General Information about Berlin ...
… a city on the move
When the Berlin Wall came down on 9 November 1989 and the Brandenburg Gate was open again, a new chapter began in the history of Berlin . Parliament and Government moved to the German capital, embassies, media, companies, artists and lobbying organisations followed.
The new Berlin can best be seen at Potsdamer Platz, where a totally new quarter was built. The Reichstag was restored, there are new buildings for the political institutions and the area around the Brandenburg Gate was reconstructed. The new main train station was opened in spring 2006. There are still a lot of construction sites around the city. There is much dynamism and innovation, but merging the east and west part of the city in a changed Europe is also a difficult process under difficult financial and economic conditions.
... a city of multitudes
3.4 million people live in Berlin, 50 % of them in single-person households. 16.6 % of the population are over 65. Berlin is well-known for its multitude of cultures, religions and life styles. People from over 150 nations live here, among them the largest Turkish community outside Turkey. Every spring, the “Carnival of Cultures” where people from many nations show off their traditional singing and dancing, attracts more than 500,000 people. A walk through the 12 boroughs gives the best impression of this multicultural city.
... a city of culture
Opera or avant-garde performance, antique sculpture or surrealist painting, tradition or innovation – Berlin has it all. At “Kulturforum” you can see masterworks of renaissance painting at the Art Gallery containing Nefertiti and the treasures of the Old National Gallery can be seen. The Jewish Museum in Kreuzberg gives an excellent impression of over 2000 years of Jewish life. The history of aircraft, ships and computers comes alive at the Museum of Technology. Several memorial sites are a reminder of darker periods in German history.
The young, innovative scene can be found in the boroughs of Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg and Kreuzberg. There are artists’ studios, galleries, fashion designers, dance, performance, literature and a huge number of clubs, bars and restaurants. There is no closing time.
When you tire of the city, take a boat trip, enjoy the parks or visit Charlottenburg palace or Sanssouci palace in Potsdam or discover the beautiful landscapes of Brandenburg.
... a city of science
There are 4 universities in Berlin: the Humboldt University, Free University, Technical University and University of the Arts, with more than 140,000 students. The medical research of the universities is concentrated at “Charité” hospital which has a great tradition. Besides the universities, there are many other research institutes and 2 technology parks.
For further information please visit www.berlin.de.
Visitors of Germany from non-EU countries need a valid passport. A list with regulations for the different countries is available at all German embassies. Citizens from a non-EU country who want to stay longer than 90 days in Germany need a special visa by the German consulates. They are difficult to obtain, normally these visas are only given to business travellers and students taking up scholarships.
Tourists, who want to combine their stay in Germany with the journey to another European country should inform themselves about visa regulations of the other countries.
Berlin is in the Central European time zone, which means 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Berlin also has summer time (MESZ), meaning that during spring and summer (from March 27 to October 30, 2011) the clocks are put forward 1 hour.
Currency, Banking and Bureaux de Change
In Germany, the official currency is the EURO. You can find some tools for converting different currencies at www.oanda.com.
Besides many bureaux de change, often located close to railway-stations and airports, banks can be found all over the city. Opening hours are consumer friendly, many banks are open until the evening on several days.
Outside opening hours, there are many cash dispensers ready to serve you. You need either an EC- card or a credit card.
Current credit cards are accepted in most hotels, restaurants and shops.
Cash dispensers are available 24 hours a day. The bank is accessible to disabled customers.
Value added tax (VAT) in the Federal Republic of Germany is 19 % (in some cases 7 %) on all products and services, already included in the price.
If you buy non-edible goods in Berlin, you are entitled to a VAT refund unless you are citizen of another EU country. If you enter a shop with a Tax-Free sign outside, ask for a special form. This form must be stamped when you go through Customs – but be prepared to show your goods, which must still be in their original packaging.
The tax is refunded either at the border, or sent to the address on the envelope containing a cheque.
Climate and Clothing
In April, Berlin may be experiencing its Spring time (around 12 degrees Celsius on average), with the nights quite a bit cooler. Please consider this when selecting clothing to bring.
Lost and Found
BVG lost and found office
Electrical sockets in Germany carry 220 V and comply with the standard continental type. Travel adaptors may be useful for electrical appliances of other standards.
We would like to recommend all participants/delegates to take out travel insurance for cancellation charges and loss of personal baggage.
Health insurance is just as important to cover medical expenses in the event of emergency/illness.
Citizens of the EU need a special form to cover medical treatment. Addresses for doctors and specialists can be found in the “Yellow Pages”.
In the event of sudden illness at night or on Sundays, there is an emergency call service.
There are public phone boxes on many street corners. There are different types of public phone boxes. The older ones are coin-operated with 20 cents as the minimum to make a call. Most public boxes require a telephone card sold at Post Offices, newspaper shops and Tourist Info Centres.
International phone calls can be made from all public telephone boxes.
Nearly all shops in the main shopping streets and centres are open from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 to 20:00. Other shops usually close at 18:00, but almost all are open during lunch-hours.
Tips in Bars and Restaurants
Since all taxes are included in the price quoted in the menus, you don’t have to pay any more than that. However, if you were pleased with the service, a tip of approx. 5–10% will be appreciated.