Monthly Archives - April 2018

How to Get a SCHUFA in Berlin

Geldscheinpuzzle - Schufa

Pixaby CC0 Creative Commons Fotograf: motorradcbr/ Fotolia #79102936

What is a SCHUFA and How to Get One in Berlin

Have you been looking into how to get a SCHUFA and are slightly confused about how to go about it?
We know that most of the bureaucracy new Berliners need to deal with can be overwhelming, so we spoke with a SCHUFA agent to find out everything you need to know about getting your SCHUFA in Berlin.

Why do you need a SCHUFA?

Are you looking to rent your own unfurnished apartment in Berlin for the long term? As you may have already heard, every landlord will be expecting to see your SCHUFA, or credit rating score before they even consider showing you the apartment. In addition, if you are applying for a loan, you will need a SCHUFA for the bank to determine how high your interest rate will be.

What exactly is a SCHUFA?

SCHUFA is the largest German credit rating agency, and it stands for:

Schutzgemeinschaft für allgemeine Kreditsicherung. This translates to ‘general credit security agency’ and your score is calculated by information the agency receives about you when you open a bank account or start a phone contract. Your SCHUFA will only include information about your life in Germany. Any previous information regarding your credit rating in your home country, good or bad, will not be part of your SCHUFA score. Future banks, landlords or property managers, as well as phone and internet providers will look at your SCHUFA rating to determine how risky of a client or renter you are.

It’s actually not so complicated to get your SCHUFA score as a non-German speaking expat.
However, you can only get a SCHUFA score once you’ve registered in the city, meaning that you need to technically be living somewhere in Berlin already.

To combat this dilemma, it is best to find a furnished apartment  or a shared apartment first, register yourself there, so you can get your Anmeldung . Once you have your SCHUFA, you are eligible to apply for unfurnished, long term apartments.

You have a few options when it comes to going about getting your SCHUFA. Follow our experience to find out how to go about this process.

 

Our Experience of Getting a SCHUFA:

We wanted to know how everything works with getting a Schufa as an English speaking expat.  Since most bureaucratic tasks in Berlin are done only in German, you may be wondering if it’s the same with a SCHUFA.

We decided to find out, so we gave the customer service line a call. Turns out… there isn’t an English line, but they will transfer you to an agent who speaks English.

After calling this number: 0611 – 92780 I was directed to a German recording system . I chose option 1, which lead me to an agent able to help with starting the SCHUFA process.

Next, this person transferred me to an agent who spoke English. I only waited about 2 minutes to be transferred.

My agent was incredibly helpful and friendly.

Here’s what I learned from him about getting a SCHUFA in Berlin or Germany if you don’t have a German passport.

There are a couple different SCHUFA options:

  • The Free Option
    Everyone is entitled to one free SCHUFA report a year. This is a paper document which is sent to you by mail. The Free Option is for your viewing purposes only to find out your credit score. The free option will take 2 to 3 weeks to get to you.

 

If you are looking to rent your own unfurnished apartment, or you need your SCHUFA as quickly as possible, it’s best to go with the following option. Most landlords won’t accept the free version.

  • The Paid Option (29.95 euros)
    This option provides you with a reliable and official credit rating report to give to landlords without disclosing any of your other personal data. The paid option also includes an extensive report for you to keep for yourself. This one time SCHUFA purchase is great if you just need to show it to a landlord. Keep in mind that most landlords will want to see a recent SCHUFA report, so it’s best to purchase it within a couple months of applying to apartments.

 

How to Get a SCHUFA

There are a few different ways to apply for your SCHUFA. You can apply via post, or through the online portal system. You can also talk the process through and order your paid SCHUFA via phone with a customer service agent. Take note that the free version is not available over the phone.

When you are applying, you will need the following:

  • Your Anmeldung Document
  • Your Bank account details
  • Your Passport

 

Apply Via Mail

Fill out the forms and make photo copies of your passport and your Anmeldung.

Free Option: Simply choose your preferred language and fill out the SCHUFA Order Form
You can leave the ‘Alternative’ (paid section) unchecked and blank on this page. Take note that the free option is only available to order via mail.

Paid Option: Print and fill out this English SCHUFA Order Form

Send all of your documents to the SCHUFA office and this address:

SCHUFA Holding AG
Postfach 10 25 66
44725 Bochum, Germany

This method takes the longest, and you can expect to receive your SCHUFA approximately 2 to 3 weeks after applying.

 

Apply On the Phone

If you plan on applying for the paid SCHUFA, we think it is easiest to do over the phone. When we called, there was only about a 5 minute wait time until a friendly English speaking agent came on the line. You will need to have your bank details on hand as well as your passport and Anmeldung document. The agent will then confirm your identity and create the report for you. They will mail it out the next day and you should receive it within 2 to 3 business days.

Customer Service Line: 0611 – 92780

Press number 1 first when you are given the options in German. You will be directed to a customer service agent. If your German isn’t great, simply ask to speak to an agent who speaks English and they will transfer you along.

 

 Apply in Person at a Bank

If you are in a time crunch and need your SCHUFA report immediately, your best bet is visiting a bank. It does not matter if you do not have a bank account with these particular banks, they will still be able to process your SCHUFA for you. To get your SCHUFA done quickly, you can go to any of these Berlin Postbanks or Volksbanks.

Bring all of the aforementioned documents with you.

