I arrived at Berlin Tegel Airport after a short transfer in Amsterdam. That transfer alone gave me quite the culture shock. This was a plane flying within Europe, hence the majority of European passengers, probably a lot of Germans and Dutch.
I’m used to being a little above average, especially in Korea, but here in this plane I was Jack in the Giant’s castle. Usually aisle seat passengers get up out of their seats to let the center seat passenger get to his seat. I watched a German father gracefully swing his leg over his daughter’s head, clearing it by a good three inches. It was majestic. The two ladies next to me had to origami themselves into their seats, poor things. Standing, I’d put them at around 5’10”.
The first thing I needed to do once exiting the plane and getting my baggage was to get a bus pass. That is at the BVG counter. Use the signs above, they directed me just fine. I simply looked for the public transportation signs.
There was a long line, and I had to wait quite a while, but as far as I know, this is the only place you can buy your bus and train tickets.
I opted for the 5 Day Berlin Welcome Card, which is a flat rate of 32.50 Euros for AB Zones only, plus a nice coupon book. This Welcome Card also gives you discounts at certain tourist places (If you’re a student, then the discounts are pretty similar and you can’t stack discounts). I’d later come to regret getting the AB Zone ticket, since I ended up going to Potsdam and that’s in the C Zone. The main reason why I got the Welcome Card was that I didn’t want to deal with having to buy a ticket every day. Efficiency and simplicity is worth the money to me.
I don’t know if the counter accepts only cash, I played it safe and gave cash. Easier for everyone, and it’s a good place to break large bills anyhow. I also asked for directions on how to get to Spichernstrasse Station, the station my hostel is at. Don’t be shy about asking for directions, you’re in a foreign country and this is not a place you want to be lost and alone.
I took the X9 bus, which was right outside the doors of the airport, to Zoologischer Garten and transferred down to the U Bahn. Before I got on the bus, I made sure to stamp my Welcome Card ticket to validate it. This is the only time you’ll have to stamp it, just have it on you when you’re taking public transportation and you’re golden.
The U Bahns are completely on the honor code, as in there are no turnstiles where you have to scan your ticket or anything. I guess, if you wanted, you could waltz into the subways without a ticket, and maybe get a free ride. But, if you’re caught, you have to pay a fine. I’m not so cheap nor desperate as to risk it, and I consider it my duty as a person to make my due contributions to society.
Now, another thing I was not expecting. The subway doors don’t open automatically. I was so accustomed to Korea’s automatic doors that would often close upon various limbs and umbrellas that I just stood there for a sec, staring through the window at the person waiting on the platform for me to open the door. At the last second I yanked on the handles and tumbled out.
I didn’t have a problem getting to the hostel from Spichernstrasse Station because I had downloaded my trusty map and also made a screenshot of the map in advance, just in case.
Jetpak Hostel is a wonderful little hostel, perfect for my first hostel. A lot of people are here on business though, so if you’re looking for a party scene you’re in the wrong place. The manager is a great English speaker and very welcoming. Everything seems clean and well kept, and there’s a sweet little three-legged cat that loves to hang out on the bean bags in the computer room. The hostel is also quite secure; you have to buzz through 2 doors to get to the main part of the hostel, and you can only access your room via key card. The key card is a 5 Euro rental that you’ll get back when you check out. Breakfast provided! Big plus. And there are lockers, but I didn’t bring a lock so I didn’t use it. Just locked my backpack to my bed.
- screenshot a map of your hostel’s location; I’ve discovered that in order for the GPS to accurately pinpoint your location, it needs wifi first for some reason. If you can get wifi when you’re walking around, then great, but I couldn’t until I got to my hostel so I relied a lot on my screenshots to get to the hostel
- Highly recommend Jetpak Hostel! Friendly manager, clean, secure. It’s not in the heart of the tourist attractions, but the hostel is close to the U Bahn, which I think is good enough
- I booked my first four hostels in advance, all through Hostelworld.com. Sure, I’ve heard of people who just arrive at the hostel hoping to get a room, and it’s supposedly cheaper since you’re not going through a website, but I’m not going to take that chance.
- Welcome Card – a one day ticket costs 6.90 euros for AB zone, my 5 day was 32.50 euros. 6.90 x 5 = 34.50 euros. So it’s just a tiny bit cheaper, not an amazing deal, but considering that I didn’t have to deal with buying tickets every day, and I got discounts at certain tourist attractions, it seems plenty worth it. But, as I consider Potsdam a must, get the Welcome Card for the ABC Zone!!!