Everyday life: Practical tips and cost-free services

Alltag in Berlin

This practical information will enable you to manage better in German everyday life. Many institutions in Berlin offer cost-free services for refugees from Ukraine.

Tips for everyday life

German SIM cards: cost-free services and conditions

SIM cards are not expensive in Germany and you do not need a contract when buying them. However, to buy a SIM card in a shop or activate it online, you have to show an identity document – e.g. your passport. That is obligatory in Germany.

Some providers such as Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone are offering refugees SIM cards free of charge. With most of them, you use your phone and mobile data without limit within the EU and in Ukraine. In some cases, free SIM cards are distributed in trains and arrival centres. You can also obtain SIM cards in the shops of the providers. Many are offering free calls and text messages to Ukraine. Data roaming in Ukraine is also cost-free in many cases.

Opening an account in Germany

You can open what is called a “basic account” in most banks. This enables you to deposit and withdraw money, make bank transfers, arrange direct debit mandates and set up standing orders. The charges for a basic account vary, depending on the bank. To open an account you only need proof of identity – e.g. your passport. If you want to open a regular giro account you will need more documents, depending on the bank. Please note that it is only possible to deposit a maximum of 10,000 hryvnias into German accounts. Certain requirements must be met (see section “Changing money”).

Changing money

It is currently possible to exchange hryvnia into euros to a limited extent. In principle, a maximum of 10,000 hryvnias can be exchanged per person. The following conditions apply:

  • You can exchange 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 hryvnia notes. Coin money and smaller notes are not exchanged.
  • You can exchange 10,000 hryvnias at once or in several instalments.
  • You need to have an account at the bank where you are going to make the exchange. Cash exchange is not possible, the corresponding amount will be transferred to your account.
  • Your identity will be verified and the information will be passed on to the European Central Bank.

The exchange of hryvnia is initially only possible until 24 August. At the moment you have to expect waiting times.

The Ukrainian Central Bank continues to recommend to all people who are fleeing or have already fled Ukraine that they do not withdraw hryvnia to get cash but, if possible, leave it in their account and make cashless payments when in other countries. That, however, is only possible with international money cards such as credit cards. Sometimes Ukrainian refugees in Germany and other EU countries can withdraw cash from automated teller machines (ATMs) with an international money card. But frequently this creates problems.

Learning German

The Goethe-Institute offers online German courses at a special price to Ukrainian citizens who have fled their home country because of the war. The courses “German for Beginners” (A1-A2) are offered for 7 Hryvnia, i.e. EUR 0.25. The courses are currently fully booked. The Goethe Institute is also offering the course “Online Training: First Steps in German” until the end of May for 33 Hrywnja, (one euro). The course takes place without a teacher and is aimed at people with no previous knowledge of the German language. In addition, the Goethe Institute provides a variety of exercises for self-learning at www.goethe.de. However, this requires a basic knowledge of German.

The adult education centers (Volkshochschulen) in Berlin also offer numerous language courses for refugees and other foreigners. The courses offered by the adult education centers are generally very reasonably priced. Some courses are completely free of charge.

Support in everyday life: Tandem projects and counseling services

In tandem projects, people with and without a background of immigration meet as partners. The tandem partnerships support refugees in their everyday lives – whether through helping with visits to government authorities, joint leisure activities or simply through having regular contact.

You can apply for a tandem partner to the following projects. Please note that there is usually only a limited number of tandems available:

The “Café Ukraine” program of the Berlin City Mission takes place at several locations in Berlin where refugees can exchange information, meet people from Berlin and get advice on legal issues.

An overview of the organisations that offer counseling services for refugees can be found at adressen.asyl.net. You can find further offers on the special pages of the district in which you currently live. You can get advice online at www.mbeon.de.

Driving with a Ukrainian driving licence

For the present, you can continue to drive with your valid driving licence in Germany. If you have an international driving licence you do not need to have it translated. With national licences you need to keep a translation showing the classification with you. You can obtain this from the ADAC, among others.

Please note: You Ukrainian driving licence will only be valid for six months after you have registered your place of residence in Germany. After that it will need to be converted into a German one. For this to happen, you will generally have to pass both a theoretical and practical examination.

Finding lost documents and objects

If you have lost your documents, wallet or other items in Berlin, you can contact the city’s lost property offices. You can contact Berlin’s Central Lost and Found Office by e-mail at fundbuero@ba-ts.berlin.de or by phone at 030 90277 3101 (Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 am to 2 pm). If you lose something on public transport, you can contact the joint lost property office of the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe and S-Bahn Berlin.

The following resources contain a lot of information about everyday life in Germany:

Cost-free activities for war refugees

Lesen in der Bibliothek

Library card

Berlin Public Libraries offer refugees a free library card for initially three months. With it you can enter over 60 libraries in Berlin and borrow up to 10 books at a time. Library card

Schloss Charlottenburg

Admission to palaces and gardens

The Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin Brandenburg (SPSG) is offering you free visits to over 30 palaces and parks in Berlin, Potsdam and Brandenburg. Many are ideal destinations for family days out. Show your Ukrainian passport or residence permit to gain entry. Admission to palaces and gardens

Kostenlose Bahnfahrten

Rail travel in Germany

To enter Germany using Deutsche Bahn (DB) (German Rail), all you need is your Ukrainian passport or a Ukrainian identity document. For further journeys inside Germany, you can get free “helpukraine” tickets at DB Travel Centres. Rail travel in Germany

Nofretete

Entry to Berlin museums

Refugees from Ukraine and asylum seekers can visit over 20 museums belonging to Berlin State Museums. You just need to show your Ukrainian passport or your Ukrainian residence permit. The simplified ID card procedure also applies to asylum seekers from other countries. Entry to Berlin museums

Sandmännchen

Children’s classics in Ukrainian

The ARD Mediathek (TV video library) contains a selection of popular children’s programmes in Ukrainian. They include the: The Sandman, The Programme with the Mouse, Deutsch mit Socke (learning German with a glove puppet) and The Story of the Mole. Children’s classics in Ukrainian

Nachrichten aus der Ukraine

Deutschlandminute - daily news in Ukrainian

The short daily news programme in Ukrainian broadcast by the Cosmo channel includes news, information and services for refugees and Ukrainians in Germany. The Ukrainian Deutschlandminute news broadcast is available daily from 6 pm from the media library. Deutschlandminute - daily news in Ukrainian

Kind vorm Fernseher

Ukrainian children’s programme

The cost-free Ukrainian-language TV channel Nick Ukraine offers a children’s programme with episodes of the popular Nickelodeon series, such as SpongeBob Schwammkopf, Bubble Guppies and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in Ukrainian. Ukrainian children’s programme

Drop-in centres

Gewalt gegen Frauen

Contact points and services for women

Berlin is committed to gender equality and the equal participation of all women in all areas of society, irrespective of their religion, origin or migration or refugee status. Contact points and services for women

Regenbogenflagge in Berlin

Contact points for LGBTI refugees

Berlin is rainbow city and supports LGBTI refugees along with many projects and institutions. LGBTI refugees can get support at at lot of contact points in the city. Contact points for LGBTI refugees

Notruf

Portal for victims of crime

If you have experienced a crime, you do not have to cope with this experience alone. Here you will find a lot of useful information about what you can do and what different support options are available. Portal for victims of crime

Further Information

Ukrainische Flüchtlinge

FAQ

Information from Berlin Immigration Office on the online application and right of residence for refugees from Ukraine. FAQ