Digital Nomad Guide: Berlin, Germany

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You know what I've been dreaming about for a long time now? To travel the world for at least a year, visiting a different city every month. I once had the idea that I would have to quit whatever job I had and save up at least 10-15k but times have changed! First of all, I don't work for anybody but me and it's been that way for almost two years now. I also happen to work as a web developer which only requires a solid internet connection and my beloved Macbook Pro.

The trend of digital nomadism has also grown immensely over the past few years and I think we all know 1 or 2 friends who are doing it at the moment. In case you've never heard of it:

Digital nomads are individuals who use telecommunications technologies to perform their work duties and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner.

Since April 2015, I have started testing the digital nomad lifestyle with 2 weeks in Florida and now this.

So Let's Start With Berlin!

Period: August 9th to September 6th 2015 Community: Hacker Paradise Goals: Complete summer contracts and launch a new start up idea

Choosing a city for one full month can be a difficult task when there are so many to pick from! Berlin wasn't my choice in this case but simply where Hacker Paradise was headed. I read about them in an article (French only) about nomad startups and immediately subscribed to join them in August!

I'm glad it ended up being Berlin because I hadn't made my way to Germany yet and I kept hearing about how great the city was. I was a bit worried that its reputation was only about the parties which I hardly do nowadays, but I was more than pleased discovering the city during daylight.

Traveling To And In Berlin

Taking the AM off to see a little of Berlin! #remotework #freelancer #berlin #exploreberlin #travel #ubanh

A photo posted by Sofia Shendi (@mtlstate) on

I booked a flight from Montreal for about $1400 which included 10 days in Morocco on my way back with Royal Air Maroc. Otherwise, I would recommend booking a flight to Paris or Barcelona and then booking another smaller flight from there. While I was in Berlin, I managed to walk to locations (20-40 min walks) about 90% of the time for the first 3 weeks and bought a week pass for the last week since I was catching up on a lot of sightseeing. In total, I believe I spent about 54 euros in train tickets. A monthly pass would be 79.50 euros so it all depends on how far you think you will go daily.

Accommodation

 

Apartments are not cheap in Berlin, especially not for us Canadians that have to pay in euros! I scored one of the last flats available on Airbnb for about $900. To get a price like this in the summer, you need to book months in advance or get very lucky like I did. It was nothing fancy but it was good for cooking and sleeping before heading out again. If you're not traveling alone, you can definitely find a great place for $1200-1500 and split the costs.

Another option is to sublet a room for as cheap as $400. Subscribing to the WOLOHO newsletter is probably the easiest way to find sublets and a lot of the people posting are expats!

If you're wondering what neighbourhood to choose, Kreuzberg is by far the most loved area of Berliners. It can feel a little intense at first seeing people drinking at 9am but you get used to it. Walking by the Spree canal daily makes up for it ;)

In my case, after spending one month in Kreuzberg, I will look for a place in Hackescher Markt on my next visit. I found myself visiting the area daily on my last week to eat and shop. It has a cool vibe and all the best coffee shops!

Data And Sim Cards

If you're as dependent as me with data and Google Maps, you will be tempted of getting a sim card at the airport when you land in Berlin but be patient and instead, get some help from the transport info counter if you didn't write down how to get to your first location.

Sim cards are sold all over town and you can get them from some very shady looking stores or even in line at the supermarket. However, I would wait to be on a big street like Kotbusser Damm or Orarienstrasse and look for a modern looking telecom store that you can go back to if there's an issue.

I bought 2 cards and the best one price and connection wise was Ortel. I first bought the sim card with 5Gb of data for 19 euros and reloaded it twice for 9 euros. I never use that much data back home but being in a new city changes things.

Don't forget to memorize or write down the PIN that comes with your sim card as your phone will be blocked after rebooting.

Coworking Space

As a freelancer in Montreal, I could never understand the added value of paying to go work at a [coworking] desk daily. I love my home setup and my addiction to coffee and Crossfit get me out of the house at least once a day. However, joining a coworking space while traveling changes EVERYTHING! This is where your people will be, aka tons of digital nomads from all over the world. Even for a shy person like me, it became so easy to talk to strangers while sharing a table for a few hours. I think the lack of social interactions is the hardest part of traveling alone so when you pay for that coworking space, you pay for a community! I stayed at betahaus for the month since it was Hacker Paradise's pick. While I was there, they held a weekly free breakfast to hear people pitch and a very well organized startup festival called People at Beta. On top of the events, they offered weekly workshops ranging from free to 400 euros, prices that always made sense. Membership for one month is 159 euros at betahaus and I believe can be cheaper at other spaces in Berlin. This one is in Kreuzberg so you're also paying for the location.

Eating In And Out

 

Supermarkets in Berlin (and probably Germany in general) are incredibly cheap! We're talking about grassfed Kerrygold butter and croissants for 30 cents, and one pound of chicken breasts for 2 euros.

Otherwise, there are plenty of restaurants everywhere and you can eat out for as low as 3 euros. However, healthy options are very hard to find and costly.

I would recommend cooking at home as often as possible and eating out at exciting street food markets like Markthalle Neun that happen weekly, at least during the summer. Hackescher Markt is also an awesome area for solid Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese food.

Just know that everything closes in Berlin on Sundays (except for a few places that will have long lines) so make sure you have a full fridge the day before!

Staying In Shape

Feels good. #crossfit #crossfitspree #littlebreak

A photo posted by Sofia Shendi (@mtlstate) on

Even with all the walking I was doing, I needed my Crossfit sessions so I booked one month with Crossfit Spree for 140 euros. No, that's not cheap at all but Berlin gyms are not in general. For a regular boring looking gym, I was being asked 90 euros.

Yoga seems to be more affordable and you can also do Stand Up Paddle for cheap if you don't need to learn it first.

That's It For Berlin!

Feel free to ask me any question you may have about my stay, I know I had a ton before my trip started. I will also be posting a list of my favorite Berlin venues and restaurants in the next few weeks so make sure to like MTL State on Facebook and Twitter or subscribe for updates at the bottom of this page!