Moving to Germany? Expats share what monthly expenses to budget for in Germany and what the cost of living in Berlin is in 2020.
If you’re planning to move to Germany, you may be wondering how much it costs to live in Berlin. As a couple who has recently relocated, we’ll demystify if Berlin is expensive compared to the city you live in.
Perhaps you’re thinking of taking up a new job, moving your business or maybe you’re planning to further your studies. Whatever your reasons may be, this guide will list every expense you’ll need to budget for when living in Berlin.
This comprehensive guide includes what you can expect to pay for rent, groceries, healthcare, transport, gym, entertainment and more. We’ve also included a list of the most cost effective companies we use, so you can easily settle into your new life abroad.
Wonder what life is like in Berlin since COVID-19? Find out what it’s like to visit Berlin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cost of Living in Berlin in 2020
Moving to Germany and living in a vibrant European city like Berlin is exciting. Not only because of how diverse it is in terms of its population, but also because of the choice you have as a consumer.
Whether you like to live the high life or you prefer to spend carefully, Berlin has an option for you. We’ll cover all the options we came across when we looked at the cost of living in Berlin.
Biggest Living Costs Moving to Germany
One of the biggest living costs to budget for when moving to Germany and to Berlin in particular, is renting an apartment.
Even though rent in Berlin is still considered low compared to other cities in Western Europe, it’s no secret that prices have increased rapidly over the last decade. So much so that it’s caused unrest amongst residents, prompting government to introduce rent caps and rent freezes in the city.
This can only be good news for the cost of living in Berlin. But it’s not always the case. Some landlords ignore or try to find a way around these laws, demanding illegal high rentals from unsuspecting tenants.
What is the Average Cost To Rent in Berlin
The average rent in the city recently breached €10 per square meter for an unfurnished apartment. You can expect to pay up to €13 in sought after areas (like Friedrichshain and Mitte) and €8 in the city limits (Spandau and Marzahn).
Average monthly utilities (water, gas, heating, electricity and waste disposal) cost €2.5 to €3 per square meter.
We found a centrally located apartment on the property rental site Immobilienscout24. We pay €1,180 per month for a fully furnished 65m² (700 Sqft) apartment including all utilities (water, heating, electricity and TV tax).
This may seem like a reasonable amount to pay for a couple living in Berlin. But we only realised after the fact that we’ve been overpaying. We’ll share that experience in another blog post but for now, budget between €300 – €400 per person if you plan to rent a room. And between €450 – €550 per person if you’re sharing an apartment.
Finding a room, flat or apartment to rent in Berlin is notoriously challenging. But don’t worry, we’ve written a detailed How To Rent An Apartment in Berlin guide to help you. It includes a full list of resources and tips that will help increase the success rate of renting an apartment in Berlin.
Food and Grocery Prices in Berlin, Germany
If you’re a foodie like us, then you’ll be happy to hear that food and groceries in Berlin are amongst the cheapest in Europe. Mid-priced supermarkets such as Rewe and Edeka usually have the best deals for everything you’d need under the sun.
But there are what seems to be an infinite number of supermarkets to suit every budget and palate. These include discount supermarkets such as ALDI and Lidl. And if you prefer ethically sourced organic food, you can find them at premium supermarkets such as BioMarkt and Bio Company.
In order to keep our cost of living low, we opt to cook most of our meals at home. Not only is dining in cheaper than eating out, it’s also healthier as you control what goes into your food.
Our monthly food and grocery bill rarely exceeds €400 per month (i.e. maximum €200 per person). And that also includes cleaning detergents, coffee beans, wine, and everything one would usually buy at a supermarket.
Cost of Health Insurance in Berlin
Choosing the right health insurance in a country you know very little about sounds daunting. Knowing which health insurance company is the best in Germany is important if you don’t want the fuss of reading through pages and pages of policy documents.
The gold standard of health insurance in Germany is Techniker Krankenkasse (TK). TK is the largest public health insurer in the country and it will set you back up to 15% of your monthly income. If you’re employed, your employer may contribute up to half of your monthly premium.
