Prior to World War II, estimates of Berlin's population reached more than 4 million. After the war and the split into East and West sectors, Berlin's collective population experienced steady decline until the 1990 reunification. Today, Berlin is an economic powerhouse and one of Europe's largest cities - heimatstadt to some 3.6 million people (over a tenth of them foreign-born). Berliners pay 19% sales tax at restaurants and on all purchases save books and food, which are taxed at 7%. Smoking Ban in Germany: As of January 1, 2008, Germany has banned smoking in public places - cafes, bars, restaurants and nightclubs - in Berlin and 11 other German states. Fines reach €100 for violating this ban, and proprietors face fines up to €1000. Inner City Environmental Zone Driving Permit: If you plan on driving your car to Berlin, you'll need to get its level of emissions checked. In a bid to keep polluting rust-buckets out of the city centre, all cars driving in Berlin now require a special permit with a pollution rating. If you don't have a permit you could be fined €40; if you're German, you will also be docked 1 point from your driving license. Permit stickers cost €5 and you can pick one up at authorised garages. Other cities across Germany will follow very soon, so make sure you check the website for more detailed information. www.berlin.de/umweltzone
Berlin's three major portals are Berlin-Tegel (TXL), Berlin-Schönefeld (SXF), and Berlin-Tempelhof (THF), all of which handle large numbers of domestic and international flights. Of the three, Berlin-Tegel, known as Otto Lilienthal, services most Western European destinations. JetExpressBus TXL (€3) makes regular 28- to 40-minute runs between Tegel and Potsdamer Platz, Friedrichstrasse, and Unter den Linden. A taxi from Tegel to the downtown area runs between €15-20. The city's main stations for western and northern rail arrivals and departures are Friedrichstrasse and Zoologiischer Garten; for southern and eastern departures, Hauptbahnhof or Lichtenberg. Deutsche Bahn and its InterCity (IC) and EuroCity (EC) services offer quick, efficient, and affordable alternatives to air travel.
Berlin employs an ultra-modern mass transit system in this case, an integrated network of light-rail trains (S-Bahn), subway lines (U-Bahn), buses and trams. Run by the BVG (www.bvg.de), the system operates from 4:30am to 12:30am daily; later on weekends. Tickets may be purchased from bus drivers, on trams or at vending machines in any U- or S-Bahn station. And don't forget to validate your ticket. Single-ride fares valid for 2 hours (in one direction) on bus, train and tram: Zones AB €2.10, Zones BC €2.50, Zones ABC €2.80. Day Pass unlimited travel until 3:00am Zones AB €6.10, Zones BC €6.30, Zones ABC €6.50. Wise alternatives for multiple-day stays are the 48-hour Welcome Card (Zones AB) for €16.90 or the 72-hour Welcome Card (Zones AB) for €22.90. The Welcome Card also gives you discounts on museums and cultural venues. If you're staying longer, check out the 7-day ticket, which costs €26.20 for Zones AB, Zones BC €27.00 and €32.30 for Zones ABC. Another option for travelling around Berlin proper is via taxi €3 base rates, and large items of luggage may incur an extra €1 per piece. Taxi 'call columns' are placed throughout the city. More unique are student-operated Velotaxis, or rickshaws. Rates for these begin at around €5 for the first kilometer, and €2 for every kilometer after that.
The primary print sources for local, national and international news are the Berliner Zeitung, Tagesspiegel, and Berliner Morgenpost. The Ex-Berliner is a monthly English-language magazine that provides culture and entertainment news. Meanwhile Zitty and Tip provide comprehensive fortnightly guides about everything that's going on in the city from theatre, film and live bands, to art exhibitions, cinema listings and kid-friendly events. http://www.berliner-zeitung.de http://www.tagesspiegel.de http://www.morgenpost.de http://www.exberliner.com http://www.zitty.de http://www.berlinonline.de/tip/
Conventions & Tourism
For additional information about what's currently going on or for help getting acclimated to Berlin, the Tourismus Marketing GmbH (www.btm.de) is a great place to start. Their multilingual staff can help you out with places to go and things to see; just drop in to one of their Berlin infostores: Berlin Hauptbahnhof ground floor / entrance Europa Platz Phone: 030-25-00-25 Daily 8am10pm ALEXA Shopping Center near Alexanderplatz Grunerstraße 20 / Ground floor Mon-Sat 10am-8pm
In most cafés and restaurants, a 10% bedienung (service charge) is factored into your bill if a waitress or waiter serves you; additional tipping is optional, but common courtesy dictates rounding to the highest euro or even the next five euros. In hotels, tip porters one to two euros per bag and chambermaids the same per day of service. It's usual to tip lavatory attendants fifty cents.