Geeks, welcome to Berlin
Dear occasional visitor, welcome to Berlin.
I’ve tried to compile a list of things that a travelling geek might want to know when visiting Berlin.
Perhaps you’re attending one of our many lovely tech conferences, or visiting a geeky friend in the city.
This page is far from complete, but I hope it’ll help you started on the right foot.
Getting to Alexanderplatz from an airport.
If you’re visiting via an airport, you’ll probably want to go to Alexanderplatz and then get your bearings from there.
When in doubt, or if you’re not going to Alexanderplatz, The BVG journey planner is quite good, as are the route planning apps (see below).
From Tegel Airport, the easiest way to get to Alexanderplatz is to take the “TXL” bus route that goes directly there. You’ll need an AB ticket, which will cost €2.80 and is valid for the rest of your journey inside the AB zone for two hours.
Don’t forget to validate your ticket
Or, you can take a taxi, should be about €25 to Alexanderplatz.
From Schönefeld Airport, you have the option of two different train connections. I recommend taking the regional train (not the S-bahn). You’ll need an ABC ticket, which will cost €3.40 and is valid for the rest of your journey inside the ABC zone for two hours.
Don’t forget to validate your ticket
Or, you can take a taxi, should be about €35 to Alexanderplatz.
Getting a data plan
First things first, you will probably want a data plan for one or more of your devices for your visit, right?
Obvious reminder: make sure you get the correct sim card size for your device!
Most prepaid sims sold over the counter are regular/micro, not nano sims (iPhone5+). Save yourself some hassle and and time in Berlin, and order your sim online and have it sent to your hotel or a friend in Berlin (I don’t think any of the companies will ship sims outside Germany).
http://prepaidwithdata.wikia.com/wiki/Germany has a good overview of what is available.
Recommendation - congstar
congstar uses the Telekom Deutschland (formlery T-mobile) network, which has excellent coverage in Berlin and has pretty good coverage in rural areas as well.
Recommendation - blau.de
In Berlin, blau.de works fairly well, and is quite affordable. It’s easy enough to understand their website using just Google Translate in Chrome.
Berlin operates mostly on cash, so you’ll want some.
Luckily there are cash machines everywhere.
Beware of the fees when getting cash from cash machines. If it’s not free, you can expect to pay ~€5 per transaction.
You can find details of the fee structure on every cash machine. When in doubt, always get €200 or more to beat the minimum fee.
Some issuers of cards offer you to take out cash without fees from any machine, it’s probably worth checking if you have one of those.
Money - finding cash machines
I use the Geldautomat Suche app to find banks in CashGroup (which means I can take out cash without fees). The app also lists cash machines for non-CashGroup banks.
Berlin has an excellent public transport system, consisting of:
- High speed long distance rail: ICE, IC, EC (not local!)
- Local rail: RE, RB
- S-Bahn (above ground)
- U-Bahn (below ground)
- Tram (streetcars)
- Fähren (ferries)
The tickets might not look the same, but they do cover all local systems and allows you to transfer from one to the other to complete your journey. You can find the different zones on the map, that helps you to decide whether you need an AB or ABC ticket.
With a Day Ticket, you can travel as often as you want on the day printed on the ticket or from validation of the ticket when starting your journey until 3.00 am on the following day. It costs €7 for AB zone. More info on tickets and the different options can be found here.
You might also be interested in the Berlin Welcome Card. The ticket costs €19.90 for 48 hours, has unlimited travel on public transport and upto 50% discount at approx. 200 major sights. More info here.
There are also taxis. In my experience, they’re reasonably priced (compared to Scandinavia at least) and drivers take the most direct route or even ask your preference if you show any German proficiency.
Getting around - bicycles
Berlin is very bicycle friendly, and you can rent bicycles pretty much everywhere.
I’ve used Fat Tire before, and was very happy with their service.
Don’t forget to buy a ticket for your bike, if you decide to take it with you on public transit.
Getting around - apps
Get one of the official apps to help planning your travel through the city, you can load these onto your phone even before you leave your home.
iOS — BVG FahrInfo Plus
Android — BVG FahrInfo Plus
If you provide the app with payment information, you can use them to buy tickets (if you have an internet connection). You can set this up ahead of time, so you’re ready to rock when you arrive in Berlin.
Idea: You can even buy an all-day ticket (AB for TXL, ABC for SXF) before you even leave your home, and be ready to just step on the train/bus/tram when you arrive in Berlin.
Also, Google has added Berlin public transit to the routing in the Maps apps on iOS, I suspect that means it’s already in Android.
BVG - tickets
You can buy tickets in all Rail, S-bahn, U-bahn stations as well as on trams and busses, and even using the official BVG apps (see above).
The Tickets & Fares page should have all the information you need.
Notice, that the ticket machines in stations only accept cash and EC (Maestro) cards, and that machines in trams only accept coins.
You can buy tickets ahead of time. Remember to validate your ticket when starting a journey.
If you’re exploring and not spending the day at a conference or working, a day ticket is well worth the price. There are also tickets that span 3-5 days.
If I can’t immediately see a free taxi, I use the mytaxi app to hail a taxi.
Caffeination is important.
There are a number of really good coffee places in Berlin. I am sure that your friendly resident geeks will be more than happy to share their preferences with you.
I maintain a list of my favourite coffee places on Foursquare.
Food && Drink
Here are a few more lists that might be of interest to you
- Favourite restaurants
- Japanese food in Berlin
- Korean food in Berlin
- Chinese food in Berlin
- Berlin bars
The places listed here are places that I like for various reasons, and that I’d happily visit again.
A lot of places offer free wifi, usually you just have to ask for the password, or your can use http://4sqwifi.com to find free wifi. Germans use the term “WLAN”, (pronounced VEE-LAN), so use that when asking for the password.
Be a good sport and buy a coffee, meal, beer, whatever so cafes and bars will continue to supply this hospitality to everyone.
Have I forgotten something important? Please send questions to @mrgnrdrck and I’ll try to answer questions here.