Relocating to Berlin

Pros and cons lists compiled, niggling doubts dispensed with, initial research done, and maybe even a flight booked? Congrats! You’re moving to Berlin.

Of course, making the decision to move is only the very beginning; the actual physical act of relocating is little more complex. Yep, there’s a whole heap to organise before you can take that first sweet sip of freedom in your new home. Moving your life from one place to another isn’t exactly a walk in the park but just remember, once it’s all done you’re going to actually live in Berlin, one of the (if not the singular) coolest cities on the planet. Enough said, really.

Meet Planning and Preparation. They’re going to be your new best friends. Before you get into the nitty gritty of logistics, it’s best to assess your own needs and your abilities and limitations. The biggest decision will probably be whether you’re going to take on the task alone or hire a relocation company that will do most of the hard work for you. Some of the most important things to consider are:

  • Budget: This will more than likely determine which means of transport you use for your belongings, and whether or not you go it alone or hire help.
  • Timeframe: Can you afford to wait a few months for your belongings to arrive in Berlin? Or does it need to be there in a week?
  • How much stuff you need to move: Some methods of transport may suit what you want to send better than others, especially because costs vary among methods with some depending on size of what you’re transporting and some depending on weight.
  • Your availability: Do you have the time to dedicate not only to the physical packing, but also organising all the administrative side of the move? Again, this can be a huge factor in whether or not you take the task on yourself or hire a company.

Moving to Berlin — your transport options

Before making any decisions, it’s important to be informed on how the processes work and what each involves. Unfortunately it’s not just a matter of wrapping things in newspaper, sticking it in a box stamped with your new address and sending it on its merry way. Don’t worry though, we’ve got your back and will break down each method of transport for you.

Relocating to Berlin using a Shipping Company

Sending your belongings by shipping container is an easy enough and fairly cost-effective way to get your life’s possession from A to Berlin particularly if what you’re moving is big and from far away.

So first up, how much you are sending? If you have an entire house-worth of stuff then you can choose to have your own container. Costs are based on size, a 20- or 40-foot container, rather than weight. If you have less to send then you can also decide to have your things amalgamated with other smaller loads and therefore share the cost of one container.

The negative thing about sharing a container is that you will have to wait until it is filled before it’s shipped, meaning you might be waiting a while. Even if you have your own container, transit times are not particularly speedy and can vary greatly depending where you’re coming from. You might wait a few weeks or even a few months for your container to arrive.

As with most things, different companies have slightly different processes in terms of what they provide and rules that apply. Most offer a door-to-door service, but it’s important to look at a number of companies to compare not just prices but also what you need to do on your end. For example when it comes to packing, some offer a packing service at an additional cost, but some will not insure you unless they have packed your belongings themselves.

All in all, if you have more time than money and want to transport heavy belongings, this is going to be your best bet.

There are a number of sites that offer price comparison between various shipping companies. Most will ask you to fill out a form with your requirements and go from there. It’s a good option as it will allow you to get as wide a scope as possible and ensure you’re getting value for money. It’s also not a bad idea to read any customer reviews or feedback before making your final decision. Whilst every individual will have a different experience, you should at least be able to see if they are overwhelmingly negative.

A few examples of such comparison sites are:

Relocating to Berlin using Air Freight

If you want your things and you want them now, no matter the cost, then this is the transport method for you. Generally your belongings will arrive within a week. Great! Why bother with shipping? Whoa there, cowboy — be aware that you’ll pay for that speed. It’s considerably more expensive than shipping; costs go by weight, not size, and there can be additional handling fees and other charges.

The process is easy. Again, looking around for the best value is important, and make sure to clarify all costs, what’s included and what’s not. If you choose a door-to-door delivery then the company you choose will assess your belongings before providing a final price. You set a date for pick-up, receive tracking and flight information for your shipment, and hey presto!

Most companies will have a packing service available for an additional cost but you are normally allowed to pack your own things.

Relocating to Berlin by Road

If you’re moving from another country within Europe or one that’s relatively close then it’s also possible to go by road. Either rent a van or a lorry and drive yourself, or find a company that does the same. It’s normally inexpensive, fast and secure as you’ll know where your possessions are at all times.

