Munich is a model city when it comes to public transportation. Its network of trams, buses and regional trains is fast and efficient, while many people also use their bicycles daily to cover short distances. Cars are often considered a necessary evil - parking in the city center is difficult and expensive, and traffic can be quite congested on the city ring.
There are two major public transportation organizations in Munich and you would be well-advised to familiarize yourself with both. The MVG (or Münchner Verkehrsgesellschaft) operates the U-Bahn, buses and trams, while the German Federal Railways (Deutsche Bahn or DB) operates the S-Bahn and regional railway network.
All public transportation in Munich and surrounding areas participates in the MVV (Munich Transport and Tariff Association), which offers a uniform pricing and ticketing system.
The websites (www.mvg-mobil.de, www.s-bahn-muenchen.de, www.mvv-muenchen.de) have multi-lingual information and offer a trip planner and network maps, as well as articles on special events in the area and how to get to them.
The system is efficient and reliable. Though not exactly cheap, it is not really expensive either, especially when you consider the services provided. Let's take a quick look at each part of this network separately.
The fastest way of traveling within the city of Munich is the U-Bahn, which is the short form of Untergrundbahn, or underground train. There are six U-Bahn lines covering a large swath of Munich. These lines are designated by numbers, as in U2 or U4. A similar designation by number is used for the S-Bahn as well (see below). The U-Bahn is by far the most popular method of getting around the city, as trams are almost always crowded during the morning and evening rush hours. All of the U-Bahn trains in Munich travel in two directions. To determine in which direction you need to travel, just look for the end station of the U-Bahn line you want to use.
The S-Bahn, or Schnellbahn (fast train), covers much of the area the U-Bahn misses but also runs over some of the U-Bahn territory. It also serves many outlying areas, including Freising, Petershausen, Erding and Holzkirchen, to name just a few. The S8 and the S1, for example, will take you to the Munich International Airport.
"Trambahn" is the typical Munich word for streetcar or tram. It is for those travelers who want to travel some stretch not covered by the U-Bahn or S-Bahn, or who have the time and inclination to take the scenic route. It covers a number of areas within the city and there are 10 trams in Munich, identifiable by a two-digit number.
The local bus system also takes you to areas that are not covered by the rapidtransit trains. There are two types of buses: the MetroBus (number 50 - 60) connecting city districts with U-Bahn stations in at least every 10 minutes, and the StadtBus (number 100 - 199) that primarily operates in city districts. However, buses are also the slowest mode of public transport, as they must operate on the same streets as private cars and trucks. Currently, there are about 70 bus lines operating mostly in Munich districts.
Munich is a great party town and also has one of the most extensive night transportation networks in Germany. The U-Bahns operate until 2:00 a.m. and the last S-Bahns run between 2:10 and 2:40 a.m. MVG-Nightlines (which have an "N" before the number) operate every 30 minutes all night long at the weekend and every hour on weekdays. All night trambahns and the night bus N40 meet hourly at the interchange station Karlsplatz (Stachus), where there's a 5-minute wait before you can change to any other nightline.