I love to travel. One of the main perks of being a freelancer is the ability to pick up and explore at the drop of a hat. While traveling within the US is pretty easy logistically speaking, making the leap across the pond can feel incredibly overwhelming, (especially if you have never done it before.)
Below you’ll find a few of the problems I encountered when preparing for my trip to Berlin as well as how I managed to solve them:
After doing a bit of research online and having a discussion with my US phone carrier (Verizon) I determined that it would be more economical if I purchased a GSM SIM capable phone flat out and canceled by current phone plan (*please note that my contract was already up and that I was on a month to month plan. If you are locked into a contract, many plans will allow you to suspend service on your plan for a small fee until you return.)
Because I am still rocking a cracked iPhone 4, I purchased a refurbished iPhone 5c on eBay for $200 (*all iPhones 5 and up come equipped with SIM cards, iPhone 4's do not.) Once you get to where you are going, you can purchase a SIM card at a convenience store for relatively cheap, insert SIM into your phone, and just add money to it as necessary. Not only will you have a local number, but your rates will be much cheaper than if you were still paying for a US service plan and roaming internationally.
Make sure to take advantage of free WIFI wherever you go to keep your costs down and use apps such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger to "text".
Don’t underestimate the power of your current network. When I first decided I was going to Berlin, I started asking everyone I knew if they knew anyone over there that needed a flatmate. If they didn’t but they were familiar with the city, I asked if they had any suggestions of places to visit once I’m there.
As it turns out, people love recommending things and sharing stories of their travels. A sibling of a friend sent out a mass email to her friends and before I knew it I had received several offers for rooms. Luckily, I had done a bit of research prior to this and knew exactly what neighborhood I wanted to be in. I was able to narrow down who I wanted to stay with based on price and stumbling distance from Berghain (I kid, I kid.)
Now, if you have asked around and still haven’t had any luck, consider using Airbnb.com. It’s much safer than say Craigslist—and it is pretty flexible in terms of narrowing down location, price, and length of stay. Skip the hostels, especially if you are planning on staying more than a few days.
*image by Jason, Flickr
Even though Berlin is a melting pot of sorts (and English is commonly spoken), I don’t want to go over there without at least attempting to learn the language. I have decided that as soon as I land, I am going to enroll myself in to an intensive language immersion course. Not only will this be a great place to start making friends, but I’ll be able to communicate with my host family, potential German clients, my local CurryWurst provider, and the bouncer at Berghain in their native tongue.
Hopefully these tips help you feel more comfortable about making the big leap. Have any other tips? Make sure to leave them in the comments below.