 

Apply Online through MeineSchufa.de

To apply online, simply fill out this form and provide your details.
To clarify some myths or confusion surrounding SCHUFA:

During our phone call with the SCHUFA agent, we clarified some more information regarding the SCHUFA:

  • Your SCHUFA is calculated soon after you have opened a bank account or started a contract with a phone company, internet, etc.
  • The neighbourhood you live in does not affect your SCHUFA score
  • A good SCHUFA score is about 85% and higher
  • The average SCHUFA score is 91.64%
  • No one starts with a 100% SCHUFA Score
  • Your SCHUFA score will fluctuate based on your contracts, however, can always improve
  • It is not recommended to have many bank accounts or to switch banks often as this can affect your score
  • Your SCHUFA rating won’t be affected by the number of times you request a new SCHUFA document

 

In a Nutshell…

Many administrative tasks in Berlin can seem daunting. How to get a SCHUFA is actually fairly straight forward. If you are planning on staying in Berlin, you may want to get your own lease on an unfurnished apartment. Getting your SCHUFA will give you that opportunity. Our experience of getting a SCHUFA wasn’t too difficult. We reccommend getting your paid Schufa on the phone, as there are English speaking agents who can help you, and the process is quite fast.

Once you get your (good!) SCHUFA score, you will be well on your way to landing a great unfurnished apartment in Berlin. Let us know how you applied for your SCHUFA in the comments!

The Best Playgrounds in Berlin

Kind hat Spaß

The Best Playgrounds in Berlin: Alternative Outdoor Play Areas

Do you feel like your children are getting bored of the same old ‘neighbourhood spielplatz’? It may be time to freshen up your weekend and afternoon play time with some new and exciting spots. Lucky for you, Berliner’s value playtime and creativity and the city boasts over 1850 play areas. Most of them offer a unique alternative to your typical sandbox and swing set.

Berlin’s unconventional playgrounds are sure to spice up your kids’ play time, and will bring lots of smiles and minimal boredom. This guide has you covered on the best and most unique playgrounds in various neighbourhoods all over the city!

 

We’ve sorted the best and most unique playgrounds out by neighbourhood:

Prenzlauer Berg

Mitte

Charlottenburg

Neukolln

Wedding

Kreuzberg

Friedrichshain

 

Prenzlauer Berg

‘Pregnant hill’ as it’s endearingly called, boasts many colourful and unique playgrounds for its young family residents and visitors alike.

 

Adventure Playground Kolle 37 in Prenzlauer Berg

Like many playgrounds in Berlin, Kolle 37 in Prenzlauer Berg doesn’t allow adults, so be prepared to let your kids go off and explore alone. Germans value learning-by-doing, and this park is a great example of that. It’s a massive creative space (4000qm!) for children to explore activites like making their own huts, working in a garden, hanging out with animals, or even participating in pottery, wood workshops and more. The children learn from craftsmen who work there, and are taught how to use the different tools. Four educators are also part of the staff. The projects, material costs and employees are financed by the district of Pankow.

Location: Kollwitzstr. 35-3710405 Berlin
How to get there: The closest U-Bahn station is Senefelderplatz, it’s just a five minute walk to the entrance.
Hours: Monday to Friday 13:00- 18:30
Saturday: 13:00 – 18:00
(From September to April, it closes at 18:00)
Cost: Free (some activities put on by the park have fees, so be sure to check the website beforehand or call)
Who should go: Kids over 6 years old

Things to note:

  • Kids must be wearing closed shoes (no sandals) for many parts of this play area
  • Saturdays are an exception to the ‘kids only’ rule, and the whole family can take part!

 

 Teutoburger Platz Playground

Situated a little further away from the popular Kollwitz area, Teutoburger park is a community-oritend hub, adored by the locals who frequent it. The playground is surrounded by leafy trees in the summer, providing a lot of shade. There is a spiderweb-like climbing net, gymnastics bars, swings, and a little shop to buy ice cream and snacks at in the summer. The green space surrounding it is a great spot for playing ball sports or picknicking in the summer.

Location: Templiner Str. 910119 Berlin 
How to get there: The closest U-bahn stations are Senefelder platz on the U2 line (just 200m awaz), Rosa-Luxemberg Platz (U2), or Rosenthaler Platz (U8).
Cost: Free
Who should go there: Good for all ages

Things to Note:

  • There is a little house which people can rent out and use for events like birthday parties etc. The rules, hours, and more info can be found here
  • The locals occasionally put on community events like BBQ days, fleamarkets for kids’ clothes, etc. You can find out more on the Teute Calendar
  • Dogs are not allowed

 

Nature Playground in Leise Park

Leise Park, or Quiet Park, is exactly that. It’s a beautiful old cemetery turned Nature Park, with lots of lush trees and bushes, and several trails to explore. The playground itself is scattered in parts around the park, making every turn down each new trail exciting. There are logs stacked on top of each other to balance on, a lookout tower, and tree stumps to jump on. There are also plenty of hammocks if anyone needs to take a little break or a nap. The Leise Park playground is the perfect spot to take a breath of fresh air and feel transported to a magical and calming oasis, even though you’re right inside the city.

Location: Heinrich-Roller-Straße 24, 10405 Berlin

How to get there: Senefelderplatz Bahnhof is just a 10 minute walk away. As well, the M4 tram stop, Am Friedrichshain is located right at the East entrance of the park. On the west side of the park, the M2 tram stops at Prenzlauer Allee/Metzer strasse.
Cost: Free
Hours: Every Day from 8:00am to 7:00pm
Who should go: Good for all ages (although as it is a cemetery as well, it’s recommended to be on the ‘quieter’ side, as the name infers.

Mitte

The city core is a busy epicenter of shops and museums, but you can still find many hidden and interesting playgrounds for your kids to explore.

Heinrich-Zille-Park – Castle Fortress

This large and secluded park offers a truly authentic castle fortress experience for your little ones to play make believe. There’s also a ping pong table, which is good fun for older kids, so bring your paddles!

Location: Heinrich Zille Park, 10115
How to get there: This park is close to the Tucholsky bus stop, and about a 6 minute walk from Rosenthaler platz. The entrance is off of Bergstrasse.
Cost: Free
Who should go: Good for all ages

 

Airplane Mesh Park

Airplane Mesh playground is a slightly hidden park located behind Bernauer Straße, and offers an immense mesh climbing challenge for your young adventurers who can’t get enough of climbing everything in sight! It also has a small rock climbing wall, sandy grounds and lots of space for a relaxing, quiet picnic.

