Berlin is a great option for an ex-pat who wants to live in a major city in Western Europe. Berlin has its own particular form of charm that many travellers have fallen in love with. It is very artistic and quirky meaning the city is rarely dull. The cost of living in Berlin is not quite pricey and it compares favourably to many other capital cities especially considering the quality of life. It also compares favourably to the cost of living in Germany. I would say that the cost of living in the German capital depends on how you live.
What is the cost of living in Berlin? Living in Berlin is very affordable. You can live a very comfortable life on a monthly income of €1,000. Housing is the biggest expense for most people. Groceries, transport, and utilities are all reasonably priced. Energy costs will increase during the winter.
When compared to other European cities, living in Berlin is quite cheap. You can eat out at low prices because there are so many cheap restaurants and street vendors. If that is not enough, the city is flat enough that you can use a bike for day to day travel even though public transport is cheap and efficient. The best part of all may be the fact that you can get world-class beer for peanuts in Berlin, not literally. Entertainment in the city is plenty and can be acquired for a measly sum.
Monthly Living costs in Berlin for a Family
Monthly Average Housing cost
The cost of living for a family of four (both parents with two children) is about €3496 per month. The largest expense for a family in Berlin is renting a property. A family will have to inhabit a two or three-bedroom apartment to live comfortably in Berlin. They would have to pay an average of €1,600 to live in a three-bedroom apartment near the city center and €1,150 to live outside the city center. For a family that would like to purchase property, they will probably have to buy it on credit since the real estate prices are quite high. Mortgage payments will be roughly equal to the monthly payments of the property.
Average Monthly Utilities
Utilities like garbage collection, electricity, water and heating will be crucial for a family. Berlin is cold so utilities are expensive and will be higher than the typical cost of living in Germany. It costs a family at least €500 a month in utilities which also includes phone service and an internet connection.
Food and groceries cost
The other expense a family will seriously have to consider in Berlin is food. It will depend on how often the family buys groceries and cooks their own meals and how often they eat out. A typical family in Berlin spends around €800 every month buying groceries and around €1250 eating out. It is more expensive eating out since a family meal will cost about €40. Most families will cook their own meals as groceries are much cheaper than in most of Europe.
School Fees, Kindergarten, Gym
For a family, where you take your children to school is of paramount importance. It will depend on the level of education of your children. The monthly price of a childcare facility or kindergarten is €200. The fee for your child attending a good international primary school is around €7800 per year. You will have to spend more if your children are interested in extra-curricular activities such as sports or arts. The adults will also pay around €30 a month for a gym membership.
Health Care and Insurance
Health care is also a crucial part of the living costs in Berlin. Health care will depend on how much you earn and if you are being publicly or privately insured. Private health insurances will cost about €1000 a month for your entire family and €400 a month if you buy it individually. Getting your valuables insured is also advised but it will depend on the value of your possessions.
You may decide to purchase a car if you live in Berlin but it is not a driving-friendly city. A standard sedan for your family will cost around €20,000 to buy. A liter of petroleum costs €1.50 so maintenance and petrol will amount to about €500 every month. Public transport will be much cheaper and a monthly AB ticket for one is €60 and hence €240 for a typical family. However, if you have young children you may prefer using your own vehicle.
Entertainment and eating out
Entertainment for a family will not cost much since they will mostly include eating out. With a good internet connection of €30 a month, you should meet your family’s entertainment needs.
Monthly Living costs in Berlin for a Single Person
As a single expat in Berlin, your cost of living will include similar elements to a family’s living costs albeit with a few disparities. More will be spent in other areas while less will be spent on some. Let us have a look at the expenses that make up the cost of living for a single person in Berlin:
Monthly Housing Cost
As a single person living in Berlin, it is less likely that you will take out a mortgage to buy a house. Most single people in Berlin hire their living spaces as is evidenced by the low homeownership rates in the country. The typical single person will live in a one-bedroom apartment which will cost about €860 in the city center and €636 outside of it. High rental rates are the main reason why the cost of living in the capital is slightly above the cost of living in Germany. The average utility bill for a single person in Berlin is around €300
If you have valuables in your apartment, then your premiums will be high. Private health care is often bought by single people in Berlin. The average monthly premiums for health care in Berlin are €400 per month. If your employer contributes to your health care plan, it will cost you less depending on how much is contributed.
The monthly cost of Food and eating out
Food is another major expense for single people in the city. One difference in the cost of food for a married individual and a single one is that single people tend to eat out more often. The average price of dinner in Berlin is €10. If you eat out every night, your dinner expenses will add up to an average of about €350 a month. A single person requires fewer groceries than a family which will cost about €300 a month.
