BUS AND TRAM SERVICE IN Potsdam
Potsdam has an exhaustive network of bus and tram lines which allow people to get within short walking distance of almost any place in town (cf. service zones). Some buses go beyond Potsdam to towns and villages in the area. Some Berlin buses come to Potsdam as well. During the day, most lines have buses every 10 to 20 minutes.
Bus lines in Potsdam are identified by a three-digit number, whereas trams use two-digit numbers. Night buses have letter N followed by two digits. Bus and tram stops are identified by a green capital H in a yellow-green circle. Some stops have a shelter but most are only a post with the bus stop sign and timetables. Bus stop signs should also have two stickers on them with A, B, or C each. One sticker indicates the service zone for Berlin and another for Potsdam.
Potsdam buses and trams used to be white-green, and most still are, but nowadays they can be in any color and many have whole-body advertisement. They also come in different sizes. The line number is shown in front, in the back, and middle of the side. Trams and most buses show also the last stop up front.
In Potsdam, it is required to enter the bus through the front door and show the driver the ticket, validated or to be validated, or purchase a ticket from the driver. It follows that one exits the bus through rear door(s). In Berlin, one can use any door on buses. One can also use any doors on trams in Potsdam. On trams, it is often required to press a round green button next to the door to open it to get in. To exit through the very back door in articulated (accordion) buses, it may be required to press a button by the door to have the driver open it.
During the day, trams routinely stop on every scheduled tram stop, but one should press a stop-request button in the evenings. On buses, one should always press a stop-request button. The bus might not stop otherwise. Such buttons are to be found on vertical support bars around each bus and tram. When a button is pressed, a boing is heard by the driver and a sign "halten" (stop) in front of the bus lights up. Most buses also display there the name of the next bus stop. A recording announcing the next bus stop is also usually played through the PA system.
Deutsche Bahn, Die Bahn or DB, is a national transportation company operating intercity (ICE, IC) as well as local train (RB, RE) services. Night trains (NZ) are operated by a sister company. Independent regional train companies operate in some parts of Germany, a few of them reaching Potsdam/Berlin, like Harz-Berlin-Express (HEX). They all collaborate closely with DB and so the service is transparent to passengers.
Train stations are identified by red letters DB in a white-filled red rectangle with rounded corners. Intercity trains (Fernverkehr) stop only at major train stations.
EVENING AND NIGHT SERVICE
Most buses and trams in Potsdam stop operating around 9 pm; however, select lines continue until 11 pm or midnight. After 10 pm, one can use night buses (line numbers preceeded with letter N). They run completely different routes than day service and their routes are usually loops. S-Bahn operates until midnight, at reduced frequency in the evening.
Prices of night buses are double the normal single-trip rate.
Regional (RB) and regional-express (RE) trains offer a network of routes around the state of Brandenburg. Quite a few run through Berlin but only a few through Potsdam.
Regional train RE1 is a good, fast alternative to S-Bahn for travelling between Berlin and Potsdam. During the day it runs twice an hour. Every other train stops only at Potsdam main station (Potsdam Hauptbahnhof or Potsdam Hbf), whereas the other one stops also at other Potsdam's trains stations, "Park Sanssouci" in the vicinity of the university among others. RE1 stops at all train stations in Berlin.
Berlin public transportation tickets are valid on those trains within the ABC zones (cf. service zones in Berlin). For an additional fee, they can be extended to cover also the rural areas.
S-Bahn is a network of the city trains in Berlin. S-Bahn stations are identified by a white, stylized letter S in a green circle. S-Bahn stations can be underground or overground. Unlike U-Bahn, different S-Bahn lines share the platforms. S-Bahn lines are identified by the letter S followed by a single-digit number. A two-digit number designates a variant of the line identified by the first digit. Variants run shorter routes or branch off. Each line has also its own color, which is shared with the variants. The only direct S-Bahn connection between Berlin and Potsdam is S7 (purple) line.
Doors of S-Bahn trains close automatically, but they need to be opened manually from inside or outside by touching round buttons with LEDs on the doors. When the LEDs are off or red, the door can't be opened. When LEDs blink green, the door can be opened.
SERVICE ZONES IN BERLIN
Berlin's public transportation has 3 service zones: zone A is the central Berlin, zone B is a belt around it, whereas zone C covers the suburbs, including Potsdam.