Location: Behind Strelitzer Str.
How to get there: The closest U-Bahn Station is Bernauer Strasse. It’s a short walk south on Strelitzer Strasse if you’re at the corner of Bernauer and Strelitzer.
Cost: Free
Who should go: Toddlers and up
Things to note

  • No Baby Swings

 

Plansche at Nordbahnhof

The Plansche is a massive park with a fun water fountain splash pad, which offers a beautiful space to cool off in the summertime.  There’s also a normal playground right next to it to switch things up, or to enjoy on those cooler days.
The Plansche is also a great space for picnicking, lounging and playing games on a blanket with your younger tots, and letting your kids enjoy their freedom.

Location: Invalidenstr. 20, 10115 Berlin
How to get there: You can take the Tram, Bus or S-Bahn to Nordbahnhof Station.
Cost: Free
Who should go: Good for all Ages

Berlin has plenty more summer friendly splash parks to try – we recommend Plansche Planterwald in Treptow, Spielbrunnen in Charlottenburg, and the Plansche Volkspark in Friedrichshain.

 

Charlottenburg

This quiet, family friendly neighbourhood lush with green spaces and parks has some great play areas to spend your weekends and afternoons. Read on for a couple of the best spots:

 

Piratenschiff Spielplatz

This impressive pirate ship playground, named ‘The Black Pearl’ is a big hit as it has a lot of fun to offer. There’s a ping pong table on the deck of the ship, tons of places to hide and things to climb, as well as a basketball net on the front of the ship. Combining this playground with a visit to the grounds of the Charlottenburg castle which is just across the river, can certainly fill up an enjoyable afternoon with your little pirates.

Location: Tegeler Weg 97, Berlin
How to get there: It’s right across the river from the Charlottenburg Schlosspark, so the closest stations are the Westend S-Bahn and Bus Hof, the Jungfernheide S and U Station and the Richard-Wagner Platz U-bahn Station.
Cost: Free
Who Should Go: Good for all ages

For more fun themed playgrounds check out the Hexenspielplatz (Witch Playground) in Schoneberg, the Drachenspielplatz (Dragon Playground) in Friedrichshain, or the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Playground in Charlottenburg.

 

Kletterpark (Climbing Park)
Located just northwest of the Berlin core (North Charlottenburg), the incredible forest climbing park will bring your kids’ weekend fun to great new heights! Complete with high ropes, balance beams, and zip lines through a beautiful forest, this playground is the perfect combination of nature and adventure, providing your mini-me’s with lots of fresh air and exercise.  The park is open even when there’s a light drizzle, so no need to let those misty Berlin days hold you back!

Location: Heckerdamm 260, Berlin, Germany
How to get there:  Take the U7 line to Jakob-Kaiser Platz, and then you will have a quick 5 minute walk to the Entrance. There are also a number of buses you can take like the M21 from the Charlottenburg Nord Station. If you are on the ring-line, you can take the S42 to Charlottenburg Nord station.
Hours: Open Daily from March through October (Hours Vary during seasons, check the website)
Cost:  Prices vary, €10 to €12 for the kid’s parkour, adults €19 to €22, spectators are free
Who should go: Great fun for the whole family
Things to Note:

  • Allot approximately 2.5 to 3 hours for this climbing park
  • Staff members speak English
  • You must be wearing sturdy shoes to climb (sneakers are accepted!)
  • Kids aged 6 and up can participate (must be over 1.45m tall)

 

For more outdoor parks offering some climbing adventures, we recommend Kletterwald in Wuhlheide and Kletterfelsen  in Volkspark Friedrichshain.

 

Adventure Playground in the Zoo

The newly renovated playground in the zoo is a highlight for all kids. You may end up spending more time here than actually looking at animals. It has a pirate ship, a maze and lots for your little animal lovers to climb!

Location: Hardenbergplatz 8, 10787 Berlin
How to get there:  The closest station is of course the Zoolischer Garten. Many S and U bahns go to this station like the S3, S5, S7 and S9. Once you get to the Zoo, the playground is located towards the back right corner of the zoo.
Hours: Hours vary throughout the year, see all opening hours here
Cost: To visit the Zoo playground, you have to pay the zoo entrance fee – €15.50 for adults, and €8.00 per child. There are also some family day packages and annual tickets for savings.
Who should go: Good for all ages
Things to Note:

  • The Zoo is open 365 days a year! (Closes at 2pm on the 24th and 31st of December)
  • You or your children cannot bring your bikes (or other children’s transport like wagons) with you
  • There are bathrooms (including wheelchair accessible) and a baby changing station right next to the playground.

 

Neukolln

A big cultural hub with lots of families, Neukölln offers some of the best parks and hidden gems of playgrounds for your little ones to explore. Below are some of the best:

Hasenheide Playground and Animal Park

Located near Templehof in Neukölln, Hasenheide is a lush forested park with lots to offer. This huge green space hosts two awesome playgrounds, one which is right next to a lovely mini zoo, featuring many animals like donkeys, rabbits, and ponies. They even have pony rides at certain times during the week and weekends (hours vary, but there is some signage outside the pony shelter displaying the times). The playgrounds include slides, swings, seesaws, climbing walls and even a water park for your kids to enjoy in the summertime.

Location: Spielplatz im Volkspark Hasenheide Karlsgartenstr. 12049 Berlin
How to get there: Hasenheide park is located just North East of Templehof, and the closest stations are Hermannplatz and Sudstern. The playground and animal farm are located closer to Hasenheide street.
Cost: Free
Who should go: Suitable for children 1 and up

Things to Note:

  • There’s a nice café with outdoor seating located in the middle of the park in case you forget to bring snacks or want to treat everyone to an ice cream
  • Within this park you’ll also find a beautiful rose garden, a small pond and an enclosed dog park

 

Fliegerspielplatz (Aviator’s Playground)

Situated close to Templehofer Feld which is home to the abandoned airport, this popular playground is the perfect spot for some make-believe world travel for your young pilots. Complete with helicopters and rocket ships made from wood, this playground is a dream for young toddlers. It’s in a nice quiet pocket and has a baby swing, making it a lovely spot to bring your younger children.

