If you’re planning to study and live as an international student in Germany, it’s good to know and have accurate expectations about the cost of living in Germany. This article covers all the details you need to know.
Are you a student who just received an admission letter from a university abroad and now you’re floating above the clouds from the excitement of getting to know what the future is holding for you?
But, the next moment you start thinking of how hard it will be to deal with all the responsibilities and challenges studying abroad causes. Abroad in Germany, you won’t only devote yourself to keeping track with your studies and your university grades, but you’ll also have to tackle many other issues while you’re living there, most of the time you will deal with these problems alone.
Having a better understanding of what awaits you across the border and how you can overcome the problems this whole study-abroad experience prior to your departure is to a certain degree decisive of your success.
Sounds a bit scary, right? Well, there’s absolutely no reason for your excitement to diminish. The only problem you’re having at this point is the lack of proper information to help you know what to expect while you’re living in Germany. This is what we will examine in details through this article, more specifically the cost of living in Germany.
University Tuition Fees
Even though some German universities have reintroduced tuition fees for international students, the majority of them carry free-tuition higher education. The only university payment you need to take care of as an international student in Germany is a so-called semester contribution. A fixed amount of money you pay for specific university services like bus traveling, administrative assistance, sports facilities, dining halls and such.
Although the tuition-free education in Germany alleviates a great financial burden for you, there remains the cost of living. Germany is not an expensive country to live in as a student, but if you make the effort to planning where you’re going to live and managing your expenses well, will amount to large savings.
Overall, the total cost of living in Germany depends on factors like the location where you’re settled in and what type of lifestyle you make. In industrial big cities rent, food, and clothes are more expensive. In contrast, in less-populated areas, you can expect cheaper prices for some products and services.
Choosing the ideal place to live in can save you a lot of money. Furthermore, by cutting down some extra expenses you may have had at home like regular night-outs will help for additional savings. The information below will definitely help you make exact calculations of how the cost of living in Germany and in return you’ll be able to know how to reduce it at maximum.
The triangle of the three most important issues for you as an international student are normally housing, food and traveling. Once you get confident in handling these three challenges, other problems are going to be easier to take care of.
Which region has the highest cost of living in Germany?
In general, the south of Germany is the most expensive area to live in Germany. Two of the largest cities in this part of the country, Munich and Stuttgart, are some of the most expensive cities to live in.
For example, renting a one-bedroom apartment in Stuttgart costs 846.43€ on average, while a similar apartment in the northern German city, Bremen, costs 560 € on average.
In percentage terms, this means that renting an apartment in Bremen is cheaper than in Stuttgart by over 30%.
The capital Berlin is not that expensive compared to most European capital cities or some of the biggest German cities. The highest expenditure you’re about to have in Berlin is housing rent. A small apartment in Berlin with one bedroom costs on average 795€ on average.
Other cities around Berlin in the east of Germany are mainly cheaper than their counterparts in the South. Leipzig is one of the most affordable cities to live in Germany.
Renting in Leipzig is cheaper than in Stuttgart by over 40%, in Dusseldorf cheaper by 20% than in Stuttgart, whereas prices in Stuttgart and in the biggest city in the North, Hamburg are pretty similar.
To try put them in order from the most expensive to the cheapest zone, let’s take the most expensive cities in each of them and compare some important prices
|Rent||1,094.30€ -1||795.90€ – 4||838.94€ – 3||868.91€ – 2|
|White bread (500g)||1.43€ -1||1.27€-3||1.27€ -3||1.29€ – 2|
|Restaurant meal||12.25€ – 1||8.00€ – 4||10€ – 3||12€ – 2|
|Milk (1liter)||0.84€ – 1||0.79€ – 2||0.71€ – 4||0.77€ – 3|
|Eggs (12)||1.71€ – 3||1.77€ – 2||1.78€ – 1||1.61€ – 4|
|Rice (1kg, white)||2.14€ – 2||1.79€- 4||2.15€ – 1||1.97€ – 3|
|Tomato (1kg)||2.82€ – 1||2.62€ – 3||2.61€ – 4||2.64€ – 2|
|Potato (1kg)||1.00€ – 4||1.32€ – 1||1.04€ – 3||1.29€ – 2|
|Beer (0.5liter)||3.80€ – 3||3.50€ – 4||4.00€ – 1||4.00€ – 1|
|Taxi 1km||1.90€ -4||2.00€ – 1||2.00€ – 1||2.00€ – 1|
As we can see in the table above, the south of Germany is the most expensive area to live in Germany while the east is the cheapest area in the country. Putting them in order from the most expensive to the cheapest the list would look like this:
Since Germany offers a wide range of prices in different areas let’s try to look to what extent those prices compare from some of the most expensive cities to some of the cheapest.
To do this, we can compare two cities, each representing one side. For example, Darmstad would perfectly represent the list of the most expensive cities in Germany, while its opposite would be Frankfurt (Oder).
