Shoestring Traveller: A Budget Travel Guide to Germany
Ever heard of the phrase ‘pick a place, any place, and see where you end up’? Well, this was the driving life quote behind going to Germany after our long stint in Italy! Having just spent a week in the beautiful Sicily we were faced with a tough decision: where to next?
Not wanting to break our bank by going too far off route and with one time restriction to be in Berlin by the 27th, we intensely scrolled through Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights out of Sicily (seemingly impossible) to the closest countries/cities to and/or within Germany. The winner? The one and only Cologne! With our first stop set in stone, we decided to make the most out of our unexpected detour. We took on an epic tour of Germany, shoestring budget style!
Budget Travel Guide to Germany: Cologne
I will put my hands up and say I pretty much had no clue what Cologne was all about. However, when flights are only £62, it was a bit of a no brainer making it our next stop! We spent two nights chowing our way through currywurst and filling up on chocolate testers before exploring the quaint streets. It was a truly the best intro into our Germany trip!
As I previously mentioned, travelling to Cologne was relatively cheap considering we were flying from the bottom of Italy. £62 per person gave us a flight, priority boarding AND luggage! From the main airport there was a train that took us right into the city centre for only €4. Once in the city you have access to multiple Metro lines. However, we were staying relatively central so, as always, we chose to do the free transport option and walk to our accommodation, even in the rain. That’s budget travel dedication!
Depending on where your accommodation is, you can pretty much access the majority of central Cologne by foot! However, there are plenty of bikes/electronic scooters for hire for €5-15.
We were pleasantly surprised by just how cheap we managed to score accommodation in Cologne. Three nights here in a modern (I believe first-time used) Airbnb home in the centre of town cost only £18.50 PN/PP! This stay proved cheaper than the hostels in the area- a common theme trending on our trip!
If you’ve never visited Germany before this is the perfect place to experience some true German culture. From the architecture, to the food, people and random street performers, Cologne has a lot to offer on the cheap! We decided to spend our two days here wandering around the riverside, visiting beer gardens. There is one right on the water front that is reasonably priced €5-€10 depending on size! We also had to explore the famous Schokoladen museum.
The Schokoladen Chocolate Museum was a little more expensive in terms of the activities in Cologne, however we are just big sweet tooth kids at heart so we couldn’t exactly pass it up! For €12.50 you get an entrance ticket to the museum, which is full of information on the history of chocolate, and an opportunity to taste test from the incredible Lindt chocolate fountain and the chocolate making machines- made right in front of you! You can also spend an extra €5 and make your own chocolate bar!
I will scream it from the rooftops that Germany has some of the greatest food in the world! It took us approximately 20 minutes to hunt down what is known as some of the best currywurst in Cologne. Boy did my stomach sing when we got it!
For €5.60 from Curry B you can nab yourself a delicious (and generous) portion of sausage, curry sauce, fries and mayo- you’ll thank me later! No word of a lie, I basically lived off currywurst throughout our whole time in Germany, so keep an eye out for my top shop recommendations!
If currywurst isn’t your thing (crazy) then you can still find an array of food choices for relatively cheap. Most meals range from €5-€10 and supermarket shops for home meals are €3-€10. This typically provides breakfast and two dinners!
Budget Travel Guide to Germany: Hamburg
Located approximately four hours north from Cologne is the beautiful Hamburg! With a population of over 1.8 million, Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany. It’s home to hundreds of canals which connect the old town (pre-war) to the new town. We spent three nights here, somewhat apprehensively as we hadn’t heard the greatest reviews on things to do but we actually saved a few bucks exploring and managed to see some pretty amazing sights!
A cheap €20 train is all you need to get to Hamburg from Cologne, and I can safely make the assumption that this price is the standard for train tickets in and around Germany! The train to Hamburg was comfortable but very crowded. I would recommend if you’re using a cheap option such as Flixtrain to get there early so you can get a decent spot. Some people had to sit on the floor!
While in Hamburg, again dependent on where you’re staying, everything is pretty easy to access by foot! However the metro system is really efficient and cheap, single tickets cost roughly €3!
Accommodation in Hamburg, regardless of what option you choose, is unfortunately relatively expensive. Our final option was a boutique style hostel (Pyjama Park Schanzenviertel) two stops from the city centre in a retro, vibrant neighbourhood- St. Pauli. One modern, comfortable bed with curtains and massive storage container in a 6-bedroom dorm cost £25 PN/PP. Although this was a little more on the pricey side, we felt that the rooms provided value for money!