Location: Bundesring 40, Berlin, Germany
How to get there: The Aviator’s Playground is located to the west of Templehof, on a narrow stretch of grassy area, in the centre of the Bundesring. The Paradestrasse station on the U6 line is just 350 metres away.
Cost: Free
Who Should Go: Suitable for kids aged 1-6

 

Wedding

This up and coming neighbourhood is still relatively quiet and perfect for young families. It is also home to many parks, Plotzensee (a lake and beach you and your kids can enjoy!), and some pretty special playgrounds.

 

Zeppelinplatz 

The playground inside the beautiful Zeppelinplatz Park is definitely a favourite within the Wedding neighbourhood community. It has tons of rope nets to climb, has a very natural vibe given that it’s made out of mostly wood and is very well maintained. There’s also a water fountain and lots of space in the vicinity for a summer picnic lunch.

Location: Ostender Str. 11-12, 13353 Berlin
How to get there: The playground is located a large green space, close to both Seestrasse and Leopoldplatz U-bahn stations. (Both on the U6 line)
Cost: Free
Who should go: Great for all ages
Humboldthain Spielplatz

Located closer to Gesundbrunnen, the Humbolthain Spielplatz is a great way to end an afternoon exploring Humbolthain Volkspark. This park is full of history, as there are two bunkers from the war located there. In addition, this park has beautiful trails, a rose garden, an outdoor swimming pool and a stunning viewpoint at the top of a hill.

Location: Brunnenstr. 13357 Berlin
How to get there: The playground is located in the centre of Humbolthain, and can easily be accessed by taking an S-bahn to Humbolthain staion or, getting out at the Gesundbrunnen station which services buses, U-bahn and S-bahn trains.
Cost: Free
Who should go: Good for all ages

Things to Note:

If your kids are a bit older you could check out the ‘Berlin Unterwelten’ tours which explore the bunkers and underground world during WWII.

 

Kreuzberg

The Kreuzberg ‘kiez’ is an eclectic mix of students, newcomers and artists and is home to many families as well. It has a vibrant cultural scene and is dotted with many beautiful parks and playgrounds.

 

Park am Gleisdreieck

Right between Kreuzberg and Schoneburg, you will find the new and spectacular ‘Park am Gleisdreieck’, a sprawling green space on an old train track highline. The minimalistic-style playground offers kids some fun and challenging rope nets for climbing, slides and swings, and the accompanying sprawling lawn next to it is often peppered with relaxed families picnicking or playing sports together.

Park am Gleisdreieck (Westpark) 18
Location: Möckern Str. 26, 10963 Berlin
How to get there: The playground is located on the east side of the park, at Mockernstrasse and Hornstrasse. Both the S+U Yorckstrasse and Mehringdamm U station are easily walkable to the park.
Cost: Free
Who should go: Suitable for all ages

 

Wrangelstr. Playground

This beautiful playground in Kreuzberg has a fun ‘Under the Sea’ theme and is definitely loved by the locals. There is a whale to climb, a ginormous Octopus with rope nets, a mermaid tower and slide, as well as swings and mini trampolines.

DSC01326-blogsize

Location: Wrangel Str. 11 10997 Berlin
How to get there:  This playground is located close to Marienplatz and the closest U-Bahnhof is Gorlitzer station. There is also a bus stop 2 minutes away, where the 140 bus goes.
Cost: Free
Who Should Go: Good for everyone

 

Mondhügel Playground in Gorlitzer
Mondhügel is a great spot for the whole family, situated in Görlitzer Park. Here you can see a beautiful view of Berlin. The massive slide is a huge hit where about 10 kids can slide down at the same time! There are also lots of log balance beams to climb, a firefighters’ pole and slides.

Location: Wiener Str. 56 10999
How to get there: The playground is situated in the southwest corner of Görlitzer park, and the closest U-Bahn station is Schlesiches Tor. You can also go to Görlitzer Station if you want to walk through the park first.
Cost: Free
Who should go: Great for the whole family

Things to note:

Mondhügel park isn’t far from the Landwehr Kanal and the Kid’s Petting Farm in Görlitzer park. A fun afternoon could be filled with a visit to the Mondhügel playground and hanging out with the animals at the farm. There are donkeys, miniature horses, ducks, goats and sheep.
The petting zoo’s summer hours are:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday: 10:00 to 19:00
Wednesdays: Closed
Weekends: 11:00 to 18:00

 

goat-3017394_960_720

 

Friedrichshain

Friedrichshain is a colourful pocket in berlin, full of creative people and a vibrant culinary scene. This neighbourhood is home to many families as well as young people. Some of the best play areas in Friedrichshain have already been mentioned, like Drachenspielplatz (Dragon spielplatz), and Volkspark Friedrichshain.  But we think the following also deserves a mention in our guide.

