It’s one of the top things people ask about when you tell them that you’re traveling the world. How do you afford to do that? Isn’t it expensive?
Those questions are why for the last four years I’ve been sharing my own real monthly budgets from places around the world. From the $1,422.30 I spent for a month in the Slovenian Alps, to the $1,388.47 for a month in Toledo, Spain, to the $2,118.44 for my month in Paris, I’ve tried to give you a glimpse into the real cost of traveling or living abroad. Because it’s not as expensive as everyone seems to think to travel. Especially when you travel slow. And especially if you travel long-term.
To keep the travel-is-not-as-pricey-as-you-think proof coming, today I’ve asked my friend Ali to share her real budget for a month in Berlin, Germany, where she lives with her husband, Andy. Here’s what she had to say:
Hi, I’m Ali, blogger and travel addict who’s been living in Germany for 5 years. After living in Freiburg, in the Black Forest, for many years, my husband Andy and I (both Americans) decided to move to Berlin because we like being in a bigger city. There’s more to do here, more opportunities to make friends, and more opportunities for two freelancers to find work.
Berlin is a wonderful city, known for being inexpensive. Artists and freelancers love it, and there’s a huge start-up scene.
Below you’re find our August expenses. Since we live here, we’re not doing a lot of the touristy things you might do if you’re here for the first time to explore the city. We spend most days working, whereas you might do some sightseeing which could involve costs for entrance fees or tours.
Also, the numbers below do not include things like our health insurance, business costs, taxes, etc. Since your expenses in those arenas are unlikely to match ours, we’ve omitted them.
Now, to the budget:
|Groceries & supplies||470.03||$526.43|
|Entertainment & activities||36.50||$40.88|
Notes on our spending:
Since this is our permanent home and we work from home, our apartment is a little bigger than something we’d be comfortable in for a one month stay when we travel. Our apartment in Berlin is 88 square meters (a little under 950 square feet) and has two bedrooms. It’s located in the Friedrichshain neighborhood, but on the edge of where Prenzlauer Berg starts. It’s not the most expensive part of town, but it’s definitely not the cheapest. If you’re traveling solo and willing to rent a room in someone’s apartment, you’ll spend a lot less in rent than what we spend.
[A quick Airbnb search shows plenty of rooms under $600 per month and full apartments under $900.]
Berlin is really cracking down on Airbnb rentals, and it is now technically illegal for apartment owners to rent out their entire apartment through Airbnb and similar sites. (Renting out a room in an apartment is fine though, and I have no idea how the law applies if the owner lives in the apartment most of the time but rents it out when they’re gone temporarily.) Because of this, you might have a harder time finding an apartment to rent for a month-long stay. Other places to check are WG Gesucht and Facebook groups.
The utilities amount I listed includes electricity, heat, hot water, internet, and our cheap cell phone plans. When you look for apartments here (or anywhere in Germany) on normal rental sites, you’ll see rents listed as warm or cold. Cold means just the rent amount is shown and utilities are extra. Warm means heat is included, but it could mean other things like electricity are included. Be sure to ask for clarification on exactly what is and is not included.
The transportation number is for two month-long transport passes. Since we work from home and don’t often need to go out early, we buy the 10 a.m. passes, which means we can’t use them between 3 a.m. and 10 a.m. on weekdays. Depending on what part of the city you stay in, you could also opt to walk or rent a bike.
The food numbers shocked me a bit. Andy and I track our expenses each month, so I knew it wouldn’t be too hard to write this post, but groceries and eating out always gets lumped together in the food category. Clearly we need to work on eating out less often. We could easily spend just a little more on groceries and drastically cut back on the amount we spend on eating out. But if you’re only here for a month, you might want to enjoy eating out and it’s really not expensive. We can easily get a meal, including bottled water or two sodas, for about 20 euros.
The amount I listed for activities was what we spent at Beer Mile. It’s an annual event that takes place during a weekend in August where vendors set up stalls along a one-mile stretch of road in the middle of the city. Technically what we spent was all food and alcohol, but I listed it separately since it was an entertainment kind of thing. You’ll want to bump this number up if you plan on going to clubs or museums or doing other touristy things.
The health number is for a couple of little things at the pharmacy. The other expenses includes random things like stamps, a few things at the hardware store, toothpaste, etc. We didn’t need haircuts in August, but Andy usually pays 10 euros for his and I pay 30 or 35 for mine.
We are middle of the road spenders. We don’t go shopping or pay for expensive cable or fancy dinners. On the other hand, we’re not penny pinchers. You could easily spend more or less than we do depending on your tastes. Overall, Berlin is an easy city for keeping your costs down.
Now, to you, readers: have you been to Berlin? Any cost notes to add?
Thanks for having me! Since writing this, I’ve started splitting eating out costs from grocery costs, and I even made myself a category for alcohol. Berlin is a cheap city, but Andy and I could definitely do better to lower our costs in the food/eating out areas.