This guide shows you how to relocate to Berlin. It shows you how to find a job, get a residence permit, find a place to live, and more.

Move to berlin boxes luggage

Before you move

Save money

You need enough money to live until you get paid. When you arrive in Berlin, you must pay for many things:

  • Your apartment deposit (Kaution)
    The deposit is usually 3 times the cold rent. You must pay 1/3 of the deposit before you move in.
  • The first month of rent
    You must pay the rent before you move in. You will probably move in before you get your first paycheck. You will need a bank account to pay the rent.
  • Living expenses
    You need to buy food and things for your apartment. If you rent an empty apartment, you also need to buy furniture and appliances. If you live in a WG, you don't need to buy as many things.
  • Relocation expenses
    If you come from another country, you might need to buy plane tickets, or stay in a hotel for a few days. Keep the receipts, because these expenses are tax-deductible.
  • Winter clothes
    If you move during the winter, you might need to buy a winter jacket, boots and warm clothes.

Cost of living in Berlin ➞

Save your receipts! Relocation expenses are tax-deductible. You can claim those expenses on your next tax return.

Find a job

This is the first step. You need a job offer to apply for a residence permit. When you have a job, it's easier to find an apartment.

You don't need to speak German to work in Berlin, but it helps a lot.

How to find a job in Berlin ➞

Find a place to live

It's really hard to find an apartment in Berlin. If you are not in Berlin yet, it's even harder. There are many apartment scams, so be careful.

You can rent a furnished apartment for a few months. It's more expensive, but at least you have a place to live. This gives you more time to find an apartment you like. After you arrive in Berlin, you can visit apartments in person.

You can also live in a shared apartment (WG). It's cheaper because you split the rent and utilities. It's easier because your roommates already have internet and electricity contracts.

You need enough money to pay for the first month's rent, and the deposit (Kaution). In Germany, you pay rent by bank transfer. You can open a bank account, or use Wise to transfer money from another country.

    How to find an apartment in Berlin ➞

    Get health insurance

    If you live in Germany, you must have health insurance. Use my health insurance calculator to see your options, then get free advice from a health insurance broker.

    How to choose health insurance ➞

    If you are an EU citizen, you are covered by your EHIC card until you start working. Once you start working, you must have German health insurance. If you are a student, you can use your EHIC card while you study. If health insurance is free in your home country, your EHIC card can save you a lot of money.

    Get a residence permit

    You might need a residence permit to live in Germany. Each type of residence permit has different requirements. Some people don't qualify for any residence permit, so they can't move to Germany.

    To get a residence permit, you need health insurance and a place to live. You normally need around 2 months to get a residence permit, but it can take longer. You can't start working before you get your residence permit.

    Do I need a residence permit? ➞

    Check if your devices work in Germany

    Before you move to Germany, check if your devices will work in German power sockets.

    Power sockets in Germany ➞

    Your first month in Berlin

    Open a bank account

    You need a bank account to get paid, and to pay your rent. You can have a bank account in Germany, or anywhere in the European Union.

    Some banks don't let immigrants open an account. They can ask for a registered address or a residence permit. They might not accept all foreign passports. Use my list of expat-friendly banks to find the right bank account for you. Use Wise to transfer money from another country.

    How to choose a bank ➞

    Get a mobile phone contract

    If you come from another EU country, you can keep using your mobile phone contract. You can make calls, send SMS and use mobile data without any extra fees. After some time, you must switch to a German mobile plan. Your foreign plan will stop working, unless you return to that country1.

    You can buy a SIM card at Vodafone, Telekom and O2 stores. Saturn and MediaMarkt also sell and activate SIM cards. You must show your passport and a registration certificate to activate the SIM card1, 2, but some store employees will just use your temporary address1, 2, 3.

    Use Verivox to compare cellphone plans. Aldi Talk is a cheap, popular prepaid option. Vodafone CallYa is also a good option, because you can get help in Vodafone shops. I use Vodafone CallYa since 2015.

    Move in

    After you find an apartment, you must sign the lease and move in. You must find an electricity company, and an internet service provider. You might also need to install your own light fixtures, and even your own kitchen.

    If you move in a shared apartment (WG), it's easier. They might already have furniture, internet and electricity.

    How to move into an apartment ➞

    After you move in, get liability insurance. It's cheap, but important.

    What is liability insurance? ➞

    Register your address

    In Germany, you must register your address. This is how you get a registration certificate and a tax ID. You need them for many other things.

    How to register your address in Berlin ➞

    Start working

    After you get your residence permit, you can start working. During your first month, your employer will ask for a few things like your tax ID, health insurance number and pension insurance number.

    Starting a new job in Germany ➞

    During your first 6 months, you are in your probation period. During that time, it's easier to lose your job.

    How the probation period works ➞

    Bring your family

    Your family can move to Germany with you. They might need a residence permit like the family reunion visa.

    If you have children, you might need to send them to a daycare (Kita). It's really hard to find a Kita. They have long waiting lists.

    How to find a Kita ➞

    You can also bring your pets to Germany. If you bring your dog to Berlin, you must microchip, insure and register it. You must also adjust to German dog culture.

    Dog ownership in Germany ➞

    Get around in Berlin

    Learn how to use public transit in Berlin. You should also get a bicycle. Berlin is a very flat city with many bicycle paths.

    How to use public transit ➞

    How to buy a bicycle ➞

    You don't need to buy a car in Berlin. They are expensive, and not that useful. I have a car, and I still prefer to use my bicycle or public transit.

    If you have a driving licence from a non-EU country, it's only valid for 6 months after you move to Germany. If you have a driving licence from another EU or EEA country, it's valid until it expires1, 2. You can usually exchange your foreign driving licence for a German one. If you don't have a driving licence, you can take driving lessons.

    Your first year in Berlin

    Discover Berlin

    Take time to explore your new city! Get a bicycle and explore everything inside and outside the Ring.

    If you move in the winter, Berlin will seem a little grey, but don't panic. It will be much nicer in the summer.

    What to see and do in Berlin ➞

    Make friends

    It takes time to make friends in Berlin. It's normal to feel lonely in your first year. Berlin has a big expat community, so you will always find people to meet, even if you don't speak German.

    How to make friends ➞

    Learn German

    You don't need to speak German to move to Berlin, but it's very useful. You always need to write emails, read letters and make phone calls in German. If you don't speak German, you always depend on someone else to help you. If you speak German, it's easier to find an apartment, find a job and make friends.

    How to learn German in Berlin ➞

    Adjust to life in Germany

    After you settle in Berlin, get familiar with German culture:

    If you don't speak German, you can still get help in English:

    A new life in Germany

    After you settle in Berlin, it's time to make new plans.

    Start a business

    You can be self-employed in Germany. It can be a little scary, but it's worth it.

    How to start a business in Germany ➞

    Permanent residency and citizenship

    After a few years in Germany, you can apply for permanent residency and German citizenship. This gives you more freedom, and more security. You don't need to renew your residence permit. You can stay in Germany even if you lose your job.