 

Forcki Adventure Playground 
This adventure playground and ‘building centre’ within Forckenbeckplatz is an exciting hub with lots for kids to explore. The adventure centre is divided into four sections: the clay and nature area, the wooden construction area, the play area and the fire pits. The play area has a large open meadow space for sports, as well as outdoor play equipment. There are lots of opportunities for children to try new things like pottery, the football ‘kicker club’, cooking etc. Some of the activities require registration and a contribution to the expenses – the calendar can be found on the site

Location: Forckenbeckplatz 10247 Berlin
How to get there: Frankfurter Tor and Samariter Str U-bahn stations are both in walking distance to this park (about 10 mins), as well, the M tram line 21 stops directly in front of the park.
Cost: The park itself is free, but some activities in the centre have registration costs
Who should go: Great for families, kids 1 to 14 (some activities are only suitable for children 6 and up)

Things to note:

  • This adventure playground puts on many events which you can attend. ·
  • There are educational cooking events, ‘Father Picnics’, where kids can make roast ‘stick bread’ etc.
  • There is also a Splash Pad and a regular playground in Forckenbeckplatz

Berlin definitely does not lack in the ‘fun for kids’ department. Each playground offers a unique and exciting experience for your children. Is your favourite Berlin playground on our list? Let us know in the comments!

 

Bonus: If you are looking for an indoor playground check our guide here.

 

Photo Credits:

Spielplatz am Gleisdreieck Photo

By Lienhard Schulz [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Goat and Child photo via Pixabay

Public Transport in Berlin

Berlin Transport from Warschauer Strasse

Everything You Need to Know About Getting Around: Public Transport in Berlin

If people know anything about Germany, they often mention how amazing the transport system is and it’s no different in sprawling and bustling Berlin!
Public transportation here is relatively cheap and essentially any address in central Berlin isn’t too far from a bus, tram, U-Bahn or S-Bahn station. There really is no need for a car while you’re living in the city.
Despite how accessible and vast the transport system is in Berlin, it can often be hard to navigate and understand. You might already be wondering, what is the difference between the M Tram and the S-bahn or, what kind of monthly passes can I get?
If you’re a new Berliner and plan on sticking around for a while, our easy-to-follow Berlin Transportation Guide will help you understand Berlin’s sometimes confusing transport system, and have you zipping around the city confidently in no time.

 

We’ve broken it down so you’ll understand everything you need to know about:

The Different Zones and Methods of Transport:

 

When to use What
Tickets
Monthly Passes
Yearly Passes
Where to Purchase Tickets
‘Schwarzfahren’ (Fines for Riding without a Ticket
Lost Property
Information on Children, Dogs, and Bikes
Important Berlin Transporation Ettiquette

 

The Different Zones and Methods of Transport

Berlin is divided into 3 zones:
The first one is the inner city area, Zone A, and it includes every part of the city within the S-Bahn Ring (circle line ring).
The second zone, B is outside the S-Bahn ring, and up to the city boundary (including Berlin TXL airport).
The third zone, C reaches all the way to the outskirts of Berlin (including Potsdam and Berlin Schönefeld Airport).
When you use public transport in Berlin, you will most likely use Zone A and B: within and surrounding the S-Bahn circle. If you take the train to Schönefeld airport, make sure that you buy a ticket for Zone C. On the ticket machines, the Zones are written out as, AB, BC, and ABC.

 Methods of Transport:

 

S-Bahn

The S-Bahn stands for Stadtschnellbahn (fast train) connects the suburbs to the city centre. There are 16 S-Bahn lines which run underground as well as over ground.
When to use it: If you want to travel from North to South and East to West (or vice versa) taking the S-Bahn is the fastest way. Almost all of the trains pass through Mitte. The S Ringbahn (circle line, either S41 or S42, depending on which direction you travel) will take you around the entire city in a circle. One trip around Berlin will take you exactly one hour.

Operating time and Frequency

The S-Bahn runs all day from 4.00am-1.00am and most trains run every 10 min. There are stations, for example in Mitte, where lots of trains go through and some run as often as every 2 to 5 minutes during rush hour.

 

U-Bahn

The U-Bahn runs under – and sometimes over ground. There are 173 stations, lots of them beautifully designed. There are some especially nice ones to look out for on the U3 and U7 lines like the following:

U-Bahnhof Oskar-Helene-Heim 20130706

 

Operating Times and Frequency

High-Traffic Hours: U-Bahn Trains come every 4 to 5 minutes
Regular hours: Trains come every 5 to 10 minutes
During the weekends, during Friday Night to Saturday morning, and Saturday night to Sunday morning, the U-Bahn runs every 15 minutes.
During the week, there are night buses, driving on parallel routes to the U-Bahn.
Watch Out: On Friday and Saturday night the U-Bahn (especially U1) can get rather noisy, with many revellers enjoying their night out.

 

Buses

Things to Note about Buses
There are over 1,300 buses in the Berlin Transport Newtwork that operate on 198 lines. If you don’t live directly next to an U or S-Bahn station, it is more than likey you will need to use a bus as part of your journey. It is also important to note that sometimes it is quicker with a bus than using the U-Bahn, depending on where you are travelling. Although in rush-hour traffic will most likely not be the case.
There are a number of different types of buses that you can differentiate by the numbers displayed:

Normal bus – they make up most of the bus network and have a 3 digit number  – like 172. These number from 100-399. Note: The second digit correlates with the district they are driving through.
Metro bus- they have an M plus a two digit number – like M12. Metro buses M11 to M85 run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are therefore a mainstay of the Berlin Transport network.
Express bus – there are 13 express lines, and are marked by an X, from X7 to X83. They have few stops along the line to make the journey quicker. The most famous line, and the one you are likely to use the most is the X9 from the Zoologischer Garten to Tegel Airport.

Night bus – some replace the U-Bahn at night and will have the same number as the U-Bahn (N1, N2 etc.) . There are fewer night buses on the weekend, when the U-Bahn runs all night.  Night buses run every 30 minutes and N10-N97 replace most of the important day lines.

All information about bus routes and stops they make can be found here: Bus Line Information

 

Trams

Trams in Berlin are mainly found in the eastern part of the city, where there are fewer U-Bahn lines. There are either Metrotrams or Tram lines and there are currently 22 all together.
Metro Trams: The Metro Tram has nine lines, M1-M17. During the day they run every ten minutes, or sometimes quicker, and every 30 minutes during the night.
Trams – There are 13 normal tram lines, 12 to 68 and serve as an accompaniment to the Metrotram.
Tip: If you want to explore the city, National Geographic stated that Tram Line 68 was one the top ten greatest streetcar routes in the world.

