So it’s been just short of a month since I arrived back in Manchester after spending 4 nights in Berlin, Germany. It was a birthday gift from me to my fiancé, as he’s been wanting to go there for ages so I planned a trip and off we flew. We are notorious for not travelling…ever. I did joke I would now yearly plan a short holiday for his birthday but despite the actual break being ok, not knowing were we where or how to get anywhere was a pain in the ass. I’m all for adventure and wandering. But cities tend to lose their charm after a while. I think it’s the sheer amount of people all amalgamated in one place.
That said, I found Berlin in comparison to London, UK or New York City, USA to be a pleasant host. So here is my how to guide to doing Berlin on a budget.
- Book in advance. Self explanatory but if you want to do a city break, mini break, long weekend. Basically anything short of a week in a city then you need to book ahead. I booked our flights at the beginning of November 2015. David’s birthday is 30th November so I was able to gift him the tickets on his birthday, I also took him into Manchester city centre despite being ridiculously ill and it pouring down for some culture at the new Cornerhouse HOME Mcr and then some boozy hot chocolate in said Northern typical weather. We flew with EasyJet and like always our flights were all no frills, pay for what you are willing to pay for. In total x2 return flights came in at £160 so £40 per head each way inc. tax. The view that greeted us on our first venture outside. -7c
- Decide how you are going to get to the Airport and back. We decided to take our car and park at a nearby airport car park, run by a private company. The cheapest I could find was £25 for the weekend, with flights 5 days in total. If we’d taken the tram and bus it would have been £7 each, each way that’s £30 so we saved £5 and a load of stress. Despite being the cheapest option, AHP were brilliant and I would recommend them. In a nutshell, you drop off your car, they park it for you. Ferry you to your terminal on a free transfer bus and when you’re back you call them, they pick you up and your car is waiting. Really worth it after a long journey or wait to get through passport control.
- Book your accommodation, again do this early for big savings! Rather than have to check in and struggle to convey multiple needs in broken, embarrassing German. I decided to go the authentic route and booked an Airbnb for our trip. Which in Berlin is probably the best way to stay in the city. We stayed in Kreuzkölln which is on the South East side of the city. it cost £210 for 4 nights, so £26.50pppn. This provided us with an apartment equipped with a small kitchen, bathroom including bath and bedroom. No mod cons, bar the heating which we needed and a set of speakers along with wifi which encouraged us to go out and explore.Our home for the weekend ~ A lovely flat in East Berlin
- Check pricing before entering. The majority of cafes, bars and restaurants in Berlin have menu’s outside their front door. Meaning you have see what they have to offer in relation to cuisine and price. If you are really watching your cash then there are plenty of street food vendors dotted around, particularly at train/tram stations and touristy areas. We had currywurst at Curry36, a small vendor near the Berlin Zoo in Tiergarden which set us back 4.50euros each for bratwurst and a fresh bread roll. When its -5 you’ll take what you can get, but this which is a classic Berlin dish is just warm, yummy comfort food regardless of the weather. If you do want to go somewhere for a meal, we found that the average meal for 2 came to 30-40euros with drinks. We had a 70-80euro budget each day so a daily sit down meal takes a big chunk when you’re on a budget, so mix it up and use street food to eat as you go. Americano and chicken, rocket and chorizo panini, in one of Berlin’s many small cafeswoolworths – still going strong in Berlin! Went into administration a while ago in the UK
- Berlin’s public transport system is organised, efficient and cheap. I was very impressed with Berlin’s public transport system. Despite having bus, tram and train services. They were all connected via a range of tickets. Again I compared the system to NYC and the London Underground. There are 3 rings, A, B and C. A and B cover most of berlin, with the outer ring C containing the airports. A daily ticket for A and B which will get you to most destinations within Berlin costs 7euros and allows travel on ALL methods of transport. Coming from Manchester where the public transport system is fragmented and expensive I found Berlin’s system to be a nice surprise. To boot, all transport is efficient and on time. The most we waited was 7-8minutes for a train. The rest of the time we never waited more than a few minutes. So there’s the U Bahn as an underground system, the S Bahn is the trains and there are buses too. My fitbit I received for Christmas revealed that my cries of torture and pain in my feet was not psychosomatic. As one day we didn’t use the U Bahn so much and walked a total for 30,000 steps, that’s 13.1 miles and 25+ flights of steps. If you want to get around off foot for free then you can do this via a bicycle. Bikes account for 18% of all traffic in Berlin. They are everywhere and there are bike lanes on public footpaths, each street lamp or railing is adored with hundreds of bikes, all shapes and sizes. You can rent a bike for a day, there are numerous companies around the city that hire from 8-10euros per day. Or, you can sign up to http://www.bikesurf.org, tell them when you’re coming to Berlin, pick a bike to borrow and borrow a bike from someone for free. You do have to provide ID to the website but there are no charges so a winner.
- Above all to ensure you get the cheapest option available plan in advance! Buy your flights well in advance, as well as accommodation if able and remember that Berlin IS a city and like all cities, will be expensive if you wing it.