy to roll right into the train with a wheelchair. The other half of the trains have a pretty big step. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing which train might be coming. When I use my manual wheelchair and someone is with me it is easy to pop up and down the step. In my power chair this is not possible. Thankfully, they have created a solution. On every platform is a portable ramp that can be used to get on the train. These ramps are located where the front of the train stops. The driver will get out and set up the ramp for you! In order for this to happen you must be at the front of where the train stops, and you must wave at the driver so he knows you need the ramp. He then asks which stop you need and will help you exit the train with a ramp.

This sounds a bit complicated, but the drivers are trained to do this. Occasionally you will get a grouchy driver who is annoyed that he has to get out of the train. Overall, it’s a really great system that allows the step up to not be a problem.

 berlin public transportation wheelchair accessible


Trams are a great way to get around because you never have to worry about accessing them via an elevator which may be broken. The trams do not run in every area of the city but in many regions. There are two kinds of trams. One type of tram has a ramp system that the driver must manually pull out. Just like on the train, you must be at the front of where the tram stops so the driver can see you. The other type of tram has an electric ramp. It lowers and rises a certain amount depending on what level the street is at. The electric one is nice, but sometimes it has a defect or is broken. Trams are a good option to move quicker than a bus but see the city at street level.


Recently I have been taking the bus more often. The buses can get you the closest to your destination and sometimes are just as quick as a tram or train. The bus has a manual ramp that flips out in the middle of the train. Once again, a simple wave to the driver will tell him you need his help. The best part about the bus is that it never has a broken ramp or elevator, making it the most reliable choice!

Apps and Websites

If you’re arriving as a tourist, I recommend downloading a few Apps that will make traveling much easier, especially for people using wheelchairs.

BVG – This is the go-to website and App to find a travel route. You can also click the option that ensures the route is wheelchair accessible. The company also made a hilarious video (below) that explains how anyone can ride the train as long as they have a ticket. It gives a funny outlook on Berlin too!

Broken Lifts – I use this App every day! It lists which train stations have broken elevators.. It is frequently updated and very accurate. I often avoid those train stations if I see the elevator is not working. Many stations have multiple elevators, so the site will be very specific about which elevator is broken. The site is in German but is easily translated on most phones.

Bluespot – This app has a ton of great features. It has information on museums, tours, restaurants and more. It also has a public toilet guide. There are probably hundreds of public toilets around Berlin. They look like little space stations in the middle of parks and plazas. The app allows you to sort by region and also look for wheelchair accessible toilets. It is GPS driven so you are able to find the nearest location. For 50 cents you can use a clean (normally) bathroom all over the city.

Wheelmap – If you’re looking for a wheelchair accessible cafe or restaurant, this is the best App. It works similar to Yelp or FourSquare and allows the user to search for food, drinks, attractions and more. Locations are color coded depending on if there is a step-free entrance, an accessible toilet or all of the above. Additionally, users can contribute new information about locations helping to create a more robust system.

There are many more Apps for all types of tourism and attractions in Berlin that can be found HERE.

The most important thing to remember is to have patience. Even for people who are not using a wheelchair, the transportation can be frustrating. It’s a big city which creates delays and unexpected events. At the end of the day I love knowing I can go anywhere I want in the city even if I do use a wheelchair!

Want to learn more about what to do in the city? Check out Vicki’s guide to Berlin!


About the Author – Grace Kestler is a 26 year old living in Berlin, Germany pursuing her Masters in Intercultural Conflict Management. She has been in Berlin for one year, but is originally from Columbus, IN. Grace received her Bachelors in Communication and Anthropology from DePauw University. Additionally, she was born with Muscular Dystrophy and has been using a wheelchair most of her life. She loves to travel and learn about different cultures! In her free time she enjoys a good beer or exploring a new cuisine and spending time outdoors. 

1 Comment

  • Joan Simms says:

    Pleased to see this guest blog on the accessible Berlin transportation. On our most recent visit to Berlin, we also found the transportation very accessible. We have written a blog on what we found to be accessible in Berlin (and other key destinations) based on our first-person observations. We are just leaving on another European trip to do more of the same. You can follow our journeys at access We are enjoying your posts as well!

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