Relocating to Berlin using a Relocation Company

Without a doubt the easiest, most hassle-free way to move your personal world to Berlin is to hire a relocation company. They take the administration and organisation out of your hands and a lot of the stress out of the move.

If you’re moving to Berlin for a job, your new employers may well provide you with a relocation agency to help your move go as smoothly as possible and make your transition to Berlin life easy.

If not then you’ll have to be ready to pay for it, and unfortunately they don’t come cheap.

The services they offer go way beyond co-ordinating the physical movement of your things. They can help with everything from visas, to your registration here in Berlin, finding somewhere to live and negotiating the contract, or even finding a kindergarten for your kids if needs be. You know all that German red tape we keep talking about? Well, they’ll cut right through it for you.

Because of this, you won’t find a direct price anywhere without first engaging with a company, telling them what you want and working out the details. They all claim to have “tailor-made” packages, with each unique offer suited to the individual’s needs, but it basically boils down to the fact that the more of those services you want to avail of, the more you’ll pay.

If you think you can’t afford it, sit down and calculate how much more expensive it actually is than organising shipping or air freight yourself, including any additional costs that might apply like insurance or customs charges. You might be surprised. And if you can afford it then why not take the stress-free route? If you don’t have time to take on the masses of administration and organising, this is a good shout.

When choosing a company it’s important to get quotes, if only loose ones, from a range of different providers. Come up with questions about the move that are important to you and compare each company’s answers. While there will always be at least one grumpy online hater, it’s a good idea to read user reviews if possible to see how previous customers found their experiences.

With that in mind, here are a few examples of the many relocation companies that are ready to make your Berlin-troduction a smooth, calm process:

German Customs and Importing Belongings

As long as what you’re bringing into Germany isn’t illegal, you should be okay. Most personal property, or “property moved in connection with a transfer of residence” as German Customs likes to call it, is allowed. They’ve really got a way with words, those German authorities.

There are conditions upon which the permission to bring your belongings into the country depend, but don’t worry — they’re nothing too out of the ordinary. They need to be for personal use only, and to have been in your possession for at least six months, and you need to have lived in your country of origin for at least 12 months.

Bringing your car to Berlin: If you want to bring your car from another EU country then it’s no problem. If you want to bring it from outside the EU however, you will be charged 10% turnover tax and 19% VAT. You can get around those charges if you can prove that you have given up residence in your previous non-EU country and are making a new one here, alongside proving that you’ve lived outside of Germany for 12 months.

Bringing your pet to Berlin: If you want to bring your pet into Germany it must be vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before your departure, and have all the paperwork to prove it. Your pet will need to be micro-chipped and have an EU pet passport.

There are also restrictions on certain plants and animal products, as well as a number of breeds of dogs considered ‘dangerous’.

All the information on what you can and can’t bring into Germany can be found on the German Customs website. We recommend double-checking on the site if you have doubts about anything you’re considering bringing. Getting in a muddle with the bureaucracy before you’ve even left the airport to breathe in the fresh air of a new start will not be the warm welcome you’d hoped for.

Relocating to Berlin – pack wisely

Leaving your home behind to start afresh in a city unknown can often be daunting, and it’s not uncommon to want to bring all the comforts of that previous home to your new one in the hope that it’ll feel just the same. But be practical. If you’re going to pay to transport things, across country or continent or ocean, make sure it’s worth it.

Of course things like sofas, wardrobes or dining table are important, but are they worth the transport costs? If they’re not family heirlooms would it be better to try to sell them and use the money to buy new furniture for your new home in your new country?

White goods like fridges and washing machines are heavy to transport and depending where you’re coming from may not be compatible in Germany. They may have different voltages and therefore won’t be suitable for use.

What we’re basically trying to say is that relocation is a big job, so there’s no need to make it bigger. Of course you may have a lot of great quality stuff that is worth making the move with, but you don’t want to find yourself weighed down with things you don’t need or can’t use. Take your time, assess everything individually, and don’t be afraid to pack light and start afresh.


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