Berlin essentials • information for visitors

From age requirements to work restrictions... follow our A-to-Z guide to getting by in the German capital

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Addresses

German convention dictates that the house/building number follows the street name (eg Friedrichstrasse 21), and numbers sometimes run up one side of the street and back down the other side. Strasse (street) is often abbreviated to Str, and is not usually written separately but appended to the street name, as in the example above. Exceptions are when the street name is the adjectival form of a place name (eg Potsdamer Strasse) or the full name of an individual (eg Heinrich-Heine-Strasse).


Within buildings: EG means Erdgeschoss, the ground floor; 1. OG (Obergeschoss) is the first floor; VH means Vorderhaus, or the front part of the building; HH means Hinterhaus, the part of the building off the Hinterhof, the 'back courtyard'; SF is Seitenflügel, stairs that go off to the side from the Hinterhof. In big, industrial complexes, stairwells are often numbered or lettered. Treppenhaus B, or sometimes just Haus B, would indicate a particular staircase off the courtyard.


Age restrictions


Drinking 16.
Driving 18.
Consent (heterosexual and homosexual sex) 16.

Customs


EU nationals over 17 years of age can import limitless goods for personal use, if bought with tax paid on them at source. For non-EU citizens and for duty-free goods, the following limits apply:

Tobacco products 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco.
Alcohol 1 litre of spirits (over 22 per cent alcohol), or 2 litres of fortified wine (under 22 per cent alcohol), or 2 litres of non-sparkling and sparkling wine.
Perfume 50 grams.
Coffee 500 grams.
Other goods to the value of €175 for non-commercial use. Travellers should note that the import of meat, meat products, fruit, plants, flowers and protected animals is restricted and/or forbidden.

Disabled access and facilities


Only some U- and S-Bahn stations have wheelchair facilities; the map of the transport network (look for the wheelchair symbol) indicates which ones. The BVG is improving things slowly, adding facilities here and there, but it's still a long way from being a wheelchair-friendly system.

Berlin Tourismus Marketing can give details about which of the city's hotels have disabled access. However, if you require more specific information, try the Beschäftigungswerk des BBV or the Touristik Union International.

Beschäftigungswerk des BBV
Bizetstrasse 51-5, Weissensee (927 0360/www.bbv-tours-berlin.de). S4, S8, S10 Greifswalder Strasse then bus M4 to Antonplatz. Open 9am-8pm Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm Sat.
The Berlin Centre for the Disabled provides legal and social advice, together with a transport service and travel information.

Touristik Union International (TUI)

Unter den Linden 17, Mitte (200 58550/www.tui.com). S1, S2 Unter den Linden. Open (by appointment) 9am-9pm Mon-Fri; 10am-6pm Sat.
The Touristik Union International provides information on accommodation and travel in Germany for the disabled.

Drugs

Berlin is relatively liberal in its attitude towards drugs. In recent years, possession of hash or grass has been effectively decriminalised. Anyone caught with an amount under ten grams is liable to have the stuff confiscated, but can otherwise expect no further retribution. In addition, joint-smoking is tolerated in some of Berlin's younger bars and cafés.


A quick sniff will usually tell whether you're in one. Anyone caught with small amounts of hard drugs will net a fine, but is unlikely to be incarcerated.


Electricity

Electricity in Germany runs on 220v. To use British appliances (240v), change the plug or use an adaptor (available at most UK electric shops, and probably at the airport). US appliances (110v) require a converter.

Embassies


Australian Embassy
Friedrichstrasse 200, Mitte (880 0880). U6 Französische Strasse. Open 8.30am-5pm Mon-Thur; 8.30am-4.15pm Fri.

British Embassy
Wilhelmstrasse 70, Mitte (204 570/www.britischesbotschaft.de). S1, S2 Unter den Linden. Open 9-11am, noon-4pm Mon-Fri.

Irish Consulate
Friedrichstrasse 200, Mitte (220 720). U2, U6 Stadtmitte. Open 9.30am-12.30pm, 2.30-4.45pm Mon-Fri.

US Consulate
Clayallee 170, Zehlendorf (832 9233/visa enquiries 0190 850 055). U3 Oscar-Helene-Heim. Open Consular enquiries 8.30am-noon Mon-Fri. Visa enquiries 8.30-11.30am Mon-Fri.

