A German ICE train at Copenhagen central station. Photo: Berlinow

Cheaper Rail Travel this Fall


Apartment building in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Photo: Berlinow

So, you’ve finally decided to stay in Berlin. Even though it might not be for good, you’re considering a more permanent living situation.

Rental apartments are the norm in Berlin. While some expats buy their apartments most of them, as the Germans, rent. Some even buy an apartment merely as an investment and then let it to someone else, whilst themselves renting another apartment to live in.

If you’re in Berlin all alone you might consider finding a WG (Wohnungsgemeinschaft), a collective of two or more people sharing an apartment. You might make new friends, or worse, enemies… It’s always easier to live with likeminded people. Shop around on the marketplace WG Gesucht, and while having a look at the vacant room, try to meet all of your flatmates to-be before signing a contract. Although most WGs work out very well, we’ve heard some horror stories.

Your own place

Have we scared you into getting your very own apartment? Well, even though Berlin has quite a few empty apartments and relatively low rents, it’s not always that painless to get that desired lease. As an expat, you’re often seen as a less reliable tenant than a German fellow. Therefore you should be very well prepared before arranging a Besichtigungstermin with a broker or landlord. Dressing up in a business suit, or at least some clean clothes, and having your papers in order might increase your chances in getting that crib considerably.

Getting it right

What documents to bring you might ask. The most important is a copy of your passport and, if you’re already registered with the authorities, your Meldebescheinigung. If you’re employed in Berlin you should bring copies of your last three salary slips (Gehaltsnachweis). If you’re currently not working or are self employed a recent bank statement showing some financial stability could do as well. You should also order a Schufa-Auskunft, a German credit report showing that you’re not having unpaid debts. Last but not least, most landlords want something with a very long name – Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung. This a document where your last landlord grant that you don’t have any outstanding rent debts. You can get this from your landlord, even if you’re currently subletting. If your last apartment was abroad you should have a corresponding document translated to German (some landlords will accept an English version).

Where should you look for that apartment then? The answer is almost always Immobilienscout24, this is the largest marketplace for renting or buying an apartment, house, office etcetera. Other websites are Immoworld, WG Gesucht, and Immowelt. Checking Facebook, the message board at the supermarket, and asking friends are of course also alternatives.


There are some things you should be aware of when looking for an apartment. Taking over a lease from another tenant (becoming a so called Nachmieter) can be a good way to get that coveted apartment. The tenant might ask for an Abstand. This means you have to buy their newly installed kitchen, washing machine, or just a piece of furniture they like to leave behind. If you don’t wanna pay, they will of course choose another Nachmieter. Sometimes you get a really good deal on their washing machine, but you might also end up paying 500 euros for an old sofa you just wanna throw out.

There are scammers lurking around on Immobilienscout and other websites. You often spot them by a too good to be true offer. If you contact them, they will tell you that they are currently abroad and can send you the key to their apartment, so you can have a look yourself. Of course, they want you to transfer a key deposit via Paypal or Western Union… The key? It’ll never show up.

This post has also been published with permission on Wohnung.nu.

The original version of this article was first published on 2012-03-07.

Photo: Berlinow

You’re used to hostels being the cheapest way (apart from coach surfing) to stay when you’re abroad. In Berlin there’s a much cozier alternative for the same price, at least if you’re traveling together with someone.

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If you’re planning to stay in Berlin for a longer period, you might be looking for more permanent living situation – take a look here. If you’re just hanging out here for a shorter period, keep reading.

There are countless vacation apartments in Berlin. You’re renting a normal apartment, furnished and completely equipped, for roughly the same price as a hostel bed. An apartment is from around 40 euros per night and up. Yes, that’s for the whole apartment, not per person. You got all the amenities for your self – kitchen, bathroom and sometimes tv and wifi. You definitely get a much more relaxed stay compared to a hostel, or even a hotel. Just like home, but in Berlin.

The apartments are often let by people that owns a single apartment, but there are also companies that operates several apartments. Usually the owners are linked to an agency that arranges the bookings online, but there are also those who book their own apartments, via mail or phone. If you’re dealing directly with the landlord it pays off to bargain a bit about the rent, when you’re staying for a longer period (a week or more). Sometimes the rent can be as low as half the advertised.

If you’re traveling alone, and want to keep the price at a low level, there are also many home owners that offer rooms in their own apartments to travelers. Prices are from 15 euros per night.

Big agencies

Airbnb is one of the largest marketplaces for apartments and rooms in the world. They have a wide variety of accommodation facilities in Berlin on their website. The German “clones” 9flats and Wimdu are definitely worth a visit as well.

Maybe not the nicest looking site, but you’ll find a large selection of apartments all over Berlin.

Berlin’s official site, which also let you search for vacation apartments.

Apartment hotels

Central Berlin Apartments
Two small but nice apartments in the trendy area between Hackescher Markt and Prenzlauer Berg. Overlooking Weinbergpark, with several cozy cafés and pubs in the area. Wifi, elevator.

Ima lofts
Loft apartments in a former Kreuzberg factory building. The immediate surroundings might not be the most interesting in Berlin, but you’re only a five minute walk from the hip Oranienstraße with several cafés, restaurants and shops. Wifi, elevator.

Other sites

Berliners that are going on holiday often sublets their own apartment while they are away. You’ll find a lot of these ads on Craigslist, but there’s also quite a few “professional” landlords here. You can really make a bargain on Craigslist, but look out for scammers! Never pay for the apartment before arrival. If the landlord demands that you pay in advance, go for another place.

You’ll find more apartments than on Craigslist, but this site is in German only. Many ads are for longer periods, but there are also weekly or daily rentals. Once again, look out for scammers.

To find out if you’re dealing with a scammer, have a look at this frequently updated blog. Also google the mail address or phone number. If you end up finding ads from different cities all over Europe, you’re most certainly in contact with a scammer.