Whether you’re off to Berlin or plotting a bucket list, here are 5 cash-saving travel tips I picked up on a recent visit.
- Cash is king in Berlin, which can feel like a different world – but at least it’s a world in which you can’t tap, swipe and ping your cash away quite so easily. ATMs are everywhere, but card transactions can prove pricey if your bank back home charges for foreign spending and withdrawals. I decided to give Revolut a go instead.
Revolut is a free app/debit card combo, which you load up with money and then spend or withdraw it in a range of currencies. I stuck with Euros for payments/withdrawals, and wasn’t charged anything in fees, plus the rate beat local agencies in the UK/Berlin. I actually came home with unspent money – which has got to be a first – but it works as a regular debit/contactless card in the UK and online (still in those range of currencies). So it’s a bit of a bank beater! It also feels a little more secure in the event of loss or theft, as it’s separate from the rest of your cards/banking details.
- You can get online/on the phone for free: Leave data roaming OFF, switch airplane mode ON, and forget the pricey mobile phone ‘boosters’. Free wifi is on tap pretty much everywhere: restaurants, bars, and across the city as a whole, although some hotels charge for it (mine didn’t). Using leftover credit on the Skype app, I paid around £2 max on calls to UK landlines for about an hour of gabbing: check their rates here.
I also downloaded Google maps for Berlin before I left, which functions offline as a street map as well as for directions (with location services turned on). I also checked into my flight using the BA app, uploaded a couple of photos to Instagram, read the news, Faceblabbed and did the usual browsing – all with zero charges outside my usual data/calls/texts allowance.
- Don’t sweat the airline’s plastic bag rules. I managed my trip with just carry-on luggage: super speedy, but meant wrestling travel-size toiletries into the undersized sandwich bags I’d accidentally bought. I’d have left some of that stuff behind if I’d known about DM, which stocks all all the essentials (in travel sizes, too), plus random extras at bargain prices. There are at least two DM stores at Alexanderplatz, and others dotted around.
- While I didn’t actually use it this time round, I’d consider using the BVG transport app on my next visit. If nothing else, with a secure wifi connection and stored card details, it’s a way of buying bus and train tickets without cash. You can even buy day travel tickets in advance, which means you’re all set-up as soon as you leave the airport (and if, like me, using public transport to get to your hotel, means you don’t need to hunt for change).
If you make more than 3 separate journeys on the same day, a day ticket usually works out a saver – but even single tickets can be a good deal, as they’re valid on trains, tubes, buses and trams for up to 2 hours in the same direction (i.e., not for return trips). Emily Bland’s YouTube post has everything you need to know about using public transport in Berlin like a pro.
- Ask if your hotel offers incentives for less room cleaning: not as yucky as it sounds! My hotel offered a 5-Euro voucher (for use in their bar or restaurant) for foregoing one day’s room cleaning. Time it for the day after you arrive (i.e., before you’ve had a chance to dirty the place up!) and it makes sound environmental sense. I found food and drink in tourist places incredibly over-priced given current exchange rates, so the voucher was a bit of a sweetener, too.
These apps and tips worked for me at the time of visiting. They’re independent suggestions and not paid placements or guaranteed winners – always check the details for yourself.
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