Berlin is massive, and can be overwhelming if it’s your first time here. I speak German enough to get around, and it’s been difficult to decide what to do, how much to do, etc.
My first piece of advice for people coming to Berlin for the first time: get a Berlin Welcome Card and Museum Pass!
Berlin Welcome Card
– You can purchase it for 2 – 6 days on this website, and can even have it send as a .pdf voucher or have the pass delivered to your house.
– It’s a great value because ALL of your public transit is included (bus, tram, train, subway) for the time you purchase the pass until midnight of the final day. Considering that 1-way S-bahn (train) tickets cost ~2.50 € and day-passes for transit are 7€, if you ride any combination of transit multiple times in a 48-hour+ period, this is a cost-effective way to do so and receive discounts on museum entrance fees and other activities.
– There are 2 geographical areas, as well. AB covers the main part of Berlin, and ABC covers Berlin – Potsdam. I had to purchase an ABC card because I’m staying in Lankwitz, which is 2 stops outside of the AB geographic range. If you want to go to Potsdam while using your Welcome Card, choose the ABC option.
– You can purchase the Welcome Card at any Tourist Info station, and at any electronic ticket machine in any transit station. I took the bus from the airport to the Hauptbahnhof (train station), and could have purchased it at either location, which would have saved me some money on initial transit costs. Whoops.
– The Card also comes with a map of Berlin (SUPER helpful for planning transit throughout the city) and a booklet explaining all of the discounts and tips for hitting the highlights of the city in 1, 2, and 3 days. There are also tours focused on East/West Germany, Potsdam, etc.
– Pro tip: You cannot purchase the Welcome Card with a debit or credit card. You must pay with cash unless you have a German card.
– While the Welcome Card can get you discounts for museums and attractions, the Museum Pass grants you free entry into over 50 museums.
– This is an add-on to the Welcome Card, which I did not know when I came to Berlin. For students, it’s 12 € (adults are 24 €) and can be purchased along with the Welcome Card, or at any of the museums on Museum Island. More information about which museums are covered by the Museum Pass is here.
– The Pass is only good for three days, so you might want to plan which museums you want to visit in advance. Not all of them are on Museum Island, and you will have to take a tram, train, or subway to get to different areas for other museums. I will discuss this in my next post about “things to do” while in Berlin.
– There are multiple types of public transit throughout Berlin: bus, tram, U-bahn, S-Bahn, and Deutsche Bahn. You do *not* have to stay in the City Center to be close to everything. Save some $$$ and stay farther out. I’m staying WAY south in Lankwitz, and it’s only 20 minutes to get from my flat to the city center.
– U-bahn is the subway system, S-bahn is the local trains that go throughout the city, Deutsche Bahn is the company that runs the national train system (which you won’t really need if you’re just staying in Berlin), the buses run like any others – several of them are two buses connected in them middle like an accordion or double-decker, which is great, and the trams run through the city on tracks and cables in the streets.
– When you get to the airport, you can take a bus directly to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) in about 20 minutes, and from the Hauptbahnhof you can get anywhere in the city. When you walk out of the airport exit, just walk over to the electronic ticket machine and get a ticket. The machines have German, English, Spanish, and French, I believe. There was also a transit worker standing there who let me buy my ticket from him since the glare from the sun on the machine made it difficult to read.
– The traffic in Berlin actually isn’t too bad, considering there are about 14 different ways to get anywhere you want to go in the city that don’t require having a car.
– I have yet to take the another bus in Berlin, but the other forms of transit have worked great to get me where I want to be. And of course:
– BRING WALKING SHOES (and boots if you’ll be here in the winter). Each time I’ve gone out for the day, I have walked over 5 miles.
My next post will be about the things I have done so far in Berlin!