3 Days in Berlin for £300 #CheapflightsChallenge

£150 a head, I pondered. Even my primitive mental arithmetic skills had allowed me to slice 300 in half with refined precision. I reflected on how far this could carry me in my own city, with its rocketing cost of living. I reflected on my city, which visitors from around the globe repeatedly denounce as inordinately expensive. My London-savvy brain rattled off a list with the chaos and velocity of jelly beans from a sweet dispenser:

  • A meal at a swish restaurant, complete with fanciful amuse bouches and dainty petits fours.
  • A pair of boots from the high street (or an empty cardboard shoe box from Russell and Bromley.)
  • A hair cut, colour and blow dry.
  • Two well-located theatre tickets.

Such funds could whittle down into an emaciated mess within a matter of hours in London so surely the proposed task was impossible?

German Parliament
The German Parliament Building

My index finger hovered tentatively over the mouse as I re-read the email, the uncertainty of my decision-making reflected in its feeble, wavering movements. The idea of accepting the challenge and failing with a wide berth filled me with a premature sense of shame, yet giving up without trying was more unpalatable still.

Berlin street art paintings

I looked back on the diversity with which I travel, exploring everywhere from Argentina’s glaciers to wacky museums in Budapest. I remembered how I loved the cosy Pisa B&B and the luxurious Bali hotel villa in equal measure and took pride in the fact that I thrive on playing around with budgets and accommodation types in order to get the most for my money.

Berlin city break

I wasn’t raised to shy away from a challenge, let alone one that was focused around finding value for money, something my parents always taught us so well and thus, with a confident “count me in”, I accepted, determined to pull this off with aplomb.

Bundestag Reichstag Building Berlin

The Cheapflights Challenge

My Cheapflights Challenge was to use a little pouch of dough (£300 to be precise) to plan a fabulous 2 night getaway for two adults to Berlin. Within that budget, I had to include flights, accommodation, activities and spending money. “You will never be able to do that” I kept hearing from those around  me.

I sang from the same pessimistic hymn sheet.

I would soon learn, however, that you do not necessarily know what is achievable until you try it.

bear monuments Berlin
Bet you didn’t know you can find bears in Berlin

To kick off the #CheapflightsChallenge, I booked my flights and accommodation through Cheapflights (go figure!) but this proved completely instinctive to us, since we always fly using flight search sites like this to seek out the best deals. You do not need to play the air miles/credit card game to fly all over the world. We have never bought into that scene and yet, by using sites like this and being savvy with our planning, we have still managed to explore over 90 countries between us!

Berlin street art photos

It is staggering just how cheap some cheap flights are: our Berlin flights were only £45 return, departing on a weekend and allowing us 3 full days in the city! It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that as an avid travel writer,  I am partial to travelling but a flight to Berlin for less than the cost of a pedicure in London?! I know which one I would prefer any day.

Victoria Park Berlin

I still had the rest of the trip to book, however, so my biceps were a way off from raising the Cheapflights Challenge trophy (a metaphorical trophy by the way). I don’t want you to take my word for it though, when I tell you that a break at this price is doable. Instead, I am going to run you through a step by step guide about how I kept my costs within budget, yet still had a seriously fun and even more affordable break!

cheap Europe city breaks

Booking Flights

If you’re old hat with booking flights, then you will already be familiar with the fact that sites like Cheapflights allow users to filter searches by preferred times of arrival/departure and by airport. Luckily for this challenge, my results came up ranked in price order, which helped  me choose the best value option. We searched for flights from Stansted Airport, as we always tend to do where possible, since this is one of the closest airports for us to reach from home (critical business when we’re talking about 6am flights!)

Plus, this is a main hub for many of the low cost airlines and I, personally, am totally fine with sitting in a squishy seat for a couple of hours if it means I get to see more of the world.

travel blogger travel tips

Opt for the crazy early morning flights and late returns, as these give you up to one additional day at your destination and are often the cheapest fares. Yes, it results in an ugly looking alarm clock but I am not a morning person and even I will rise for this perk.

Berlin riverside view

Hand Luggage Only

Many low-cost airlines charge for checked baggage so if you’re only travelling for 3 nights, consider packing light to avoid an unnecessary fare. Berlin was the first time we had gone abroad together without checked bags and in truth, it was rather liberating and made me realise how many excess material items I am prone to packing. It turns out, there is a clear distinction between what we need to pack for a trip and what we think we need! Auf Wiedersehen hair straighteners and bye-bye gazillion shades of eye shadow – I abandoned you in London for the whole weekend and I felt all the more carefree for it.