US Embassy
Pariser Platz 2, Mitte (238 5174/http://germany.usembassy.gov). S1, S2 Unter Den Linden. Open 8.30am-5.30pm Mon-Fri.

Emergencies

© Shutterstock/360b


Police 110.
Ambulance/Fire Brigade 112.

Gay and lesbian support and information


Lesbenberatung e.V.
Kulmer Strasse 20A, Schöneberg (215 2000/www.lesbenberatung-berlin.de). U7, S1, S2, S26 Yorckstrasse. Open 10am-7pm Mon, Tue, Thur; 10am-5pm Wed, Fri.
The Lesbian Advice Centre offers counselling in all areas of lesbian life as well as self-help groups, courses, cultural events and an 'info-café'.

Mann-O-Meter e.V.
Bülowstrasse 106, Schöneberg (216 8008/www.mann-o-meter.de). U1, U2, U3, U4 Nollendorfplatz. Open 5pm-10pm Mon-Fri; 4pm-10pm Sat, Sun.
Drop-in centre and helpline. Advice about AIDS prevention, jobs, flats, gay contacts, plus cheap stocks of safer sex materials. English spoken.

Schwulenberatung
Mommsenstrasse 45, Charlottenburg (office 2336 9070/counselling 194 46/www.schwulenberatungberlin.de). U7 Adenauerplatz. Open 9am-8pm Mon-Fri.
The Gay Advice Centre provides information and counselling about HIV and AIDS, crisis intervention and advice on all aspects of gay life.

Healthcare


EU countries have reciprocal medical treatment arrangements with Germany. EU citizens will need the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). From the UK, this is available by phoning 0845 606 2030 or online from www.ehic.org.uk. You'll need to provide your name, date of birth and national insurance number.

It does not cover all medical costs (for example dental treatment), so private insurance is not a bad idea. Citizens from non-EU countries should take out private medical insurance.

English-speaking doctors

The British Embassy publishes a list of English-speaking doctors and dentists, as well as lawyers and interpreters. Should you fall ill in Berlin, you can take your EHIC to any doctor or hospital emergency department and get treatment.

All hospitals have a 24-hour emergency ward. Otherwise, patients are admitted to hospital via a physician. Hospitals are listed in the Gelbe Seiten (Yellow Pages) under Krankenhäuser/Kliniken.

AOK Auslandsschalter
Karl-Marx-Allee 3, Mitte (253 10/www.aokberlin.de). U2, U5, U8, S5, S7, S9, S75 Alexanderplatz. Open 8am-2pm Mon, Wed; 8am-6pm Tue, Thur; 8am-noon Fri.

Accident and emergency

The following are the most central hospitals. All have 24-hour emergency wards.

Charité
Schumann Strasse 20-21, Mitte (450 50/www.charite.de). U6 Oranienburger Tor.

Klinikum Am Urban
Dieffenbachstrasse 1, Kreuzberg (6970). U7 Südstern/bus 241, 248.

St Hedwig Krankenhaus
Grosse Hamburger Strasse 5, Mitte (23110). S5, S7, S9, S75 Hackescher Markt or S1, S2 Oranienburger Strasse.

Complementary medicine

There is a long tradition of alternative medicine (Heilpraxis) in Germany, and your medical insurance will usually cover treatment costs. For a full list of practitioners, look up Heilpraktiker in the Gelbe Seiten (Yellow Pages). There you'll find a complete list of chiropractors, osteopaths, acupuncturists, homoeopaths and healers of various kinds. However, note that homeopathic medicines are harder to get hold of and much more expensive than in the UK, and it's generally more difficult to find an osteopath or a chiropractor.

Contraception, abortion and childbirth

Family-planning clinics are thin on the ground in Germany, and generally you have to go to a gynaecologist (Frauenarzt). The abortion law was amended in 1995 to take into account the differing systems that had existed in East and West. East Germany had abortion on demand; in the West, abortion was only allowed in extenuating circumstances, such as when the health of the foetus or mother was at risk.

In a complicated compromise, abortion is still technically illegal, but is not punishable. Women wishing to terminate a pregnancy can do so only after receiving certification from a counsellor. Counselling is offered by state, lay and church bodies.