Frankfurt (Oder) is a small town in the east of Germany, near the border with Poland. The cost of living in this place is really reasonable. For instance, if you look for a one-bedroom apartment in Frankfurt (Oder) with a bit of luck you can find one at the center of the city with a monthly rent of only €250.
On the other side, in Darmstadt, if you’re willing to live in an apartment at the city center, then the rent can peak at €850 per month, which for many students is out of their budget and normally unaffordable.
Let’s look at the table below and see how large is the difference in the cost of living in these two German cities:
|Items & Services||Average cost of items or services in each city|
|Rent||707.50€ / month||333.33€ / month|
|Restaurant meal||14 €||8.00€|
|White bread (500g)||1.25€||0.62€|
|Milk (1 liter)||0.71€||0.75€|
|Beer (0.5 liter)||0.53€||0.60€|
|Utilities||193.36€ / month||466.67€ / month|
|Internet (60 Mbps)||30.00€ / month||20.00€ / month|
|One-way ticket (Public transport)||2.40€||1.65€|
As you can see for most products the prices in Frankfurt (Oder) are lower than those in Darmstadt. To summarize it:
- Monthly rent prices in Darmstadt are 35% higher than in Frankfurt (Oder)
- Grocery prices in Darmstadt are 32% higher than in Frankfurt (Oder)
- Restaurant prices in Darmstadt are 32% higher than in Frankfurt (Oder)
Average Rent in Germany
The first and the biggest concern for every student in Germany is finding a suitable place to rent. Labeling a particular city as an expensive place to live in is done mostly because of the rent costs because that’s the largest expense you will have in Germany.
As you can normally expect, downtown area rents are higher and thinking of handling it all alone is practically impossible with a student budget. For this, we suggest you find someone with whom you can share the apartment and hence the renting cost. Many students, of course, find roommates.
Big cities like Munich, Hamburg, Cologne and Frankfurt are mainly more expensive than other cities are, like Leipzig or Karlsruhe. Depending on where you’re aiming to find an apartment and what conditions you’re looking to have prices range at a wide scale.
If you’re thinking of a one-bedroom apartment at the center of the city, the monthly rent is less than €700. On the other hand, the same apartment with one bedroom, in peripheral areas will cost you around €500 per month. If you’re looking for a perfectly furnished apartment, large and located near the center of the city than the rent per month will range from €1,000 to €1,500.
The table below shows the average monthly cost of rent at some German cities, including the biggest ones:
|City||Average Monthly Rent||City||Average Monthly Rent|
Important note: The above rental prices are given for a one-bedroom apartment located at the center of the city.
How Much Does Food Cost in Germany?
If you’re not that good in the kitchen you better start learning how to cook on your own, because eating at German restaurants won’t be a good option if you’re planning to save money. At the moment, a meal for two people at an average restaurant may cost you on average €45.
At a smaller restaurant, the price for a meal may vary between 8 to 14 euros. Followed by any casual dessert or any drink the price will surely climb higher. For example, half a liter of German domestic beer costs around 3.50 euros, as opposed to an imported beer which costs 3 euros.
If you choose to have a cappuccino instead of a beer you’ll have to pay 2.64 euros. A 0.33-liter bottle of water costs 1.77 euros and a soda costs 2.17 euros.
You can give yourself the commodity to eat out from time to time, but there are better options if you are concerned about your finances. Universities have usually their own cafeteria and mensa incorporated within the campus, which offer a variety of good foods at a low cost.
These dining halls use a flexible membership system which allows the student to charge his MensaCard a certain amount of money he possesses and then use that card to get a meal with a cost normally cheaper than 5 euros.
If you take, the courage to learn some basic skills in the kitchen to cook tasty dishes, this is still better for you because you’ll save some additional money for sure. Well, you may not be skilled enough to cook a restaurant-alike meal, but it is totally worthy. The cost of basic food and drinks in Germany are not that high. Below is the average cost of some of these products:
- White bread (500g) – 1.24 €
- Milk (1 liter) – 0.71 €
- Eggs (12) – 1.64 €
- Rice (1kg, white) – 2.03 €
- Potato (1kg) – 1.06 €
- Onion (1kg) – 1.09 €
- Tomato (1kg) – 2.62 €
- Chicken (1kg) – 7.53 €
- Beef (1kg) – 11.65 €
- Apples (1kg) – 2.22 €
- Banana (1kg) – 1.58 €
- Oranges (1kg) – 2.29 €
Transportation Costs in Germany
As a student, you’ll be moving around all the time. Hurrying to arrive on time for your classes, getting back to your apartment, going to meet a colleague on the other side of the city, going to shop for something, everything can get stressful.
Making the prominent selection of what type of transport to use may not only save you time but money a well.
As mentioned above, the semester contribution payment will cover your university bus ticket. If for whatever reason you have to take another type of transportation you might appreciate knowing how much it may cost you.
