In theory, the bus is the fastest method of public transport when it comes to traveling between Wrocław and Berlin. In practice that is not often the case though, so why not look at going there by train?
In recent weeks I've observed a degree of frustration on social media (particularly on Wrocław Expats Facebook group) regarding annoying bus delays. So for those people who would consider the train as an alternative, this article should come in handy (yes, there is also BlaBlaCar, but that's not for everyone).
If you are searching for train offers for trips within Poland, check out this article on train deals we published last year.
As many of you will know, Polskibus and DB run buses between Wrocław and the German capital, both of which are advertised as having a travel time of around 4 hours 15 minutes. The two services also make a stop at Schönefeld Airport on the way to the centre. While most of these journeys are not subject to delays, an uncomfortable amount of them are, and if you have precious little time available then the more (but not entirely) reliable train network should not be sniffed at.
The problem is though, there is no longer a regular daily train between Wrocław and Berlin, and you have to do a fair amount of research to find out how to travel as quickly and affordably as possble.
Ultimately, the following factors will affect both the cost and duration of your trip: what time of day it is, how many people are travelling and whether it is the weekend or during the week.
During the week, the best way to get to Berlin is via Görlitz and Cottbus; there are 3 such connections a day (06.15, 12.15 and 18.15, all of which use the Wrocław to Dresden train) with a journey time of just over 5 hours.
On the way back there are two decent connections per day running in the reverse direction on the same route (departing at 10.35 and 16.35). It also possible to return by getting a 19 euro ticket to Poznan followed by a standard ticket from there to Wroclaw.
On paper, the Wrocław-Görlitz-Cottbus-Berlin route is 45 minutes slower than the bus, however it is worth considering the fact that the train from Cottbus runs through many Berlin stations, allowing you to get off in east, central and west Berlin. Therefore once you weigh-in a likely small bus delay and add the potential travel time from the rather westerly located Berlin ZUG bus station, the train may actually end up being faster way of getting to your accomodation (despite the 5 hour journey time being longer than it should be).
As is shown in the timetables above, it's also possible to quickly jump on other trains heading to some of Berlin's airports. This obviously comes in handy if you are flying out of Berlin.
So what's the cheapest way to travel via this route?
First of all, get yourself a pair of tickets to Bolesławiec, which cost about 22zł per person. If you buy them online here, the Koleje Dolnośląskie website will also apply a 20% discount towards each additional person's ticket, which will help to save a few more pennies if you are in a group. In the above screenshot, the price in yellow is the cost of the disounted ticket.
After that, head to the Interregio counter at the main station to purchase a Euro-Nysa ticket for each person (or get a group ticket if you are 4-5 people). This ticket will get you all the way from Bolesławiec to Spremberg for the very modest fee of 25zł (or 75zł for a group ticket).
It is worth noting here that there is no need to change trains at either Bolesławiec or Spremberg, you simply remain on the same train as shown in the above timetable – in each case you have a valid ticket for the next part of your journey.
Unfortunately the Euro Nysa ticket can't be purchased online (as far as I know) or on any of the ticket machines. It is also important to remember that you can only buy the ticket up to 2 days in advance – so if you are away for the weekend (e.g Friday-Sunday) be sure to get the Euro Nysa tickets for both days at the counter before you board the train.
For the last leg of the journey you have two options depending on whether you are traveling solo or with others.
If you are between 2-5 people, buy a Berlin-Brandenberg day group ticket online and print it out (you'll need the names of the passengers when booking). It costs 29 euros no matter how many people are traveling, so the more who travel the cheaper it is. This ticket allows you to travel between 9am and 3am the following day an unlimited number of times within the Berlin-Brandenburg region.
This means the Berlin-Brandenberg ticket is also valid on Berlin's S-Bahn, U-Bahn, trams, buses and ferrys. Don't forget a day ticket for Berlin public transport costs 7.70 euros, so you'd be saving that cash too!
Sadly, if you are traveling solo things will be more expensive. The only option is to buy a single ticket between Spremberg and Berlin (18.75 euros) either on the train or using DB's handyticket app. You can easily install the handyticket app on your phone and use your bankcard as ID (as most of us won't have a German ID) and buy the ticket on the morning you are using it.
Going by current exchange rates, two seperate journeys (there and back) on 2 different days would in total cost as follows (per person):
- 1 person: 252zł return (approx)
- 2 people: 212zł return (approx)
- 3 people: 171zł return (approx)
- 4 people: 138zł return (approx)
- 5 people: 110zł return (approx)
If you are a student, remember that on the Polish part of the journey you can get a cheaper concession fare. The same is true for the single ticket between Spremberg and Berlin if you are a student traveling solo.
