Wednesday, August 25, 2010

TRANSIT REPORT: Munich, Germany

The main transit agency in Munich is the Munchen Verkehrsgesellschaft (MVG), which translates to Munich Transport Company. They run a three-tiered system of trains and a bus system. This all connects to the German Duetsche Bahn (D-Bahn), the nation’s train company. Most of the trains run below ground in the city, coming above ground for the suburbs. The only trains running above ground in the city are the trams.

As far as wheelchair accessibility is concerned, Munich is the most barrier-free European city we have ever visited. No need to feel apprehensive about bringing your chair here.


Buses in Munich are mostly a secondary form of transportation. Used for the portions of the city that doesn’t have quick access to one of the train systems. As a visitor, you would have little, if any, need of the buses here. The only bus we rode was the bus to Dachau from the train station there. All of the city’s buses are accessible in the usual European way…the back door has a ramp that is deployed only when the door in closed. Once the ramp is deployed, the driver will open the door. There is a wheelchair spot in the middle of the bus with a padded vertical board .You are to back your chair up against this board. Usually, there are no tie-downs so make sure your brakes are in working order.

The U-Bahn and S-Bahn (click on link for a PDF system map)

The U-Bahn is the city’s subway. Think “Urban” for the U, not necessarily underground. Think “Suburban” for the S in S-Bahn. The two systems work in pretty much seamless order, a visitor would be hard pressed to see any difference in them except that the S-Bahn goes to destinations out of the city and the U-Bahn does not. Stations are identified by the signs with the white letter U on a square blue background for the U-Bahn, or the white letter S on a round green background for the S-Bahn.

As you can see from this barrier-free system map, almost all of the system is wheelchair accessible. You’ll look long and hard to find the very few stations that are not. A few stations, like the Haupbahnhof (the main train station), are huge and it might take a little effort to find a lift or ramp. Look for the different colored floor tiles that mark the accessible route.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
MaxM under CC-BY-SA license


Trams take the place of buses in most parts of the inner city. Click on the following link for a tram system map. Most trams are wheelchair accessible via a ramp deployed from the front door. Wheelchairs can sit in a space behind the driver’s cab. Some older trams are still running throughout the city which are not accessible. Don’t worry, when this happens the next tram will be accessible and they run on short intervals (like 5 minutes). Because it’s the train itself that’s accessible, all tram stops can be used by wheelchairs.

All bus stops, tram stops, U-bahn platforms, and S-bahn platforms have electronic signs letting you know when the next train or bus will arrive.


The basic fare is €2.30. There is also a €1.20 fare for short trips. The biggest deal in Europe is the partner fare. This allows up to 5 adults to travel on a single one-day pass (alternatively, 2 children count as one adult on this pass) for only €9.40 for the inner district zone. A Munchen XXL partner day pass…which covers one more zone out of the inner district…is €12.40. You’ll need the latter fare if you plan to visit Dachau, which is just outside of the inner district zone.

The fare to ride the S-Bahn from the airport into town is €9.60 or €18.80 for a partner pass. If there are two or more of you, use the partner pass because it’s cheaper than the normal fare and it is also good on the rest of the transit network for the remainder of the day.

Always remember to validate your ticket before entering the U-Bahn or S-Bahn (tram and bus tickets are already validated when you buy them). There are validation machines at each station. For wheelchair users, the machine is usually right next to the lift or ramp to the platform. A day pass only needs to be validated the first time you use it.


The Duetsche Bahn is Germany’s national railway system. Like the rest of Western Europe, trains visit just about every town. The main station in Munich is called the Hauptbahnhof but the trains also stop at other stations in the city. You’ll want to take advantage of the D-Bahn for day trips out of the city such as Salzburg, Austria and maybe even Neuschwanstein Castle which can be accessed via bus from the F├╝ssen Station.

German trains usually have an accessible car but you need to let the station employees know you’ll need assistance so they can arrange a lift from the platform to the train.

Fares are variable and several discounts can be employed. Usually, it will be less than renting a car and more convenient too.

Munich is a great city and Bavaria is an exciting region to explore. It is also one of Europe’s most progressive cities as far as barrier-free access goes. Have fun!

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick

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