By far the best way of moving from a destination to another one is using a bicycle, especially in over-crowded cities during rush hours. Among other traveling options you have surely the public transport is the cheapest.
Currently, a one-way ticket on the local public transport costs 2.00 € on average. If you’re a regular traveler on the same line, then you can purchase a monthly ticket which costs 70€ on average.
The initial taxi’s cost is averaged at 3.50€, while the kilometer varies between 1.55€ and 2.50€. If you possess a car you should know that the prize of gasoline ranges from 1.25€ to 1.49€.
Average Utilities and Bills Cost
Besides housing rent, you will need to cover monthly bills for heating, electricity, water, and garbage. Unfortunately, the price of electricity in Germany is quite higher despite a slight decrease introduced in 2018.
Currently, in Germany, you will have to pay 29.42 cents for a kilowatt hour (CT/kWh). Given this and the other amenities’ cost on average for an apartment of 85 m2, the total monthly cost is 215.21 €.
If you live with roommates, you will, of course, share these expenses. In some cases, these bills are included in your rent, so you don’t have to pay any extras for these utilities.
Health Insurance Cost in Germany
One thing you need to be aware of is that in Germany health insurance is mandatory by law regardless of your residence status or your income. You will have to get a health insurance plan from the very first day you enter the country.
In general, there are two main types of health insurance plans in Germany
- Public health insurance
- Private health insurance
You’re free to choose any of the above plans, depending on what you need to be covered and how much you’re willing to pay for.
How much can it cost you to be health insured?
Primarily, the cost of health insurance depends on the type of insurance plan you choose. The public health insurance, which is mandatory for everyone in Germany, charges lower premiums. The rate of payment you have to pay for your public health insurance plan (the GKV) is regulated by the government. Currently, the monthly premium rate for this plan ranges from 70 to 80 euros per month.
If you want to cover more medical needs you must get a private health insurance plan, which normally comes at a higher price. There are no standard premiums throughout private health insurance providers since there many different packages for different individual needs. You can even agree to have a specific monthly premium before the company starts to cover your health.
For an exact estimation of how much it will cost you to be health insured in Germany read our guide on health insurance in Germany.
Other Expenses You Need To Consider
Other than the basic needs already mentioned here, there are some other expenses you have to cover while studying and living in Germany. For example, you may need to get yourself a pair of new shoes or buy some new clothes to adjust to the new season.
In Germany the quality of clothing is high, but so is the price. A pair of jeans will cost you around 50 and 100 euros, while a pair of shoes (Nike Running shoes for example) will cost you between 60 and 120 euros. For a pair of Business shoes, you will have to pay a higher price ranging between 70 and 150 euros.
Reducing costs of living in Germany: Tips for international students
Naturally, the factor that will determine the most part of the cost of living in Germany is the location where you will be living in Germany. Although is the location of your university which constrains you from selecting the most suitable location to live, there are certainly affordable living places in a large perimeter around the campus of your university where you can settle in.
If your university is located in big populated cities like Munich, Hamburg or Frankfurt then, saving money is a harder mission to accomplish than in smaller less populated cities like Karlsruhe and Leipzig. In suburb areas of these cities, you can expect to have lower prices so it’s never a bad idea choosing to live in those places and commute regularly.
After all, if you cannot lower the housing expenditure at the limit you would prefer, you can search for people with whom you can share the apartment and therefore the total cost of renting it. Actually, this is what most of the students do.
Don’t worry, in Germany, you have a bunch of options and surely there will be one that will match with what you can afford. However, mapping all those places to sort them out, which are the cheapest and which not is a kind of rocket-science itself.
Trying to gather information for each particular city or town to estimate the average cost of living there is time-consuming, nerve-wracking and absolutely fruitless. This is mainly because the prices of services and items may change at a large scale from place to place within the country.
For example, the distance between the capital of the state of Bavaria, Munich and the city of Ingolstadt is less than 100 km, but the prices change largely. For example, a meal for two persons in a restaurant in Munich costs 60€, compared to 45€ in a restaurant in the city of Ingolstadt. The rent is also different. In Ingolstadt, you can find a one-bedroom apartment for slightly more than 600€, while the rent for a similar apartment in Munich is over a thousand euros per month.
Big cities like Munich or Frankfurt are much expensive than cities like Leipzig. For example, a meal in an inexpensive restaurant in Munich costs something between 10 to 15 €. In a similar restaurant situated in the city of Leipzig such a meal will cost you between 7 to 12 €.
As for the cost of housing rent, the difference gap between these two cities is still larger. The difference gap in the cost of housing in these two cities is still larger.
In Munich, the monthly rent payment for a one-bedroom apartment exceeds a thousand euros (1,094€ on average), while for the same apartment in Leipzig you will pay less than the half of that value (490€ on average). If your university is placed in the outside of the city, then you’re lucky enough because in downtown areas housing rent is usually higher.