Directions from Munich Airport to Ulm

Leaving the Plane and Clearing Customs

After getting off the plane, you walk a bit and go through a checkpoint where they check your passport and ask a few questions. The first checkpoint you see might be for people going on to other planes. If so, skip that and continue toward the baggage collection area. After the checkpoint, continue to the baggage area.

Find the S-Bahn Entrance and Ticket Machines

After collecting your baggage, you will walk through customs. If you have nothing to declare, you simply walk through the green doorway and will probably not be questioned. Now you are in the general airport area. Your goal is to find entrance to the S-Bahn (but not to go in yet) and the ticket machines. Along the way, you should also find a place to buy euros.

The instructions below explain how to buy an S-Bahn ticket. However, if you are not going to do anything in Munich except take a train out of the city, you can buy one ticket that covers the S-Bahn and the train. If you are doing that, ignore the S-Bahn ticket instructions and either buy your Deutsche Bahn ticket in advance or at a machine or ticket counter in the airport.

White S in green circle
S-Bahn sign.
Entrance to down escalator
S-Bahn entrance.
After leaving customs and stepping out of the controlled area, one of the many signs in sight will have a white S in a green circle. A big S-Bahn sign is shown to the left, but you are looking for the same graphic on a little sign. Follow those signs. This will involve traversing several corridors and passing various shops and counters. Keep an eye out for an ATM or a place to change currency. If you see an ATM, use that. Otherwise, prefer Sparkasse (near an S-Bahn entrance) and skip the place labeled Cambio, Reise Bank, or Western Union. (If you do not find an ATM, buy just enough euros for the day. The exchange rate and fees are usually better with an ATM.) Eventually, you will find an entrance to the S-Bahn, as shown to the right. Do not enter the S-Bahn. You must buy a ticket before entering the city transit system.

Ticket machine, silver with blue top
Fahrkarten MVV-Tickets machine.
Look for an MVV-Tickets machine, shown to the left.

Push the flag button to get English. (Two caveats: The flag button blends in with the machine decor and is easy to overlook. And on one machine I tried, it was broken.) If you are traveling alone and going straight to Ulm, push the orange 4 button and put money (€10.8 in 2016) into the machine, in bills or coins. You can put in more, and it will give change. The orange 4 button buys a four-zone single-fare pass.

If you are alone but wish to travel around Munich before going to Ulm, press the yellow button next to the Single-Tageskarte Gesamtnetz label and pay. This buys you a single-person day pass. You can ride the trains, buses, and streetcars in Munich as many times as you want until 6 a.m. the next morning.

If you are in a group of two to five people, press the yellow button next to the Partner-Tageskarte Gesamtnetz label and pay. This buys you a group day pass. As long as you are together, you can ride the Munich trains, buses, and streetcars as many times as you want until 6 a.m. the next morning. It may be the same price as two single fares to the Hauptbahnhof.

Enter the S-Bahn

Now go back to the S-Bahn entrance. Check for a machine to time-stamp your ticket. They used to be at the top (entrance) of the escalator, but I am told they are now on the platforms below. Depending on your ticket type, you might need to insert it into a machine to time-stamp it. If so, be sure to stamp it before boarding. (Some tickets may be already dated when printed.)

Go in and down the escalator. You will be on the train platforms, Gleis 1 and Gleis 2. Signs will tell you the next trains coming, where they are going, and so on.

Take the S8 or S1 to the Hauptbahnhof

Get on the S8 or S1 train. The S8 is at the end of its line, so you cannot go in the wrong direction. I think the S1 is also at the end of its line. (If not, it makes a loop, so you still cannot go wrong. The map looked to me at first like there might be a loop, but now I do not think so.)

Equilateral triangle of green lights inside a bright red circle inside a dark red circle
Button to open S-Bahn door.
To get on the train, you need to open the doors. They do not open automatically. You need to push the button shown to the right, where the green lights are. The door is powered and will open by itself once the button is pushed. (The U-Bahn, in case you ride it sometime, is different. You pull a lever instead of pushing a button.)

The S-Bahn is comfortable. The ride to the Hauptbahnhof takes about 40 minutes. Once you are in the city, the stops are announced in German and English on the S8, and likely on the S1 as well. On the S8, the Hauptbahnhof is two stops after Marienplatz.

Get off at the Hauptbahnhof. Remember to push the button to open the door.

Find Your Train

Red DB with white background in rounded red rectangle
Die Bahn sign.
When I left the S8, walking the most apparent route put me right at the Deutsche Bahn train platforms. I just followed the DB signs, shown to the left. When you go up the escalator next to McClean, you will be right at the train platforms.

If you find yourself outside, you can either look around for the Hauptbahnhof, a large building that may be next to you or across the street, or you can go back down and try again.

Die Bahn machine, red on left, white on right If you do not have a Deutsche Bahn (also called Die Bahn) ticket, find one of the machines shown to the right and buy a ticket to Ulm. The machine has English. It does not take cash but should take credit cards. Alternately, there are service counters with real people where you can buy tickets. You can use the machine to buy a ticket or, I think, to pick up a ticket that was ordered over the Internet.

There are several signs to help you find your way. At the end of the train platforms, there is a large overhead display where you can check your train's status and find it's platform (Gleis). At the platform, there is a display, attached to or next to a clock, that shows the current or next train for this platform. If you are more than a few minutes early, a train that is at the platform is probably a different, earlier train, so do not get on until the sign at the platform shows your train.

Inside glass cases at the platforms are posted schedules and diagrams of the trains. Each train (except perhaps local trains) is shown separately in the diagrams. You can use the diagrams to identify second-class cars (green in the diagrams) and find where they are in the train and where they stop along the platform (there are lettered positions, such as from A to G, marked on the platform). The train cars themselves are marked with 1 and 2 for first and second class. They are generally marked with their individual car numbers too, but these may be on a paper sign in the window, on a display screen inside the car, or elsewhere. It is not important to find the right car before boarding; you can walk through the train.

Get on the train. In Munich, the doors will probably already be open. If not, you have to push a button, as on the S-Bahn.

Find Your Seat

Find a seat. If you have a seat reservation, you have a specific car (Wagen) number and a seat number. Otherwise, look for a seat that does not have a paper or electronic sign above it showing start and end cities. A labeled seat is reserved.

Meet Me in Ulm

Sculpture of sparrow flying with luggage.
Sparrow at the Hauptbahnhof.
Ride to Ulm. It is about 80 minutes (first class) or an hour and twenty minutes (second class), with one stop. If you are the first person off, you have to push a button or pull a handle to open the door.

If I do not meet you on the platform where you get off the train, find your way into the main room of the train station and wait for me under the sparrow. If the sparrow is missing, wait for me in the room with the train departure display board.

Return Trip

To get back to the airport:

Copyright 2003 by Eric Postpischil.