Interested in moving to Berlin?
This post is an extract from my book The BreakingOut Guide To Moving To Berlin.
In this post I look at how to find short-term accommodation in Berlin, including advice, tips, and what to look out for.
Check out my book all about moving to Berlin – and how to get the best out of living and working in Europe’s coolest and most exciting capital.
Finding Short-Term Accommodation in Berlin
Should you find your accommodation in Berlin before you arrive?
In practice it’s hard to organize any accommodation in Berlin beyond visitor type accommodation before you arrive. Most landlords and real estate and lettings agencies will want to interview you in person before deciding whether to let to you.
In any case it’s also better from your point of view for you to be present in the city so you can visit places and meet landlords yourself before making a decision.
Another good reason to wait til you arrive in Berlin before looking for accommodation is that there are a number of online scams targeted at people looking to rent in Berlin.
If you try to do your accommodation search “remote” then you’ll be making yourself an easy target for these scammers. I was – almost – taken in by one of these scammers, and it was an annoying waste of my time.
You can – and in my opinion you should – reserve some initial visitor type accommodation for your first nights in the city before you arrive.
This will make your arrival in Berlin go much more smoothly. For example for the first few nights or a a week or two in a pension, youth hostel, or maybe a private room. This is the way I always do my moves abroad and it’s the way I moved to Berlin.
It’s a good idea to take it in stages: initial few nights -> first few months -> long term.
My advice: book yourself some tourist or visitor type accommodation for the first few nights.
This will give you breathing space to get your bearings and find a short-term sublet or an apartment or a room for the few months.
In this way you’ll be giving yourself much more time to get to know the city, sort yourself out, get to know people – and also get to hear of potential apartments of the type and in areas which will suit you best. Many apartment offers in Berlin are found by word of mouth and never even reach the open market.
Taking a shorter-term place first will take the stress and pressure off your accommodation search and you’ll be less likely to accept something for the longer term which isn’t what you really want.
How Easy is it to Find Short-Term Accommodation in Berlin?
Finding suitable short-term accommodation can sometimes be hard, although it’s still easier than looking for a permanent unfurnished place.
At the beginning of the university semesters i.e. March/April and September/October, there is usually a high demand for accommodation in Berlin.
However, there are always plenty of sub-lets available in Berlin for shorter periods. Short meaning anything from a few days or a week or two to several months or more.
Unlike permanent long term apartment lets, sub-lets in Berlin are usually furnished or semi-furnished. This is also a big plus when you are a newcomer to the city. It means you don’t have to concern yourself with the overhead and expense of buying furniture right away.
Short-term lets are also a good way of getting to know Berlin. I lived in a number of sublets in Berlin when I first arrived and although it involved moving each time, it did mean I got acquainted with different areas of the city.
I first lived in Mitte where I had a room for two weeks sub-let by a teacher. I then rented a room for a while in a student flatshare near Hermannplatz. It was cheap, but not the best area, with drunks and nutters seeking refuge in the courtyard and loudly exercising their voices late into the night.
Sub-lets have the advantage of being easier to fix up than long term permanent lettings and there’s usually less formality involved. Landlords are very choosy in Berlin when it comes to long term tenants and they think differently from many in the UK. They tend to take a long term view where stability, security and reliability are everything.
They want tenants who are stable and established in the city and who look like sticking around long-term in Berlin. Landlords in Berlin don’t generally want tenants who are likely to terminate the contract after several months or even a few years. When you’ve just arrived in Berlin it’s not so easy to convince Berlin landlords that you fit all their tick-boxes.
Looking for a permanent apartment in Berlin is a whole separate topic in itself and I’ll write about that in a later post.
The great thing about Berlin is that you can live in and experience the former Eastern ex-Communist part of the city – and for a much lower rent than you would pay in West Berlin.
Rents have since risen, but they are still lower in the East. For example, I know someone paying just 250 Euros a month in 2016 for a spacious modern apartment in Marzahn in Eastern Berlin.
Note that in Berlin, the number of rooms quoted for an apartment size means just that. Rooms, not bedrooms as some people from the UK may assume at first sight.
Apartments in Berlin are always quoted in terms of rooms and not bedrooms. So a 2 room apartment means a 1 bedroom apartment. A three room apartment means a two bedroom, and so on.
Rooms and apartments are also often advertised in terms of the number of square metres. The price per square metre is used in Germany for data analysis and statistical purposes and for setting the annual official Mietspiegel or rent level which governs rents for permanent tenancies in Berlin.