Compared to Polskibus tickets bought well in advance of travel, the above prices are noticeably higher.
The difference is nonetheless negligable when compared to tickets bought just a few days or weeks in advance. Polskibus' booking system has been down for the last 24 hours. However if the Flixbus website is anything to go by (remember Flixbus sell Polskibus tickets and vice-versa), a bus ticket to Berlin anytime in the next five weeks will generally cost you between 18 and 29 euros. So the price difference perhaps isn't as massive as you'd think.
Things are thankfully a little more affordable over the weekend, making the train an even more attractive option.
This is made possible thanks to two things: Koleje Dolnośląskie's weekend service to the border station of Forst, and the same train company's 35zł weekend ticket offer.
So for weekend travel, the Polish section of the journey only costs 35zł return. Then for the German part of the journey, the same Berlin-Brandernburg day ticket or single ticket to Berlin (in this case from Forst) applies.
This special service leaves Wrocław at 08.15 on Saturday morning and a return trip is possible on the same route from Berlin at 16.15 on Sunday evening, which is ideal for an overnight weekend trip. The journey time in each direction is also about 5 hours.
Going by current exchange rates, a weekend return trip on the route above would cost as follows (per person):
- 1 person: 193zł return (approx)
- 2 people: 152zł return (approx)
- 3 people: 116zł return (approx)
- 4 people: 96zł return (approx)
- 5 people: 84zł return (approx)
As you can see, if you are traveling in a group 3-5 people the price is actually well within Polskibus territory. Another advantage here is that all of these tickets can be purchased for the same price the day before the trip, whereas Polskibus prices tend to shoot-up in the days before the bus departs.
Taking the Wrocław-Berlin 'Culture Train'
"Why haven't you mentioned the direct train connection yet?" I can presume some of you are asking. Well, the direct train option is lower down the positioning in this article due to the fact that the departure times are geared more towards Berliners than Wrocławians.
As you can see in the above timetable, the train only leaves Wrocław in the evenings on Saturdays and Sundays, while the return journeys from Berlin are only in the morning. The timetable has been engineered in such a away so as to encourage Berliners to come to Wrocław, but unfortunately it doesn't quite work the other way around.
That said, if the times above do happen to suit your travel plans, a single ticket from Wrocław to Berlin (or in the other direction) can be purchased at the station for 79zł.
If you are up for a bit of a random experience, you can also try the 79zł 'party train' ticket offer. This ticket allows you to head out to Berlin on Saturday evening, have a few drinks on the train once it hits the border (or earlier if you can get away with it), then party all night in Berlin before taking the train home in the morning.
Naturally, it seems a bit crazy to spend all that time traveling to Berlin for a night out when Wrocław has great clubs of its own. That said, you can't deny it would be one memorable night out if you did try it. For those that fancy going, you can get your tickets in the train station; the name of the ticket is the 'Berlin-Clubnight-Ticket'.
And if you do have to take the bus …
If you are to take the bus to Berlin, the service operated by German Rail (DB) is arguably worth any extra cost compared to Polskibus (and in some cases it may even be cheaper).
The bus picks you up and drops you off by Berlin's main station rather than the bus station on the outskirts, while the conditions are noticeably more comfortable. While the wifi is just as patchy as on the Polskibus, DB do have an impressive on board enternainment hub that allows you to watch movies in 3 different languages on your smartphone. On top of that, you've got extra leg room and a fold-down-table on every seat. Last but not least, they even sell beer on board for consumption while the bus is in Germany.
Tickets for the bus generally cost 19 euros and can be purchased on the DB website.
I took this bus as recently as last week and unfortunately it was delayed by over an hour due to roadworks and bad traffic. That said, at least they were good enough to send me an email to apologise and give a new estimated time of arrival.
Is it worth it then?
Personally speaking, if the cost of train travel is only marginally higher than the bus, I'd go with the train everytime.
Admittedly the journey does take a lot longer than it should, but at least you get a sense of you moving forward all the time, which is not always the case on the bus. If you travel from Berlin to Wrocław by train you also avoid the horrifically bumpy stretch of road between the border and the A4 motorway. On top of that, it goes without saying that you have the possibility to get up and move around a bit, which you can't really do so much on a bus.