Public Transport in Berlin
Assuming a typical single person in Berlin does not work from home, they will commute to work about 5 days a week. A car is expensive and inconvenient if you are traveling alone around Berlin. Public transportation is the best option. A monthly AB ticket costs €63 a month which can be reduced to €60 a month if you pay for the whole year. You can also use a taxi which costs about €2 per kilometer and is more expensive than the train. A person who travels by taxi in Berlin uses an average of €1200 a month for transport.
Entertainment and beer
A single expat will spend more on entertainment than a family will. Berlin has a thriving social scene which also includes an amazing nightlife. Lucky for most people living in Berlin, the price of beer is cheap and stands at about €3 per pint. The price will be higher in some establishments. Depending on your drinking habits, your monthly spending on entertainment will range between €50 and €300.
Monthly Living costs in Berlin for Students and International Students
Germany has received credit for having one of the best educational systems in the world. Berlin receives thousands of students from all over the world each year coming to receive higher education in the city’s glorious universities. Some of the prominent universities in Germany include the Free University of Berlin, Berlin School of Business and Innovation, Berlin University of the Arts, the Humboldt University of Berlin and the Technical University of Berlin. A student’s living costs in Berlin is as follows:
Housing for Students
Students in Berlin have a great array of accommodation arrangements to choose from. Most students chose to live in student dormitories and hostels which cost around €250 per month. They tend to be small and are often shared but the cost attracts very many young students making them hard to find. Students can also decide to live in communal apartments which will cost between €300 and €700 a month. Communal apartments are larger but students can decide to share and save money.
Tuition in German universities is absurdly cheap. It will cost a student between €200 and €500 in tuition fees to study at a university in Berlin. Local students do pay more than their international counterparts unless the latter are on scholarship. Some universities such as FU Berlin do not charge tuition fees at all since all programs are sponsored by the government which greatly reduces the cost of living.
The monthly cost of Food for students
After paying your housing fees and your tuition fees, you start to think about what you are going to eat. Meals at the university are cheap as they are subsidized by the government. However, it will depend on your eating habits. If you eat healthy meals as opposed to the typical student, you will spend an average of €300 a month on food. Healthy foods cost more than junk food. If you can budget your money well as a student, you can spend a measly €200 on food per month. You pay the same as regular citizens if you decide to eat out.
Public Transport cost for students
Students who live in university dorms and hostels pay very little for transport. The university will have shuttle buses that offer transportation to students. Many students will use a bike to travel in and around the school which is also very cheap. For students living in apartments far from school, use of public transport is advised. Good news is that AB has a special offer for students called the Semester ticket. A student AB monthly ticket will cost you about €32 per month.
Students spend a larger portion of their budget on entertainment than any other group. A night out on the town in Berlin will cost €22 which includes six pints of beer, a meal at McDonalds and taxis to and from several bars. The university will have most social amenities such as gyms and playing grounds so you won’t have to spend much to maintain your health. Most places you visit will have exceptions for students so make sure you carry your student ID wherever you go.
Average Monthly Costs of Living in Berlin – Apartment Costs
Apartment in Kreuzberg
Kreuzberg is a very vibrant area in Berlin. There is always something going on in this neighborhood. Kreuzberg is full of nightclubs and art galleries which keep people flowing in and out of the area. You will find a lot of alternative music and parties in Kreuzberg. The area also has a lot of street food vendors selling food at cheap prices. Most of the vendors are of Turkish descent. A part of Berlin filled with energy sure to excite you.
Apartment in Neukölln
Neukölln is an area renowned in Berlin for its diverse community of expats and immigrants. However, the Turkish population dominates the rest. The former working-class neighborhood has been transformed into a commercial area with open-air bars, nightclubs and coffee shops. The area also has great green open spaces in the form of renovated public parks. The artistic flair of the area shines through its graffiti-covered walls. You will not find a more conducive family environment in Berlin than the one in Neukölln.
Apartment in Friedrichshain
Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg used to be separated by the Berlin wall. Since the wall came down, the area has attracted many middle-income expats and immigrants who have formed a youthful and colorful community. The demand for real estate in Friedrichshain has been growing since 1989. The artistic activism of Berlin’s past is distinctly clear in the area’s environment.
The area is perfect for young people looking to start a family. The area is beautiful and lies next to River Spree with extensive patches of green grass along the winding river. The techno party scene is really thriving in Friedrichshain particularly Berghain, which attracts thousands of locals and tourists to its techno parties. There are also many independent businesses and markets in the area.