We opted for private health insurance because we don’t currently qualify for TK as they consider us to be freelancers. Long story short, we plan to join TK once we’re able to fulfil their criteria for self-employed individuals.
Best Health Insurance for Expats in Germany
We’re covered by Mawista for €59 per month per person. It’s the best basic medical insurance for expats we could find in Germany.
Mawista offers different plans which cover an array of insurance benefits. But unlike TK, you’ll have to pay for your medical treatment first and then send the invoice to Mawista for reimbursement.
Mawista is not as comprehensive as TK but covers all the essentials. It’s also a great option if you want good basic health care while reducing your cost of living in Berlin.
Save Me For Later
Berlin Public Transport
Getting around Berlin is as easy as 1, 2, 3. The city boasts a well-connected public transport system, so getting around with tram, subway, train or bus is a breeze. Public transport also helps keep the cost of living in Berlin low as it’s cheaper than other European cities.
The public transport services in Berlin is managed by BVG. You’ll notice their bright yellow sign the minute you arrive in the city. They offer various commuter fare options which includes single trip, daily, weekly and monthly tickets.
As we work from home, we used to take advantage of the BVG 10am flexible monthly ticket. It allowed us to take any public transport, but only from 10am week days. And we would only pay €61 per month for the ticket.
Getting Around Berlin
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve decided to switch to cycling to get around Berlin. It’s perfect for social distancing and good for the planet too.
We use Swapfiets and have been loving the freedom of getting around Berlin by bicycle! You basically get the benefit of owning your own bike for only €19.50 a month!
If you want to try Swapfiets out for yourself, use our Swapfiets discount code and save €7.50 on your Swapfiets subscription (discount code: MICHAEL92524).
If you prefer to drive or need a car once in a while, you also have access to car sharing services such as ShareNow (previously DriveNow and Car2Go) and Miles. And if you just want to get home after a night out, Uber or Taxi is the way to go.
Not sure if cycling is for you? Why not try cycling in Berlin for a day and see if the cycling lifestyle is for you. Follow our Berlin Wall by bike tour and follow the story of the Berlin Wall while visiting all the top historical attractions in the city.
Private Liability and Contents Insurance in Germany
Private liability insurance is the most important insurance to get when moving to Germany. It’s second only to mandatory health insurance. It simply covers you if you harm another person physically or damage their property in any way.
There are hundreds of insurers ready to offer you cover. A simple search online will reveal companies such as Coya offering private liability insurance from as little as €4.29 per month.
While it’s not mandatory to get contents insurance, it’s still a good idea if you own valuable possessions. Insurance companies such as Lemonade even cover your items when they’re outside your home.
And if you want to cover the shortfall from your health insurance, you can take out dental insurance from companies such as Getsafe. These are just a handful of insurers out of many that offer an array of cover in Germany.
If you’d like to maximise your cost of living in Berlin, consider spreading your cover across Coya, Getsafe and Lemonade. We did precisely that in order to get the cheapest premiums for each type of cover. Our cover for contents and liability insurance sets us back a total of €10 per month.
Internet Providers in Berlin
If you’re reading this article, it means that you can’t live without the internet. Don’t feel bad, we also rely on the internet for pretty much everything we do.
Although internet is not Germany’s strongest point, (strange, right?) there is connectivity at the end of the tunnel. Just don’t expect uninterrupted connectivity 100% of the time. Allow a 10% margin of error.
Internet is relatively affordable which helps reduce your cost of living in Berlin. Companies such as Vodafone, T-Mobile and O2 offer speeds up to 1000mbps. We pay €20 per month for a 200mbps line which is more than sufficient to run our online business from home.
Which German Bank is the Best for Expats
Banks know that banking in general is a very competitive industry in Germany. So they’re always looking for ways to lure you in with the best deals to suit your spending habits.
