Housing

Your success in finding suitable accommodations may depend on the kind of apartment you are looking for.
It is especially difficult to find a furnished or partly furnished apartments rented for short periods, or a reasonable rate on apartments for larger families.Again, we encourage you to look for an apartment as soon as possible.
The IBZ (International Center for Academic Exchange) offers furnished apartments for academics and scientists.
How to find accommodations:

Finding apartments is normally done by searching the internet or local newspapers. Employing real-estate agencies is the most expensive method, as they will charge two months’ rent for the successful procurement of an apartment.
Links to search for accommodations:

Links to search for rooms in shared apartments (Wohngemeinschaft)

For a listing of apartments and shared apartments, you might also try

Renting an apartment
Special terms and abbreviations are common in German housing advertisements.

An ad will indicate the total number of rooms in an apartment, including a living- or dining-room. If, for example you wish to rent an apartment with a bedroom and a living-room, you must look for a 2-room apartment. A bathroom, kitchen or hall would not be included in the number of rooms listed.

The size of the apartment is indicated in square meters (qm²) and describes the size of the entire apartment.

Apartments are usually completely unfurnished, i.e. without lamps, curtains or carpets. The kitchen often is equipped with an electric cooker and a sink. Second-hand furniture can be bought easily. For example at Ebay or Zweite Hand

The rent is paid monthly, and usually consists of two parts: the basic rent and operating costs (Betriebskosten), which include running costs such as water, waste collection, street cleaning, staircase cleaning etc.

You generally pay separately for heating, electricity and/or gas and must therefore register with an energy and/or gas supplier. The charges differ considerably.
To compare energy costs, visit: verivox.de (in German only).

The landlord will typically ask for a deposit, which can amount up to three months’ basic rent and is provided to cover any damage the tenant may cause to the property. The sum will be refunded to you – including interest – when you move out, provided the apartment is in good order. Simple measures to restore the apartment to its original condition (painting, filling holes, cleaning etc.) will typically be required of the landlord before you move out.

All details of the agreement are stated in the written lease. It covers, among other things, the amount of rent and operating costs, period in which you may give notice that you intend to terminate the lease, lease-period, terms for an increase in rent and additional agreements like parking the car or what and how many animals you are allowed to hold as pets etc.

As your signature binds you to the terms of lease, please read the lease carefully before signing it

List of terms and abbreviations used in housing advertisements

Abbreviation Meaning
2-Zi-Whg 2 room apartment
Abstellk Storage room
Blk / Balk. balcony
DG attic room
D hall
DU shower
EBK fitted kitchen
EFH one family house
EG ground floor
EB you would be the first tenant
G-WC small separate toilet for guests
HK heating costs
HH high-rise building
KM rental fee excl. extra costs such as heating, cable TV, cleaning of shared areas, waste removal etc.
Kaution deposit
Keine zusätzl. Prov. no additional commission
KDB kitchen, hall, bathroom
MM monthly rent
NBK extra costs such as: heating, cable TV, cleaning of shared areas, waste removal etc.
NR non-smoker
OG top floor
RH terraced house
Stellpl. parking space
TG underground garage
TL bathroom with window to outside
warm / WM rental fee incl. all extra costs such as heating, cable TV, cleaning of shared areas, waste removal etc.
Wfl. living area
WG shared apartment
WK Combined kitchen and living room
ZH central heating

Radio and television licence fees

For using radio and/or television and/or computers through which internet can be accessed you have to pay a users’ fee (Rundfunkbeitrag). Currently the fee is €17,50/month, payable in quarterly rates (€ 52,50 for 3 months). It is payable once per flat and is valid for everyone who lives there regardsless of how many people live in the flat or how many broadcasting devices they have. It also covers car radios.

You are required to to register with the “Beitragsservice” which compiles data for the public broadcasters. Here you find more information.

There are severe penalties for not paying the users’ fee.

Here you find all registration forms

For more information see here (in German only)

Cable subscriptions have to be paid additionally and run about €20 to €30 a month. They are sometimes included in the operating costs for your apartment.

Telephone Services

Two types of telephone services are available in Germany: analogue and ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network).