Postdamer Platz,Berlin
Postdamer Platz,Berlin

Hotels and Accommodation

Wanderlusters, don’t let anyone tell you that you need to splash big cash to find stylish, charming accommodation. My travel back catalogue includes an utter dive of a hotel in Bangkok, sheer luxury in the Seychelles and everything in between. I’ve sampled a wide spectrum of hotels and star ratings so I can say with conviction that the quality of the accommodation experience is not proportional and sometimes, not even related to star rating and cost.

boutique hotels Berlin
Moxy Hotel, Berlin

One of my favorite ever stays, for example, was my first Air B&B in Hvar, which left a far longer lasting impression than many 5 star hotels I have been to due to the sheer warmth and sincerity of its host.

Remember also that there is more to the search than hotels. Guest houses, B&Bs and apartments are often worth considering for city breaks and can offer more comfortable, cost-effective and homely alternatives.

Charlottenburg Palace Berlin

Location in the City

Many sources quoted Mitte as the best area to stay in for tourists in Berlin, as one of the main, well-connected hubs of the city and within walking distance to many sites. Inevitably though, where tourists flock, elevated restaurant and hotel prices follow. 3 Euros for a bottle of water? No, thank you.

I soon realised I wouldn’t get much for my money in Mitte and decided to think laterally – literally! Berlin is a city where easy access to public transport makes life as a tourist quite easy so we ended up choosing a hotel right opposite Ostbahnhof station in the Eastern part of the city.

Moxy Hotel Ostbahnhof
Moxy Hotel Ostbahnhof

Our choice was heavily influenced by all the rave reviews we read, particularly given its friendly price tag. Once you have narrowed down a list of accommodation choices, it is worth investing some time into reading reviews from different sources, which is something I recommend regardless of the grade of accommodation and which paid off in leaps and bounds on this trip.

Welcome to Berlin

If prices seem too good to be true, double check for a hidden catch – unsafe neighbourhoods, miles away from a train station or horrendous service. And sometimes, there is no catch – it just means your hours of research have paid off and you’ve found yourself an absolute steal of a hidden gem, which was exactly what happened with Moxy Berllin Ostbahnhof. A hotel review was not a part of this challenge but I was so impressed with this beautiful box of affordable boutique chic that I will do a full post on Moxy soon to show you just how much value it offers!

East Side Gallery Berlin
East Side Gallery, Berlin

Travel and Transport

Unlike our usual ad hoc hopscotch around cities, for Berlin, we already had a plan for what we wanted to see each day. We calculated that if we were doing any more than 2 or 3 individual underground journeys, it would be most cost effective to buy a day pass. Map out a rough itinerary before you start your day so that you can pre-plan which train tickets you will need. In Berlin, the cost of the day pass varied between 7-8 Euros.

Reichstag Dome Berlin

On airport days , you need a Zone A, B & C ticket, whereas for most sightseeing, a Zone A & B pass usually suffices and since airport taxi transfers are hardly the most rivetting way to blow a budget, we hopped on the train into the city instead to spend our pennies on something more memorable!

Bandenburg Gate Berlin at night

Activities in Berlin

With just under a third of our budget spent on flights and just over a third on accommodation, we still had some spare change left for exploring and it would emerge that the quest for free and cheap activities in Berlin yields a far more fruitful crop than one could have imagined.

Bearpit Karaoke Berlin
Sundays in Mauerpark

My original intention had  been to encapsulate our fun, free Berlin shenanigans into this post , assuming there would only be a couple of things to cite. Boy did Berlin put me in my place on that front with a portfolio of wallet-friendly energy that is lengthy enough to fill a thesis!

I will write a full guide on my free Berlin adventures soon but to give you some hints, we were spoiled for choice, flitting between renowned photogenic monuments, bustling craft and food markets and ambling through idyllic residential squares, which boast the balconies of the elite (much too costly for the average Joe to purchase but much too tempting for the average Instagrammer to ignore.)

beautiful neighbourhoods Berlin

By day, I revised high school history at some of the free museums in the city and lamented our lack of creativity when faced with thought-provoking street-art murals. By night however, our calves, robbed of their might, sought solace in Berlin’s inviting and remedial, open spaces, where we recuperated in the company of young street musicians, who vied for our attention with melodic renditions of timeless ballads.