Feministisches Frauengesund-heitzentrum (FFGZ)
Bamberger Strasse 51, Schöneberg (213 9597/www.ffgz.de). U4, U7 Bayerischer Platz. Open 10am-1pm Mon, Tue, Fri; 10am-1pm, 5-7pm Thur.
Courses and lectures are offered on natural contraception, pregnancy, cancer, abortion, AIDS, migraines and sexuality. Self-help and preventative medicine are stressed. Information on gynaecologists, health institutions and organisations can also be obtained.

ProFamilia
Kalkreuthstrasse 4, Schöneberg (2147 6414/www.profamilia-berlin.de). U1, U2, U3 Wittenbergplatz. Open 3-6pm Mon, Tue, Thur; 9am-noon Wed, Sat.
Free advice about sex, contraception and abortion is offered here. Call for an appointment.

Dentists

Dr Andreas Bothe
Kurfürstendamm 210, Charlottenburg (882 6767). U1 Uhlandstrasse. Open 8am-2pm Mon, Wed, Fri; 2-8pm Tue, Thur.

Mr Pankaj Mehta
Schlangenbader Strasse 25, Wilmersdorf (823 3010). U3 Rüdesheimer Platz. Open 9am-noon, 2-6pm Mon, Tue, Thur; 8am-1pm Wed, Fri.

Doctors

If you don't know of any doctors in Berlin, or are too ill to leave your bed, phone the Emergency Doctor's Service (Ärztlicher Bereitschaftdienst 310 031). This service specialises in dispatching doctors for house calls. The charges vary according to the treatment required by the patient.

The British Embassy can provide a list of English-speaking doctors, although you'll find that many if not most doctors can speak some English. All will be expensive, however, so be sure to have either your EHIC or your private insurance documents at hand if seeking treatment.

If you want to be sure of communicating clearly, the doctors listed below all speak excellent English.

Dr Joseph Francis Aman
Franzisksus Krankenhaus, Budapester Strasse 15-19, Tiergarten (2638 3503/docaman@gmx.de). U1, U2, U3 Wittenbergplatz. Open 8am-1pm, 3-6pm Mon, Tue, Thur; 8am-1pm Fri.
Dr Aman is an American GP with a practice in the Roman Catholic hospital that is opposite the Intercontinental Hotel.

Dr Christine Rommelspacher
Bochumerstr 12, Tiergarten (392 2075) U9 Turmstrasse. Open 9am-noon, 3-6pm Mon, Tue, Thur; 9am-noon Fri.

Gynaecologist

Dr Lutz Opitz
Tegeler Weg 4, Charlottenburg (344 4001). U7 Mierendorffplatz. Open 8am-2pm Mon; 4pm-7pm Tue; 5pm-7pm Thur; 8am-noon Fri.

Pharmacies

Prescription and non-prescription drugs (including aspirin) are sold only at pharmacies (Apotheken). You can recognise these by a red 'A' outside the front door. A list of the nearest pharmacies open on Sundays and in the evening should be displayed in the window of every pharmacy. You can get a list of Notdienst-Apotheken (emergency pharmacies) online at www.apo110.de.

STDs, HIV and AIDS

For most sexually transmitted diseases, see a doctor. For specialist AIDS care and advice, contact the Berliner Aids-Hilfe.

Berliner Aids-Hilfe (BAH)
Büro 15, Meinekestrasse 12, Wilmersdorf (885 6400/advice line 194 11/www.berliner-aidshilfe.de). U1, U9 Kurfürstendamm. Open noon-6pm Mon; noon-2.30pm Wed; noon-3pm Thur, Fri. Advice line 10am-midnight daily.
Information is given on all aspects of HIV and AIDS. Free consultations, condoms and lubricant are also provided here.

Helplines


Berliner Krisendienst
www.berlinerkrisendienst.de

Mitte, Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, Tiergarten & Wedding (390 6310).
Charlottenburg & Wilmersdorf (390 6320).
Prenzlauer Berg, Weissensee & Pankow (390 6340).
Schöneberg, Tempelhof, Steglitz (390 6360).

For most problems, this is the best service to call. It offers help and/or counselling on a range of subjects, and if they can't provide exactly what you're looking for, they'll put you in touch with someone who can. The phone lines, organised by district, are staffed 24 hours daily. Counsellors will also come and visit you in your house if necessary.

