Topics include Dining Scene, Germany: For Foreign Visitors & more!
Berlin is an extremely safe city, however like all cities Berlin has its share of petty crime. Just use common sense when at these places, or in crowded touristy areas. Don't keep large amounts of cash on hand at a time, don't wear flashy and expensive jewelry, and keep your passport in a safe place, ideally a money belt underneath your clothes where you can hide it. Keep alert while on the S/U-Bahn: better to be too cautious than sorry! On each U-Bahn station platform, there is a red panic button that can be pushed if need be. Guards also patrol most stations. While at restaurants or cafes, don't keep a purse slung on the back of a chair where someone can easily snatch it. Keep it under the table instead. NEVER leave luggage unattended anywhere. Just use common sense and keep your judgment up, Berlin is very safe and more likely than not, you won't ever be the victim of any type of crime.
Two of the biggest areas for pickpocketing in Berlin are on the U-Bahn and at the Bahnhof Zoo. Wherever you encounter them, you may find that they are not the stereotypical pickpockets. They are young, barely past their teens or still in their teens, and usually work in teams of two, with more in hiding nearby. Often they will masquerade as deaf mutes who are 'raising money' for their cause with more government assistance and / or recognition of their handicap. Consequently, their hands are always flying, shoving paper at you, asking you to sign, hands making some gestures, all as a distraction to you. They will ALWAYS ask for a 'small' donation.
As soon as you have your wallet out and open, they will shove the paper at you again, hands flying, and will put the paper on top of your open wallet. As you're looking at them trying to figure out what they're saying or what they want, the other one will slip under the paper and quickly and unnoticed, will remove the money from your wallet. You never know what's happening. Fortunately, they rarely take the entire wallet or credit cards, just cash...all of it!!
Sometimes one will be playing an instrument and asking for money, while his/her partner is 'collecting.' They are everywhere...major avenues, shopping centers, parks. They will always run if you start to photograph them. So...remember...if ANYONE shoves paper at you wanting you to sign, shoo them away. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, REMOVE YOUR WALLET FROM ITS SECURE LOCATION!!!
Another scam goes as follows: You are visiting visit a tourist attraction, perhaps at night and with not many other people around. In a more remote corner of the area a guy approaches you and asks if you can take a picture of him. You agree, he hands you his smartphone and you take a picture. He then steps around a corner (in this case on the dark side of the wall at East Side Gallery) and asks you to take another one there. As you still are holding the smartphone and don't know the place you follow him. Suddenly two men in civilian clothes appear, tell you and the „tourist guy“ that they are police checking for drug dealers, quickly show you a paper which looks a bit like a police ID and request to see your ID. When you take out your wallet they look at the ID and request to also check your wallet for drugs. Intimidated by the secene and the tree guys surrounding you somewhat naively you hand over the wallet. One guy takes out the money from your wallet, sniffs at it and at the wallet a bit, pretending to be checking for "drug smell", puts the money back into the wallet and tells you that everything is in order. All three say good bye quickly and leave in different directions. When you check your wallet a bit later you realise that all but one or two bills are missing.
Be streetwise, be reasonable about the amount of cash you carry with you, check your gut feeling and be nice and obedient only if you can clearly see that things are all right.
It's a good idea to register at your country's embassy if you plan to stay in Berlin for more than five days. Most embassies are very easy to find, and most are located on Friedrichstraße, although the British Embassy is located on Wilhelmstraße, and the American Embassy is located on Neustädtische Kirchstraße. All of these embassies radiate from Unter Den Linden. If anything serious ever does happen, it will be your country's embassy that really helps with the problem.German police are called polizei, and they usually drive vans, which are white and green in color. Ambulances are called Rettungswagen, and are white and orange vans in color.
American Embassy Berlin
Neustädtische Kirchstr. 4-5, 10117 Berlin
Tel: (030) 2385 174