Heading to Berlin for the first time? Don’t know what to expect? We’ve rounded up our top travel tips for the city to make your trip as stress-free as possible. There are some useful things to keep in mind if you’re a backpacker in Berlin. From how to use the transport, where to stay and little things to be aware of, we’ve got you covered so you know what to expect when you touch down in the German capital…
1 HOW TO GET TO AND FROM BERLIN’S AIRPORTS
If your flying into Berlin, you will land at either Tegel Airport (TXL) or Berlin Schoenefeld (SXF). Tegel is a little closer to the city and it’s super easy to get into Mitte, Berlin’s centre, from here if you’re staying in our St Christopher’s Inns hostel. Just catch the TXL Express Bus from outside the airport that goes straight into Alexanderplatz which is just a 5 minute walk from the hostel. The ticket for the bus is super cheap (€2.80) and the journey will take around 40 minutes.
If you’re flying into Schoenefeld, which is where most of the budget airlines land, then you can use the airport’s very own Express Train. Catch the RE7 or RB14 trains which go straight into Alexanderplatz for €3.40.
2 BUY A DAY PASS FOR TRANSPORT
Working out how to get around a new city can sometimes be quite daunting - especially if you don’t speak German. But Berlin’s transport system is pretty easy to get the hang of so there’s nothing to worry about (and it’s cheap!). A day pass will cost around € 7,70 and will allow unlimited travel on Berlin’s public transport anywhere in the city (S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses, trams and ferries) until 3am.
You can also opt for The Berlin Welcome Card if you plan to do a lot of sightseeing. The Berlin Welcome Card will give you access to unlimited travel in Berlin (except to and from the airport) as well as up to 50% off the city’s sights and museums. For a 48 hour pass, a card costs €20 which is pretty good value.
3 CARRY EUROS!!
If you’ve ever been to cities like London, it’s easy to get used to the luxury of contactless payments EVERYWHERE. In restaurants, on the tube, in the supermarket and even in London cabs. Carrying cash isn’t even a thing in London anymore. But in Berlin, it’s a different story. Make sure to pay a trip to your local currency exchange in your hometown and take out enough cash for your trip. While Berlin is modern and advanced in so many ways, cash payment is still the way forward in most restaurants, bars and on public transport.
4 STAY IN A CENTRAL LOCATION
Find a hostel in a central location to make the most of your days in Berlin. Mitte is an ideal place to base yourself as it’s right in the heart of the city, within walking distance to many of the city’s best sights and attractions. Backpacker hostels are your best bet if you’re looking for budget accommodation with amazing facilities, events and group activities. St Christopher’s Inns, in the heart of Mitte is just a 5 minute walk from the iconic TV tower and a pleasant 35 minute walk to Brandenburg Gate - and on the way you’ll pass Museum Island and the opulent Berlin Cathedral. The perfect sightseeing route.
Want to head up the TV Tower for panoramic views of Berlin? Book here.
5 YOU CAN DRINK THE WATER
One of the things I’m worried about when visiting any city is whether or not you can drink the tap water. In Berlin, it’s perfectly safe to. In fact, the tap water is probably one of the safest to drink in the world due to the city’s strict laws on tap water quality. This means you should make the most of carrying a reusable water bottle around the city. Refill it whenever you walk into a coffee shop or restaurant, stay hydrated and help do your bit for the planet as you go.
6 WHAT TO EAT ON A BUDGET
It’s amazing how many tasty budget food options are available in Berlin, making it the perfect place for backpackers on a budget. The German classics that you simply must try are currywurst and pork knuckles. You can try authentic currywurst at many popular spots in Berlin; we recommend Curry 36, Belushi’s or Krasselt's Imbiss where a plate of currywurst won’t cost you more than €6. For the tastiest pork knuckles, try Hofbräu, a Bavarian inspired food & beer bar similar to what you’d find from pubs in Munich.
Another cheap eat in Berlin that you can’t miss is the famous doner kebab. The city is home to a massive Turkish population so in some areas of Berlin you’ll find a different doner kebab shop on every street corner. Perfect for post night out grub, the doner kebab shops tend to stay open until late. Mustafas serves up one of the best doners in Berlin.
The Vietnamese food in Berlin is also amazing so if you love Asian food, the city does it very well. Authentic and affordable, when you fancy some pho, .
7 BUY TICKETS FOR ATTRACTIONS IN ADVANCE
Berlin’s rich history is fascinating so make time to learn more about it while in the city. Book your tickets for some of Berlin’s main sights and attractions in advance to avoid disappointment when you arrive. Especially for the Berlin Cathedral where an e-ticket allows you to skip queues. If you’d like to visit the amazing Reichstag Dome (the House of German Parliament) then you also have to register online for a timeslot (even though entry is free).
8 LOOK OUT FOR DEMONSTRATIONS
Demonstrations occur quite frequently in Berlin and while the protests are safe and don’t tend to last too long, they can lead to buses being rerouted or terminating at a random stop. So watch out for that. Many of the bus announcements will be read out in German so if you feel like something may not sound right with your journey plan, ask a local on the bus what’s going on - or better yet, ask the driver.
9 GET TO KNOW THE REAL BERLIN
Get off the beaten track in Berlin and do what the locals love to do. Once you’ve ticked off all the main sights, head to some of the more underrated things to do in the city. From the coolest hipster coffee shops, live music events, art galleries and burlesque shows, there’s so much more to do in Berlin than just clubbing and sights...
10 YOU CAN USE UBER
Sometimes when travelling, you just want to treat yourself to an Uber journey rather than a train ride or long walk. The Uber app operates in Berlin but it works a little differently - instead of connecting you to the nearest Uber driver, it will connect you to a normal Berlin taxi instead. Germany is pretty strict when it comes to Uber laws, so we’re glad that Berlin came up with this cash-free alternative where we can still hitch a ride with local taxis via our mobile phones.
11 FREE THINGS TO DO
There are so many amazing things to see and do in Berlin that won’t cost you a penny. We know what it’s like to live on a backpacker budget, so making the most of the city’s free offerings is a great way to save some euros for food and drink later. In fact, some of Berlin’s most popular sights are free. The Berlin Wall, Holocaust Memorial, Bradenburg Gate and the Topography of Terror just to name a few.