I have fled my country and am new in Berlin

| Lesedauer: 9 Minuten
Refugees arriving in Berlin

Refugees arriving in Berlin

Foto: Patrick Pleul / dpa

You are new in the city and have thousands of questions. We will try here to give you some answers to the most important everyday problems.

I need an apartment

No one wants to live in emergency accommodation forever. There is also not enough space there, so the State of Berlin is looking for living space in private apartments. To do this, they have given the EJF Organisation the responsibility for organising private apartment accommodation. You should contact them if you are interested. You can also register on the internet portal Flüchtlinge Willkommen (Refugees Welcome), which arranges share accommodation.

You can find detailed information on finding an apartment here in English or Arabic.

I need to get from A to B

In Berlin, you can get around by bus, tram, city train or underground. If you haven’t been registered yet, the LAGeSo armband is valid as ticket. When you are registered, there is a special ticket you can use – information about this can be found here. This video shows how public transport works in Berlin and how you can get tickets.

Berlin is also a great city to get around by bicycle. Verein Rückenwind collects bicycles for refugees and repairs these together with you, so you get a free bicycle. If you’re interested, email them at

If you want travel to another city, you can do this with Deutsche Bahn (DB), or long-distance buses. You can see an English-language video guide on how to do this here.

I want to learn German

Unfortunately, you can only take part in a subsidised German course when you are a recognised refugee. However, until that happens, there are many voluntary offers provided by a number of initiatives and associations. The German Courses for All! network has a list of many courses on offer, also displayed on a map. The Deutsch für dich initiative also gives German courses in a bar in Neukölln, which you can take part in for a small tip.

You can also find a tandem partner who wants to learn your language, and will help you practise your German in exchange.

You can find the most important phrases in the Refugee Phrasebook. There are also lots of free online dictionaries, such as Lessan, for Arabic, or Glosbe for Kurdish or Pashto.

I want to work

This is not officially possible in the first three months. This English-language video explains how you can find work in Germany. The RefugeesWork website helps newcomers and locals to work together.

I want to open a bank account

In Germany, you can pay with cash everywhere. However, you will eventually need a bank account to pay for such things as rent. Although the rules on opening a bank account have been relaxed because of the large number of new arrivals, only a few banks open accounts for refugees. The Berliner Sparkasse is one of these banks and has opened two new branches specifically for this purpose. You can find more information about this here (also in Arabic).

I need Internet access

Internet access is important, as it is often the only way to get in contact with people you know in your home country. In Berlin there are free hotspots in cafes, in public spaces and in libraries. You can see a list of these hotspots here. You can see more free networks of the Freifunk initiative here as a map.

And here is an English-language video guide for how to use your smartphone to access the Internet.

I need legal advice

Lawyers can be expensive, so some lawyers offer free legal advice on the phone.

As in many cities, law students in Berlin also offer free legal advice as part of a Refugee Law Clinic.

The interactive Arriving in Berlin map shows Arabic and Farsi speaking lawyers who are specialised in asylum rights.

I need medical treatment

If you are in pain, are pregnant, or have acute health problems, you have the right to medical treatment, regardless of your status in Germany. For this treatment, contact the responsible authorities.

Medibüro also arranges unbureaucratic appointments with doctors. You can find more information about the medical treatment of people without residency here.

The interactive Arriving in Berlin also shows Arabic and Farsi speaking doctors (including gynaecologists).

The Xenion centre provides psychotherapeutic counselling and treatment for the politically persecuted.

I want to enrol my child in school

Attending school is compulsory in Germany, and your child will definitely benefit from attending school. At school they learn German and can make friends. You can find out how to enrol your child in school in an English-language video here.

Many volunteers, such as those from Caritas, can help with homework.

Small children can visit a kindergarten. The city of Berlin has compiled information regarding this in many languages in a flyer.

I want to arrange for my family to come here

Unfortunately, this can only happen when you have a residence permit. You can find information about this at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge – BAMF).

If you have family members who are abroad, you can try to find them with the help of Refunite.

I want to go to university

This is also only possible when you have a residence permit. There are however other alternatives you can take advantage of in the meantime: for example, at Humboldt University you can register as a guest student and attend lectures you are interested in. You don’t have to pay for this, but you are not officially considered a student. The Technical University Berlin offers a similar program where you can even take some exams. The Kiron online university provides free courses which you can take part in regardless of your asylum status – the first two years are online and the third at a partner institution.

I want to play sport

There are almost 2,500 sport clubs in Berlin, and some of these already cooperate with emergency accommodation centres. Current promotional programs support a number of associations that offer programs especially for refugees (where the fees are sometimes reduced). It’s worth taking a look – there’s also the Champions ohne Grenzen for football and One World Basketball for basketball.

To meet uncomplicated people to jog, play football or other sport with, or if you want to know where existing groups meet, take a look at Kiezsport030.

I want to do something in my free time

You probably have more free time than you want while you are waiting. There are however lots of things to do in Berlin. The Gratis in Berlin internet portal has daily lists of events and courses which you can take part in for free. The libraries in Berlin are also free to use. At midday and shortly before midnight every week day Refugee Radio broadcasts on 96.3 Mhz.

I want to meet some friendly Berliners

The initiative Start with a Friend initiative arranges uncomplicated contact with locals and helps you meet new people who are happy to show you their city, help you with bureaucracy and do things with you together.

The Über den Tellerrand kochen association organises cooking courses and communal dinners where refugees from all around the world can show the participants how food from their home country is prepared.

I want to buy something but don’t have the money

The emergency accommodation centres often don’t have what you need at the moment. In Berlin there are special stores (Sozialkaufhäuser) where clothes, items for babies, CDs, appliances etc., can be bought very cheaply. You can view a list of these stores here.


Five different rubbish bins, standing on the right of the escalator and paying deposits on bottles? Like every country, Germany has its peculiarities. You can find a clear introduction to practical life in Germany in the Refugee Guide – created by refugees and endorsed by the ProAsyl association.