As we had two and bit days to spend here, we decided to take it slow on our first day and do most of the exploring on our second! Our first day consisted of exploring St Pauli’s many second-hand stores, and eventually venturing out to the nearby beautiful park where locals flock to sunbathe. Grab some snacks and a deck of cards and soak up the sun for free!
On our second day we headed into central Hamburg. Truth be told, there isn’t a heck of a lot to do in terms of cheap activities so we did our best to explore the old and new towns, checking out the river front, central shopping area and the famous Speicherstadt! You could get away with buying a cheap lunch here and spend the rest of your time exploring for free. I think you only really need an afternoon to see the majority of the main town area!
Even just from some simple scanning it’s pretty easy to find some delicious and cheap eats around Hamburg! The area we stayed in had an amazing vegetarian breakfast café serving some of the greatest pancakes known to man- just saying. Breakfast here cost only €10 with unlimited coffee for €2- bargains galore!
If you want to skip on eating out you can always find your way to an ALDI or Lidl anywhere in the city- food here is ridiculously cheap especially if you want breakfast or a DIY picnic vibe! Top tip- utilise Google Maps when you’re travelling and trying to navigate cheap places to eat; you can type in ‘cheap eats’ and it will provide you with a variety of options in the area, their ratings and the price range ‘€-€€€’.
Budget Travel Guide to Germany: Berlin
If you haven’t got Berlin on your travel to-do list, then its time to add it! This was my second time visiting Berlin, so naturally I took on the role as acting tour guide! Our three days spent here were full of history and neverending explorations.
Slow travel (bus, train, carpool) pulled through yet again with the cheap deals to Berlin, as we managed to score €5 PP bus tickets! I can’t quite put my finger on why these tickets were suspiciously cheaper than our previous tickets to Hamburg (you’d think Hamburg route would be cheaper, right?) but hey, no complaints!
We used the metro a lot to get around as we were staying out of the central historical areas. Single tickets range from €1.20-€3 depending which areas of the city you’re travelling to (outer zones cost more). If you’re interested in exploring all the different sights in one day, but don’t want to fork out €1-€2 every time, then you can buy a day pass between zones A-B. This is €7 and allows you to hop on/off wherever you please in these zones for 24 hours!
As Berlin is a sought after tourist destination, particularly in the peak summer months, it’s unreasonable to expect to find accommodation as cheap as, say, Cologne. After a bit of scanning we came to the decision that a hostel would be the cheapest, easiest stay as the majority are in the main city areas and close to metro lines. Therefore less travel costs, and more currywurst funds!
One bed in a six-bed dorm cost £23.60 PN/PP. As a budget traveller this is actually a bit of a bargain considering we were staying in Alexander Platz, a really central tourist-dense area.
A top-tip I have for booking hostels is to scan for one you think accommodates your needs on Hostelworld and then, before booking it, see if it is available on Booking.com. If it’s available, you can book and get 10% off (a regular offer on Booking.com), and you can also use that booking to build points on your account. This will eventually give you money back deals and more!
There is no shortage of things to do in Berlin- and the majority are free! An incredible history rich city, Berlin offers an ongoing education of World War Two and pays tribute to the lives lost, some not even more than 25 years ago. As we had three days here, we decided to hit all the hot spots in one big swoop to make the most out of the city pass metro ticket we had bought, but you could definitely do it over the course of a few days!
Our tour of Berlin began at Mauerpark, the site of the former border between East & West Berlin. Here you can see some of the remaining remnants of the wall, escape paths mapped out by citizens trying to enter the West territory and pay respects to the people killed during the period of the Berlin Wall. This sight has loads of information points and offers a humbling look into what life was like for people of Germany up until 1991.
From here we headed into see the Reichstag Building, Brandenburg Gate, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Hitler’s bunker, Book burning memorial at Bebelplatz and the Berlin Cathedral. All of these are free to see and within a 1km radius so you can walk to each one! I would recommend trying to see at least the Brandenburg Gate, the memorial sight and the booking burning memorial, as these are significant in the remembrance of the war and its victims.
To finish your day here I suggest catching the metro to Checkpoint Charlie, free to explore and there is enormous amounts of information available. Then head to the East Side Gallery to gaze at the 105 artworks painted in 1990. My top-tip would be to try exploring the gallery early if you’re staying nearby to avoid the masses of crowds!
If you have more than a few days here another place I would recommend exploring is Alexander Platz. Alexander Platz was a military parade square during the wartimes and has now been transformed into a vibrant shopping and transport district that hosts festive food markets and street performers! There are also plenty of hire-a-bike options for €15 per day so if you’re stumped for things to do, grab a bike from here and go explore Berlin!
