Berlin: Things to know before you go

1 week, 2 months, 3 months, a month, architecture, backpack, backpacker, backpcker, couples travel, destination, europe, holiday, home, itineraries, itinerary, long weekend, return, review, shock, travel, volunteering

Getting in:

Flying into Berlin is a pain free, quick, and easy process that is truly reflective of that good old stereotypical German efficiency .

Shame about the train stations… The train stations that baffle and bewilder many a tourist ruin the efficiency illusion in an instant and, if you don’t speak German, will have you wishing that you had listened more in German class (if you even had the option to learn it).

Unless you have arranged a pickup, I strongly recommend that you research the route to your chosen destination BEFORE you get on the plane. If you are staying in Berlin then you will probably find that the S Bahn is your best option. Type your route into google maps and print it before you leave home. Google maps has a tendency to be rather incredible without shoving your stupidness in your face.

blue sky clouds Germany

 

When to go:

Berlin is a city that can be visited all year round with no real limitations to activities due to weather conditions. Just bare in mind that if you want to climb a tall building (because there are so many here) to get a great view, this is not going to happen when it’s poring with rain or foggy outside.

Remember that Sunday afternoons and public holidays can be quieter, with many museums and shops being closed.

Money:

The currency is Euro. Berlin can be expensive in and around popular tourist sites. Despite this, it is easy enough to find cheap food if you venture into the suburbs. Kebab shops, burger stops and chippies are never more than a five minute pace away.

Getting around:

The Sbhan is the easiest way around the city. If underground trains aren’t for you then grab a map and explore on foot. Many attractions are close to each other so you shouldn’t have to walk too far between sights. Typical to most European cities, Berlin’s inhabitants do fall prey to telling tourists that “it’s too far to walk” and that they should “take the train because it’s faster and easier”. At least once I challenge you to ignore the nice citizen and go on foot to see if it really is too far. And if come back and it was too far… Well, I’m sorry and I’m sure you made memories that made it worth it anyway right!?

Things to do:

Reichstag dome – Tickets must be purchased online in advance of your visit or you will be refused entry. Allow 15-20 minutes to get through the quick security checks before you enter. Upon entering through the mini airport security you will be transported by an elevator up into the huge dome that sits on top of the reichstag. Audio guides are free and automatically feed you information as you scale higher and higher into the sky. If you are scared of heights you may want to think twice as the majority of the dome is glass, so not looking down is not really an option! germany architecture berlij

Brandenburg Gate & Around – The gate is situated near some of Berlin’s other main sights and is usually tourist heavy. Before heading here have a walk through the Jewish Monument situated a ten minute walk away. Both the gate and the monument make a big impression at night when the lights come on.

History:

It is almost impossible to go to Berlin and not learn a little about the history it possesses. Going down to see the remaining wall is an interesting visit along with Checkpoint Charlie (be warned that it gets very crowded with tourists), and free museums such as the Topographie des Terror (a highlight of our trip).

Not so central – Venturing out of the centre is highly recommended. Just in the train and explore outer Berlin for some spectacular sights and entertaining things to do. Parks, museums, and more are easy to find.

olympic rings outside berlin stadium

A place to stay:

If you are looking for a decent place to stay then Plus Berlin Hostel is great. The hostel is by far the biggest hostel I’ve ever stayed in, and with a swimming pool, family friendly rooms, common rooms, restaurant, gardens and even its own art exhibition,it’s as though this hostel made love to a hotel and produced this huge beast. Staying in a dorm here was strange. The rooms were cleaned daily with cute chocolate pieces left on your pillow. Fresh towels were on the foot of the bed when you came back from a days adventures ( see! Just like a hotel right). The pool was a great addition. On one of the days when it was raining we opted for a swimming session which was totally worth it. The food was reasonable for dinner, and the all you can eat breakfast buffet was delicious. Every smart traveller knows – get up a little later and make the buffet a brunch instead of a breakfast for optimum money saving.

plus berlin hostel in central berlin

Extras:

 

Vibes- The general vibe in Berlin is a friendly yet equally standoffish vibe. Kind of like London but with less rushing and more chit chatting. An example of the humour and lightheartedness of Berlin was when I asked a guy if he would take a photo of us. He joked saying that he could not… I didn’t get the joke and stood apologising for even asking, embarrassed. My boyfriend, the comedian, and his friend found it hilarious and laughed at my expression.