 

Regional Trains

In Berlin it is also possible to use the RE trains as part of the transport network. It must be stressed that ICE nor EC trains are part of this. Instead they are operated by Deutsche Bahn and you need different tickets for them.
The regional trains stop at many of the top tourist spots on the main lines in Berlin, these include: Alexanderplatz, Friedrichstr, Hauptbahnhof, Bahnhof Zoo, Gesundbrunnen, Ostbahnhof, Ostkreuz, Südkreuz, Potsdamer Platz, Lichterfelde, Wannsee, Lichtenberg, Karlshorst, Charlottenburg, Spandau, Potsdam.
Sometimes it is quicker to use RE Trains instead of the U-Bahn or S-Bahn, particularly if you are travelling from one side of the city to another.

When to Use What:

It may be confusing to know when to use which method of transport in Berlin. This table below helps explain it a little better. Often you will use a combination of 2 or 3 methods to get where you need to go:

S- Bahn Fastest connection North-South and vice versa, circle line
U-Bahn  North-South and East-West connections within AB zones.
Tram Only in the Eastern part in Berlin where there are fewer U-Bahn stations.
There are a few trams in Moabit as well
Regional Trains Fastest connection to Potsdam, Spandau, Schönefeld Airport, can be used with normal ticket

 

Map of Berlin Transport

In order to know where you are in the Berlin Transport system, you can use the following maps and apps to help you figure it out and plan your journey;

BVG Route Planner

BVG App (In German)

Berlin Transport Map

It’s always better to plan your journey beforehand, but with an app, you can do it with your smartphone whilst you are underway.

 

Tickets

There are a lot of different tickets (weekly, monthly, yearly, for brothers and sisters, students etc.) We will concentrate on the most important ones that you are most likey to use.

Single Ticket
A single ticket cost €2,80 (for one way travel through AB, or BC zones).
The reduced ticket (for kids up to age 14) costs €1,70.
These single tickets are valid for 120 min and you can change trains and interrupt your journey. This ticket is only valid however if you are travelling in one direction – you cannot go backwards or circle with one single ticket. If you do, you run the risk of a fine.

Short Distance Single Ticket
Cost: €1.70
The short distance single is for either 3 stations by S- or U-Bahn or 6 stations by bus or tram. You are not allowed to interrupt your journey or to change trains with the short distance ticket.

This table shows some of the tickets you could use:

Ticket Normal Reduced
Single AB 2,80 1,70
Short distance single 1,70 1,30
4 Multiple ride standard 9,00 (2,25 per ticket) 5,60  – 1,40 per ticket
4 Multiple ride short distance 5,60 (1,40 per ticket) 4,40 – 1,10 per ticket
Single ABC ( e.g. to Schoenefeld Airport) 3,40 2,50

 

 

Day and Weekly Passes

A day pass is suitable if you take more than 3 rides per day. Remember, one single ticket is valid for 120 minutes and you can interrupt your journey as often as you want.
The Weekly Pass for AB is €30,00, and there is no reduced ticket. This ticket makes sense if you need a Day Pass for at least 5 days + , if you only need a ticket after 10 o’clock for 2 weeks + buying a 10 o’clock monthly pass is cheaper than two weekly passes. If you need a ticket before 10 o’clock, the regular monthly ticket is better than the weekly pass, if you need it for 3 weeks.

Regular Reduced
Day Pass AB 7,00 4,70
Weekly Pass AB 30,00 None

 

Monthly Pass  – Monatskarte

There are two types of monthly passes and can be bought for the whole month or you can buy it any day (not just the start of the month) and then it is valid for the next 30 days.  All monthly cards are ‘übertragbar’, which means they can be shared with others. The options are as follows:

Regular Monthly Pass
The regular pass is valid any time and is the best option for professionals.  Buying a monthly pass makes sense if you take more than 36 rides a month.
If you don’t use the monthly ticket that often, it still could make sense.
With the regular ticket, 1 adult and 3 children (aged 6-14) can ride together, from Monday- Friday after 20:00 and all day on the weekend.
With this monthly pass, dogs can also ride for free.
10 O‘clock Monthly Pass
The 10 O’clock pass is valid from 10 a.m. It is the cheaper option and is suitable if you can avoid travelling during the morning rush hour.
It makes sense to buy a monthly 10 o’clock pass if you take more than 26 rides after 10 a.m. If you travel less than that, purchasing the 4 multiple ride tickets is a better option. With this pass, you can’t take any people with you; however, dogs can always ride for free.

 

Student/Intern Tickets

If you are a student, you usually can purchase a reduced ‘semester transportation ticket’ through your university.
If you are doing an internship or traineeship, you are eligible for a reduced monthly or yearly ticket (depending how long your contract is for)

To get your ticket, you have to go to a BVG or VKK customer service location and talk to an agent. You will need to fill out a form (you will find them there), and bring along a small photo of yourself, as well as your contract signed by your internship employer. This ticket costs around the same as a 10 O’clock monthly pass (€59 euros) but it is valid all the time. Once they accept your application, they will give you a little photo id card that you need to always carry with your actual ticket. (You have to show both the ticket and your photo id card to inspectors.) You can then also buy a monthly ticket at any of the automatic ticket machines -just be sure to write your customer number on your monthly ticket otherwise it will not be valid.

