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Inspired by this question about UK inter-city rail.

In Berlin, a single-trip ticket is valid for: "a single journey towards your destination", changing trains/buses "as many times as required", for 120 minutes (stopping in the middle and then getting back on is explicitly permitted, provided it's within this time window). The ticket records your origin, but not your destination. Tickets are checked "randomly" by plainclothes inspectors.

How can I tell which routes I am permitted to take?

Here is a U-Bahn/S-Bahn map for reference. I am not permitted to reproduce the map here.

  1. Suppose that I am at Wedding (top-centre of the middle zone) and I want to go to Tempelhof (bottom-centre of the middle zone). I can take the U6 line (purple) which cuts through the middle of the map. No changes are required.

    Alternatively, I can take the Ringbahn (brown lines) in either direction. Both directions look about the same length. No changes are required. Are these routes also allowed?

  2. Suppose that I am at Wedding again, and I want to go to Innsbrucker Platz (3 stops left of Tempelhof). The smallest number of changes required is 0 (taking the ring). If I take the U6 to Tempelhof and then the Ringbahn to Innsbrucker Platz, I might get to Innsbrucker Platz sooner, but this route includes a change of trains, which is not required. Is this route allowed?

  3. If "unnecessary" changes of trains are allowed, is there a limit? Can I get from Wedding to Innsbrucker Platz via Wedding -> Stadtmitte -> Potsdamer Platz -> Yorckstr -> Bayerischer Platz -> Innsbrucker Platz? (4 changes, when 0 would do)

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    According to the VBB Tarif, "Diese Einzelfahrausweise (außer Kurzstrecke) berechtigen zu einer Fahrt mit beliebigem Umsteigen unter Inanspruchnahme des jeweils nächstfolgenden Anschlusses in Richtung auf das Fahrtziel über den reiseüblichen oder durch die Fahrplanlage bedingten Weg." You are allowed to take the "usual/customary" route or the route that takes less time because of the timetable situation. – zhantongz Feb 21 at 13:05
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    However (I don't think that) your destination is indicated on the ticket, so you may be okay regardless as long as you are moving away from Wedding, or alternatively have a justification based on route or timetable. – zhantongz Feb 21 at 13:07
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    @zhantongz The restriction 'unter Inanspruchnahme des jeweils nächstfolgenden Anschlusses' does not apply for trips within Berlin. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Feb 21 at 16:24
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo Thanks, yes, I copied the wrong parts. – zhantongz Feb 21 at 17:00
  • Anywhere you want - because it's easy to dodge the inspectors :pPPPP – Fattie Feb 22 at 15:45
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Don't sweat the fine print too much.

In practice, you can take any train or bus within the travel zone and the 120 minute validity period - provided you don't go back to where you came from. The is no limit on the number of changes or stopovers.

The ticket inspectors do not know your destination, nor can they tell how often you have changed (or plan to change) trains on your trip, nor do they care.

While the language of the rules suggest that they'd like you to buy a ticket for each individual "trip", that is something that isn't enforced in practice (and can't be under the current system).

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In practical application the question is, at the time you ticket is checked are you travelling clearly towards the station where your ticket was originally stamped. If the answer is yes, then it looks like you are doing some kind of return trip which is not allowed. In all other situations you are ok. So doing a bunch of unnecessary changes is fine as long as you are travelling roughly in the same direction.

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The validity of the single tickets is, as described in VBB's terms and conditions:

Diese Einzelfahrausweise berechtigen zu einer Fahrt mit beliebigem Umsteigen in Richtung auf das Fahrtziel über den reiseüblichen oder durch die Fahrplanlage bedingten Weg.

My translation:

The single fare tickets allow a trip with any number of changes in direction of the destination via the usual route or via a route required by the current traffic/schedule situation.

So, following the wording in the T&Cs you are required to take the 'usual route', which in practice will mean the shortest, fastest or most convenient route. Any route suggested by BVG's trip planner will be ok and any detour beyond those suggestions will at least be open to interpretation. I don't have the impression that the ticket inspectors are particularly picky, but you shouldn't try to exploit the room for interpretation too much.

The other option 'or via a route required by the current traffic/schedule situation' applies in case of schedule interruption or delays, in which you are allowed to take a detour if it helps you reach your destination faster.

To your specific question, I would say:

  1. Taking U6 from Wedding to Tempelhof takes 18 minutes, while the Ringbahn takes 30 minutes and is therefore a significantly longer trip, both in travel time and distance. The T&Cs explicitely excludes 'round trips', which are defined as '... trips, which along a different route lead to a destination, which could have been reached on the outward trip'. My interpretation is that you in this situation are required to take the U6.

  2. In this case, the BVG trip planner will suggest both routes and there should be no problem to use either of them.

  3. This is indeed a case of interpretation, but I would guess that the route with a number of unnecessary changes is ok. It is tedious, but you are not making a significant detour and are always moving toward your destination.

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    With lots of unnecessary changes possibly the most important thing that happens is that one won't get far within the limited time. So the number of changes is in a sense self-limiting – cbeleites unhappy with SX Feb 21 at 22:08
  • All of these routes are okay, as long as you go through stations in an order that suggests directionality. E.g. if you want to go shopping at Alexanderplatz in between, you could go Wedding-Gesundbrunnen-Alexanderplatz-Hermannstr-Tempelhof, and you would never be moving "towards" Wedding, so that is okay on a single ticket (inspectors don't ask where you're going), but going from Alexanderplatz to Stadtmitte would be stretching it (Wedding-Stadtmitte-Alexanderplatz-Hermannstr-Tempelhof would be fine however). – Simon Richter Feb 21 at 22:09
  • Basically, avoid any routes you'd take if you wanted to go back to your point of origin, and you should be fine. – Simon Richter Feb 21 at 22:11
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    @user253751, yes, the Ringbahn makes things slightly ambiguous if you are exactly on the other side of the town, that is generally interpreted in favour of the passenger. – Simon Richter Feb 23 at 11:21
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    @cbeleitessupportsMonica Since the ticket is valid for two hours, you can on most connections within Berlin do several stops and changes without running out of time. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Feb 23 at 13:19

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