Drogen Notdienst
Ansbacher Strasse 11, Schöneberg (2191 6010/www.drogennotdienst.de). U1, U2, U3 Wittenbergplatz. Open 8.30am-5pm Mon-Thur; 8.30am-3pm Fri; 2-9.30pm Sat, Sun.
At the 'drug emergency service', no appointment is necessary if you're coming in for advice, and the phone line is staffed 24 hours daily.

Frauenkrisentelefon
615 4243. Open 10am-noon Mon, Thur; 7-9pm Tue, Wed, Fri; 5-7pm Sat, Sun.
Offers advice and information for women on anything and everything.

ID

By law you are required to carry some form of ID, which, for UK and US citizens, means a passport. If police catch you without one, they may accompany you to wherever you've left it.

Internet access


For internet access, there are cybercafés all over town. There is free wireless access in the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz. For long stays, try www.snafu.de or www.gmx.de.

easyInternetCafé
Dunkin' Donuts, Sony Center, Tiergarten (www.easyeverything.com). U2, S1, S2, S26 Potsdamer Platz. Open 7am-11pm Mon-Thur, Sun; 7am-midnight Fri, Sat. No credit cards.
Dozens of computers, no staff, mechanised system to buy time online, and plenty of doughnuts to hand. Other branches are similarly lodged with Dunkin' Donuts.
Other locations: Hardenbergplatz 2, Charlottenburg; Kurfürstendamm 224, Charlottenburg; Rathaus Passagen, Rathausstrasse 5, Mitte; Karl-Marx-Strasse 78, Neukölln; Schlossstrasse 102, Steglitz.

Internet Café Alpha
Dunckerstrasse 72, Prenzlauer Berg (447 9067). U2 Eberswalder Strasse. Open noon-1am Mon-Fri; 2pm-1am Sat, Sun. No credit cards.
Using one of the 15 computers costs €2 per hour at this stylish establishment. Wine, beer and a range of snacks can fuel your surfing. Also available: CD burners, scanners and games.

Left luggage


Airports
There is a left luggage office at Tegel (0180 5000 186; open 5am-10.30pm daily) and lockers at Schönefeld (in the Multi Parking Garage P4).

Rail and bus stations
There are left luggage lockers at Bahnhof Zoo, Friedrichstrasse, Alexanderplatz, Potsdamer Platz, Ostbahnhof and Hauptbahnhof. In addition, Zentraler Omnibus Bahnhof (ZOB) also provides left-luggage facilities.

Legal help

If you get into legal difficulties, contact the British Embassy: it can provide you with a list of English-speaking lawyers in Berlin.


Libraries


Berlin has hundreds of Bibliotheken/Büchereien (public libraries). To borrow books, you will be required to bring two things: an Anmeldungsformular ('Certificate of Registration') and a passport.

Amerika-Gedenkbibliothek Blücherplatz
1, Kreuzberg (9022 6105/www.zlb.de). U1, U6 Hallesches Tor. Open 10am-8pm Mon-Fri; 10am-7pm Sat. Membership Per year €10; students €5.
This library only contains a small collection of English and American literature, but it has an excellent collection of English-language videos and many DVDs.

Staatsbibliothek
Potsdamer Strasse 33, Tiergarten (2660/www.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de). U2, S1, S2, S26 Potsdamer Platz. Open 9am-9pm Mon-Fri; 9am-7pm Sat.
Books in English on every subject are available at this branch of the State Library, which you may recognise from Wim Wenders' film Wings of Desire.

Staatsbibliothek
Unter den Linden 8, Mitte (2660/www.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de). U6, S1, S2, S5, S7, S9, S75 Friedrichstrasse. Open 9am-9pm Mon-Fri; 9am-5pm Sat.
A smaller range of English books than the branch above, but it's still worth a visit, not least for its café.

Lost property


If any of your belongings are stolen while in Germany, you should go immediately to the police station nearest to where the incident occurred (listed in the Gelbe Seiten/Yellow Pages under Polizei) and report the theft. There you will be required to fill in report forms for insurance purposes. If you can't speak German, don't worry: the police will call in one of their interpreters, a service that is provided free of charge.

If you leave something in a taxi, call the number that's on your receipt (if you remembered to ask for one), and tell them the time of your journey, the four-digit Konzessions-Nummer that will be stamped on the receipt, a number where you can be reached, and what you've lost. They'll pass this information to the driver, and he or she will call you if they have your property.