An analogue connection is easier to use; you will be provided with a regular telephone line with a single number. Access to the internet from this line is possible from a standard 56K modem via dial-up. One disadvantage of the dial-up modem is that it occupies the phone line when in use and prevents incoming and outgoing phone calls from going through.

ISDN utilizes digital network technology and offers two digital phone lines and three different telephone numbers along with additional special services.

Before deciding between these two services, please check with your landlord to verify that your house and apartment is wired for these connections. Changes may have to be made to the lines in your house. A DSL connection is possible with either an analogue or ISDN line.

Most apartments already have a telephone line installed. When registering for your telephone service, make sure to provide the complete address, including the postage-code and which part of the house your apartment is situated in. Knowing name and telephone number of the previous tenant may also simplify the registration process.

The easiest and most direct path to activating phone and internet in your apartment is through the Deutsche Telekom. Telekom shops (T-Punkt) can be found in all cities.
Other providers do exist, however. Competition between providers is high, which has driven down prices on services including long-distance calling. A comparison of providers is therefore strongly recommended.

You may have to wait between 3 and 14 days from the time that you apply until the services are activated . You will receive written confirmation with your new telephone number and the activation date. A Deutsche Telekom technician may have to come to your apartment to activate a line or to switch your line over from an analogue to ISDN connection. Additional charges will apply in those cases.

Itemized Phone bills are sent on a monthly basis. You must pay your bill on time, either as cash payment at any German post office or via bank-transfer. The preferred payment method is to set up a monthly transfer from your bank account to the provider.
Your provider will send you notice and possibly fine you if payment arrives late. Please be advised that Deutsche Telekom tends to shut off service soon after such a notice is sent out. Reconnection will likely be slow and costly.

Many telephone plans are only available with a 1- or 2-year contract and must be cancelled months in advance to avoid an automatic extension.

Please keep in mind that your bills, correspondences, customer care and service agreements will often be in German only. We therefore suggest that you sign up with a provider that offers contracts and customer support in English.

TKS, for example, offers English step-by-step set-up guides and manuals, and an English call-in technical support center.

Another telephone and internet service offering English customer care is extelsol.

For detailed information see How to Germany

A good overview and comparison of rates and services can be found at www.billiger-surfen.de (in German only)

Internet

There are many Internet Service Providers in Germany. Internet access is possible through dial-up, ISDN and DSL services.

Dial-up service
For analogue and the somewhat faster ISDN dial-up access you need not sign a contract with a provider. You will need an active telephone line and a modem, however.
The cheapest solution for people who rarely use the internet is an Internet by Call service. The providers offer a pay-as-you-go service, which is billed on a time unit basis. Flat rates are not available with this service.

Contracts in which a monthly fee is paid for a defined amount of time of internet access may be available from some providers as well.

Access rates differ considerably, so be sure to compare the services and fees offered by different providers. Detailed information and a comparison of internet plans and rates can be found at:

www.billiger-surfen.de (in German only)

High speed DSL service
High-speed DSL connections with download speeds up to 50 000kbps are available. A DSL 6000kbps connection is most commonly available in Germany.

A DSL connection will upgrade your phone line and usually requires no changes to the cables in your home. An „Annex B“ DSL modem will, however be required.

Package deals offering hardware and activation discounts normally require a 1 or 2 year contract. If you cancel earlier, fees will apply so be sure to select your plan accordingly. Please be sure to note cancellation periods and the time period in which you must give cancellation notice!

Note: There are many ads offering seemingly good bargains. Please read the small print carefully as some may have major drawbacks.

Please keep in mind that your bills, correspondences, customer care and service agreements will often be in German only. We therefore suggest that you sign up with a provider that offers contracts and customer support in English.

TKS, for example, offers English step-by-step set-up guides and manuals, and an English call-in technical support center.

Another telephone and internet service offering English customer care is extelsol.

For detailed information see How to Germany

A good overview and comparison of rates and services can be found at www.billiger-surfen.de (in German only)

Mobile Phones

As mobile-phones differ considerably in their capabilities, and international calls can be extraordinarily expensive, it would be advisable to get a German mobile-phone or at least a German SIM-card.

There are many service-providers which offer a wide range of products.

You have the choice between prepaid phones and signing a contract.
With prepaid phones, you just pay as you go using a rechargeable card (Wiederaufladekarte) which can be purchased at provider-stores, kiosks or bookstalls.

