Berlin is the capital of Germany and has a massive and active alternative cultures scene. It is one of the most interesting cities in Germany and quite different from the rest of the country.
The public transportation is very efficient and can pretty much take you wherever you're going inside and around the city. There are S-bahns, U-bahns, Trams and Buses. When you purchase the transport ticket (or at least the daily, weekly and monthly ticket) it is valid for all forms of public transportation in the city.
- Single ticket Berlin AB - € 2.70 (For the price of five single tickets you can purchase two daily tickets)
- 4-trip-ticket Berlin AB - € 9.00 (You get four single tickets and save EUR 1.8 or 45 cents per ticket)
- Day ticket Berlin AB - € 6.90 (This ticket is worth three "4-trip" single tickets)
- 7-Day-Ticket Berlin AB - € 29.50 (In a period of one week this ticket is 40% more cost efficient then seven daily ticket)
- Monthly ticket Berlin AB - € 78.00 (In a period of one month this ticket is 40% more cost efficient then the weekly ticket and 64% more cost efficient then thirty daily tickets)
- Small group day ticket Berlin AB - € 16.90 (This option is only worth your money if there is at least three people in the group)
These prices were last checked in June 2015.
Except the short-trip ticket which is not even worth putting on this list, the single ticket is probably the worst option for a visitor of the ones listed above. It's too expensive compared to other tickets and it only gives you two hours of limited movement:
"Return trips (back to the starting point) and round trips (journeys that take a different route from the outbound journey) are not permitted."
The daily ticket is your best option is you are just traveling through Berlin and want to stay less then a week. It will give you freedom of movement with the public transport inside it's zone from the moment it's validated until 3.00 A.M the next day. If you want to get the most out of this ticket you should get up early.
The 7-day-ticket is the best option of all of these if you plan to stick around in Berlin for more then a week. You save a bit less then € 20 by buying this ticket instead of seven daily ones. If you are traveling with someone or the control personel pops up and someone around you doesn't have a valid ticket then this ticket's perk becomes quite handy:
"You can travel with one adult and up to three children aged 6 to 14 free of charge on Mondays to Fridays from 8:00 p.m., and all day on Saturdays, Sundays, the 24th and 31st of December as well as on public holidays."
Note that you have to purchase this tickets from the VBB/DB otherwise if you decide to get it from the automated ticket machines you pay twice as much.
Even though the second person has two free days of traveling in a week if they buys daily tickets it's still more expensive (exactly € 5) from them to get five daily tickets and enjoy the free days. This ticket costs € 4.2 per day and is a few cents cheaper then two single tickets purchased with a "4-trip" option. When you calculate everything, the second person would save only € 1 per day by validating ten single tickets purchased with a "4-trip" option and enjoying two days with free transportation.
The monthly ticket enjoys the same perk as the 7-day-ticket mentioned above. It's price is equal to the price of 2.5 weekly tickets which means you get around thirteen days of free transportation by choosing this option over the weekly one. When calculated it costs € 2.46 per day which is actually cheaper the the standard single ticket.
The small group day ticket is the most interesting one as it's valid for up to five people for the entire day. This option is only worth your money if there is at least three people in the group. If you purchase this ticket instead of the daily one: 5 people will save € 3.5 per person, 4 people will save € 2.7 per person and 3 people will save € 1.3 per person. If five people purchased this ticket every day for the whole week it would be around € 5 cheaper for each person then the weekly one. The conclusion is that if there is more then three of you in a group staying in Berlin for less then a week or five of you staying for one week or longer and you plan to move together then it's worth buying this ticket.
Check out these links for the complete overview on tickets and their cost as well as the map of public transportation:
- General information about public transport in Berlin.
- Overview of tickets and their prices.
- S- und U-Bahn Network Berlin - Tariff Zones ABC.
- Night Buses & Public Transport at Night.
Black riding public transportation is possible and a common past time activity among Berliners, based on numbers BVG gives to us: about 4% of daily passengers don't have a ticket.
Ticket inspectors usually wear uniforms on the U-Bahn, on the S-bahn it's possible that there are some in civil clothing, and since they do not receive an hourly wage but a salary depending on how many people they catch, playing the "dumb tourist" will have no effect on them; they want you in their record. The good news is that even if they ask you to pay the fine on the spot (EUR 40), you can say you don't have the money and then you have two weeks to pay it. Be careful when giving false addresses, as inspectors can check whether the name and address you give them match. Giving a foreign address is your safest bet here. If a controller catches you, use some identification besides your passport, preferably one that doesn't have your real name on it. That way you're not in the system. First time you also may have a good chance to decrease your fine if you write a letter to the S-Bahn office. It´s wise to mention things like it was an unlucky event, you've been overwhelmed by the city and the mass of people and that you usually pay for the good and ecological public transport... :)
The official Berlin website says this about black riding:
"Anyone caught in public transportion without a valid ticket must pay a higher fare of 40 Euro. Even people who forgot to stamp their ticket must pay the penalty. Note: Ticket inspectors are dressed in civilian clothes and will not make any exceptions for tourists. Those who get caught have to prove their identity otherwise the police will be called."