BVG Fundbüro
Potsdamer Strasse 180-182, Schöneberg (194 49). U7 Kleistpark. Open Office 9am-6pm Mon-Thur; 9am-2pm Fri. Call centre 24 hrs daily.
You should contact this office if you have any queries about property lost on Berlin's public transport system. If you are robbed on one of their vehicles, you can ask about the surveillance video.

Zentrales Fundbüro
Platz der Luftbrücke 6, Tempelhof (7560 3101). U6 Platz der Luftbrücke. Open 7.30am-2pm Mon; 8.30am-4pm Tue; noon-6.30pm Wed; 1-7pm Thur; 7.30am-noon Fri.
This is the central police lost property office.

Money and banking


One euro (€) is made up of 100 cents. There are seven banknotes and eight coins. The notes are of differing colours and sizes (€5 is the smallest, €500 the largest) and each of their designs represent a different period of European architecture.

They are: €5 (grey), €10 (red), €20 (blue), €50 (orange), €100 (green), €200 (yellow-brown), €500 (purple).

The eight denominations of coins vary in colour, size and thickness - but not enough to make them easy to tell apart. They share one common side; the other features a country-specific design (all can be used in any participating state). They are: €2, €1, 50 cents, 20 cents, 10 cents, 5 cents, 2 cents, 1 cent. Exchange rates can be found here: www.xe.com.

ATMs

ATMs are found throughout the centre of Berlin, and are the most convenient way of obtaining cash. Most major credit cards are accepted, as well as debit cards that are part of the Cirrus, Plus, Star or Maestro systems. You will normally be charged a fee for withdrawing cash.

Banks and bureaux de change

Foreign currency and travellers' cheques can be exchanged in most banks. Wechselstuben (bureaux de change) are open outside normal banking hours and give better rates than banks, where changing money often involves long queues.

Reisebank AG
Zoo Station, Hardenbergplatz, Charlottenburg (881 7117/www.reisebank.de). U2, U9, S5, S7, S9, S75 Zoologischer Garten. Open 7.30am-10pm daily.
The Wechselstuben of the Reisebank offer good exchange rates, and can be found at the bigger stations.
Other locations: Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse, Mitte (2045 5096); Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Tiergarten (2045 3761); Ostbahnhof, Friedrichshain (296 4393).

Credit cards

Many Berliners prefer to use cash for most transactions, although larger hotels, shops and restaurants often accept major credit cards (American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa) and many will take Eurocheques with guarantee cards, and travellers' cheques with ID. In general, German banking and retail systems are less enthusiastic about credit than their UK or US equivalents, though this is gradually changing.

If you want to draw cash on your credit card, some banks will give an advance against Visa and MasterCard cards. However, you may not be able to withdraw less than the equivalent of US$100. A better option is using an ATM.

American Express
Bayreuther Strasse 37, Schöneberg (214 9830). U1, U2, U3 Wittenbergplatz. Open 9am-7pm Mon-Fri; 10am-1pm Sat.
Holders of an American Express card can use the company's facilities here, including the cash advance service.

Lost/stolen cards

If you've lost a credit card, or had one stolen, phone one of the 24-hour emergency numbers listed below.

American Express 0180 523 2377.
Diners Club 069 6616 6123.
MasterCard/Visa 0697 933 1910.

Tax

Non-EU citizens can claim back German value-added tax (Mehrwertsteuer or MwSt) on goods purchased in the country (it's only worth the hassle on sizeable purchases). Ask to be issued with a Tax-Free Shopping Cheque for the amount of the refund and present this, with the receipt, at the airport's refund office before checking in bags.

Police stations


You are unlikely to come in contact with the Polizei, unless you commit a crime or are the victim of one. There are few patrols or traffic checks.
The central police HQ can be found at Platz der Luftbrücke 6, Tempelhof (466 40), and there are local stations at:

Mitte Jägerstrasse 48 (466 433 2700).
Charlottenburg Bismarkstrasse 111 (466 422 7701).
Kreuzberg Friesenstrasse 16 (466 455 2700).
Schöneberg Hauptstrasse 44  (466 444 2700).
Eberswalder Strasse 6-9 (466 411 5700).

But police will be dispatched from the appropriate office if you just dial 466 40.

