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Johnny's Guide to Berlin, Germany

Hey guys this is 2017 update to my original write up and trip to Europe three summers ago. I've somehow managed to come here every summer now for the past three years, and the more I come, the more I discover awesome local places and things to do that keep me coming back for more. All of the information still holds true so I figured I'd just update this instead of writing a whole new post. So here we go!

Europe has been incredible so far with Berlin being the first stop during my summer trip in 2014.  I'll be writing up a post about each country I visit with some tips on what to see, what to eat, and some local inside info that I've gotten from my network of digital nomads who live in the city. This guide is what I personally did after a bit of research, suggestions from friends and random luck. This won't be the lonely planet guide for everyone, but will suite most location independent travelers, entrepreneurs and digital nomads who want a good mix of value, convenience, culture, great food, and fun.



berlin digital nomad entrepreneur



How I got to Berlin


Chiang Mai to Bangkok: 

Flew Thai Airways from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.  Spent the night in Bangkok at Plai Garden Airport Hotel (Booked on Agoda.com). They are super cheap at less than $20 a night, and include free airport transfer from BKK both ways. Email them your flight numbers and they will pick you up, as BKK is only 10 minutes away.  


Travel Tip: Don't be cheap and fly Air Asia/Nok Air if you are making an airport transfer as the low cost carrier airport (DMK) is far away and not worth saving $20 and making the transfer.



dreamliner


Bangkok to Berlin: 



I used Kayak and SkyScanner to search for flights.  I ended up booking with a 1-way ticket with Norwegian air as I wanted to keep my trip open ended.  A standard flight was around $560 1-way and a business class flight was just over $1,000.  

Travel Tip: Norwegian air is a low cost carrier and even though this is international expect to pay for everything including baggage, seat selection and even water on your flight.  The "business class" on Norwegian were much better than "Economy Plus" but weren't really biz class.  The seats were nice with a 75% flat, it was wide and had tons of legroom, but the service and food was premium economy.

Planes were brand new though, the new Dreamliner Jet is epic with Rolls Royce engines, anti-jet lag lighting and a lower altitude feel.  


business class norwegian air



Lisbon to Berlin: (2016 update)


I didn't realize but the best flights from Portugal direct to Berlin actually go from Porto and not Lisbon so in retrospect I should have planned to fly from the north instead of heading back down. So instead of taking a 6am flight with Easy Jet direct to Berlin I decided to break up my trip by going to Brussels, Belgium for a few days before taking a train to Berlin. 

If you have interest in eating Belgian waffles, drinking Belgian beer and chocolates then book a flight with Ryanair and spend 2-3 nights in Brussels before taking a nice, comfortable train ride to Berlin like I did. 






Barcelona to Berlin: (2017 Update)


This year I decided to fly from where I was in Bali to Barcelona as that and Madrid were the two cheapest/most direct flights to Europe that I could find. From Barcelona I had the option of flying directly here, or for the same price, fly to Hamburg first to check out another German city that I've never been to.

So naturally I took a side trip and spent five days in Hamburg, which was pleasant. There isn't a ton to do besides the free walking tour and the Miniatur Wunderland. From there, I took a really easy, cheap and comfortable bus ride on Flixbus which I highly recomend as it was actually easier than taking the train and 1/3 of the price. 





Where I stayed:


Turns out Europe is expensive, and even though Berlin is supposed to be the cheapest of the cities, it's still over 100 Euro a night for a basic hotel.  We ended up staying in a private room at Aletto Kreuzberg which was okay for our needs as we were hardly in the room.

Mitte is the tourist area, but we chose Kreuzberg as it was the cooler area and was a short was to the touristy stuff anyways.  Take the subway for everything and get a 4-ride pass to save some money.


2016 Update: Aletto is now Acama Hotel + Hostel and is still a no frills, basic place to stay in a good location. But if you have the choice, book in advance and get a room at the Berlin Grand Hostel as they have both private rooms and dorms, is just half a block away from Aletto/Acama and right next to a few different U-banh train stations which makes it an awesome location.

Berlin Grand is super social, the staff is friendly and they have great breakfast. (2017 Update, their breakfast is no longer great, but it's decent.) Also their wifi is super fast but can be a pain in the ass to connect to as the popup login screen doesn't always come up.  If you can't get it to work on your Mac, you need to go to Open Network Preferences -> Press the + sign -> Select "Wifi" under interface -> Create a New Wifi Interface and try that. If that doesn't work, you need to delete  your Wifi Interface on the menu and add a completely new one. But after we somehow figured it out, everything works fine and I recomend this place as a social hostel with super friendly staff, in a good location.



berlin kebab



What to Eat in Berlin:


You would think German food, but in reality the main dishes are Turkish Kebabs and Currywurst.  For breakfast just eat at the hotel because nothing opens until 11am.

