I am now back from my one-week vacation to Germany, resounding with a lot of joy and memories. Due to the time limitations, I can only visit two German cities: Berlin and Hamburg. I think that it is quite good for me though. The time span is long enough for me to find what I love about Berlin and Hamburg, and short enough for me not to start feeling tired of a long vacation. So, here are some of my personal recommendations for you if you are planning for your first trip to Germany with a tight budget like me.
Travelling to Germany can be affordable!
1. Join the Hamburg and Berlin free walking tours: They are free, and the tour guides are adorable. They offer tours in English, German and Spanish, so you can choose the language group you want to join. The tour guides can take you through many important tourist attractions and tell you all the stories attached to it. If you are not afraid of walking for two hours, this can be a perfect way for you to start your trip in these cities. Some tours might require you to book online but they are all free of charge. If you love the trip, you can leave some tips for the tour guides at the end of the tours. But these people are not nagging for any money, so if you don’t have cash, they would not go after you for it. ^_^
2. Find a second hand store: It might seem ridiculous but I just love the feeling of finding old items of the cities in these lovely little shops. They say a little bit about the city, the people and the culture embedded there. And in case you make the same mistake as I did, remember to check the opening hours of these shops (weekdays are not automatically opening days). It was also very lucky for me and my friends to discover the beautiful surroundings of this shop even though it was not opened on the day we visited it. The old buildings with a touch of warm colors and vivid graffiti did make me marvel at the beautiful daily life here.
3. Visit the Mauerpark on Sunday: I believe that there have been many recommendations for this place before, but I just want to emphasize the meaning of this activity for a tourist like me. It made me feel the spirit of Berlin. Yes, very international, people from all over the world and all walks of life come here to sing karaoke in front of hundreds of people. Yes, very lively and sexy, people are not afraid of anything to express who they are and what they love here. “We are poor but sexy” You can experience what Berliners mean when they say that here.
4. Book a hostel in the center of the city: I think that this tip applies to other trips as well. As I and my friends traveled on a tight budget, we tried to reduce the accommodation cost by booking on Airbnb for our accommodation in Hamburg. We regretted the decision right away when we arrived in the place. The place is cheap but it’s too far away for us to reach. It took us around 1 hour for one-way trip to the center. With the limited time we had in Hamburg, we could have done more things if we were right in the center. In the hostel in Berlin, we could also make friends with people from all over the world. The hostel service was professional as anyone might expect. And to our surprise, the prices of Airbnb and hostel are quite similar.
5. Try affordable German food: You can find many cheap street vendors offering some traditional German food. However, don’t expect too much for German sausages and schnitzels if you are like me who is used to the Asian way of cooking. I would suggest that if you can take curry wurst for your first breakfast and schnitzel for your lunch. They have unique flavors but when I tried them in the middle of the summer, I felt that they were a bit too dry for me to enjoy completely. On the other hand, the local bakery and Nepalese food shops are amazing. You shouldn’t miss them when you find one.
6. Travel in groups: This might be what applies to many travel destinations, too. However, this is extremely true for Germany. I and two other friends bought day group ticket for 17 euros. and this ticket can be used for all public transportation and for up to 5 people, while a single ticket for one-way trip is already 2.6 euros. Then you can see how much you can save when travelling together with your friends.
These are some of my personal reflections after this beautiful vacation. When I am writing this, a short melody comes across my mind “The best things in life, they are free”. Yes, I do feel that I have had the best experience with Berlin and Hamburg without being broke after my vacation!
Thank you for treating me so well these days, Berlin and Hamburg!
Mikkeli. August 19, 2015