Post offices


Most post offices (simply Post in German) are open from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and 8am to 1pm Saturday. For non-local mail, use the Andere Richtungen ('other destinations') slot in post-boxes. Letters of up to 20 grams (7oz) to anywhere in Germany and the EU need €0.55 in postage. Postcards require €0.45. For anywhere outside the EU, a 20-gram airmail letter costs €1.70, a postcard €1.

Postamt Friedrichstrasse
Georgenstrasse 12, Mitte (0180 233 33). U6, S1, S2, S5, S7, S9, S75 Friedrichstrasse. Open 6am-10pm Mon-Fri; 8am-10pm Sat, Sun.
Berlin has no main post office. However, this branch, which is to be found inside Friedrichstrasse station, keeps the longest opening hours of the Berlin offices.

Poste restante

Poste restante facilities are available at the main post offices of each district. Address them to the recipient 'Postlagernd,' followed by the address of the post office, or collect them from the counter marked Postlagernde Sendungen. Take your passport with you.

Religion

Berlin's not so Godless after all. For places of worship, see www.berlinfo.com and click on the link for 'community'.

Safety and security

Though crime is increasing, Berlin remains a safe city by Western standards. Even for a woman, it's pretty safe to walk around alone at night in most central areas of the city. However, avoid the Eastern working-class suburbs if you look gay or non-German. Pickpockets are not unknown around tourist areas. Use some common sense and you're unlikely to get into trouble.


Smoking

Many Berliners smoke, though the habit is in decline. Smoking is banned on public transport, in theatres and many public institutions. Many bars and restaurants have closed-off smoking rooms. Smaller, one-room establishments (under 75 square metres) may allow smoking if they want to, but must post a sign outside denoting a 'Raucher-Kneipe' (smoker pub). There's no problem with smoking at outside tables - which means that even in winter there are now lots of places with outside tables.


Telephones and dialling codes


All phone numbers in this guide are local Berlin numbers. However, readers should note that numbers beginning with 0180 have higher tariffs, and numbers beginning 016 or 017 are mobiles. To call a Berlin number from outside the city, see below.

Dialling and codes

To phone Berlin from abroad, dial the international access code (00 from the UK, 011 from the US, 0011 from Australia), then 49 (for Germany) and 30 (for Berlin), followed by the local number. To phone abroad from Germany dial 00, then the appropriate country-code:

Australia 61.
Canada 1.
Ireland 353.
New Zealand 64.
United Kingdom 44.
United States 1.

Then, dial the local area code (minus the initial zero) and the local number.
To call Berlin from elsewhere in Germany, dial 030 and then the local number.

Making a call

Calls within Berlin between the hours of 9am and 6pm cost €0.10 per minute. Numbers prefixed 0180 are charged at €0.14 per minute. A call from Berlin to the United Kingdom or Ireland costs €0.13 per minute, to the US and Canada €0.13 per minute and to Australia €0.79 per minute.

Both local and international calls can be a lot cheaper if you simply dial a prefix before the international code. There are various numbers and they change from time to time. Look in local newspapers or visit www.tariftip.de.

Public phones

Most public phones give you the option of cards or coins, and from Telekom phones (the ones with the magenta 'T') you also can send SMSs. Phonecards can be bought at post offices and in newsagents for various sums from €5 to €50.

Operator services

For online directory enquiries, go to www.teleauskunft.de.

Alarm calls/Weckruf 0180 114 1033 (automated, in German).
International directory enquiries 11834.
Operator assistance/German directory enquiries 11833 (11837 in English).
Phone repairs/Störungsannahme 080 0330 2000.
Time (Zeitansage) 090 0100 1191 (automated, in German).
Weather (Wettervorhersage) 0190 116 400 (automated, in German).

Mobile phones

German mobile phones networks operate at 900MHz, so all UK and Australian mobiles should work in Berlin (so long as roaming has been activated in advance). US and Canadian cell phones users (whose phones operate at 1,900MHz) should check whether their phones can switch to 900MHz. If they can't, you can rent a 'Handy', as the Germans call them, via www.edicomonline.com. They'll deliver to your hotel and pick it back up from there when you're going.

Time

Germany is on Central European Time - one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. When summer time is in effect, London is one hour behind Berlin, New York is six hours behind, San Francisco is nine hours behind, and Sydney is nine hours ahead.