Best Kebabs in Berlin?  Don't bother waiting in the 2-3 hour line at Mustafa's unless you really really want to try it. The kebab was extremely good with fresh ingredients and a nice touch by adding fresh lemon and grilled eggplant. It's not  a place you would go again but if you have time to kill and want the experience of trying the freshest kebabs in Berlin, then go for it.

Hint: Ask for extra meat and pay just 1 euro more, it's worth it. 


A photo posted by Johnny FD (@johnnyfdk) on



Best Currywurst in Berlin?  Go to Curry 36.  There's never more than a 5 minute wait and it's Berlin fast food at it's finest.

Hint:  Try the Currywurst as it's famous, but fall in love with the Rostbratwurst sausage and Boulette beef meatball thing.

Paleo in Berlin?  Check out Sauvage.  We went for Sunday brunch and it was incredibly good.  Shout out to Shannon and Alexis for the recommendation!


berlin paleo

paleo breakfast



What to see:


Day 1: Book the Free Berlin Walking tour  and tip your guide 5-10 Euros which is the happy amount as 10euros x 25 people earns them 100 euros per hour which they are more than happy with.

Day 2: Walk around the city and explore.  Make sure you go the Berlin Cathedral, the Berliner Dom which is well worth the 7 Euros.  Spend 1-2 hours there and make sure you walk up to the dome itself as the view is worth it.

or go on the Alternative Walking Tour and see all of the street art and graffiti explained, and end up in Yammica which is basically little Jamaica in Berlin complete with food, drinks and even a beach bar.



Day 3:  Rent bicycles and explore the different areas of Berlin, check out the random neighborhoods, bike to the Paleo restaurant (which is far out of the center of town).  Cycling around Berlin is easy and super fun.

2016 Update: Spend a day on your bicycle going to the old abandoned airport at Tempelhof as it was an awesome way to spend the day.

Day 4: If you can, plan your Berlin trip so it falls over the weekend in the summer as the weekend markets and beer gardens are tons of fun.

2017 Update: If you're here on a Sunday, make sure you go to Mauerpark on Sundays for the vintage flea market, bearpit karaoke, street performers and food market.

If you're here on a Tuesday or Thursday, check out the local Turkish Market from 11am, to 6:30pm. It's a small market where locals go to buy cheap fruit, olives, and vegetables, and there's a couple really good food stalls. It's not a tourist attraction, but walking along the river or riding a bike there is a nice way to spend some an afternoon.



Street Performers at Sunday's Mauerpark


Getting Around Berlin



The best way to get around during the summer is biking, walking, subway, or a combination of the three. I've been walking 5+ miles a day here, listening to podcasts, randomly stopping for food, and looking around and it's been great. If you need to get somewhere quicker, the subway system works extremely well. Unfortunately, the bus system kind of sucks, especially compared to more efficient German cities like Hamburg. It's also quite expensive at 3.20 Euro per ticket, one way. My favorite way to get around has been to bicycle with the NextBike App. It's only 1 euro per 30 minute ride, and they have stations everywhere, plus an option to just leave the bike on any street corner for 50 cents more. You can also use Lidl Bike which is similar. If I lived in Berlin, I would just register for both and use whichever one had a closer station.

You can also try using Uber here in a pinch but the rules keep changing and sometimes they only have UberTaxi which is basically just a way to call Taxis through the Uber app, and sometimes they have UberX although it's really expensive here with a ride to the airport costing close to $40.




Watch this 2 minute video tour of Berlin that I made:





Relax like a Boss!


The coolest place I accidentally discovered while looking for my mandatory after a long ass flight massage was a paradise known as LiquidRom.  It's 25euros for 4 hours of the best saunas, steam room, and salt water float room I've ever experienced.  It was seriously the most relaxing part of this trip and a must see if you are visiting Berlin.  Just make sure you book your massage appointment a few days in advance as Germany doesn't do the whole walk in without an appointment thing we've gotten so used to in Thailand.