Sublets and WG rooms can work out more expensive than having your own apartment, but they are easier, quicker, less bureaucratic and more informal to arrange. But even then you can still find yourself being interviewed by the existing sharers. If so, then serious faces and serious questioning can be expected.
As a rough rule of thumb you can expect to pay roughly around 10 Euros “warm”, ie inclusive, per square metre for a room in a flat share.
Rents for apartments and rooms in Berlin are quoted as either “kalt” (cold – ie without services or utilities included in the rent), or else “warm” ie (with services and utilities included in the rent).
Mitte and Prenzlauerberg are now the most expensive areas of town, followed closely by Kreuzberg.
Next comes Friedrichshain, Neukölln and Schöneberg.
The cheapest areas are Wedding, Treptow and Lichtenberg. Marzahn, Hellersdorf, and Köpenick are also cheaper but a long way from the centre. I once lived in Köpenick for a year and it felt rather cut off from the rest of Berlin, even though my rent was only about 100 Euros for a 2 room apartment.
Unless it’s included in your sub-let rent, you’ll need to factor in another 20-40 Euros or so for utilities such as electricity, gas, and Internet connection.
Where To Look For Short-Term Accommodation in Berlin
Craigslist Berlin is also a possibility. But you will be in greater competition with other expats as this tends to be used more by people who don’t speak German. See berlin.en.craigslist.de
Airbnb in Berlin can also turn up something: www.airbnb.com/s/Berlin–Germany
Another good option for finding short term accommodation in Berlin is Roomorama
You also can use the Roomorama search engine to check for available rooms and apartments in Berlin right now:
Registering with the Authorities in Berlin
Everyone has to do this, Germans included, whenever they change their address.You are supposed to register within 14 days of moving into your new address. In theory you are liable to a fine if you are late.
In practice though officials tend to turn a blind eye for late registrations provided they are no more than a couple of weeks late.
This is a very important step so do not forget to do it. Having your registration certificate or Anmeldebestätigung is the key to all sorts of other things, including arranging a bank account and even renting a permanent apartment.
See the official Berlin city website for the details of your local Burgerbüro at service.berlin.de/standorte/buergeraemter
Make Your Stay in Berlin Go More Smoothly By Learning To Speak German
Being able to speak German will give you a big advantage when viewing and renting apartments. Not to mention day to day living and socializing in Berlin.
My advice: if you’re going be sticking around in Berlin for more than a few months, then get started right away with learning German.
It’ll be well worth it and being able to speak and understand German will make life in Berlin a lot easier.You also need to know German for your interactions with the public authorities, such as for visa permits and the like.
Government officials in Berlin are officially required to speak German in their dealings with the public.
This they say (ironic as it sounds) is to avoid the potential for mistakes in understanding.If you don’t speak German in Berlin, then you have to rely on having a German speaker coming with you whenever you have dealings with the authorities or landlords.
Learning German in Berlin
One of the best ways to get a head start in German is to study with an MP3-based self-study course. It was by far the best investment in learning German I ever made. More about this below.
Learn German Quickly With GermanPod
As well as attending a language class, you can give yourself a head start in learning German by signing up for the self-study MP3 based course offered by GermanPod.
GermanPod is now one of the world’s most successful digitally based online language courses. It’s not hard to see why.
My advice: check out www.germanpod101.com and get a head start right now with learning German
GermanPod is THE ideal audio MP3-based German language course for expats in Berlin.
This is because with GermanPod you learn German quickly in your own time, as and when you want – and at your own pace.
You can use GermanPod on your smartphone and tablet, as well on as your laptop or PC. So you can be learning German wherever you are – and whenever you’re on the move.
With GermanPod you can make the most of those spare moments of time that you have which otherwise just get wasted.
Such as when travelling on the S-bahn or U-bahn, whilst standing in a line or sitting in a waiting room.
And what’s more, GermanPod is VERY low cost.
Learning German With GermanPod is Easy, Fast – And Fun
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That makes learning German with GermanPod very easy, fast and fun.
I myself learned German using the self-study audio method and I found it the fastest and easiest way of learning to speak and understand German.
GermanPod is Very Affordable
GermanPod is available on a monthly subscription basis. It’s “pay as you go”. Unlike some German courses, you don’t have to part with a large sum of money.
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For longer term advance subscriptions there are discounts of between 11% and up to 60%.
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This makes it very inexpensive to get started learning German with GermanPod.
And it gives you the flexibility to use as little or as much of GermanPod as you wish, when you wish – and according to your own budget.
In short, GermanPod is probably the best investment you can make to ensure the success of your move to Berlin.
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