How to Find an Apartment in Berlin
The monthly cost for an internet provider
An internet connection is a necessity in this day and age. Lucky for Berlin residents, the internet service providers in the city abide aplenty. To get internet in Berlin, you have to sign an internet contract. When you sign up for internet services, a technician or team of technicians have to install it within your home at a fee. It is advisable to buy a WLAN router on your own rather than get it from the service provider.
The four best internet providers in Berlin are Century Link, AT&T, Spectrum, Viasat, 1&1 Internet, and O2 Internet. Each has its own advantages. We will compare and contrast some of their characteristics below:
|Connection||Speed cut||Cost/month |
The monthly cost for mobile phone provider ( 3 main providers + average rates)
Finding the best cell service provider in Berlin can be a difficult undertaking. Finding the best deal requires significant research and time. There are a few things to consider before signing a mobile service contract including:
- Call and text rates
- Internet rates
- Device compatibility
- Customer service
- Payment terms
- Range of services and features
|225 Mbps||216 Mbps||225 Mbps|
|LTE M 5GB||Blau Allnet L 3GB||O2 Free M 10GB|
|12 months||6 months||24 months|
The monthly cost for health insurance
As stated earlier, insuring your health depends on your income and the nature of your work. Private health care will cost more than state-funded health care. Everyone is eligible for public health care in Berlin. On the contrary, private insurance can be acquired by the three groups below:
- Self-employed citizens and freelancers
- Students who have been enrolled in a German institution for more than 3 months
- Employees with a gross annual salary of more than €59400
The monthly premiums you pay to insure your health will also depend on factors such as your age, medical history and risk factor among others. If you have children, you will have to take out separate health insurance policies for all of them.
Private health care prices vary widely in price since the companies charge premiums using algorithms that use a multitude of factors to determine your health risk. However, the nature of your deductible can decide the number of your monthly payments. The higher your deductible, the less the company insuring you pays.
Public health care rates can be classified as follows:
|Students||Fixed fee of €70 per month|
|Freelancers||16% of monthly income|
|High-Income Employees||Decided by the employer as % of income|
(minimum 16% of monthly income)
The monthly cost for groceries
Monthly prices of consumer products change according to the monthly rate of inflation. However, data can be collected from various sources to determine what the average price of a product is. The following are the average prices for several groceries in Berlin as of July 2019:
|1 litre of milk||0.78|
|A pack of 12 eggs||1.94|
|500 gram loaf of bread||1.31|
|1.5 litre bottle of water||0.52|
|1 kg of rice||1.79|
|1 kg of potatoes||1.29|
|1 kg of onions||1.33|
|1 kg of meat||11.36|
|1 kg of local cheese||8.28|
The monthly cost for eating out
The monthly cost of eating out in Berlin depends on the establishment you will visit. However, eating out in Berlin is cheaper than eating out in most European cities especially capital cities. The price of other outing options like cinemas ad concerts is also not that dear. The following are the prices for various activities.
|Meal at a cheap restaurant||8.00|
|Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant||40.00|
|Combo meal at a fast-food restaurant |
like McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
|Dinner for two at a neighborhood pub||31.00|
|Basic ticket to the cinema international release||20.00|
|Premium ticket to the cinema international release||81.00|
|A cocktail drink at a club downtown||9.00|
|Monthly gym membership in CBD||28.00|
The monthly cost of public transport
The monthly cost of transportation will depend on your mode of transport. If you use public transport in Berlin you will most likely be using the U-Bahn. The public train system issues monthly AB tickets. If you pay the fee every month it will cost you €63 per month. You can choose to pay it annually for a reduced fee of €60 per month. The AB Semesterticket will cost students €32 per month.
Another mode of public transport in Berlin is the use of taxis. Taxis are more expensive than the U-Bahn. A taxi in Berlin costs €2 per kilometer. The average commute distance in Berlin is 10 km. If someone travels 20 km a day, to and from work in taxis then they will use €40 a day which will amount to about €1,200 a month.
Living costs in Berlin compared to London
London has one of the highest costs of living of any city in the world. When compared to Germany’s capital, the difference in the cost of living becomes very apparent. Almost all elements of life are more expensive in London than in Berlin.
Both buying and renting a property is more expensive in London than it is in Berlin. It will cost you 72% more to rent an apartment either in the outskirts of London or in the city center as opposed to the German capital. Buying property in London is even more expensive as it costs about 80% more than Berlin.
Utilities are one of the few things that cost more in Berlin than in London. Utilities such as heating, water, and electricity cost about 3% more in Berlin than they do in London.
