Moving to Berlin: the definitive guide

Moving to Berlin: the definitive guide

So it's official, you're moving to Berlin! This guide is a starting point for you. It links to all the useful guides we have written to help you.

Find a job

It's better to find a job offer before you come to Berlin. When you arrive in Berlin, you can focus on finding an apartment, registering your address and getting health insurance. You must do those things before you start working.

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Open a bank account

When you arrive in Berlin, you need a bank account to pay your rent, pay your health insurance, receive your pay cheque, and many other things. You can also use a bank account from another European Union country.

Many banks will require an Anmeldebestätigung to open a bank account. You get this document when you register your address. If you don't have a registered address, you can still open an account with these banks.

N26 is a good bank if you just moved to Germany. They let you open an account without an Anmeldebestätigung, they speak English, and they have very low fees. You can open an account online even before you arrive in Berlin. I am with N26 since 2016.

If you are a student, and you need a blocking account (Sperrkonto) for your student visa, you don't have many options. Deutsche Bank, Fintiba and X-patrio offer blocking accounts. Most students choose Deutsche Bank for their visa.

If you need to transfer a lot of money to your German bank account, use TransferWise or XE.com. They have better exchange rates and lower fees than banks or wire transfers. I use TransferWise a lot. It works really well.

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Find a place to live

Finding an apartment is the hardest part of moving to Berlin. It can take weeks, and even months. If you want to find a place to live, you must be well prepared.

You need an address you can register. When you register your address at the Bürgeramt, you get a tax ID, and an Anmeldebestätigung. Your employer needs your tax ID to calculate your taxes correctly. You need an Anmeldebestätigung to get a cellphone contract, apply for a residence permit, open a bank account etc.

You should join a tenant's association (Mieterverein). They can review your lease, and they offer legal assistance if you have problems with your landlord. It costs around 10€ per month.

You can also use Wenigermiete.de to get your rent reduced. Read our review of Wenigermiete to learn more about it.

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Get health insurance

Health insurance is mandatory in Germany. Choosing the right type of health insurance can save you a lot of money. An independent health insurance broker can help you choose the right health insurance. Their help is free.

You can also use websites like Tarifcheck to compare health insurance options, but talking to a broker is a better idea. The cheapest option is not always the best option for you.

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.

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Get liability insurance

There are two types of insurance you really need in Germany: health insurance, and liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung). Liability insurance is not mandatory, but most Germans have it.

Liability insurance protects you from damage claims. For example, if your washing machine breaks and floods your neighbour's apartment, the insurance company will pay for the repairs. If you accidentally send someone a virus that breaks their computer, they can sue you for damages. Liability insurance will pay for your lawyer, and for computer repairs.

Liability insurance is very cheap, usually less than 5€ per month. Feather and Coya offer liability insurance for 4€ per month. They are both based in Berlin, and they speak English. Use Tarifcheck to compare liability insurance options.

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Get a SIM card or mobile phone contract

If you come from another European Union country, you can keep using your old mobile phone contract. You won't pay extra fees if you make calls, send SMS or use mobile data.

When you get a German cellphone contract or prepaid SIM card, you must show a valid ID, and sometimes an Anmeldebestätigung1, 2.

The European Union uses different cellphone bands as the United States and Canada. Your phone must support the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands. CDMA phones will not work in Germany1. Your phone must not be locked to a phone company, or it will not accept German SIM cards.

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

Buy a bicycle

Berlin is very flat, and it has a big network of bike paths. Having a bicycle is great for transportation, exercise and exploration.

Related guide: Buying and riding a bicycle in Berlin

Send your children to the Kita

The Kita or Kindertagesstätte is a type of preschool or daycare centre for children who are under 6 years old. Finding a Kita for your child is very difficult. You must start looking as soon as possible.

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Find English-speaking specialists

If you need help with settling in Berlin, these lists of English-speaking professionals will come useful.

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Get used to life in Berlin

There are lots of little things you must get used to after moving to Berlin. No one tells you the simple things like sorting your trash and safely watching pirated movies.

Daily life:

Paperwork and bureaucracy:

Where to find...

Get your German driver's licence

6 months after settling in Germany, your foreign driver's licence becomes invalid. You can usually trade your foreign driving licence for a German one. If you don't have a driving licence, you can enrol at a driving school.

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