 

Yearly Pass

Yearly Passes with a Subscription:
If you need to commute every day, a yearly pass might be the cheapest option.
With a yearly pass, you can either sign an agreement, meaning that if you wish to cancel it, you must do so 6 weeks before the end of the year or the 12 months. If you forget to cancel, your subscription will continue on.
If you would like to buy a yearly pass, make sure that you sign the contract or order before the 10th of the previous month.
The yearly pass is a chip card and it takes a few weeks until it is sent to you. If you order it after the 10th of the previous month, you can either order it for the subsequent month or you start with a “starter card”, which means the price will also be reduced. You can get this card for longer than one month, or for as long as it takes for your yearly card to be valid and sent to you.
You can either pay for your yearly pass in monthly instalments or you can do a one-time payment. The one-time payment method is the cheaper option.

Important to Note

If you lose your yearly pass or it gets stolen, you can block anyone else from using it. You must report it as lost or stolen to the police, and then you will be able to get a replacement yearly pass.

Without Subscription
It is also possible to buy a regular yearly pass without a subscription. The price for this option is €761 and you have to pay the whole sum in cash up front.
All the advantages of the monthly tickets are also included in the yearly passes. They are also shareable.

 

Payment for passes with a Subscription
(yearly /monthly)
One Time Payment without A Subscription
(yearly/monthly)
Monthly Pass
Yearly PassUnlimited 728 60,66 761 63,42 81,00
Yearly PassStarting at 10AM 531,00 44,25 Not available 59,10

 

Where to Purchase Your Tickets

You can purchase tickets at any automatic ticket machine in the S-Bahn or U-Bahn stations, or at any customer service offices. The stations accept cash, credit and EC (German debit cards) If you are getting on a bus, simply carry the correct amount of change and pay the bus driver.
If you would like to sign up for a yearly subscription you must do so at any BVG or VBB customer service locations:

 

BVG Customer Centre Mitte (Kundenzentrum)
Alexanderplatz 10178
Hours:
Monday through Friday                                06:30 -21:30
Saturday and Sunday                     10:00-17:30

BVG Customer Centre Tiergarten (Kundenzentrum)
Hardenbergplatz 8, 10787 Berlin
Hours:
Monday through Friday                                06:30 -21:30
Saturday and Sunday                     10:00-17:30

Berliner Public Transportation Service (Verkehrsbetriebe)
Holzmarktstraße 15-17, 10179 Berlin
Hours:
Monday through Wednesday    09:30-17:00
Thursday                                             09:30-17:45
Friday                                                    09:30-14:00
Saturday and Sunday                     Closed

 

Information on Children, Dogs, and Bikes

Children
Children under 6 can travel free of charge.
Children between 6 and 13 need to purchase the reduced fare ticket.

Dogs:
if you have a daily, weekly or monthly pass, one dog can travel with you for free.
Small dogs that can fit in a bag are always free.
If you have only purchased a single ticket, you have to buy a reduced ticket for your dog.
In theory, dogs have to wear a muzzle while travelling, but hardly any dog does and this is not often enforced by officials. (If you have a breed that is ‘outlawed’ for example, pitbulls, mastiffs and Staffordshire terriers, it is highly recommended that you muzzle your dog as they are quite strict with this).

Bikes:
You can take your bike with you on the S- Bahn U-Bahn. Each train can take a maximum of 2 bikes ,the  night bus maximum is 1 bike per bus, and it’s possible to take your bike on some trams as well.

Short Distance Bike Ticket 1,20
Regular Bike Ticket 1,90
Daily Pass Bike 4,80
Monthly Pass Bike 10,20

 

Accessibility
Pretty much all U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations have elevators so they are quite accessible for all. As well, the trams and buses are easy to access for people in wheelchairs or mothers with strollers.

 

Things to Note about ‘Schwarzfahren’ (Riding without a ticket)

Controls on the bus – If you get on a bus, you have to show your ticket to the bus driver, or pay the bus driver directly. (It’s best to have the correct change on you)
Always make sure you validate your ticket at the ticket validator if you are buying a single ticket or day ticket! If you don’t, you will be fined, no questions asked.
If you are caught on any means of public transport without a valid ticket, you must pay a fine of €60. If you have cash on you, it’s best to pay it right away, as the fine will increase as time goes on.
If you don’t pay it, you will be sent reminders. If you are caught riding without a ticket 3 times, you will have a criminal offense on your record.

 

 Lost Property

If you have lost something in the Berlin Public Transport system, you can always see if a kind stranger handed it in.
The BVG has Lost property office here:

Potsdamer Straße 180/182
10783 Berlin-Schöneberg

Opening hours:
Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays
from 9 am to 6 pm
Fridays from 9 am to 2 pm
Closed Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays

Telephone: (030) 19 44 9
Fax: (030) 25 62 80 20

You usually have to search the database to see if your item is in the system, before you go to the office.
Last but not least, here are some helpful tips on transportation ettiquette in Berlin that you need to know!

 

 Berlin Transportation Ettiquette

  • Look away from your phone and notice if an elderly person or mom-to-be needs a seat and give up yours
  • When going up the escalators, if you are just standing there, stay to the right! People will pass on the left and will not like it if you’re in the way
  • Always make sure to validate your ticket!!
  • Always make sure you have the right amount of change for the bus and trams! The bus driver won’t always give you change, and the machines on trams don’t take cards
  • Always enter the bus at the front and get off in the middle, otherwise you’ll be swimming against the wave of people
  • Do not bring your bike on public transport during rush hour

 

Photo Credits:
Oskar Helene Heim Station

By DXR [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

Yellow subway train in Motion. Berlin Alexanderplatz sign visible on the wall of underground station.

Yellow subway train in Motion. Berlin Alexanderplatz sign visible on the wall of underground station.

Temporary Furnished Apartments: When does the tenant have to pay VAT (Mehrwertsteuer)?

Rollable room divider to seperate bedroom  from living room area

Why do tenants have to pay Value-Added Tax (VAT) when renting a temporary apartment in Germany?

Tenants renting a temporary apartment often have to pay VAT if they rent the apartment for less than 6 months and one day. The reduced VAT rate for short-term rentals is 7%. Otherwise private rentals and temporary apartments are not subject to VAT.