Here's a photo of the place and a random video I found.



berlin liquidrom


Hint: Start in the 65C Himalaya Salt Sauna, move to the 80C Glass Panorama Sauna, then the Steam Room, take a dip in the cold plunge,  then back to the 90C Finnish sauna before going into the Thermal bath. Also every hour they have an intense 90C Infusion that is crazy but worth the experience.

This place is a MUST go while in Berlin. This video is in German, but you get the point.







Coworking in Berlin:


I was only in Berlin for 5 days so I just worked out of the hotel lobby and in the garden, but there are tons of co-working spaces in Berlin and the internet seems to be pretty quick when you actually find a wifi spot which isn't as prevalent as places like Chiang Mai.

I don't plan on working that much while traveling around Europe but have been spending 30 minutes every morning before breakfast to fulfill orders and answer emails.  I regretfully missed a $1,600 order because my customer service gal is camping without reception and someone called in but oh-well, things happen.  Still had a great week of sales and with $6,977.33 in sales these past 4 days while in Berlin, it's more than paid for the trip so far.

As some of you may know I've been putting in long hours and hard work back in Chiang Mai but now it's time to relax and let the biz run passively.  I won't be saving up much money while traveling through Europe, but at least I'll be making enough working 20 minutes a day just to cover the cost of the trip.  Luckily I banked it these past few months.  See income report for July.

2016 Edit: The mobile data plans are still super expensive and suck compared to every other country i've been to. Even in places like Portugal or Poland the mobile plans are much cheaper, faster and more reliable. I got a Vodafone plan and it was terrible.

I went to Betahaus which is the most popular and largest coworking space here in Berlin but wasn't that impressed. Listen to Episode 128 of the Travel Like a Boss Podcast to hear more about the experience of coworking here in Berlin.




2017 Edit: Mobile data plans in Germany are still overpriced. Do not buy a $35 SIM card at the airport. It's a rip off and can be had for less in the city. This time around I got Lycamobile which seems to work better than Vodafone.

Also I checked out the coworking space Rent 24 on a free day pass that I got from Coworker.com. It was way better than Betahaus and would be somewhere I would work out of full time if I moved to Berlin. Friendly people, free coffee, water, soda water, fresh fruit, and even beer. Super comfortable seats, good tables, great wifi, power outlets, natural lighting and even a boxing bag in the chill room!


Rent24 Coworking in Berlin


Final Thoughts:



Berlin is a great place to visit and it's very similar in lifestyle to big cities like New York where there's a lot to do, a big party scene and good food. Berlin is still a lot cheaper than NYC and I'd much rather live there than in the states, but it's not a nomad hotspot and is more of a place I'd like to visit once a year than actually live in.



A video posted by Johnny FD (@johnnyfdk) on




Warm Regards,

Johnny FD
www.facebook.com/johnnyfdk
www.twitter.com/johnnyfdk

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Post a Comment

  1. Hey Johnny,
    This is Jon....that "other Asian American from Hawaii". Great blog post and video. My wife and I always dreamed of visiting Europe. Thanks to You, Anton, and everyone from DSLs help, that dream of visiting Europe for my I and me is closer than we imagined before.
    Have a great trip!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Jon, keep an eye out on this blog as I'm planning on writing a post for every country I visit on this trip to Europe. That way when you and your wife come visit you'll know the cool places to go. =)

      Delete
  2. Hi Johnny,
    I see you had a great trip to Berlin, I hope you enjoy your journey through Europe and if you plan to come to Barcelona do not hesitate to let me know and I will recommend some of the best places to visit here.
    Have fun !!
    Patrick

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Patrick, I'll keep you in mind if I end up in Spain. No plans this trip but definetely in the future!

      Delete
  3. I love the detail in your post. Have you tried airbnb to get accommodations under $100? I would love to interview you for my site one day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey George, I've done AirBnB in Canada and have looked into it for some other countries but for quick 3 day trips I usually just book a hotel as I'm never in the room anyways. But AirBnB is great for those who need more space and are in a city for 1+ weeks.

      Delete
  4. Have fun exploring Europe. You picked the best time of the year to go. Looks like no podcast this week?

    Was that Anton's voice I heard when you were looking at the Mercedes taxi?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Maxwell, Europe has been a freaking blast. The voice was indeed a cameo of Anton's voice. I brought my mics with me so I'm thinking we'll just do an entire episode about traveling through europe for this week's podcast. I think it'll be awesome.

      Delete
  5. Johnny im gonna sign up for Antonmethod, Ive got a ein do I need a DBA aswell?

    ReplyDelete

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