Visiting Berlin is something we would all like to do more than 1-2 times a year. But unfortunately Berlin is a bit too far away for most of you to just visit the capital for just one night. Personally I travelled from the Netherlands to Berlin more than 8 years now, so you could say that I am an experienced traveller on that route. Because it does make sense to compare all travel-methods to Berlin, I decided to write an article comparing all of them for you. We will discuss the benefits, prices, risks and mostly also some tips per travel-method. Let’s start straight away:
The train: The most comfortable travel-method
A very comfortable and often reasonably priced travel-method is the train. This is not possible for all of you but if you are from countries like Poland, Belgium, Holland, Austria or France, it could be a possibility. The train travels about 100-150km per hour and you will have all you need: You can watch a movie, play a game, sleep for some hours and even start enjoying your first drink with your friends already. When booking tickets for the train to Berlin, it is important that you book as early as possible. If we take Amsterdam-Berlin as an example, the prices can be as low as 39 Euro if you book a few months in advance. But on the opposite they can go up to 100 Euro if you book just a few days in advance (both for one-way-tickets).
Tip: Book early if you can and look at the prices of both Deutsche Bahn and the train-company in your country, sometimes the prices can differ.
Arriving at Hauptbahnhof
Another benefit of the train is that you will arrive directly at Hauptbahnhof or Ostbahnhof. That means you are in the middle of the city and most of the time you will be fit enough to start exploring Berlin straight away. If you only stay for a weekend your luggage might not be too heavy so why not make the most of your time after arriving in the middle of Berlin?
Carpool: Organized hitchhiking
When you do not have the possibility to book early, you might want to consider driving to Berlin with other people. This option might not suit everybody but is definitely cheap and most of the time you will be able to find something just a few days before you want to travel to Berlin. I used this way of getting to Berlin several times and also took lifters along in my car and never had problems. Most of the time it is very fascinating because you will meet people from all over the world and you can learn about great places to visit. Most of the time you can carpool to Berlin for about 5 Euro per 100km. That would mean that Amsterdam-Berlin would be about 35 Euro.
Tip: One larger disadvantage of carpooling is, that you are dependent on the driver. Sometimes they are late and I also had it once that they did not show up at all. The best thing is to call them a few hours before the ride to make sure they will be there. Websites like BlaBlaCar also offer reviews for drivers and lifters so keep an eye on them too
Unorganised hitchhiking: Putting your thumb up
Do you want to travel to Berlin even cheaper than the options mentioned above? Than unorganized hitchhiking might be the travel-method for you. Just make sure you find your way to the highway or an important fuel-station for international travellers and put your thumb in the air. A better method might sometimes be to walk up to people and pro-actively ask them if you can join them. Maybe by some ice-cream or something to convince them a bit more. Keep in mind that all the people with a German number plate starting with “B” are from Berlin so here you have to try extra hard.
Not as hard as expected
I have never done this in Europe before (only in Australia), but from what I hear it is not as hard as you might expect. If you manage to approach people in the right way, they are very willing to take you along. Obviously you still have to plan a extra time for your ride because you might also be unlucky. If you only visit Berlin for one weekend this might not be the best option because you might lose too much time. Still it is adventurous, cheap and you might meet interesting people.
Tip: Although I heard that it works very well you still have to watch out! Never do this alone and also think of the consequence if you did not find anybody and it gets dark. You might be halfway the trip and need a place to sleep. Think about hitchhiking to Berlin very good before you actually do it. Also make sure your loved ones know where you are.
Quickest travel-method: Fly to Berlin
The biggest advantage of flying to Berlin is of course the fact that you will be able to save time. Especially if you come from further away, this is mostly the only plausible way of travelling to Berlin. If you are within a range of 700km from Berlin the other options mentioned in this article might be worth your consideration. If we take Amsterdam as an example again: Including waiting time and traveling by train to Amsterdam it would take me about the same amount of time to drive by car. In general I would say you have to add another 1-2 hours for waiting time and getting through the customs. If you live close to an airport this travel-method is great of course.
When you are looking for cheap flights I would always compare the prices on internet. There are plenty of websites who provide you with the best prices within seconds. Personally I often flew from the Netherlands with Transavia, Ryan Air and EasyJet because their prices are very reasonable and for a short flight the comfort is not that crucial. Just like traveling by train, it is important that you buy your ticket for a flight as early as possible.
Drive by car to Berlin
This option might be only suitable for people who live in the countries around Germany but you could also travel to Berlin with some stops in other cities. If you have enough holiday you could make a cool roadtrip out of it and sleep in some interesting cities along the route. Driving by car to Berlin is cheap, especially if you travel with a full car (3 friends) you will only pay about 3-5 Euro per 100km. Obviously it is also nice to sit in your own car with your friends and your own music. If you have a car and do not live further than 1000km away from Berlin this is definitely a solid option.
There are some things you have to keep in mind though:
Environment-sticker in Berlin
Since a few years you are obliged to have a environment-sticker when you want to drive in the center of Berlin. As you can see on the image below, you will not be able to drive or park inside the ring (S-Bahn) without one of these stickers. The price of the fines can be more than 100 Euro so it is worth buying one of these stickers. Where you can buy these stickers is different for every country. Here you can find a website where you can buy them online and you can change the language on top of the page.
Parking in Berlin
A great thing is, that when you arrive in Berlin with car, it is still possible to park your car for free. There are plenty of websites with free parking spots in Berlin. We normally park close to Treptower Park, which is a great part of Berlin and not far from Friedrichshain and Schlesisches Tor. But as mentioned, there are plenty of other central places which still offer free parking in Berlin. But I have to admit that the amount gets smaller as we speak.
Driving back after partying
Another thing to watch out for is driving back with leftover-alcohol in your blood. If you are young, you will most likely party in Berlin and on Sunday you do not want to drive back too late because you have to work on Monday. Watch out with this, the police is also aware of tourists leaving Berlin with leftover-alcohol in their blood. I would recommend putting your suitcases in the car and enjoying some cool Sunday activities like Karaoke in Mauerpark or enjoy a delicious Burger in Friedrichshain. It cannot be too bad to stay in Berlin a bit longer, right?
In the end it all depends where you are coming from. If you live in a neighbor-country of Germany I would choose to go by train, car or carpool and otherwise I would take a flight. But if you know a few months in advance that you are going to travel to Berlin, you can always check the flights anyway because you might find a great bargain. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.