Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media
Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens need a valid passport to enter Germany and can stay up to 90 days without a visa.
Security: Chances of becoming a victim of petty theft, assault, or other crime are lower in Berlin than in most other big cities. Still, it won’t hurt to take all the usual precautions, such as stashing valuables in the hotel safe and keeping an eye on your belongings. In case of emergency, dial the police at 110.
Time: Berlin is six hours ahead of U.S. eastern standard time.
Money: The currency of Germany is the euro. For current conversion rates go to OANDA Currency Converter. www.oanda.com/convert/classic
Phone Calls: Berlin’s area code is 030. For calls from the U.S., dial 011-49-30 plus the local number. To phone the U.S. from Berlin, dial 001 followed by the area code and phone number.
When to Go: The best time to visit Berlin is from May to October when life moves outdoors, days are long and warm (70-90°F or 20-30°C), and festivals brighten daily life. Rain is a possibility any time of year, but more common between November and April.
Getting There: Berlin’s two international airports (Tegel and Schönefeld) are served by several international carriers. The only direct flights from the U.S. are from New York; coming from another city requires a change of planes in Frankfurt, Amsterdam, London, or another European city.
Getting Around: Driving in Berlin is on the right, but the city is best explored by public transportation, a combination of subway, light rail, buses, and trams. The average taxi fare to the city center is $28 from Tegel and $42 from Schönefeld.
Advance Reservations: Tickets to the opera, philharmonic orchestra, and major touring acts often sell out quickly. For upcoming events and advance tickets, contact the Berlin tourist office (www.visitberlin.de).
ATM Card: “Cash is king in Berlin.”—Jeremy Gray, co-author, National Geographic Traveler: Berlin. Credit card use is not nearly as widespread in Berlin as it is in the U.S., so always carry a couple hundred euros in cash to pay for most restaurant meals, admission, tickets, drinks, cab fare, services, and purchases. Hotels and gas stations usually accept credit cards. Travelers’ checks are not common and must be exchanged into cash at banks or currency offices.
Comfortable Shoes: “Berlin just begs to be explored on foot.”—Henrik Tidefjärd, owner Berlinagenten custom tours and travel services. Many of Berlin’s plum sights cluster right in the city center and intriguing hidden spots lurk behind doors and in courtyards only found at street level.
Dressy Clothing: Berliners dress casually but not without style. If you’re wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and sneakers to the opera or a fancy restaurant, you’ll likely feel underdressed. “And definitely lose that baseball cap if you want to blend in.”—Henrik Tidefjärd.
Ear Plugs: To ensure a good night’s sleep,always carry earplugs, especially if you’re sensitive to traffic noise or your hotel room neighbors’ late-night shenanigans.
Medications: Aside from all prescription medicine, also pack an emergency stash of over-the-counter pain medication, upset stomach medicine, anti-allergy pills, or whatever else you may need. Many medications easily available in U.S. drugstores are only sold in Berlin pharmacies (if at all) and may require a doctor’s prescription. Non-emergency medical referrals are available at “Call a Doc” (tel. 01804 2255 2362).
Travel Adaptors: Standard voltage is 220 volts versus 110 volts in the U.S. Most cameras, phones, and laptops work on both voltages but require a German outlet adaptor with two round pins.
Tri-Band Cell Phone: Unless your U.S. cell phone is compatible with the European GSM 900/1800 standard, you won’t be able to use it in Berlin. If it is, save by buying a prepaid, rechargeable SIM card with a local number; rates start at $29.
Umbrella or Raincoat: “You never know when it’s going to rain, even in summer.”—Jeremy Gray. Berlin weather can be unpredictable, and the average annual rainfall is 23 inches (58 centimeters).
Details about facilities, parking, services and travel to and from any of Berlin’s airports. www.berlin-airport.de
Berlin Hidden Places
Basic but well-researched and enjoyable site highlights unusual places throughout Berlin. www.berlin-hidden-places.de
Berlin Tourism Office
Comprehensive site with details on sightseeing, hotels, restaurants, events; also lodging and ticket booking service. www.visitberlin.de
City of Berlin
Official Berlin government website; information about culture, economics, politics, transport, and other subjects. www.berlin.de/English
Hip and fun online guide to the more unusual aspects of Berlin’s lifestyle. www.gridskipper.com/travel/berlin
Public Transit System
Schedules, fares, interactive trip planner, tips for mobility-impaired people, and more. www.bvg.de
Overview of Berlin’s major museums with details on special exhibits, opening hours, admission, events, and special needs. www.smb.spk-berlin.de
Daily newspaper with local, national, and international news; opinion, business, sports, travel, theater, music, and more. Thursday edition has tabloid-size entertainment supplement. www.tagesspiegel.de
Berlin’s English-language magazine geared to visitors and expats; well-written, insightful essays keeping tabs on the pulse of the city; gossipy, humorous columns; insider tips on restaurants and nightlife; listings section. www.exberliner.com
Free monthly magazine aimed at Berlin’s huge gay and lesbian community. Available in bars, cafés, and shops. www.siegessaeule.de
Well-respected weekly national news magazine in the mold of Time or Newsweek with in-depth coverage of national and international politics, culture, health, trends, and business. See online edition for select articles in English. www.spiegel.de
Comprehensive biweekly city magazine similar to Zitty but targeted to a slightly older, more mainstream readership. www.tip.de
Biweekly city magazine with up-to-the-minute coverage of local themes, events, and trends; reviews of restaurants, music, movies. Excellent source for information on nightlife. www.zitty.de
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.