What To Do When Stranded In Berlin During A Lockdown

A couple of months ago I had arrived in Berlin with the intention of filming a series on money-saving hacks, tips, and tricks. Of course, I had no idea I’d be arriving the day before they initiated a nation-wide lockdown, due to everybody’s favourite global pandemic.

The next day I was served with one of these.

[Picture of Toba holding sheet, timestamp 1:00]

The new law in Berlin stated that hotels and hostels weren’t allowed to offer accommodation to foreigners unless they met one of the three conditions listed in the image above.

Now, I wasn’t there for an internship, and I definitely wasn’t there to buy a house, but I was technically there on business, because I needed content for my YouTube channel.

My relief was short-lived, however, because I realised that if I were a tourist who had been caught off guard by this sudden change in law I’d have quite the crisis on my hands — and you know what they say about a good crisis.

What recourse would someone in this situation have? Would charming their way into a hotel room be the answer? Would there be outliers in the industry who couldn’t care less about the rules as long as you had money? I knew I’d probably regret it, but there was only one way to find out.


[Video Timestamp 1:37]


I figured being honest would be a good place to start. In the “Reason for stay” section—under the line that said “I hereby confirm that I do NOT live in the hostel for any touristic reason,”—I decided to lay it all on the line and write, “tourist.” People generally appreciate authenticity and forthrightness, and are often more willing to sympathise with a person’s plight if they feel they’re being straight with them.

Unsurprisingly, the man at the desk was quick to point out the nearest door.

I was officially on the streets.

I found a hotel close by and decided to give it a shot. I didn’t really have a plan, so I was more or less betting on human kindness. Plus, there was always a chance the news hadn’t reached every hostel/hotel in Berlin. A woman met me at the door before I could let myself in.

She was very sweet, but very succinct in her rejection.

[Relevant time stamps are limited, so a good GIF could work here]

At this point, the reality of my situation was starting to set in. It was unlikely that any institution would risk their license to illegally accommodate a foreigner in need. Still, I figured I’d give it one more try.

I popped into another hostel, where a woman stood beside her desk.

“Hi,” she greeted, with perked interest. This was good, she seemed open to, if not excited by, the prospect of a new client.

“Hello, I was wondering if I could book a room,” I announced.

“Um, If you’re a business guest, then yeah.”

Oh, the temptation! But I stayed strong and told her I was a tourist—which more or less brought an abrupt end to the conversation. I asked if she knew of someplace a tourist could stay for the night, but she seemed quite confident that it wasn’t currently allowed in Berlin, which confirmed my suspicion that this rule probably wouldn’t be news to any lodging in the city.

This left me with a hand-full of viable, if not less than ideal, possibilities:

  • Couch surfing, which I’m never too excited about, since it’s let me down a lot in the past.
  • Tinder, which . . . I mean, was possible, but would likely require some form of divine intervention if I was going to find a place before the end of the day.
  • The streets. Wouldn’t be the first time, I suppose.
  • Lying about being in town for business (which was technically true in my case, but wouldn’t be for your typical tourist.) The only problem with that being, most places seem to require some kind of proof, i.e. business address, contract, documentation, etc.
  • The art of James-Bond-styled seduction, tactfully applied to an individual in a hostel lobby with the hope of convincing them to hide you in their room for the night.

While each of these were technically possible, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were some more full-proof courses of action a person could take to remedy their situation. Google wasn’t going to be much help since being stranded during a national lockdown wasn’t an issue that would have been common enough to warrant hundreds of articles on potential solutions. But I still had one more resource I hadn’t used yet. One that should never be underestimated in times like these:


The limitless well of civilian knowledge.

I engaged as many as I could, doing my best to avoid seeming like I was subtly asking for a place to stay. Some rightly pointed out the importance of doing one’s research before visiting a foreign country, which was fair enough. But others defiantly had some practical advice that would serve me in the now. These seemed to be the most feasible:

  • Airbnb: I actually hadn’t considered this, but apparently they aren’t subject to the same restrictions as some of the more formal establishment. Most likely because it’s up to the owners to decide how much risk they’re willing to take on. This one is probably your best bet.
  • Flight cancellation loop-hole: If for some reason your flight has been cancelled and you’re unable to find your way home, then hotels/hostels will let you stay there until you’re able to re-book your flight.
  • Leave town: Try to find out if there are cities that have different restrictions and hop on the next train out. Less than ideal, I know, but it might be better than sleeping on a park bench.


My journey ultimately ended in the airport, where I would catch a flight to Stockholm, Sweden. I really just wanted to know what options the average person would have if caught off-guard by something like this. The world is a turbulent place right now, and if 2020 has taught us anything it’s that, at the end of the day, our plans are always at the mercy of unseen forces and events. Hopefully my experience has shed some light on what a person might do—or not do—should they find themselves suddenly out of a room.


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