Bears, green men, and red women-

If you really pay attention to your surroundings you will notice things that people often miss. Sadly for the unobservant (and I’ve asked around) many people return from Berlin having not seen a single bear statue. Considering its significance here it is sad that they have not one photo or memory of seeing one. Sadly, these same people also have no idea what I’m taking about when I ask them what they thought of the traffic light people. They stare at me blankly… “There are entire shops dedicated to the little people inside the traffic lights! How could you miss them?!” It turns out they just weren’t looking hard enough. Therefore, my recommendation is to pay close attention.

Overall thoughts:

Berlin for me is a standard city of art, culture, history, business and pleasure. Personal preference sways me to feel no real urge to return. A controversial feeling I am aware. Personally, having seen Potsdam, Dresden and Bonn I find that I prefer these smaller jewels for reasons of which I’m not quite sure. But why does it matter? Make up your own mind and get to travelling! berlin map on the berlin wall british and german

5 Things You Learn From… Travelling With Your Boyfriend

1 week, 2 months, 3 months, a month, backpack, backpacker, backpcker, beaches, couples travel, destination, holiday, itineraries, itinerary, long weekend

Before jumping aboard the “couples travel” train I was quite against the idea of exploring with anyone other than myself. Why exactly? I’m not quite sure. I guess there is a common misconception that travelling alone means that you have more freedom of choice. I have learnt from travelling with a partner that this is (thankfully) not necessarily true, and that travelling with a partner can actually cause you to end up going to places you love that you had you been alone wouldn’t otherwise have gone to.

Here is what traveling with him has taught me:

1) You should always, always, always pack an extra day bag. Our first trip away together was to Rome. It was a dream for the following reasons. Whilst we explored… A) I carried my stuff. B) He carried his stuff. The end.

By the second trip away together however, we had obviously got comfortable with each other because well, let’s just say that if I have to carry his stuff because he forgot to pack a spare bag AGAIN then there will be trouble.

Now every time we plan a trip and start packing my first conversation with him is “have you packed a spare bag” to which his answer is usually “na, I’ll just carry my stuff in my hands”… (what he means is, “no i’ll butter you up and you’ll be carrying my stuff before you know it”

Berlin Wall. Irfan Chaudhary No Bag Hoodie Nike

Enjoying the Berlin Wall museum… Bagless

 

2) When he suggests going to somewhere you think you will hate you should just say yes and go along. The most notable examples here are Disney Land Paris and Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.

Dead set against going to Disney I moaned as he pressured me into coming with him. (By pressured I mean that he bought tickets and I thought meh it’s free why not.) When we arrived at Disney Land I absolutely transformed into a huge child. It became less about him geeking out, and more about me wanting to have a photo taken with Mickey Mouse and watch the princess show. Our time there was nothing short of FUN. Possibly the most fun ever.

The Olympic Stadium also hadn’t appealed to me. Being the supportive girlfriend that I am I said yes. It’s only fair that you both get to see things you enjoy right? Although it wasn’t quite as thrilling as Disney World I had to admit that the stadium was an impressive site, and I left there happy to have seen it in the flesh.

Jemma and Irfan in front of the disney Land castle in paris

Disney For Life

 

3) You will become a pro at masking your embarrassment (usually to do with his bad habits) and, at lying to other travellers to cover your partners back. I won’t go into too much detail here, but when your sharing a dorm in a hostel and your other half blocks the toilet, in one of the coolest and cleanest hostels ever, because “the plumbing is different than England”… you will find yourself pretending you know absolutely nothing about it. “Yea I know it’s gross, it was like that when we got here” you will say to the desperate, tired travellers who really need to pee but can’t. Your boyfriend will smile at you in solidarity, and you will never speak of it again. Until the next blockage. (Or you decide to write about it in your blog) – sorry Irfan ❤️

Sitting above the elephants on the right hand side in our mahut clothingAn embarrassment free day at the Elephant Nature Park.

 

4) You will always end up playing the role of 1) the head of logistics 2) linguistic guide and, 3) chief ideas generator.

“I’m taking you somewhere” he will say beaming from ear to ear. You will arrive in the country of his choice and await his instructions on where to go from the airport. Only to be greeted with “how are we getting to the hostel?”

This truly is when you realise how much you like them, because if you didn’t you would probably just walk away and make your own way there without them.

