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.
Currency Exchange: TransferWise
You’ve arrived and need access to cash – in this case, 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.
Online 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 with them.
Open your free German bank account with N26 by clicking here.
Getting Around: Public Transport
Now that you have your shiny new bank card (or cards), we can really start moving. 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.
Taxis & 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“.
Both Berlkönig and Clevershuttle often have deals and specials, which you need to be signed up for to be notified.
If you just want a direct trip, you can also use Uber (iOS/Android) as you would anywhere else in the world – although Uber is technically banned in Germany, so might be getting a taxi instead of a private car. Use the code “chrisl2739” to get 10€ off your first ride.
If you don’t want to mess around with sharing, the taxi app FREE NOW (iOS/Android) has you covered. They also have taxi vans that can take up to 8 people, which can be helpful if you’re travelling in larger groups. Use the code “chris.lim1” to get a 10€ coupon.
Car Sharing: DriveNow, Car2Go, Miles, Drivy
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, Car2Go and Miles are the three 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. To get get discounted registration (9.98€) and 15 minutes of free driving, use the coupon code “N4720LJBS6M7“.
Car2Go (iOS/Android) is operated by Daimler – that is, Mercedes Benz and Smart cars – and costs 9€ to register, between 19-39 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. To get free registration and 10€ credit, use the code “J18_R_ENemail@example.com“.
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. As of March 2018, DriveNow and Car2Go have teamed up to become “ShareNow”, but you still need both apps to access each network of cars.
Then, there’s my new favourite: Miles (iOS/Android). Compared to DriveNow and Car2Go, they’re a relatively new service. The difference? They charges by kilometre rather than minutes. This means you don’t have to rush across the city and stress about finding parking – take your time and enjoy the drive. Prices start from 0.79€ for a small hatchback to €1.19 for a transporter van (great for moving furniture). Check out the Miles pricing page for more details and use the coupon code “qbXIJfwa” for 10€ credit when you sign up.
If you want a car for a full day or longer, Drivy by Getaround allows you to rent cars from other people around the city. Some cars have even registered for “Drivy Open”, which means you can access the car without even having to message the owner – although you account needs to be verified first. Use this link to get 30€ off on your first rental.
Scooter 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 0.21€ per minute. Use the code “REF-UAB4-WYGQ” for 3 free rides when you first sign up. The scooters are seemingly everywhere, feel very light and manoeuvrable, and the acceleration is quick enough to beat most cars off a red light.
Emmy (iOS/Android) comes 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 0.23€. There are less Emmys available compared to Coup and they do feel a little clunkier in general to drive, but they’re a great option when you’re driving two people. Use the code “i1XF5TFj” to get an additional 15 minutes for free.
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. They both also offer discounted minutes if you buy them in bulk.
Bike 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. Still, they’re all right in a pinch.
Food Delivery: Lieferando
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 Lieferando have you covered. At the time of this article, Deliveroo has since pulled out of Germany and Foodora was acquired, so these are no longer options for Berliners.
Classifieds: 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.