A guide with everything you need to know to get started in Berlin

This guide walks you through everything you need to know to settle down in Berlin. Browse the Berlin housing market, spot good renting opportunities, checklists for all papers you need to apply for a flat and warnings about possible scams.

We also have some advice when it comes to choosing a bank and to explain you how the German healthcare system works.

This post was last updated on July 13, 2022
The spree with the Fernsehturm at the Alexanderplatz in the background

These are the most important steps to settle down in Berlin:

1. Find your way around Berlin

Read all about how house numbers and streets are organized in Berlin.

The fastest way to get around Berlin is by bike as the city is mostly flat but beware of traffic. I highly recommend biking only on streets that have bike paths.

Berlin has a great public transport system run by the BVG. Use the BVG website in English or Google Maps to plan travel by U-Bahn (metro), S-Bahn (city trains) or bus. The BVG ticket app is in German language only.

Car sharing is an alternative option to get around Berlin.

2. Find a job or freelance work

Having a job, freelance or consultant contract is helpful to find an apartment in Berlin as landlords require proof of income. You also might need this to apply for a visa if you are a non-EU passport holder.

Searching for a job can be done online so we recommend that you start searching for a job before moving to Berlin. We have a guide with the most important job search engines in Germany.

3. Check whether you need a visa

All non-EU citizens need a visa in order to work and live in Germany. Please read our overview guide for German visas for more information.

4. Open a bank account

There is no way to get around an old-school checking account or Girokonto in Berlin. You need it for many payments and all salaries and fees are usually wired to your bank account. We have an overview of the best checking accounts.

5. Get a German SIM card

Start with a prepaid mobile card. We have a guide with the best SIM card options.

6. Find a short-term rental

Finding a flat in Berlin can be very hard. We recommend searching for a temporary flat, some place to live for the first 6 months in Berlin, then getting your papers in order. You have better chances to look for a long-term rental once you have a steady income.

7. Do your Anmeldung

You have to register your new address at the Bezirksamt latest 14 days after moving into your new apartment. The Anmeldung is necessary in order to open a bank account at many banks (but not all), for health insurance and for most bureaucratic procedures.

8. Get health insurance

Read how the German healthcare system works first, then select a health insurance provider (Krankenkasse).

9. Find daycare for your child

Read our guide to finding a daycare center (Kita short for Kindertagesstätte) for your kid. Start as soon as possible as this may take some time.

10. Get liability insurance

Germans don't sue in case of damage, they have liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung). This is the only insurance you actually should have when living in Germany. Liability insurance for as less as 50.- Euro yearly fee covers you against most damage claims in case of accidents (excluding car accidents) or property damages. Please refer to our review of the best liability insurance plans.

11. Find a long-term rental

After you settled down and have accumulated a positive credit score (Schufa), it's time to search for a long-term rental.

12. Transfer your driving license

Non-EU passport holders have to transfer their driving license to a German driving license. The foreign driving license expires 6 months after resettling to Germany. This is not necessary for EU citizens source. Appointments for transferring a driving license and a list of all the necessary documents can be found on the website of the Berlin senate.

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