The advantage of a contract is that you pay lower calling rates and get new phones at a lower price. Please keep in mind, however that you have to pay monthly fees (Grundgebühr), connection fees (Verbindungskosten) and that often a minimum monthly usage (Minimalumsatz) is required. The duration of a standard contract is 2 years. If you cancel before the contract expires, you may have to pay the sum of the remaining monthly fees in the contract-period. Meanwhile some providers offer contracts with a month’s notice.
A pre-paid plan might therefore be the better option if you are unsure as to how long you will be staying in Germany.

To compare offers and tariffs, visit (all available in German only):

International prepaid calling-cards, which can typically be used from every phone (home, mobile or public) often represent the most inexpensive way to make phone-calls abroad.

English language service offers http://www.cellularabroad.com/

Note: In Germany it is forbidden to use a mobile phone while driving, be sure to use some sort of hands-free kit.

Driving Licence

In Germany, driving without a valid driving license is illegal.

Foreign driving licenses or international driving licenses are usually valid for six months from the date of entry into Germany. „Learners’ permits“ or „provisional licenses“ are not accepted.

After six months, you must be in possession of a German driving license (Führerschein) to drive a car. A license issued by an EU country can be used as long as it is valid.
Getting a new license can take up to three months, so applying for a German license as soon as possible is advisable.

For citizens from some countries, a German license can be issued without a theoretical and/or practical driving test; in these cases, a valid license can be exchanged for a German license (fee: €35,00/45,00).
Nationals from other countries must take the entire test (theoretical and practical).
Information can be obtained from driving schools (Fahrschule).

Detailed information at the website of Landesamt für Bürger- und Ordnungsangelegenheiten (German only) or How to Germany

Insurances

Third-party Private Liability Insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung)

In Germany, there one is generally liable for damages caused to a third party. This includes, for example: damaging someone else’s property, causing an accident as a pedestrian or cyclist, or while playing sports. Parents are liable for their children.

It is therefore strongly recommended that you take out a Third-party Private Liability Insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung).

A policy will provide financial coverage for claims compensating a third party resulting from accidental damage.

Further insurance options include:

  • Legal Assistance insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherung)
  • Accident insurance (Unfallversicherung)
  • Household-insurance (Hausratversicherung)
  • Travel-insurance (Reiseversicherung)

For more information, visit the webpage on insurances at How to Germany

The terms and conditions of insurance policies differ considerably, so please read carefully before signing a contract.

Kindergardens

In Germany, every child from 3 years on until he or she starts school, is entitled to a half-days’ care in a daycare center (Kindertagesstätte, “Kita” for short) or family daycare.

In Berlin, certain requirements have to be fulfilled to qualify for additional time in such care-centers. Minimum support is 4 hours, maximum support is 9 hours daily, extensions may be possible.

In Berlin, not only children aged 3 and older, but also younger children or infants from 6 weeks on have a good chance of being placed in a daycare center if need exists and is acknowledged; such is the case when both parents are working.

Daycare hours depend on the needs of the parents and on the facilities’ concepts. These can range from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 or 6:00 p.m.

Some parents prefer to have their children looked after in family day-care or by a day-nanny (Tagesmutter). Tagesmütter normally care for younger children (up to 3 years) and are more flexible with their hours of availability. They offer part-time or full-day-care as well.

The fees depend on the parents’ income and the length of time your child will spend in the daycare center. In Berlin, the last 3 years of Kindergarten before the child goes on to attend school, are free of charge except for a contribution of € 23,00 per month to cover boarding costs.

Before you can enroll your child in a Kindergarten, you must apply for a place at the Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt) in your local residents’ registration office (Bürgeramt).

The application form (in German only) can be downloaded here

Additional application forms (in German only) can be found here

You will get a coupon for care coverage (Betreuungsgutschein). The coupon must be handed over to the Kindergarden you choose. Most day-care centers in Berlin take part in the coupon system.
Very few are privately operated; these have their own cost-sharing systems.
A contract is made with the daycare center or day-nanny you have chosen. Your contribution is paid directly to the facility.

A list of daycare centers can be found here here (in German only). There are a number of international or bilingual daycare centers as well. To find them search for bilingual

Addresses of day-nannies can be found through local newspaper ads or your local Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt).

