10 Tips For Travel in Berlin, Germany
Have You Ever Been to Berlin?
Berlin has to be my absolute favourite place to go on holiday so far. There is loads to do, lots to see and best of all- it's all super cheap! I have been 4 times so far, and have another trip planned this year.
As a tourist, there area few things that you should keep in mind when visiting Berlin, and this hub will give you a few tips before you go.
Using Public Transport as a Tourist in Berlin
The public transport system is not that complex. If you take a bit of time before you go to Berlin to familiarise yourself with the travel maps, it will make things a lot easier when you get there.
We also got a handy little foldaway map from the tourist information at the airport and were confident enough to use public transport to get to our hotel. I don't regret that decision, and will be doing the same in any future visits.
Plan your route in advance (I carried a small notebook with my itinerary for the day). Note down route numbers and direction of travel, as well as the stop you are getting off at. This will make you feel much more confident in using the transport and not getting lost. I think we blended in so much that we were actually asked for directions from tourists and even a german elderly couple!
Something else worth noting is to ensure you have a travel ticket to avoid hefty fines from undercover transport police. It costs approx £26 for a weekly travel ticket. You can even get them at the airport. If you are staying for less than a week, then a Berlin Welcome Card is something worth investing in as it provides with your travel ticket as well as handy discounts in various attractions and restaurants. Make sure your ticket is validated with a timestamp for the duration of your stay (buy from tourist info at no extra cost for this) for hassle free travel!
The majority of tram and bus drivers also speak English, and you can check routes/ destinations with them if required, but the bus stops and tram stops have everything laid out on the timetables. The whole system is really user- friendly so do not be put off exploring the city. It is very hard to get properly lost, and you can always get transportation back the way you came.
"Rudeness" of People
I had heard before I went to Berlin that the people can be "rude." I actually didn't find this to be true. It is simply that the people do not extend the same overly courteous attitude that we are so fond of in the UK. It's not such a bad thing.
People will not hold doors open for you, or let you go first onto the train/tram/bus. They will happily nudge you out of the way to squeeze into a carriage or sit next to you. The sooner you accept this, or even embrace it yourself, the better your trip will be!
Cash is Usually Preferred
Card payments are not well liked for some reason in Berlin, and there are often "cash only" policies in bars and restaurants. Be sure to keep an eye on your spend also as the majority of bars and restaurants will run a tab system, and you will need enough cash to pay at the end. If you are scared to have a tab incase of overspending, ask to pay per round- this is easier than being short at the end of your stay.
Even in establishments that offer a card payment option, cash is usually easier as the switch machines are glitchy and slow.
When obtaining cash, use a bank atm as opposed to the more handy standalone atm's dotted around the city (you will recognise them when you see them) to limit any charges.
We minimised the charges by getting a credit card that didnt charge extra for overseas transactions, and only charged interest on the cash withdrawn. We used this to withdraw cash, then paid the card at the end of each day or two. I think all in all it cost us about £1 for the week. Quite cheap in comparison to debit card charges.
Your change is not usually handed to you. It is normally put on a little dish for you to pick up, or on the counter itself. I quite like this approach, being a complete germaphobe, so it was win- win for me!
I have also found out that handing money to cashiers/ bus drivers etc isn't a custom there either, so you may want to put your cash on the counter when paying for goods and services.
I mention this as again, I think some tourists may see this custom as rudeness, but it really is just the way things are done in Berlin. No need to take it personally.
The Toilets Can Be Stinky
Ok, so this is one of the first things I noticed about Berlin. On arriving, i nipped in to use the toilet, and the smell of urine was so strong I couldn't even go into the room. This was the ladies toilets, so I would hate to smell the gents. This would not be accepted here in the UK.
Unfortunately, this is something that was a reoccurrence in tourist attractions and public toilets everywhere. Don't get me wrong, there are some exceptions to the rule- the toilets where you pay a charge are usually the cleanest, so I would recommend those.
Perhaps this is why the change is given on dishes?
Bring Antibacterial Hand Gel
As an extension of the previous point, I always felt quite grubby, so alcohol gel is a must for any like minded germaphobe in Berlin.
Bring Your Own Meds!
So I learned this the hard way and had to buy paracetamol and Ibuprofen while in Berlin... at a whopping cost of 7.99 Euros!!! I can get those in the UK for 19p per pack!
Whatever your ailment, don't be fooled into thinking, oh I can buy those there. Trying to buy medication in itself is a hassle, as you can't buy anything other than vitamins from supermarkets. If you want any medication, you have to go to the pharmacy, and pay through the nose.
Pack your own painkillers/ travel sickness pills and anything else you may need. Just remember to have your name label on any prescription meds for airport purposes!
It is usually cheaper to buy beer than soft drinks here. You actually have more choice of beers than soft drinks in shops, and most corner shops, tourist points and even snack stands have chilled beer for your pleasure!
The love of beer is strong in Berlin. Again, you should just embrace this for a fun trip.
It's quite surprising how easily you adapt to drinking a lot of beer, and I have heard that drinking normal "uk" beer afterwards is quite a letdown. Personally, I have stuck to German beers on return to the UK.
It is actually acceptable... normal even... to drink beer in public. You can walk down the street drinking beer and even drink on the train. It is interesting to note, however that you can't drink on the subway, so keep that in mind.
Socialising Is Cheap
Eating out and drinking are both super cheap in Berlin. My partner and I had a 2 course Italian meal with 2 drinks each for 20 Euro! Amazing value.
The general rule from what I had found is: Food & Drink= Cheap, Everything Else= Not.
Keep this in mind when packing- try not to forget anything, and enjoy your trip!