Germany uses a 24-hour system. 8am is '8 Uhr' (usually written 8h), noon is '12 Uhr Mittags' or just '12 Uhr', 5pm is '17 Uhr' and midnight is '12 Uhr Mitternachts' or just "Mitternacht'. 8.15 is '8 Uhr 15' or 'Viertel nach 8'; 8.30 is '8 Uhr 30' or 'halb 9'; and 8.45 is '8 Uhr 45' or 'Viertel vor 9'.


Tipping

A 10 per cent service charge will already be part of your restaurant bill, but it's common to leave a small tip too. In a taxi round up the bill to the nearest euro.


Toilets

Coin-operated, self-cleaning 'City Toilets' are becoming the norm. The toilets in main stations are looked after by an attendant and are pretty clean. Restaurants and cafés have to let you use their toilets by law and legally they can't refuse you a glass of water either.


Tourist information


Berlin Tourismus Marketing (BTM)
Europa-Center, Budapester Strasse, Charlottenburg (250 025/www.btm.de). U2, U9, S5, S7, S9, S75, Zoologischer Garten. Open 10am-7pm Mon-Fri; 10am-6pm Sat, Sun.
Berlin's official (if private) tourist organisation. The Brandenburg Gate branch is open 10am-6pm daily.

EurAide
DB Reisezentrum, Hauptbahnhof, Tiergarten (www.euraide.de). S5, S7, S9, S75 Hauptbahnhof. Open May-Aug 10am-7pm daily. Sept-Dec 23, Feb 15-Apr 11am-6pm Mon-Fri.
Staff advise on sights, hostels, tours and transport, and sell rail tickets.

Visas and immigration


A passport valid for three months beyond the length of stay is all that is required for UK, EU, US, Canadian and Australian citizens for a stay in Germany of up to three months. Citizens of EU countries with valid national ID cards need only show their ID cards. Citizens of other countries should check with their local German embassy or consulate whether a visa is required. As with any trip, confirm visa requirements well before you plan to travel.

Residence permits

For stays of longer than three months, you'll need a residence permit. EU citizens, and those of Andorra, Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Israel, Japan, Malta, New Zealand and the US can obtain one by doing the following.

Getting a residence permit: step one
First you need to register at your local Anmeldungsamt. There is one in the Bürgeramt of every district. Lists of those in particular areas can be found at www.berlin.de. You don't need an appointment, but expect to wait. Bring your passport and proof of a Berlin address. You'll be issued with an nmeldungsbestätigung - a form confirming you have registered at the Anmeldungsamt.

Getting a residence permit: step two
At this point, take your Anmeldungsbestätigung to the Landesamt für Bürger und Ordnungsangelegenheiten Ausländerbehörde in the Moabit district of Tiergarten. Also bring your passport, two passport photos and something to read. There are always huge queues and it takes forever - people start queuing hours before the office opens - but all you can do is take a number and wait. Eventually you will be issued with an Aufenthaltserlaubnis - a residence permit. If you have a work contract, bring it - you may be granted a longer stay.

If unsure about your status, contact the German Embassy in your country of origin, or your own embassy or consulate in Berlin.

Landesamt für Bürger und Ordnungsangelegenheiten Ausländerbehörde
Friedrich-Krause-Ufer 24, Tiergarten (info 9026 94000). S41, S42, S45, S46, S47 Westhafen. Open 8am-2pm Mon-Fri (telephone only) and then by appointment.

Working in Berlin


Job ads
The small ads in the magazines Zitty, tip and Zweite Hand are good places to look for work. Teaching English is popular: there is always a demand for native English speakers.

Student jobs

If you're studying in Berlin, try the Studenten Vermittlung Arbeitsamt ('Student Job Service'). You'll need your passport, student card and a Lohnsteuerkarte ('tax card'), available from your local Finanzamt ('tax office' - listed in the Yellow Pages). Tax is reclaimable. Students looking for summer work can contact the Zentralstelle für Arbeitsvermittlung.

German job centres
The German equivalent of the Job Centre is the Arbeitsamt ('Employment Service'). There are very few private agencies. To find the address of your nearest office in Germany, look in the Gelbe Seiten under Arbeitsämter.

EU nationals have the right to live and work in Germany without a work permit.

Studenten Vermittlung Arbeitsamt Hardenbergstrasse
34, Charlottenburg (311 20/www.studentenwerk-berlin.de). U2 Ernst-Reuter-Platz. Open 8am-6pm Mon-Fri.

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