Being in Berlin I made it my duty to go and find what the locals claim as the best currywurst in the city! Located just out from Checkpoint Charlie is Curry 36, a side of the road stall that has lines queueing at all times of the day.
This was probably the cheapest/ value for money currywurst we found in Germany! Two sausages and fries (one portion in total) only cost €5.60! I can confirm that this was the greatest currywurst I have ever laid my eyes on, so if you’re in Berlin check them out! They’re the perfect tummy filler before continuing on your explorations!
In regards to other food, the majority of what’s on offer is relatively cheap! There are loads of bratwurst/hotdog style vendors dotted along the city for €3-€6. We had to eat out for the majority of our time here (no kitchen) but we never paid more than €7 for a meal which I think it pretty bloody good for a tourist capital like Berlin!
Budget Travel Guide to Germany: Munich
The last stop on our tour of Germany was none other than beautiful Munich! Having previously visited for an afternoon last year I knew some of the incredible activities and hotspots for food and beer, but there was still plenty to see and do! This was the perfect location to end our little ten-day tour of Germany!
Travelling to Munich from Berlin was ridiculously cheap considering the length of the journey was 9 (long) hours! One seat cost only €12.50! Buses are your best bet from Berlin to Munich in regards to low price, however there are a few train options available that will get you there slightly quicker if you’re on a tight schedule!
In regards to transport within Munich, you won’t need to worry too much about using the Metro! Munich itself isn’t a massive area in terms of the tourist environment, so can access most sights by foot! However, if walking isn’t your thing (too much beer, I hear you) then hire a bike or electric scooter!
There are plenty of bike apps you can download! The cheapest option we found was with Donkey Republic– we paid €8 per bike for a 4 hour hire! There are plenty of price options available on the app however so just download, search for nearby bikes and they charge you for the total cost at the end of your trip!
My advice for accommodation in Munich would be to take advantage of the many hostels on offer! Hostels in Munich are renowned for their central location and epic social life. Therefore if you’re solo travelling you’ll be able to meet other travellers to go explore with!
The cheapest hostel option we could find was with Jaegers Hostel. For a bed in a six-bed dorm (turned four-bed as we got a free upgrade, win!) we paid €29 PN/PP. This is a little more expensive for a hostel but in comparison to alternatives it was the best price option!
Munich is a bit of a dream for a day out doing activities! On our first day we decided we would fork out a little extra from our budget as a bit of a ‘treat’ day. For €8 we hired bikes and started our adventure at the Eisbach surf spot; locals flock here to surf the river waves whilst travellers cheer them on! Such a unique attraction to see in Munich!
Continuing on through the incredible Englischer Garten we made our way to the Chinesischer Trum beer garden! This is an incredible outdoor beer garden with an array of local cultured foods including currywurst and spaetzle! This garden is a little more expensive in regards to food- two steins, spaetzle and currywurst cost €32 (yikes). But it is such an incredible spot just to visit even if you don’t grab any food or drink as so many locals and travellers come together to share the space and enjoy the park!
If you’re wanting to spend some time in the main town square, then head to the renowned Viktualienmarkt. Grab some fresh fruit or local goods before heading to St. Peters Church Tower which for €3 offers incredible panoramic views of Munich city!
Last but not least, you must go and see the incredible Hofbrauhaus- even if you’re not a beer drinker! This massive beer hall is a symbol of German culture, as travellers and locals come together in celebration of literally anything and everything!
A beer here will set you back €6-€12 but it’s well worth it to experience the shared atmosphere. Be sure to keep an eye out for ladies dressed in traditional Dirndl! They will take your orders and provide you with all your pretzel needs!
The prices for food in Munich do not differ far from the rest of its German brothers. Most meals will cost €5-€10 however if you’re visiting places such as the beer gardens then you can expect to pay a little more for the food as they’re slight tourist traps.
If you do head to the Chinesischer Trum gardens then you will be asked to pay at the end when you exit the food area so please be careful as if you grab loads of food you will be expected to pay for all of it before you can go sit down and enjoy. I would suggest sharing a few plates with a friend or two if you can to save on costs- the portions are massive so don’t worry about that!
My advice for travelling Germany on a budget would be to give yourself a shorter time frame. Pack the popular sights into a few short days to get the most out of your money and stay! I’m so grateful for our little excursion through Germany! It is a country I never thought I would spend much time exploring, but I am so pleased we did. We were really able to immerse ourselves in the culture and history! Although Germany has definitely been a little more expensive, I wouldn’t trade this unique experience for the world.
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