While Berlin is one of the safest big cities in the world and the vast majority of visitors have no issues, we have compiled some common sense advice, information about scams and other practical information to ensure your trip to Germany’s capital is hassle free.
Aside from the threat of pickpockets and other petty scammers in tourist areas, you probably won’t run into any serious problems while in Berlin. There aren’t any “no-go” areas and in general the city is very safe and hospitable to tourists. If you’re worried about being the victim of a crime in Berlin, don’t be. That being said, exercise common sense like you would when visiting any large city.
If you are sightseeing in Berlin, you will undoubtedly run into the clipboard beggars. They are often seen around Museum Island, Christmas markets and anywhere else where large numbers of visitors frequent.
A woman (in most cases) will approach you holding a clipboard and either ask if you speak English, or she will ask you to sign her petition that usually has a handicap symbol on it. Once you sign the paper and start to walk off, she will ask you to pay her money. If you read the fine print, it says that you will make a donation to her for 5,10,15,20 Euro. If you are approached by someone with a clipboard, just say no and walk away. If the petition is in English, it’s a clear sign that it’s a scam, after all, you’re in Germany, it should be in German!
These woman also often times carry a baby with them while begging for money. It isn’t their baby of course, the entire group of scammers share the baby to make more money.
If you get surrounded by more than one of these beggars, use extreme caution. Encircling a visitor may mean one of them is trying to pickpocket you. Hold on to your valuables and exit the situation.
As with any world city that is full of visitors, pickpockets are out there too and Berlin is no exception. Pickpockets often create distractions while their friends work diligently to separate valuables from visitors. We recommend that you wear a money belt or some type of neck pouch to prevent pickpockets. Be on guard for:
- Loud noises or other type of commotion (argument, fight, yelling, etc).
- Escalators that stop suddenly, this causes everyone to walk up the stairs, making it easier to pickpocket.
- Groups of beggars surrounding you and touching you.
Be extra vigilant in the subway system, this includes stairwells, escalators as well as inside the trains. Many tourists get valuables stolen when walking up the stairs. Thieves don’t just go for the back pockets, but also backpacks and purses.
Occasionally you will see people that hang out at public train stations trying to sell you a used ticket. Perhaps it still has a bit of validity to it or maybe it’s a fake ticket. Either way, don’t buy them. Buy your ticket directly from the machine and you will avoid getting fined for having an invalid ticket. Read more about Berlin’s public transportation system here.
There are two types of beggars that ride the public transportation system in Berlin.
- People that only beg for money.
- People that try to sell you something, such as a newspaper. These people will generally get on and start talking to the whole carriage about how they are selling the newspapers in order to have a bed at night, etc.
In the vast majority of cases, these people are harmless and simply need money. If you have the urge you can give a few coins to them as they are not scammers.
- If someone approaches you asking if you speak English, put your guard up.
- If someone asks if you want a picture of yourself taken with your camera, politely refuse. Often times that someone may just run away with your camera. If you would like someone to take a picture of you, it’s best that you approach someone that looks trustworthy.