Like any other major city, Berlin is fairly easy to navigate with the help of standard travel apps such as Google Maps. However, as I’ve learned from the last year of being based in Berlin, there are a quite a few apps that are more specific to the city that can make your life a lot easier. Below, you’ll find out how to manage your money, get around and even get food delivered when you’re lying in your hotel room with a hangover from last night.
Disclaimer: Wherever possible, I’ve included referral codes so that you get free credit (hooray!) to use at your leisure. There are also some affiliate links that help me with the running costs of this blog. Enjoy!
1Currency Exchange: TransferWise
Like most of the EU, Germany uses Euros. I’d highly recommend sorting yourself out with a international fee-free card before leaving home, but if you ever find yourself in need of Euros, check out TransferWise.
They offer the cheapest currency exchange rate on the market – much more so than your average bank. TransferWise even offers a “Borderless account”, a multi-currency virtual bank account from which you can receive and transfer funds in multiple currency. And it’s free. Use this link to sign up, and once you’re all done, you can also access your account from your iPhone or Android device.
2Online Banking in Berlin: N26
If you’re actually moving to Berlin and need a local bank account, check out N26. It’s the leading digital bank in Germany with easy setup, no fees, free ATM withdrawals, and everything is in both English and German. People typically don’t have much nice to say about banks, but N26 seems to be the exception – I’ve barely met anyone who doesn’t have an account.
Open your free German bank account with N26 by clicking here.
3Getting Around: Public Transport
While many Berliners spend a lot of time in their own local areas (called “Kiez”), the fact is that the city is quite spread out and you’ll often have to take public transport to get around. The official BVG FahrInfo Plus app (iOS/Android) is an easy way to buy tickets from your phone using a credit card, which saves you the hassle of stopping at ticket machines every time you get on the U-Bahn.
They can even show you the connections you need to take and give you updates if there are delays or any other issues getting around, although personally I prefer to use Google Maps.
4Taxis & Ride Sharing: BerlKönig, CleverShuttle, Uber
The often annoying thing about Berlin’s public transport system is that it’s rare that you get to your destination without any transfers, meaning a 15 minute bicycle ride might turn into 35 minutes on two trains and a bus. If you can’t be bothered waiting around, there’s a number of options available for you.
Note: almost all of the options below have referral codes, which means that you (and me) will get free or subsidised rides. Let’s share the love!
BerlKönig (iOS/Android) is a ride-sharing shuttle service operated by the BVG, first starting out as a replacement service for late-night travellers (Berlin’s public transport doesn’t run 24 hours) and now operating around the clock. It’s much cheaper than taking a taxi and if you use the code “chris7i3“, you’ll get €10 credit – which is usually enough for two rides! The catch is that you might pick up an extra passenger or two on the way to your destination, but it usually doesn’t take you too far out of your way. In fact, most times I’ve used Berlkönig, it’s basically been a private shuttle.
The other option is CleverShuttle (iOS/Android), an eco-friendly shuttle service that only operates electric and hydrogen-powered cars. It’s operates in a similar way to Berlkönig with the added bonus of being better for the environment, and you can get €10 credit here as well by using the code “p721ea“.
If you just want a direct trip, you can also use the Uber app (iOS/Android) as you would anywhere else – the catch is that Uber is technically banned in Germany, so you’ll be getting a taxi instead of a private car. Again, use the code “chrisl2739” to get $10 off your first ride. Alternatively, you can download MyTaxi (iOS/Android), but I haven’t really bothered since it effectively does the same thing as Uber in Germany – and the Berlkönig/CleverShuttle combination has served me so well!
5Car Sharing: DriveNow, Car2Go
Car sharing has slowly been taking off across the globe in past years, and Berlin is no different. There are quite a few options as far as companies go but DriveNow and Car2Go are the two main options to consider.
DriveNow (iOS/Android) is operated by BMW and costs €29 to register, between 20-36 cents/minute depending on the model and time of day, and a €1 comprehensive insurance fee. Alternatively, you can choose one of four package options, such as hourly, daily or prepaid. Check out the DriveNow pricing page for more details.
Car2Go (iOS/Android) is operated by Daimler – that is, Mercedes Benz and Smart cars – and costs €9 to register, between 26-34 cents/minute depending on the model and time of day, and a €1.90 drop-off fee within the main city ring of Berlin. They also have package options – check out the Car2Go pricing page for more details.
For both options, you use the app to find your nearest vehicle and can also drop them off wherever you like within the main city limits. This will likely become simpler in the coming months, as DriveNow and Car2Go have agreed to team up in March 2018 and are only waiting for EU approval to make it official.
6Scooter Sharing: Coup, Emmy
Although I do enjoy cycling around Berlin, my favourite way to get around the city for slightly longer distances is by the electric scooters provided by Coup and Emmy.
Coup (iOS/Android) is my preferred choice due to its simplicity: it costs €3 for the first 30 minutes – which is usually enough time to get almost anywhere in Berlin – then €1 for every 10 minutes thereafter. Use the code “REF-UAB4-WYGQ” for 3 free rides when you first sign up. The scooters are seemingly everywhere, feel very light and maneuverable, and the acceleration is quick enough to beat most cars off a red light.
Emmy (iOS/Android) come with the added bonus of a second helmet with each scooter, which means that you can carry a passenger and split the costs. The pricing is slightly more confusing though: there’s a €10 sign-up fee which includes 50 minutes, then once your ride credit has run out, the price per minute is €0.19. This means that shorter trips end up being cheaper with Emmy, however you’ve made an upfront €10 commitment. There are also less Emmys available compared to Coup, and they do feel a little clunkier in general to drive.
Both Coup and Emmy have easy-to-use apps, and insurance is included as standard. The only downside is that that you need a European driver’s license to register.
7Bike Sharing: Deezer Nextbike, Mobike
When it comes to bike sharing, Berliners are spoiled for choice. Personally I mainly use Deezer Nextbike (iOS/Android) simply because they’re everywhere and are full-sized (I’ll get to this in a second). Deezer costs €1 for 30 minutes, which is about standard for bike sharing in Berlin.
It seems Mobike (iOS/Android) can be found almost everywhere you look in Berlin, which is the only reason I’d suggest it as a backup option. While they also have the occasional full-sized bikes available, standard Mobikes tend to be quite small for most people and it can be a real struggle to get anywhere fast – in fact, their own slogan is “The Perfect First & Last Mile Solution”. They’ve also recently raised their prices, so…
8Food Delivery: Foodora, Deliveroo, Lieferheld
It’s easy to get a little carried away in Berlin, whether it’s one of the many bars that cover the city, or that one casual Späti beer that suddenly becomes ten. If you’re feeling a bit rough around the edges and don’t feel like facing the world, food delivery services such as Foodora, Deliveroo and Lieferheld (“Delivery Hero” in English-speaking countries) have you covered.
It seems that different restaurants tend to be on different platforms, so just sign up to all of them and pick whatever suits your fancy.
9Classifieds: eBay Kleinanzeigen, Facebook Groups
If you ever find yourself in need of a new phone because you broke yours while travelling (been there), or to buy a new backpack because the one you brought with you simply wasn’t cutting it (also been there), it’s handy to know what the locals use to buy and sell second hand goods.