The best deal for us is paying zero banking fees. That’s right, €0.00 per month! With Revolut, we haven’t paid any fees since arriving in Berlin. And that really helps us keep our cost of living low.
Just bear in mind that Revolut has its headquarters in the United Kingdom. So if you need to open a German Bank account and don’t mind going mobile, N26 is the way to go.
Gyms in Berlin
If you’re looking to join a gym in Berlin, then you’ll be spoilt for choice. There are literally hundreds of gyms spread across the city, so joining a gym will be quick and easy.
The only hard part about joining a gym is choosing which one to join. As not one single company dominates the city, you’ll have to consider deals from gyms trying to out-do each other.
We decided to go with Holmes Place because they have a sauna, pool and are quieter compared to cheaper gyms. Our gym memberships sets us back €59 per month, but it’s totally worth it at less than €2 per day. Your body is your temple after all.
Cost of a Night Out in Berlin
Eating out, clubbing, exploring Christmas markets and entertainment in general all costs money. The frequency at which you partake in these things will determine the amount of money you should budget.
As the cost of living in Berlin is lower compared to other European cities, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that things cost less. Here’s a range of prices from lowest to most expensive you can expect to pay for entertainment in Berlin:
- Meal for Two (including wine): €30 – €250
- Night Club Entrance: €5 – €18
- Glass of Wine: €3 – €8
- Cocktail: €5 – €13
- Beer: €3 – €6
- Movie: €5 – €12
- Fast Food: €1 – €10
- Theatre: €10 – €100
- Cup of Coffee: €2 – €5
As you can see, the range of the cost of entertainment in Berlin is quite broad. How much to budget will depend on where your preferences lie between the low and high end of these ranges.
On average, we spend €200 per month on entertainment which includes dining out at least once a week. But because it’s not illegal to drink in public in Berlin, we often pre-drink along the way before painting the city red.
Other Costs to Consider when Living in Berlin
If you haven’t heard about it yet, then we’ll be happy to be the horse’s mouth. German TV Tax is a real thing. So don’t be surprised if you receive a letter in the post requesting payment after you move into your new home.
We personally don’t pay for the TV licence fee because it’s included in our rent. But we’ve heard stories about the insistent letters demanding payment of €17.50 per month. There are ways of avoiding the fee, but rather budget for it so there are no surprises when you arrive.
Another cost to consider is coffee. The coffee drinking culture in Berlin is huge (said in a Trump voice). It’s simply what people do. Coffee can easily set you back over €100 per month blowing the lid of your cost of living in Berlin wide open.
We brew our own coffee every morning using appliances we bought from Amazon. At less than €0.40 per cup, we keep our cost of living in check while sipping on the best lattes in Deutschland.
What about learning German at a language school in Berlin? That can cost anywhere between €200 to €750 per month. Yup – learning German is an investment. But don’t worry, you can use these 22 free ways to learn German online.
Summary: Our Cost of Living in Berlin
We’ve been living in Berlin for almost a year and we’ve settled quite well into our new life as expats.
We’ve also worked out that cost of living in Berlin is low compared to most in-demand cities around the world.
Here’s a summary of our monthly expenses for two in Berlin:
|Groceries||Rewe / Edeka||€400|
|Health Insurance||Mawista||€118 (€59 per Person)|
|Gym||Holmes Place||€119.80 (€59.90 per Person)|
|Transport||Swapfiets (Discount Code: MICHAEL92524)||€39 (€19.50 per Person)|
|Internet (200 mbps)||Vodafone||€20|
|Insurance (Contents & Liability)||Coya / GetSafe||€10|
|German Bank Account||N26||€0|
|Coffee||We Brew Our Own||€0|
|Total||€2,086.80 (€1,043.40 per Person)|
Whatever your reason is for moving to Berlin, we hope that our cost of living guide will help you decide if the city is for you.
Before making the big move, find out 10 things you should know before moving to Berlin.
When you arrive, check out our guide about how to open a bank account in Germany without a permanent address. And when you’ve found that perfect apartment, check out this guide about how to register your address in Germany.
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