Germany, compared with other countries in Western Europe, is cheaper than you’d expect. I’ve been in the country for a little over a month now and have learned a few things from locals on ways to save money. Here are some of my findings:
1 – Hit the Road
DB (Deutsche Bahn, the national rail company) used to have a total monopoly on public transportation, including buses. But after a recent court decision against DB lots of private bus services have popped up. On nearly every long distance route, the bus is cheaper than the train. Alternatively, you can also book a rideshare (mitfahr) through websites like mitfahrzentrale.de, mitfahrgelegenheit.de (the German version of carpooling.co.uk), bessermitfahren.de, and drive2day.de . As a non-German speaker, I use the international section of carpooling.co.uk to look for rideshares and buses in Germany. In just one example, I got a bus from Frankfurt to Heidelberg for just €6, while the train would’ve cost over €16.
2 – Couchsurf
Couchsurfing (CS) is a great way to not only sleep somewhere for free, but it’s also a great way to connect with locals. They know the best places to eat and drink, the sights that aren’t in the guidebooks, and sometimes will even show you around town. I’ve met some great people thru CS over the years who I still keep in contact with. Or if you’ve got friends, see if you can stay with them 🙂
3 – Cook for yourself
Other than kebabs and bratwursts, eating out can be quite expensive when you’re on a budget. Just about every hostel in Germany has a common kitchen where you can prepare your own meals. Taking part in a group meal will save you even more money, especially when you shop at one of the cheaper supermarkets like Aldi, Netto, or Lidl. Be prepared to pay in cash and be quick to pack up your groceries, the cashiers move like machines!
4 – Walk, Bike, or Ride the U-Bahn All Day
Walking is, of course, free. Even in a big city like Berlin, you can walk to many sights in a reasonable amount of time. Alternatively, you can hire a bicycle for the day and see even more than you would on foot. Germany is a very bike friendly country. Lastly, most cities (if not all) have 1 day tickets where you can ride as many times as you want on local public transport (bus / U-Bahn / S-Bahn / tram) for one price. The ticket expires at midnight on the day that you start using it. So if you start your day at a reasonable time you can make the most out of your ticket by going to lots of different sights.
5 – Recycle
Recycling your empty plastic bottles and cans will net you some money which you can then use for a small discount on the next round of drinks 🙂 Glass bottles will net you 8 cents, cans will get you 15 cents. You’re paying this deposit when you buy the drink, why wouldn’t you want to get it back?
6 – Drink on the Cheap
If you’re going to have a night out drinking, you may as well take advantage of the fact that you can drink anywhere. On the street, in the park, walking to the bar, on your bike. You can also buy alcohol just about anywhere. So rather than start your night at the bar, why not start it at the supermarket or kiosk where it’s cheaper? Half litre beers in the supermarket are generally less than €1, in kiosks around €1.5, and in bars €3 and up.