Trams and buses are easier to black ride: Trams have vending machines inside, so keep close to one and in case someone should ask for tickets just be at the point of getting one, after all, it takes a while to find some small cash, figure out which ticket to get, how to use the machine ... :) On buses you'll have to show your ticket to the driver when getting in, but they barely look at it so an old used one usually does just fine. Rumour has it that inventive nomads already got in with supermarket receipts..
Another option is the social one: Most people are actually riding on a monthly ticket called "Umweltkarte". It is valid for *two* adults after 20:00 and all day on weekends and public holidays. The same also applies to the 7day ticket, but not the student ticket. So just ask around, but be prepared to explain yourself as it's not common so people may be somewhat puzzled at first. Take it as a way to meet random people and at the same time relax about controllers!
In case you splurged and got yourself a real ticket, share it! A single one works for a whole two hours, and a day ticket until 03:00. After you're done using yours just drop it inside a vending machine or on top of the validator thing, and someone will be happy to take it!
Organised as Germans are, they've pulled up some tools to help with black riding:
- The Facebook group “Schwarzfahren Berlin” provides riders with current and constantly updated information about what stops and train lines to avoid.
- The Android-app “Schaffner radar” helps to avoid controllers.
Resist Control: A Guide to Riding Berlin Public Transportation For Free by Al Burian, November 28, 2012.
- There are 5 lakes around Berlin where you could try to wild camp. You can access them freely:
One of the lakes which is ideal for camping is "Großer Müggelsee" in Friedrichshagen. It's quite reachable with public transportation. From Hauptbanhof or Alexanderplatz take S5, S7 or S75 to Ostkreuz and from there take S3 to Friedrischagen or Rahnsdorf. If you try to reach it from Rahnsorf you have to take the bus or walk four or five kilometers. Going from Friedrischagen seems to be a better option as you can take four stations with a tram which is easier to black-ride. It can prove to be quite dangerous to walk to the lake at night as there is a lot of wild boars roaming the forests. These boars around Berlin are not so afraid of people and can attack you if they are accompanied by their younglings. The road from both Rahnsdorf and Friedrischagen to the camping location on the lake has poor public lightning and is a common path for wild boars. This lake is quite populated in the morning hours but very deserted in the evening (except weekends). What makes this camping spot great is that the lake is not poluted, there is a lot of animals to hang out with (the swans and ducks will want you to feed them), you have a toilet, electricity and unfortunately not free internet connection at a commercial camping spot called "Jugenddorf am Müggelsee". Note that camping on non-camping designated spots in Berlin is not permitted, so you should be prepared to meet the "forest police" is you camp at a place where it's easy to spot you from the main paths. Last checked in June 2015
You can also go to Teepeeland, in Köpenicker str. in front of the Kopi and along the Spree. They'll allow you to put your tent there if you're not an asshole. As its name indicate, it's a teepee community. Better to ask them on couchsurfing before, it's a nice option to live in the center (Ostbanhof) and to meet cool people. Be careful though if you're a girl.
- Café Morgenrot is very vegan friendly cafe where you pay for brunch on Fri-Sun "what you want" (but they do have minimum cost). Punk style squat atmosphere.
- "Suppenküche Pankow" is a soup kitchen at Wollankstraße 19. The kitchen says it's officialy open from Tuesday to Sunday and on all holidays from 8.30 A.M to 2.30 P.M. A newer information says open hours for food are from Tuesday to Sunday from 12:30 to 14:00 and to get a shower and free clothes visit them on Tuesday and Friday from 8:30 to 13:00. Not checked yet
- Check VolxKuche on Stressfaktor for a list of VolxKuche (peoples kitchen) in Berlin. Usually free price vegan/vegetarian food.