A high-resolution, color PDF file with the S-Bahn und U-Bahn networks in Berlin showing the service zones: pubtransport-berlin.pdf
SERVICE ZONES IN POTSDAM
Potsdam's public transportation has also 3 service zones: zone A is the downtown area, zone B is a belt around it, whereas zone C covers the suburbs. Practically the entire service area of Potsdam is within Berlin's zone C.
A high-resolution, color PDF files with the bus and tram networks in Potsdam showing the service zones:
One buys tickets to cover specific service zones they travel through. So, to go from Potsdam to Berlin, one needs BERLIN ABC ticket and for going from conference location to downtown Potsdam, one needs POTSDAM AB ticket. When buying on the bus, one normally tells the driver the destination.
BERLIN ABC ticket is valid for all public transportation in Berlin and Potsdam: buses, trams, S-Bahn, U-Bahn, ferry, as well as regional (RB) and regional-express (RE) trains. Similarly, POTSDAM AB ticket is valid for all public transportation: buses, trams, ferry, RB, RE, but only within Potsdam.
A single-trip (Einzelfahrausweis) BERLIN ABC ticket is 2.70 Euro and is good for 2 hrs. It allows you to change buses and trains, but it can't be used for a round-trip. The daily ticket (Tageskarte) is 6.30 Euro and is valid until 3 am next day in any direction. Weekly (7-Tageskarte) ticket is 31,30 Euro.
A single-trip (Einzelfahrausweis) POTSDAM ABC ticket is 2.40 Euro and is good for 1 hr under same conditions as Berlin ticket. The daily ticket (Tageskarte) is 5.50 Euro and is valid until 3 am. POTSDAM AB tickets are 1.70 Euro for a single-trip and 3.90 Euro for a daily ticket. Weekly (7-Tageskarte) ABC ticket is 17.10 Euro and weekly AB ticket is 11.20 Euro.
In Potsdam, if one travels no more than 6 bus/tram stops, one can buy so-called short-haul (Kurzstrecke) ticket for 1.20 Euro only. This is relevant to conference participants staying in hotels near the university. This special fare applies only for buses and trams.
School children and retirees purchase discount tickets (Ermäßigungskarte). BERLIN ABC single-trip ticket is 2.00 Euro, daily ticket 4.70 Euro. POTSDAM AB single-trip ticket is 1.80 Euro and daily ticket is 2.90 Euro.
Tickets for small groups of up to 5 people (Kleingruppenkarte) are 15.60 Euro for Berlin/Potsdam and 13.80 Euro for Potsdam. They are valid until 3 am next morning.
Deutsche Bahn offers also weekend tickets (Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket) for 35.00 Euro for up to 5-people groups. These are single-day tickets good for unlimited travel within the state of Brandenburg, including Potsdam/Berlin city transportation on either Saturday or Sunday. Similar ticket for weekdays is called Brandenburg-Berlin-Ticket and costs 28 Euro.
See VBB-Online on the links page to get complete info on ticket/price options.
In buses in Potsdam (not in Berlin), tickets are purchased from the bus driver. Trams have ticket-vending machines. At the S-Bahn and U-Bahn stations, you also buy tickets from ticket-vending machines. Major train station have also S-Bahn ticket offices with personnel open during the day. Ticket-vending machines accept cash. Some accept also cards.
Any ticket can be used on any means of transportation regardless where it was purchased (but read on about validation).
When buying tickets in Potsdam, you can buy either Potsdam-only ticket or the Berlin/Potsdam ticket. To buy the latter, order Berlin ticket.
A ticket which has no timestamp printed at the time of purchase must be validated in (usually red in Potsdam and yellow in Berlin) punch machines which can be found on train station platforms (Gleis), usually by the entrance, or inside buses and trams. Specifically, tickets bought from ticket-vending machines require validation, whereas tickets bought from bus drivers have the time of sale printed and do not require validation. There are no validation machines on S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains or inside the train stations.
Penalty for travelling without valid ticket is 40 Euro.
U-Bahn is a network of the underground trains within Berlin proper. U-Bahn stations are identified by the white capital U on a blue square. Almost all U-Bahn stations are underground and each line has its own platform. Each line is identified by a letter U followed by a digit and by its own color.
Most bus and tram lines provide normal service on Saturday morning but many stop operating or reduce service frequency on Saturday afternoon. The number of lines operating and their frequency is even smaller on Sunday. Don't plan to stay late in Berlin on Sunday night, for example, or you may have trouble getting back to Potsdam.