Moving to Hamburg (tips and notes)
Coming from abroad (or another city, or non-native German speaker)
Hamburg Welcome Center
There is a lot of helpful information found at the Hamburg Welcome Center including webinars about taxes and schools. A lot (but not all) information is available in English.
- HWC Welcome Package: First Steps in Hamburg (pdf, external) including sections on finding an apartment, taxes, banking, insurance (many types), learning German, day care and schools and drivers licenses.
- Older version of HWC Welcome Package (2022, pdf). This is old (2022), but has more information.
- Links for newcomers: Newcomers (external)
Lots of information here, from visas to converting your drivers license, to setting up health insurance and finding a school for your children.
School Information Center
Or, in German: Schulinformationszentrum
The School Information Center (external) is where you need to sign up to get your kids registered in school. Normally, they will require your child’s Meldebestatigung (registration certificate) which you receive at the end of your registration appointment (Anmeldung).
Generally, schools are assigned according to distance, but this may not be the case if you’re coming out of the normal schedule. Also, if your child doesn’t already speak German, an integration class (IVK) is likely to be the first step. Some information about the IVK (Internationale Vorbereitungsklassen) is available on the website of the Louise-Weiss-Gymnasium.
There are also a number of bilingual schools in Hamburg:
e.g. German/English secondary schools (from year 5)
- Eppendorf Gymnasium
Note that school holidays in Germany are at all different times (intentionally, to reduce impact on transport). Calendars can be found by googling “School holidays in Hamburg”, e.g. https://www.holidays-info.com/germany/school-holidays/hamburg/ (external).
University service for ’newly appointed'
The university has a service for newly appointed professors. Their website (external) has a lot of useful information.
Get to know the translating options on your computer and in your web browser.
- In Chrome and Safari, this shows up to the right of the URL address where you can select the language to translate to. If you don’t see the option, try re-loading/refreshing the page.
- Online translation tools:
- Software for translation - you can also download an app for Deepl to your computer. This saves you from trying to find which browser window the translation is in.
- On a Mac, you can select any text then right click and select ’translate'.
At the University, you can take courses through the Deutsch als Fremdsprache (German as a foreign language). These are offered in term time, normally in Von-Melle-Park (about a 10-minute walk from Bu53) or as intensive courses (2 weeks) before term starts. An online test or previous certificate is required to set your level.
They will ask you to register in Stine (our online course management software) but if you are not registered as a student, this doesn’t seem to be possible. You can alternatively contact the organiser or the lecturer for the course you are interested, in order to be added.
Duolingo offers a quick way to get started (but not very fast to progress).
Busuu is a paid option which matches the typical courses (A1.1, A1.2, B2.1, B2.2).
There are a lot of other places in Hamburg to take language classes.
- Goethe Institut (more expensive, online and intensive/evening/weekend courses): http://goethe.de which has in-person classes near Hamburg Hauptbahnhof Courses at Goethe Hamburg.
- City run courses (less expensive - see details in the HWC Welcome Package (2022, pdf)).
- UNS in Hoheluft (intensive courses): http://unsgermany.de
This is incomplete, but for some starter info see the HWC Welcome Package (2022, pdf) for an overview.
- Health insurance is mandatory.
- Various other mandatory insurances.
- Personal liability insurance is strongly recommended and not too expensive (about €70/year).
Most people are on public health insurance in Germany. However, it is not automatic. You do need to register with a company providing insurance, for example TK.
Once registered you will receive a health insurance card in the mail which is what you need to take to the doctor, etc.
Finding accommodation may be one of the trickiest parts of moving to Hamburg.
University housing for short-term
The university has some options for short-term rentals, but these are often booked well in advance! You can always try however. Send an e-mail to the University Guest House (external). You can also try International Housing (external) - which has links for dorms for exchange students, but also various Hamburg housing websites.
- There are also apartment hotels where a furnished studio goes for about €1800/mo, for example: ipartment (external) in Eimsbuttel and Hafencity (can be nightly, but discounted rates for 1 month and longer).
Slightly longer term (3-6 month) furnished rentals are available from:
- City Wohnen (external) with a wide range of furnished apartments for various lease durations (normally a minimum of 3 months).
- Wunderflats (external) - like City Wohnen All can provide you with a Wohnenbestatigung (landlord’s confirmation) which you need for your Anmeldung (registration).
Finding longer term accommodation
The Hamburg rental market is very fast moving (at least in 2022), so at least to start you may want to set up the apps/websites with immediate notification, and may consider paying for ‘premium’ service on one or another of them.
When searching for accommodation in Germany, it is worth noting that the number of rooms in an apartment includes bedroom(s), living room and dining room (if there is a separate room), but usually not the kitchen or bathrooms. So a 1-room apartment is a studio, 2-room is likely a 1-bedroom, etc. More details in the HWC welcome package.
Various websites can be used to search available rentals, e.g.:
For shared accommodation (WG or Wohngemeinschaft), try
Bikes are a great way to get around in Hamburg. There are a lot of dedicated bike paths both on the road and on the sidewalk (watch out for red bricks on the sidewalk–these are bike lanes, so if you’re a pedestrian, try to stay clear). Kids up to age 12 can ride on sidewalks and are also required to wear helmets. There are some requirements for lights as well, so please check these.
- There is a local bike rental service in Hamburg called Stadtrad. You can download their app, sign up (small fee) and then use the app to check out bikes and check them back in at designated spots in the city.
- For medium term (monthly) rental, Swapfiets is an option. For about €25/mo you can rent a bike. On first rental, you can either pick it up in Altona at their shop or ask for an appointment where they will bring it to you.
Transit in Hamburg
Transit in Hamburg is very good. You can buy tickets at metro stops using cash or card, or download the app (strongly recommended for repeat use since it gives you a 7% discount).
Note: from 01.01.2024, buses in Hamburg are now cashless.
The HVV app can get you going on public transport. You just need to sign up, link a payment method, and then can pay for your ticket. There are short tickets (€1.77/ride, in the app which includes a 7% discount, as of 2023) and longer tickets, depending on how many zones you cross. For starting out, just enter your beginning and end destinations (either the street address or the metro stops if you know them) and it will compute for you the correct ticket. Note, the fine for travelling without a ticket is ~€60.
On the weekend, or after 9am, an all-day ticket costs around €7 (and children aged 6-14 ride free). On the weekend or after 9am on weekdays, the group tickets are ~€13 and can be used for up to 5 people travelling together (adult or children). Kids under 6 are always free.
The University also offers a subscription (Profiticket) or the Deutschland ticket is now €49/mo (purchase in HVV Switch app (external)), pro-rated for the first month if you start mid-month, otherwise runs with the calendar month. Can be cancelled before the 10th of the month for the next month.