I am really excited because my best friend, Jenn is planning to visit me in Berlin. And we are trying to plan it together with a girls trip to Paris. It’s so exciting. I am sure it will be epic! She sent me this cool link on how to enjoy Paris for Php 55,000 (about € 900). One of the questions she asked me was how much she should budget for Berlin. So I thought I would do a post on budgeting for a trip to Berlin. I can’t be as exact as the Paris post, but I will do my best to give you an idea. I also provided helpful and informative links throughout this post – please feel free to click on them for further information. I would love to hear your Berlin budgeting comments and tips too!
Since we are thinking of doing Paris first, I need a round trip ticket (Berlin-Paris-Berlin) and Jenn needs a one way ticket (Berlin-Paris) and then a ticket home (Berlin-Manila). Within Europe, is it better to go by train or plane? Checking online I realised that not only is the train fare expensive – one way € 120 or more according to Euro Railways and Rail Europe – but it also takes a really long time. For someone like me who suffers from motion sickness, I don’t think a 10 – 12 hour train ride will be pleasant.
Taking the plain is cheaper (when there are offers) and it is faster at less than 2 hours. I found a really cool site called Farecompare.com that helps compare prices of airplanes. The cheapest one-way ticket from Paris to Berlin is about € 40 via Jetcost.de. Not bad right? You can also sign-up for email alerts when the prices change. Isn’t that cool?
There are many options for accommodations in Berlin. You can find renting whole apartments via Airbnb.com or you can get cheap but nice hotels or hostels to fit any budget via Venere.com. If you are on a really tight budget you can find rooms for less than € 50 /night! If you are a risk-taker and you want a nice place at a highly discounted rate, then you can also try Lastminute.com. Personally though, I am a bit scared of this because I like to have everything planned out in advance.
If I am not mistaken you must get travel and medical insurance while you are also applying for a Shengen VISA in your point of origin and the insurance company should be Shengen Accredited.
For Filipinos, I’ve heard of Blue Cross Travel Safe and Tripguard and axa-schengen.com from friends though I personally have not tried it. For my insurance needs I usually use BPI – MS Insurance Corporation (Telephone: +632-8409504) because they are so easy to deal with, fast and don’t give me difficulty when I actually need to use my insurance. According to this post you should prepare to spend €50 and above. Can anyone confirm this?
You can either get in touch with an insurance company directly or consult with a travel agency to make it simpler.
U-Bahn Ticket with Museum pass
I would budget € 50 for this for 1 week. The BVG tickets will allow access to trains, trams and buses. If you are going to go around a lot, then this is the most cost-effective, because cabs and renting a car will be more expensive for sure.
For tourists interested in going to the wonderful museums on the Museum Island, I’d recommend getting the Berlin WelcomeCard Museum Island (72 hours) € 38,50 to get access to the museums on the Museum Island for 3 days. This is a great offer. You can then get a regular day ticket € 6,70/day for every day after. But if you want to do more touristy bits, then the Berlin WelcomeCard (5 days) € 32,50 might be more cost efficient. There is also the 7 Day pass € 28,80, but this will not come with a discount in over 200 establishment like the WelcomeCard. There are many more options which you can read about here.
As of the writing this post, you can get a SIM card with a flat rate for surfing and texts for only €10 from the O2 network which is the cheapest we’ve found so far. So the promos in the future might change but I think € 10 is a good budget for this. Make sure to get a flat rate so that you can surf, text or call to your heart’s content.
The only difficulty here would be reading the fine print so make sure to ask for an English-speaking store attendant who can explain to you your options.
UPDATE: Please see a comment below from Berliner, Friedrich, on his tip on where to buy SIM cards.
In Berlin, I’ve gotten a decent baguette mozzarella basil and tomato sandwich on a train station for about € 2.50 and a croissant for €1 but I think it might be hard to stay on 2 Euros per meal. I say budget € 5 -10 per meal. You can save on some meals and be super cheap and then splurge on some meals and enjoy German beer.
For my friend, we would eat breakfast at home so I would budget for 2 meals out (either lunch, snack or dinner) 2 x 7 x 10 = € 140. If you want to have drinks occasionally, make that €200.