“Hey now, hey now, don’t dream it’s over”, sang one such passionate dreamer, the innocence in his tone of voice enhancing the poignant truth of the lyrics he delivered.

Charlottenburg Palace Gardens

Food Finds in Berlin

It has always been my preference, when I travel, to hunt out authentic eats rather than fine dining (you may recall my guides to street eats in Riofoodie finds in Havana and  must try Japanese dishes) but if we were going to adhere to our budget, I honestly suspected we would go to bed hungry each night nevermind enjoy any of our meals.

local honey Berlin mauerpark

What this challenge inadvertently made us do though, was to reflect on how we eat when we travel. When I am abroad, I can easily get through 2 rounds of a hotel breakfast buffet (compared to one banana at home), a 2 course lunch (compared to my usual bowl of soup or salad) and a 3 course meal to end the day (compared to a freshly-prepared one plate dish). Yes, it is a holiday and on holiday, one indulges – but to what extent?

matcha ice cream Berlin
Finding Matcha Ice Cream (wherever I go in the world!)

For me, greed has a tendency to rear its ugly head when I travel. I can pile on weight and whilst I am all for foodie exploration, I am not convinced that it needs to come from 3 course meals, 3 times a day, every day of every trip (especially considering we made it to 9 countries last year – sorry for forgetting you in my round up, Montenegro!)

In Berlin, we grabbed croissants for breakfast (the chocolate, hazelnut praline ones we spotted around the city were good enough to travel back for!) For less than 2 Euros each, we were full till lunchtime and yet, we were still indulging in a treat compared to our home routines. Simples.

Curry 36 Currywurst Berlin
German Currywurst

Lunches and dinners were a mix of styles and meals. One day, we stood in line at Curry 36, sandwiched amongst hungry locals, awaiting our portion of authentic German cuisine – Currywurst and chips. I find it odd how I proposed this idea, since I don’t even really like it but when in Germany right?!

On other days, we ditched sausages for chicken kebabs – yes, Turkish kebabs and yes, there was a method to our madness. Many people had told us that kebabs are a must-try in Berlin, due to the large Turkish community that have settled their roots in the city.

Dada Felafel Berlin

Whilst Pumpkin (and around a hundred other tourists) waited patiently in the queue for Mustafa’s Gemuese Kebap, I put my hunger pangs on standby until we arrived at Dada Felafel , rumoured to serve up some of the best versions of this veggie staple in the city. 6 Euros later, I was sorted for the night with my fill of giant felafel, salad, bread and dips and of course, no Turkish or Middle Eastern food experience is complete without a baklava.

Habibi Baklava Berlin Mauerpark

It wasn’t all fast food though and just as Berlin has a large Turkish community, so too is it home to a vibrant Vietnamese one. On our first night, we indulged in a scrumptious, sit-down dinner at Madami – Mom’s Vietnamese Kitchen, one of the best Vietnamese restaurants I have ever been to, where portions were enormous and extremely affordable. Anyone else care for a crispy fried salmon bao burger?

Madami Mom's Vietnamese Restaurant Berlin
Crispy Salmon Bao Burger

Final Thoughts on my Cheapflights Challenge

Whether you travel on a shoestring budget or you prefer uber-luxury, I have always hoped that  somewhere in the nooks and crannies here on Why Waste Annual Leave, you will find some travel inspiration that suits your budget.

For me, the passion has always been to share my stories & hopefully, inspire you to reach out to those destinations, whether that is in a caravan or a rooftop penthouse suite! It is the same world we are all exploring.

I never would have anticipated I would be able to have a 3 day holiday in Berlin (or anywhere) for around £150 per head, especially with my own choice of airline and accommodation. Whilst you will note from my price breakdown below that we just went over our limit by about £14, we still felt a huge sense of accomplishment about managing to plan such a fun adventure abroad on such a small budget and although our brief was only a 2 night city break, our choice of flights meant that we were rewarded with 3 full days in the city and we were delighted that we were able to make the funds last that long.

Berlin Bundestag light show
Evenings in Berlin

Hopefully, our challenge may bust some myths about how much holidays actually cost and/or may even encourage you to set yourselves your own challenge to embark on an adventure-filled European city break without breaking the bank!