- The non-profit association called "Straßenkinder e.V." is one of the organizations that handles the free food distribution in Berlin. You can find out an up-to-date contact and open hours information on their official website. It was founded in 2000 from a voluntary initiative and it states that it handles both children and young people who live on the streets as well as those which are affected by child poverty and education. They have a 'free shop', a washing machine and a shower (currently in construction) which you can use for free at Warschauer Str. 17. Last checked in March 2015
- Klik e.V, a contact place for young people on the street that offers free meals for youth on Tuesday in 16:00, Thursday in 15:00 and Friday in 12:00. Not checked yet
- "Bahnhofs mission" is a German aid organisation located at more than a hundred railway stations. They hand out free food and should work throughout every day (including Sundays). The "Zoologischer Garten" chapter is the one who hands out the food in Berlin. In order to get a free meal during the day time there you have to arrive at 13:45, 14:30 or 16:00 and take a ticket or coupon with a number. You then wait a bit and are allowed to enter and get a meal. If you don't do this you have to wait in a queue and get nothing but leftovers. Last checked in June 2015
- There is a small cafe called "Sama cafe" in Samariterstraße 32 that collect food from neighborhood shops so sometimes they have some really delicious food that they hand out for free at the cafe. They are open from Monday to Saturday with opening hours from 8 P.M until morning. Sometimes they watch movies and have special events so that can be interesting as well. Expect an 'alternative atmosphere. Last checked in June 2015
- The Vetomat in Scharnweberstraße 35, Friedrichshain distributes free food that has been gathered over the Foodsharing network every Sunday in 16:00. The food is mostly gathered from restaurants and is of high quality so expect it to be gone in less then twenty minutes. Usually they gather and distribute around a hundred kilograms of food every Sunday. In addition to this every first and third Saturday of the month from 12:00 to 16:00 they offer a "varied, vegan / vegetarian buffet" for a small donation. Last checked in June 2015
- Every Sunday at 12:00 a small alternative place called "Erreichbar" in Reichenberger Str. 63a near U-Bhf. Görlitzer Bahnhof makes a great donation based vegetarian brunch. The suggested price is 5 EUR, but if you do not have any money they are 'okay' with it. Last checked in July 2015
- At Hauptbahnhof the McD's has free refills, pick up a cup and get high on fizzy drinks. Not checked yet
- The website foodsharing.de coordinates a network of community food fridges across the city/country.
- Communal Gardensin Berlin. (e.g. Prinzessinengarten (Princess Garden) in the multicultural Kreuzberg district).
- Sidewalk express (internet) is located in the food court at Hauptbahnhof, pick up some of the leftover receipts and enter the code, there is usually some time left. Not checked yet
- The Amerika-Gedenkbibliothek, close to Hallesches Tor has a lot of computers with free Internet access and free wifi. Opening hours are every Monday to Friday from 10.00 to 21.00 Uhr and Saturdays from 10.00 to 19.00 Uhr. Last checked in June 2015
- Check out this map of "Hotsplots" and navigate to Berlin. Note that these spots have not been checked and if someone uses some of them please feel free to add them here.
Free STD tests
If you want to do it for free and anonymously, you go to AIDS Hilfe in Charlottenburg. They ask you for a donation for the quick tests (results after half an hour), but if you choose the laboratory one they might still ask for a donation, but do it for free as well if you choose so. You need to collect your results in person, usually one week later. The service is officially free only for those who can't afford it.
- Jenny De la Torre Stiftung in Pflugstraße 12 is a non-profit foundation founded in Berlin in December 2002 that provides medical care to the homeless people. The list of free services and opening times can be found here. Not checked yet
- Klik e.V in Torstraße 205 near to the metro station Oranienburger Tor / Rosenthaler Platzis is a contact place for young people on the street. The „Klik“ is a place for youth and young adults until the age of 27, who are primarily on the street. They offer the following: first aid, crisis intervention, food, washing machines, showers, hygienic supply, clothes supply, free German language courses, drug and legal counseling and various workshops. Not checked yet
- Fixpunkt e.V in Reichenberger Straße 131 is a social station dedicated to helping drug addicts, focusing mainly on treating heroin addiction. There you can get clean syringes, medical assistance and supplies, coffee and tea and psychological help. They also have a great dentist on disposal for free and you do not need to have health insurance or documents. He works every second Monday of the month from 14:00 to 16:00. Note that you need to be a drug addict to get official assistance there. Last checked in July 2015
Free Shops & Free Stuff
- The Systemfehler is a free shop located in Jessnerstr. 41, 10247 Berlin, close to S / U-Frankfurter Allee or M13 Station Scharnweberstr is open from Tuesday to Friday from 16:00 to 19:00. They accept and give away free clothes and other stuff. You can also have some tea, lounge in the shop and use their Wi-Fi, for free of course. Last checked in June 2015
- Trial and error in Neukölln; Maresch str. 10. Thursday 3-8pm they have free clothes swap. You don't need to bring any clothes but can still take some. Last checked in August 2015
- People from the group Free Your Stuff started collaborating a map that shows where to get books/food/things for free.
- Kubiz, Bernkasteler Straße 78 Weißensee http://www.kubiz-wallenberg.de/wordpress/?page_id=230
- Leila Berlin is a tool library (e.g. you could borrow bicycle helmet, a drill, or a set of wine glasses).
- The Baumhaus (Treehouse) project space in the Wedding district is a nonprofit project and event space. Major hub for the development of neighborhood sustainable development projects (e.g. A repair café).
- Stressfaktor seems to be a great source of alternative information and events in Berlin.
- If you are looking for "less alternative" events you can check Resident Advisor and Was geht heut ab.
- Free things to do in Berlin guide.
- Free Advice Berlin FB group
- Free Your Stuff FB group for stuff people give away