Pasalubong (gifts for people back home)
Hmmmm… this is tricky. If you want to give trinkets then this can be very cheap. Personally I don’t like giving useless trinkets because I would rather get something useful or not at all. Trinkets can be difficult. Someone will give you a keychain of a place you haven’t been to and expect you to keep it like it has some sentimental value to you. If you get rid of it, it’s not nice. Personally, I think it’s rude when people give me useless trinkets and put me in this position in the first place. That’s just my personal opinion. On the other side of this sentiment are people who would feel bad if they didn’t get pasalubong, because they feel like you weren’t thinking of them during your trip. These people would rather receive a trinket than nothing. So I guess the budget would depend on what kind of gift-giver you are. There are really cheap trinkets to be had. My recommendations would be:
- A piece of the Berlin Wall. There are many places that sell this near Check Point Charlie, but they will not necessarily be the real thing for only € 5. I think a reputable place to get this is the Check Point Charlie Museum and it’s more expensive (Around € 10/pc I think) UPDATE: But I agree with a comment below from Berliner, Friedrich, on his two cents on the authenticity of pieces of the wall. Some people might not care though and just think it’s a cute keepsake which looks like the wall so it’s really up to you.
- Ampelmann Gummis. The Ampelmann has become and unofficial symbol for Berlin. It cannot be found anywhere else and it also tells of the story of the East and West divide. I think giving something consumable like gummy candy is something adults and children can enjoy. It is also nice and considerate because your friends will not have to think about hurting your feelings if your gift is not to their style/taste and they don’t want to display it in their homes. You can get the Ampel Männchen Früchtchen for only € 2.50 a bag. There are Ampelmann shops all over Berlin and you can check for their specific locations on ampelmannshop.com.
- Wooden Berlin Postcards like below which you can get at Hackeschermarkt. They are € 2 per piece and I think they are really cool to send home.
Let’s budget € 25 for gifts and you can get 10 Ampelmann Gummi’s or mix and match some cheap and expensive gifts. Obviously if you had more expensive taste there are so many things that you can buy in Berlin – from a small 19 century painting to crystals and KPM fine porcelain.
If you like to shop, Berlin is a nice place to do so. For cheap clothes they have Primark and H&M. Rich Russian tourists also like to go to stores for porcelain like KPM, Villeroy and Boch and Meisen. Maybe a small item won’t be so hard to bring home and can be given as heirlooms to your future children. Another amazing thing in Germany is their stainless steel products. I love Zwilling JA Henckels, Auerhahn and WMF. They are cheaper here and you can inform them that you are a tourist and ask how you can get your items tax-free. An Auerhahn candle snuffer is so luxe, hard-to-find in the Philippines and easy to carry home.
Remember to let the cashiers know that you are a tourist. Depending on the shop’s policy, you can get 10-19 % removed from your bill or get a rebate in the airport. (Sales tax is 19% in Germany)
For “others” I would budget at least € 200, because you never know what you might want to splurge on. Remember there are many other Museums outside the Museum Island that you might want to see (i.e. Check Point Charlie Museum) or you may want to go out clubbing and drinking.
Also make sure to have an international ATM card and credit card so in case of emergency you can use it.
Plan your trip!
I hope you found this post helpful in planning your trip to Berlin. Please note that prices may change without notice and these are just pegs for cost. This is meant to give rough idea of cost, but is never going to be exact. The cost depends on your tastes and what you want to do. It could be higher or lower depending on how cheap or luxurious you want to be.
Also note that sales and seasons will affect your budget. If you come to Berlin in the summer, you may want to just lay around in the park but in Winter you might want to go outside of Berlin, rent a car and go Skiing. The biggest sale months are June and Feb. Someone told me that the sales start after Christmas and end in final reductions in February.
Some people like to travel backpacker style and some would rather not. If you can eat donner and currywurst every day then you might save a lot on food, but some would rather try nice restaurants. Berlin can cater to any budget, because compared to many capitals in Europe, Berlin can still be quite cheap too.
For those who have been to Berlin, what do you think of the budget peg I gave? Is it realistic or not? I’d love to hear your comments and opinions!