Both capital cities have well built and run public transportation systems. London has The Tube while Berlin has the U-Bahn. However, London’s public transportation is 57% more expensive than Berlin’s. Taxis are also 30% more expensive in London than in Berlin.
Food is cheaper in Berlin than in London with a few exceptions like bread, bananas, and cheese. You should also expect to pay around 50% more if you eat out in London than when eating out in Berlin.
Living costs in Berlin vs Munich
The general cost of living in Munich is 15% more expensive than the living costs in Berlin. Food is 15% more expensive in Munich than it is in Berlin. Almost every food item costs more in Munich apart from a few oddities like potatoes and apples. Eating out is even dearer unless you are visiting similar brand establishments like McDonald’s.
Housing in Munich has stratospheric prices and it costs about 27% more to live in Munich than in Berlin. The difference in monthly charge between an 85m2 apartment between Munich and Berlin can be more than €500. Utilities also cost more in Munich than they do in Berlin by about 5%.
Transportation is one major expense that is cheaper in Munich than it is in Berlin. It costs 11% less to travel in Munich than in Berlin which is mainly attributed to the higher cost of public transportation in Berlin.
Entertainment in Munich is 28% more expensive than in Berlin. The difference is particularly clear when it comes to high brow entertainment such as going to the theatre. Internet connection is dearer in Munich than in Berlin and a significant reason why entertainment costs more in the former.
Living costs in Berlin vs Hamburg
Living in Hamburg costs 10% more than it does in Berlin. Consumer prices are 6% lower in Berlin than in Hamburg. Food in Hamburg is 7% more expensive than food in Berlin. For example, a meal at a typical restaurant will cost 20% less in Berlin than in Hamburg. Beer is the one thing that is cheap and evenly priced across Germany.
Housing is expensive in Hamburg but not as expensive as Munich. The difference in the cost of housing between Hamburg and Munich is around 9%. Monthly rates and home prices are both dearer in Hamburg than in Berlin. Utilities are especially expensive in Hamburg costing about 45% more than in Berlin.
Clothing and personal care are also dearer in Hamburg than in Berlin. Clothes are 28% more expensive while personal care is 6% more expensive than in Berlin. Personal care includes health care and personal grooming products like toothpaste and toilet paper. On the contrary, private physicians charge more in Berlin than in Hamburg.
Transport in Hamburg and in Berlin has a cost difference of about 9%. The price of a vehicle, fuel prices, and taxis cost roughly the same. However, there is a 15% difference in the price of monthly public transportation tickets.
Living costs in Berlin vs Paris
The difference in the overall cost of living between Berlin and Paris is 22%. The price of consumer goods is 28% higher in Paris than in Berlin.
Food is especially dear in Paris as it costs 28% higher in Paris than it does in Berlin. Eating out is particularly more expensive in Paris than in Berlin as it will cost 54% higher to eat at a restaurant in Paris than in Berlin. All types of meals and groceries are dearer in Paris than in Berlin.
Housing is 36% cheaper in Berlin than in Paris. Renting will particularly financially distress you as it is 44% more expensive to hire the same size apartment in Paris than in Berlin. The price per square meter of real estate in Paris is almost double that of Berlin. Utilities, however, cost roughly the same with basic utilities being slightly more expensive in Berlin than in Paris.
Transportation in Paris is equal to transport in Berlin. Vehicles are cheaper in Berlin than in Paris whereas monthly public transport tickets and taxis are more expensive in Berlin than they are in Paris.
Entertainment is 23% cheaper in Berlin than in Paris. Theatres, gyms, restaurants, and bars all cost less in Berlin.
Living costs Berlin vs New York
The overall cost of living in New York is very high and stands 58% higher than the living costs in Berlin.
Housing in New York is so expensive it is 55% higher than housing costs in the German capital. Renting is especially expensive in New York City. It is 67.5% cheaper to rent property in Berlin than it is to hire in New York. Property prices are also 54% higher in New York than in Berlin.
Moreover, food in Berlin is 38% cheaper than in New York City. Eating at a restaurant in New York will cost you more than double what it costs to eat at a restaurant in Berlin. All groceries cost more in New York than in Berlin; only water is vice versa.
All personal care products like deodorants, tampons, and medicine cost 49% less in Berlin than in New York. Health care and gym memberships are also more expensive in New York.
Transportation is 25% cheaper in Berlin than in New York. Public transport and taxis also cost more in New York City. On the contrary, fuel prices in New York are almost half those of Berlin.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.