Being the loving person that you are you will get your phone out, google maps the data right out of your phone, walk up to random strangers and ask for directions in your best GCSE level French – all whilst he tags along behind you until a solution is found.

Note that he WILL make the trip excellent. He just won’t make the journey from the plane to the hostel an easy process.

Irfan Chaudhary and Jemma Reid stood outside the Lourve museum in ParisSometimes getting lost leads to the Louvre!

 

5) You learn how to live with them.

For couples that don’t already live together, travelling with a partner is an excellent test of whether or not you would survive/ put up with/ work well living together. Whether you are travelling for a weekend, a month, or longer seeing how you both cope in stressful situations is a great indication of how you will function as time goes on.

Lucky for us we have found that travelling together is no issue as long as you give each other space sometimes. Whilst on our travels we have met every kind of couple. The ‘glued at the hips’, the ‘I’ll go my way and they’ll go theirs’, the ‘this relationship only works at homes’… We have seen it all.

I’m not saying that we are ‘couple of the year’ (although we come pretty close) but one thing we have definitely learnt is that when you respect each others boundaries and let each other do their own thing, travelling together is easy and fun.

Tips: Exploring Thailand? had enough of staying in dorm rooms? Treat both yourselves to a private villa when in Thailand by staying Villa Varich in Chumphon.

standing on the edge of a cliff in Vietnam whilst on a motorbike tour in Da Lat. Look at that viewVietnam: Separate motorbikes, same shared experience.

 

Happy travels.

Travel Fashion That’s So Bad You Just Have To Try It Out

backpacker, destination, fashion, holiday, long weekend, travel

Ask anyone that knows me and they will tell you that fashion is not something I consider as a priority. That’s why when I’m travelling I’m more than happy to embrace local dress or copy the ‘quirky backpackers’ in the hostel’s fashion choices. I look like an idiot in many a photo, but I strongly recommend you try these fashion ideas out whilst exploring… Here are some tried and tested items.

When in… South East Asia:

Printed trousers (also known as ‘Gap Yah Pants’) – These are the epitome of backpacker fashion and scream “I have a care free attitude’ to all the non shoestring budget travellers. They’ve got zero stretch, making the most basic activities hard, but who cares when you look this cool ?!

Hippy Head Scarf/Wrap – So you were at the vegan hostel for a night and now you think you’re a Greenpeace representative? You bought a cool hippy scarf and you’re ready to show the world how organic you are with your head wrapped in a multicoloured cloth. Yeah, it will probably never see the light of day after your trip… but it makes an excellent sweat band in the ridiculously humid temperatures. Plus you look like a lovely free spirit.

When in… South America :

Never before worn hiking boots – There’s always that one backpacker that’s hobbling behind the rest of the gang because they didn’t wear their boots in. Despite the pain they will carry on because they look super outdoorsy and adventurous. If you’re nice you’ll give them the blister plasters your mum told you would “come in handy”.

When in… any country in the world:

Universally accepted alcohol advertisement shirts – When I went to Tanzania advertising the local beer ‘Tusker’ (hilarious as I wasn’t even old enough to drink yet). It may have been the elephant on the front, or the slogan “baada ya kazi” (enjoy your drink) written on the back that made me so compelled to buy it. Regardless, I bought it, and 8 years later I still have it, along with multiple other beer shirts from other global locations. The funny thing is. I don’t drink beer. Weird right?

Bracelet heaven. Forgotten what your wrists look like? Me too. When you get bored of buying magnets for your eclectic fridge it’s time to switch to bracelets. The best part is being able to tell a story about your travels to all those who admire them. The worst part is when you lose one or it falls off. When my Tanzanian bead bracelet snapped in a hostel in Germany I may have had a little cry in the middle of the dorm 👀.

When in… Europe:

The borrowed life guard jacket – All you need to know is that I borrowed one, did a slow motion Baywatch run down the beach, had a photo, pretended to be a life guard, freaked out when a kid hurt himself and thought I could help him, and gave the jacket back. Why wouldn’t you get one?

Socks and sandals – You know it’s a bad look when people would rather see your bare feet than what you are currently displaying to the world… Let me just clarify one thing. I do not endorse this look. Especially if you have sandals that go in between your toes. How do you even grip the shoe??? Anyway, if you are a wearer of the sock and sandal. I salute you for your courage, but I do not applaud you.

Whatever your quirky travel fashion choices are, continue to embrace them as I continue to observe, laugh, and join in!