Cost Breakdown

  • Flights: £91.28
  • Accommodation for 2 nights: £117.60
  • City Tax:  £5.88
  • Transport: £38.73
  • Meals: £60.57
  • Activities, Tours & Sights: ZERO!!

Total Expenses: £314.06

Additional Optional Expenses

  • Souvenir Chocolates: £10.61
  • Optional Tips:  £8.81

Have you ever travelled to Berlin? What did you think of the city?

Many thanks to Cheapflights.co.uk for hosting us on this exciting Berlin adventure.

 

42 thoughts on “3 Days in Berlin for £300 #CheapflightsChallenge

  1. wow thats an amazing job. who actually set you the challenge? and next challenge – you have 300 pounds and your destination is Australia!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 17, 2017 — 10:56 am

      Haha, if only Andy! I’d have made it down to Oz a dozen times over if there was even a chance I could do it in that budget!! The challenge was set by cheapflights.co.uk – a few other bloggers were sent to different European cities & I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to enjoy the city & the trip within this budget but just goes to show, bit of research & effort & it’s amazing how far your money can go!

  2. Awesome post! If you’re going to do it anywhere in Europe, Berlin is the place… it’s soo cheap. I fondly remember the 4am doner kebab I had for 3 Euro… it might have been the alcohol, but think it’s the best one I’ve ever had.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 17, 2017 — 11:04 am

      Hahaha, we’ve all had 4 am cheap & fast food back in the day haven’t we?! Mine used to be 4am Chinese food in Leicester square when I was at uni! You’re right though that Berlin is such a great city in terms of getting value for money & I was so impressed with how well you can eat there without any splurging! Thanks so much for reading!

  3. Love Berlin! Did you have a chance to sample the Pommes Frites at the Doner stands? They were a staple of my diet when I lived in Austria. Hahah.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 17, 2017 — 11:06 am

      Oh no!! We didn’t try that Jenn & now seriously feeling like I might have missed out! We tried the frites at the curry wurst stand, which were pretty good – not sure if the donner ones were better though?! I’ll definitely have to remember to try them next time though!

  4. Yay it is possible! Berlin was a cool choice, fab city!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 17, 2017 — 11:07 am

      Hehe, thanks Becky!! Yes I really wasn’t sure it would be so was thrilled we managed – just about anyway!😃 It really wasn’t a city I had previously had high on my radar but I now realise what a mistake that was as it’s a great city!

  5. Such an awesome challenge to set yourself Shikha and well done on achieving it!!! Sounds like you guys had the best even on a budget 😀

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 17, 2017 — 11:10 am

      Haha, well it was actually Cheapflights.co.uk who set me the challenge & I personally would never have imagined it would be enough to make a fabulous break abroad with but guess I was wrong huh?! We had such fun & it was all the more rewarding to know how little we had to spend to achieve that!

  6. Shikha, I love this post for so many reasons! First of all, KUDOS for you to successfully completing the challenge – you show everybody how travel can be enjoyable AND affordable at the same time. In addition, you advocate that travel doesn’t have to be all about luxury to “count”. You can equally enjoy your destination whether you stay at a hostel or a uber-luxurious hotel, eat a 3-star restaurant or out of a food truck. It’s all about collecting experiences and making memories! THank you for the inspiration! ❤

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 17, 2017 — 11:13 am

      Thank YOU Nano for this wonderful comment as you have absolutely 100% summarised the ethos with which I think about travelling & that I wanted to get across with this challenge so it really means a lot that you were able to see that! 🙂🙂 I am all about collecting those magical moments & memories & both embracing & respecting the individual ways that different people do that!

  7. This is such a great challenge and sounds like you fitted so much in! I think sometimes its easy to forget how much free stuff goes on in cities too, so it’s good to do something like this that makes you seek it out. I love Berlin, it’s such an amazing city!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 17, 2017 — 11:16 am

      Absolutely Emily! There’s been so many times in the past where I’ve gone on and on about how much free stuff there is to see and do in London to other visitors coming here & promised them that they don’t have to spend lots to have a good time here & yet, when I travel, I never even look to think about it from that angle. Berlin was so full of really wallet friendly activities – so many in fact that we ran out of time! I loved the liberal & friendly feel of the place!

  8. well done! I usually only get cheap flights like this:)

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 17, 2017 — 11:23 am

      Yep ditto Tanja! I’m pretty sure they must be starting to recognise me on easyjet & ryanair now!