This is not because the landlord or the agencies want to charge this, instead the legislative authorities have agreed upon this charge and landlords are often asked to pay it by the fiscal authorities. For the tax office, renting a temporary furnished apartment is similar to renting a holiday home. It does not matter whether the tenant is in Berlin for professional or educational reasons.

 

What does this mean for the Tenant?

It means that the landlord adds, in addition to the rent, the reduced VAT rate to the overall total. This will then be shown separately in the contract. If you are self-employed, entitled to reclaim VAT, or when a company rents, it can be regarded as a transitory item. By private tenants, this is not the case.

The good news: although the rent increases by 7% per month with this tax, the final price for staying in temporary apartments is still a lot cheaper than staying in a serviced apartment, hotel, or holiday home. If you only rent for a few months, 7% VAT is not actually so much.

 

What happens if you extend your rental contract?

Those new to Berlin often rent temporary furnished apartments for a relatively short period of time when they arrive. They hope to find their own unfurnished apartment quickly. This is often more difficult than expected. The rent price has increased the past few years and yet the demand is still greater than what is available. Temporary tenants then decide it may be better to stay put and extend the lease on their temporary furnished apartment. This can happen, once, twice, or sometimes even more. In total their rental period could stretch up to a year or more. In any case, it is greater than the aforementioned 6 months. Theoretically, the tenant should then be exempt from paying VAT.

Sometimes the tax office agrees with this line of thought, however sometimes it does not. The tax office usually calculates from the original agreement – this would be the original short-term rental agreement. This depends on the individual tax offices and tax officer however, and cannot be generalised.

Our Tips for Short-Term Tenants

  • If VAT is added to the rental price, why not consider seeing if you can commit to 6 months + straight away?
  • Talk to the landlord or your rental agency. Often you can find a solution and make the total extension of your contract more than 6 months.

A Renter’s Guide to Water Sustainability in Berlin

penguin2

Thinking about the Environment when Renting a Temporary Apartment in Berlin: Save and Protect Water.

Everyone should be responsible for how we use our resources. It doesn’t matter whether you are the tenant or the owner of the apartment. Usually, when the bill for the utilities arrives, everyone has the intention to consume heat and electricity more ecologically for the coming year. Temporary tenants can also take notice of this – even if you rent a furnished apartment and on the expose it states ‘inc. additional costs’. Tenants can use energy and all other resources, like water sustainably. Not only will your landlord thank you, but the environment will too. This article will explore the theme of water sustainability. And the question: Is saving water actually even an issue in Germany?

Germany is actually a water-rich country with many rivers and lakes and certainly does not suffer from water shortage. That is true even though every German, or those living in Germany, consume around 120-190 Litres of water a day.There is good news though. Water consumption in Germany is declining! As we can see then the problem does not lie with water consumption itself. The problem is actually the use of warm water – especially because this needs more energy. As a result this costs more money. More money that your landlord, and at the end of the day, you as a tenant have to pay.

Be careful. The amount of water used is not the problem; instead it’s the associated energy costs. This distinction is important because saving cold water can actually be counterproductive. This is especially noticeable when using things such as the ‘eco’ flush button on the toilet. It is certainly meant well, but can actually leave debris and sediments in the pipes and lead to blockages in the sewage system. This may also sound absurd, but the more cold water is saved, the more the prices rise. The reason for this is the fact that the water and sewage system in Germany is oversized. The system has to be maintained and the water must continually flow and be used.

 

Here are our tips on saving hot water and handling water in an environmentally friendly way!

Only use the washing machine and dishwasher when they are full.

It is ecologically more sensible to use dishwashers and washing machines than to wash by hand. This is only the case when they are full. Running them when they are half full will offset the benefits.

 

Take showers instead of baths.

For a full bath you need 140 litres of hot water. For a shower you need a lot less. From 15 minutes of showering you only use 15 litres of hot water.

 

Take an ‘eco’ shower.

Only let the water run for as short a time as possible and switch off the water when you are soaping yourself! A water-saving showerhead will also reduce the usage of water.  You can ask your landlord if they will buy one for your temporary furnished apartment. They will most likely be supportive of your proposal.
So that is all for now on hot water and saving costs. Now we will address the issue of the water cycle. As already mentioned, Germany has sufficient water reserves and even used water is re-added to the system. Of course it has to be cleaned first and this is where you can help.

 

Only use ecologically friendly cleaning materials without harmful chemicals.

Did you know that chemical cleaning materials can damage many surfaces?
They are also harmful to the environment.

 

Don’t use the toilet as a dustbin!

You can forget tips that tell you to save water by using the ‘eco’ flush. Flushing the toilet normally and allowing the water to flow through the pipes regularly is better than stoppages building up and having to use chemicals to clear them.
The following things don’t belong in the toilet:

  • Leftover food and oil: it’s dangerous and can block the pipes.
  • Even if you are staying in a temporary apartment and the pipes get damaged then you still bear the costs if the pipes need repairing.
  • Medical products: they can’t be filtered out of the system and will end up in the water and lakes. It’s better to take any medical products that are out of date or no longer needed back to the Pharmacy.


Avoid Microplastics

Microplastics are small plastic balls that are found in many cosmetic products, like peeling cream, shower gels etc. They can’t be filtered out during the filtering process and eventually end up in the stomachs of wildlife. Wild animals often die due to a variety of plastic waste contamination.
Tip: Try to use ecologically friendly cosmetic products.
Not only cosmetics but also synthetic clothing is a problem. When washing functional clothing, polyester etc. parts of the fabric break off and enter the water cycle. Washing machines can’t filter these out. This is only possible when you use a special washing bag. You can buy one yourself and it is actually quite cheap at around €30.

 

Pass the mic and tell your friends!!

Save warm water and put no chemicals or waste into the water system.
If you follow these tips then you will use water sustainably, save money, and protect the water system and wildlife.