Very good and detailed information, including the addresses of all Youth Welfare Offices are available here (The tables for the monthly fees to cover costs are not valid any more).

Language courses

German language courses are offered by several institutions and private language schools.
Many language-schools can be found in Berlin:

Public transport

Germany has an excellent public transport system. You can easily reach almost every destination by train, bus, tram or the underground.

Deutsche Bahn
Trains operated by the state-run Deutsche Bahn DB (German Rail), connect all of the larger and many of the smaller towns.
You can purchase tickets online, at ticket machines on railway platforms, at ticket counters at train stations or at travel agencies. Tickets should be bought before boarding.
There are many ways to obtain discounts and inexpensive tickets.

More Information on German Rail can be found at their English website.

Long distance coach

Traveling by long distance coach becomes more and more popular and comfortable. It is remarkable cheaper than traveling by train.

Long distance coach agencies are

Mein Fernbus

FlixBus

BerlinLinienbus.de

Postbus

Tickets can be purchased online. Many agencies offer discounts.

An overview of traveling by long distance coach in Germany  you can find here.

Ridesharing agencies and carpools (Mitfahrzentralen)
Ridesharing agencies (Mitfahrzentralen, agencies that coordinate shared-rides) are platforms that list carpools and ride-shares in Germany or other European countries.

The details of the arrangement, like point of departure and arrival, departure time and price are arranged between driver and car passenger via email, telephone etc.

Such listings include:

Public transport in Berlin
Berlin has an excellent public transport system. It even runs all night on every day of the week.
It offers transportation with S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses, trams and ferries.

The S-Bahn (suburban train) is a mainly above-ground network of local trains and is operated by Deutsche Bahn (DB). The lines connect the suburbs with the city-center.

U-Bahn (subway, metro), bus, tram and ferry-networks are run by Berlin’s transport company: the BVG.

Tickets
Berlin is divided into three ticket-zones: Zone A represents the city-center within and including the S-Bahn ring-line, Zone B includes the rest of Berlin up to the city limits, Zone C is the surrounding area of Berlin, including Potsdam.
Tickets are valid for two or three zones: AB, BC or ABC. They can be used for all forms of transportation.

Tickets can be bought at ticket machines on station platforms, at ticket offices, at tourist information offices or some newspaper stands. If you use a bus, you can get a ticket from the bus driver.

A basic ticket (for 1 journey = Einzelfahrschein) must be stamped at the red or yellow ticket validator on the platform (Entwerter).
Please be sure to stamp your ticket. If you are caught without a valid ticket by a ticket-inspector, you will be subject to a 60€ fine.

If you make more than 2 journeys a day, a day-ticket would be the best choice.
If you make more than 2 journeys every day, a 7-day-ticket or monthly ticket would be a cheaper choice.

There are also special offers for visitors:

  • Kleingruppen-Tageskarte: day ticket for up to 5 people
  • A WelcomeCard with several features: A ticket for the transit system valid for the chosen zones, which also provides discounts for more than 120 attractions (tours, museums, theatres etc.)
  • A CityTourCard with several features: A ticket for the transit system valid for the chosen zones which also provides discounts for more than 50 attractions

If you only want to use public transport and are not interested in the discounts for attractions, a normal day-ticket would be the cheapest choice.

For prices and more information about Berlin public transport, visit www.bvg.de

Taxis
Taxis in Germany are relatively expensive but are useful under special circumstances like getting to the airport or train station when carrying luggage, or for getting home late at night.
The fares are regulated.

Emergency numbers

Police: 110
Emergency/Ambulance: 112
Fire department: 112
Medical on-call duty: (030) 31 00 31
Dental emergency service: (030) 89 004 333
Poisoning emergency number: (030) 19 240
Drug-helpline Berlin: (030) 19 237
Drug-helpline Germany: 01805 31 30 31
Midwives service: (030) 214 27 71
ADAC Pannenhilfe (roadside-assistance): 0180 222 2222

English-speaking physicians

Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie im Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FMP)
Campus Berlin-Buch
Robert-Roessle-Str. 10
13125 Berlin, Germany
+4930 94793 - 100 
+4930 94793 - 109 (Fax)
info(at)fmp-berlin.de

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