Berlin is one of Europe’s most popular cities. Whether you are after exciting nightlife, rich history, or thriving arts scene, Berlin has it all. Still, before you travel to Germany’s capital during your next tour to Eastern Europe, it is good to pay attention to some pearls of wisdom shared by both locals and travellers in order to have the best experience you deserve.
Entschuldigen Sie bitte, Sprechen Sie Englisch?
Numerous languages are spoken in Berlin, from French to Arabic, and many people speak some English, while most young people are fluent speakers. Still, visitors shouldn’t presume that everybody understands it. Also, all signs are in German. Use your phone apps and phrase books, because learning just a few phrases in German will be of great help and Germans will appreciate it. Try something simple like “Excuse me, do you speak English?”
Keep your eye on the weather forecast
Berlin is known as one of the sunniest cities in Germany. In summer, you can expect temperatures between 25 and 30°C. The winters, however, are very cold and snow is guaranteed. Make sure to dress warmly if you are coming in late autumn, winter, or early spring. Just to be safe, in case of a sudden weather change, keep your eye on the weather forecast.
Cash is always better
Wherever you go, it is best to have some cash with you. In Berlin, you need to have euros in your wallet because many restaurants and cafes do not accept credit cards, or they only accept German credit cards, so ask before you order anything. The smaller shops and street markets accept cash only. Also, find ATMs near you that charge the least interest when you draw.
To tip, or not to tip
Generally, tipping in Berlin is regarded as an additional expression of gratitude for a friendly, quality service. You are not required to tip every time. If you decide to, you should tip a maximum of 10 percent. Most people just round up the bill and tell the waiter to keep the change. Do not leave the tip on the table, but give it personally while paying the bill. Some places add service charges to the bill, which you can find on the menu / receipt.
Validate your ticket
Always validate your ticket for public transport. Validating machines are easily noticeable and accessible. While there are no security gates or personnel checking tickets, there are ticket inspectors (in plain clothes) riding the public transport with you. If you forget to validate the ticket, the fine is at least €60. Also, pay attention to transport zones and read the zonal maps because you need a properly zoned ticket depending on your destination. If you go farther away from the city centre, you might cross into a different zone.
Smoking is a big deal
Smoking in bars and restaurants in Germany is generally allowed. Non-smoking laws were passed, but they are ignored in some places. Smoking is a big deal in Berlin, because smokers (and many non-smokers) see it as personal freedom and choice. Smoking in public buildings or on public transport is forbidden, and if you want to light up in a pub, cafe, or restaurant, just make sure to first check if it is allowed.
Environment is Berlin’s friend
Berliners are very environmentally friendly! Littering is strictly forbidden, and recycling is wholeheartedly embraced. Almost all stores have a refund bottle area. Berlin is one of Europe’s greenest cities and is rich with water. There are parks in every neighbourhood, in addition to two major rivers, lakes, and a system of canals.
Eye contact is important
Berliners take pride in being direct with everyone about everything. Also, if you do not follow the rules, older people especially will reprimand you right away. Some visitors might find such attitude, in addition to distinctive sarcastic comments, rude, but that is far from Berliners’ intention. Eye contact is also a very important way to show respect, but some travellers might find it too intense. Do not worry though, Berliners are not staring at you because they want something from you, or to judge you.
Berlin is safe...but mind the pickpockets
Like other European capitals, Berlin is safe. Even if you are walking at night in Berlin or anywhere else in the world, by using common sense, you will recognise if a street is tourist-friendly. However, like in other European capitals, be careful of the pickpockets. When riding the tram, bus, or U-Bahn, keep you bag in front of you, close to your chest.
Leave your Dirndl and Lederhosen at home
It is important to remember that Oktoberfest is not an all-year-round event in Munich, and definitely not in the rest of Germany, so wearing Dirndl and Lederhosen – type of Trachten, traditional clothing from the region of Bavaria – is not customary in Berlin.
Topics: World Travel