  9. THAT’S AN AWESOME CHALLENGE, and well done you for nailing it!
    Speaking of nails – screw the pedicure, I’d gladly travel all the way for £45! LOL.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 17, 2017 — 11:25 am

      Haha, you’re a girl after my own heart Honey! Global adventure over nail polish any day right?! 🙂 My hubby was teasing me that if it wasn’t for my sweet tooth ie the baklava, ice cream etc, we totally would have managed to keep it just under £300 as well rather than just over!😂

  10. I loved your instastory on this Shikha, what a great little challenge. £45 for a flight is so incredible

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 17, 2017 — 11:27 am

      Isn’t it just Zoe?! That would barely buy us a high street pair of sandals here in London! Thank you for following along my adventures on Insta!😊

  11. Beautiful Post Shikha. I would love to get connected to you https://valoniapiresblog.wordpress.com

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 17, 2017 — 11:27 am

      Thank you!

  12. Miriam @londonkitchendiaries July 13, 2017 — 12:31 pm

    Amazing what you managed to include for only £300! I have been to Berlin twice – lovely city and so much to see and do! Have a lovely weekend

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 17, 2017 — 11:28 am

      Thanks Miriam! Definitely took a fair bit of planning & research but I was glad to be able to prove how much we can all see & do even on little budgets ☺

  13. What a great challenge and well done for completing it!! It shows you can still have an amazing holiday without breaking the bank, you just have to do a little research and think outside the box a little. I love Berlin – such a great city!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 17, 2017 — 11:30 am

      Thank you Vicky! In my heart of hearts, I didn’t think we’d be able to but I really wanted to prove it was possible & I’m thrilled that it actually worked out to be without us even feeling like we missed out in any way! Iwas also really surprised at how much I liked Berlin – I’d of previously had no idea how much there is to do there & how open & interesting a city it is!

  14. You can still travel these days without it costing a fortune. The flights and accommodation need to be nailed in the planning stages and you got it spot on. No matter the destination or cost I really believe you get out what you put in.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 17, 2017 — 11:34 am

      I think you’re absolutely spot on Suzanne! I think, because I often end up booking things at short notice, I sometimes only end up having the opportunity to plan and research things in a more rushed or superficial way but this challenge definitely showed me just how far your money can go with a bit of effort, in allowing you to truly enjoy the whole package of a travel experience even at very minimal cost!

  15. What a great post! I think planning ahead before any trip really can save you time and money. I have visited Berlin once and really enjoyed it, this is a post to have to hand when I next plan on a visit!

    Laura xo
    http://www.shehearts.net

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 26, 2017 — 6:30 pm

      Thanks so much Laura! Glad you found it useful – I never imagined I’d end up loving Berlin as much as I did my what a fabulous city it turned out to be!

  16. Berlin seems like an awesome travel destination, Shikha! Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 26, 2017 — 6:31 pm

      It was such good fun Agness – I think you guys went there recently too right?

  17. I am SO impressed you managed to do this, Shikha! And it’s actually inspired me to start doing my research into trips a little more. Ian and I were actually looking at Berlin, so it’s reassuring you can do it for so cheap – and you managed to fit so much into those 3 days, which is awesome!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 26, 2017 — 6:57 pm

      Thanks so much Em! I honestly didn’t think I’d even get through a day on that budget so it was really fun looking at all the fun ways we could make it last! Such a great city whatever the budget & we actually managed to see & do so much that I have a whole other post coming up soon all about all the activities & sites we managed to see even in that budget!☺

  18. This sounds like such a great challenge and I would have thought a really difficult one too. I hear Berlin is a lovely city so it’s good to know that it can be done so cheaply. Also, additional optional expenses…souvenir chocolates?! Only you Shikha!!! 😂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 16, 2017 — 8:24 pm

      Haha, trust me, if you’d have seen how enormous the shop was & how much choice they had, you’d have totally forked out for the chocolates too Ayla! Yeh, I loved challenge & how it proved it’s totally possible have a fun, jampacked holiday & eat tasty food without needing to spend loads so was determined to try and stick to it as best I could!

  19. Wow, seems like you really experienced the city to its full! The images really make me want to go back and take more photos and explore!
    https://philippascholz.wordpress.com/2017/08/21/berlin-then-and-now/

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) September 10, 2017 — 11:44 pm

      Thanks so much Philippa! We definitely tried to make the most out of our time there & totally loved the city! Would love to return another time though & perhaps do it at a slightly slower pace though!😀

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