Hello money saving fans, Frugal Femme here, and ready to give my two-pence worth on all things frugal.
It was J’s birthday a few weeks ago, so being the lovely wife that I am, I took him away for a surprise weekend to Berlin. Back in my travelling days, I had visited Berlin, and although I was not on quite the same backpacker’s budget this time, as a FF I was still keen to make my euros go that little bit further…
I don’t know about you, but when I’m looking for cheap flights I usually start with the likes of good old Easyjet or Ryanair, but the prices and timings they had on offer were not ideal, so I went for Plan B, or rather Plan BA.
I had some Avios points/Air miles to spend with BA, so checked out their website to see how I could use them. As is often the way with reward points, to get the deal you have to book flights on specific dates, and none of those worked. On the website, I had a cheeky look at some of their packages for flights and accommodation, and was pleasantly surprised. After some quick calculations, it worked out cheaper to book a package, with 3 nights in a 4-star hotel and flights rather than do it separately with a ‘cheaper’ airline, and was around £200 per person!! The only issue was that for the best deal, I had to fly out of Heathrow and back to City, but I can be flexible all in the name of saving money.
Discovering the City
J and I love exploring new cities, and walking is often the best way to do this, so we started our trip off with a Sandeman’s New Europe walking tour. It had good reviews on TripAdvisor, and they run regularly every day. The best thing is that the tours are technically free, and you pay what you think it was worth at the end of it. You may scoff that you get what you pay for, but the tour guides are essentially freelance so it is in their best interests to give a good tour, otherwise no likey, no payee.
After our 3-hour tour wandering around the city, we felt that we had only scratched the surface, and so decided to hit some sights. Berlin prides itself on having more museums than rainy days in Berlin, which means that not only can you leave the umbrella at home, but that this could work out potentially expensive. Unlike London, you have to pay for most museums, and whilst it may be 5 – 10 euros each one, that can soon mount up. One way to not have to pay full price for museums and other attractions is to buy a city pass. Usually, I find these things are not ideal as they don’t always cover the places I want to see, or have lots of terms and conditions. There are a few to choose from, and it is worth doing some research to see what works best for you.
The Berlin Welcome Card had the best deal for us, with up to 50% discount on a lot of museums and attractions, as well as deals for restaurants, tours etc, and unlimited metro travel, which was handy. Whilst we were able to walk to most places, we did venture out of the city centre a few times and having the travel pass meant we didn’t have to worry about buying tickets etc.
I purchased a 2-day pass for each of us online, which was 19.90 euros (just under £17) and being a frugal kinda gal, I kept a bit of a tally on the discounts we made, to see if it really was a good deal. I worked out that we saved around of 21.10 euros each on museums and activities plus at least 10 – 15 euros on travel so that’s an FF win in my book.
Talking of books, I often like to buy a guide book and make notes before I travel, but as we were only going for a weekend, I went for the more old-school option and borrowed one from my local library or Biblioteck in German, which I think sounds more like a disco than a place for books. It also meant that I could also return it, rather than adding it to my already overstuffed book case. Gut idee, ja?
One of the best savings I made using the Welcome Pass was for the Trabi Safari which is a driving tour of the city in a Trabi car. I managed to save 25% (around 12.50 euros each) with my Berlin Welcome Card. The Trabi, or Trabant as it is technically known was big in former East Germany before the fall of the Berlin wall, but after driving around in what is basically a noisy, smelly tin can, I can see why their appeal died out about the same time as mullets and stone washed jeans…
Out on the Town
J loves a bit of a jazz club, and there were a few places to choose from around Berlin. With my FF hat on, I found one called The Zig Zag Club which was free entry and, as with the walking tour, you pay what you think it was worth. This seemed like quite a novel/risky way to run a club, but it seems to work, the place was full to capacity, and the (reasonably priced) drinks were flowing. The music was great, and we used our Berlin Welcome Card to travel home afterwards, so we were laughing. (But not in a drunk way, of course!)
We had a really great time in Berlin and would love to go back and see even more of what the city has to offer. Although I tried to do it on a budget where possible, hopefully, J didn’t feel that I held the purse strings too tightly…
If you have any other tips or hacks for getting the best value out of a city break, please feel free to share.