‘Insane adventure’: What it’s like travelling to Germany from abroad in coronavirus times

'Insane adventure': What it's like travelling to Germany from abroad in coronavirus times
People arriving in Berlin in August. Photo: DPA
The coronavirus pandemic resulted in lots of travel restrictions worldwide. How has it affected travel into Germany from countries like the US?

When the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year, countries sought to control it by closing borders and putting travel warnings in place.

But over summer, those warnings in many countries – including Germany – have been loosened, although the situation can change rapidly depending on the number of infections in a country or region.

Travel within the EU and Schengen Zone opened up in June although in some cases with restrictions. From July 2nd visits to Germany have been possible from outside Europe for a handful of countries with low infection rates.

The warning against travel for most countries outside Europe, including the United States, is still in place.

Yet travel to Germany is possible from high risk third countries if there are important grounds for doing so, such as for family reasons or if it's due to work. 

Some people also try their luck and hope border officials are sympathetic to their situation.

We asked readers to share their experiences on what travel to Germany has been like – wherever they've come from – over the past months. Hopefully it gives an idea of what to expect in future, and to inform our decisions on whether travel at the moment is worth the risks involved.

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See also on The Local:

READ ALSO: Who is allowed to travel to Germany from outside the EU?

'We were held up border patrol in Hamburg for six hours'

A 41-year-old reader described his trip to Germany with his spouse as an “insane adventure”.

The reader travelled from the USA in July, when the warning against travel was still in place, because his son is a pro-athlete who was competing in a special event in Germany.

However, the couple could not directly enter and ended up getting into the country via the UK, France and Belgium.

“We had an insane adventure that included being held up by border patrol in Hamburg for six hours, deciding to go to the UK where we quarantined for a few days before taking the train back to the EU and arriving finally in Germany (by way of France and Belgium),” said the reader who asked not to be named.

“Tests with quick results are not available where we live in the USA so we did not take one before leaving,” he said, describing the processes involved in the journey.

“There were forms to fill out about where we were staying in both the UK and Germany, and we originally had a layover flight in Dublin.”

The 41-year-old said he and his partner believe there could have been an easier way.

 “We were exposed to many more people, traveling through four countries over a week's time by plane, car and train instead of just making an efficient, swift entry into Germany and being tested/quarantining,” he said. “This part does not make sense to me.”

A flight leaving from Düsseldorf. Photo: DPA

The couple worried about being rejected at the airport.

“We also knew that we had done everything possible to prepare, have our documents in order and be safe,” he added.

“For us this travel was well worth the risk, and just as important to us as a wedding, a funeral, etc. I was not worried about travelling to the EU as I feel they are managing the situation better than the USA.”

The reader added that all airports, planes and trains had masks and social distancing in place, both in the US and Europe.

'I was stricken by anxiety'

Others told us they travelled into Germany to be reunited with their partners.

Brian Groenke, 24, said he came from the US in mid-July.

“I had already planned since 2019 to move to Potsdam both to do my PhD and to be with my girlfriend (she is German, I am a US citizen),” he said.

“I accepted a PhD position in Potsdam back in May and was stricken by anxiety around crossing the border up to my arrival.”

Groenke said he and his partner thought a lot about when and if he should try to enter the country.

“A friend of mine, who was also moving to Germany, was rejected and sent back after trying to enter under the 'economic necessity' exception,” Groenke said.

“This caused even more anxiety for both of us. Fortunately, on July 1st, the EU broadened the exemptions to include professionals, students, and researchers moving to Germany for work.

“This made things more clear, but I was still worried, and there was very little one could do to check beforehand whether or not your case is covered.

“My girlfriend finally got a response from the Bundespolizei a week before my scheduled departure. They confirmed that I should be allowed entry. I entered Germany through Munich (for some reason, they wouldn't let me take connecting flight to Berlin).

“I presented the border patrol agent with my work contract, Wohnungsgeberbestätigung, Ausstiegekarte, letters from my new employer, PhD program coordinators, and my girlfriend, and a printed out copy of the email from the Bundespolizei. The border agent was very nice, read the email, checked my documents, and then stamped my passport.”

For Groenke it was a “huge relief”.

“I did not have to take a Covid test at the time of entry. I did choose to take one 48 hours before my departure from Colorado, but it took two weeks to get the results, so it was useless.”

READ ALSO: When will Americans be allowed to travel to Germany again?

'I felt relatively safe'

Alexandara Ginnold entered Germany in May.

“In May I travelled from the US into Germany to be with my spouse,” said Alexandra Ginnold, 22.

“I felt relatively safe virus wise, but nervous about the entry because I had an Aufenthaltserlaubnis (temporary residence permit) and wasn’t sure if I would be able to enter Germany,” she said. “

I had to fill out a contact form but did not have to take any tests.”

Ginnold said passengers had to wear masks the entire flight and weren’t offered drinks or meals.

Christina Mallet, 57, had to fly from Berlin to Seattle for an urgent family matter.

“I spent two weeks there and then returned to Berlin,” she said.

“On both legs there were zero checks. I did fill out one form from Amsterdam to Tegel but there were no authorisations to be seen.”

Raheel Rasool, 36, was worried about travel rules changing when he visited Pakistan from Germany to take care of his parents during the pandemic. He returned to Germany, where he works and is a resident, on July 25th, but said the whole process was “smooth”.

Photo: DPA

“Since there weren't many travellers, everything was quick,” he told The Local. “I wasn't asked to fill any forms at the airport nor was I forced to take the test. I did however register with the city office by filling and emailing a form about my travel details.”
 
Jana Apergis, 54, came to Germany from the US in March before the seriousness of the pandemic became clear. At that time it was a different story.
 
“As I arrived in early March, I experienced zero precautions or tests,” she said.
 
“Signs were beginning to go up advising people to say 1.5 meters away and to wash hands. I had no forms to fill out at any time during my 60 day trip.
 
“I was never tested before entering trains. I was not questioned at all, even though states' borders were closed to tourists. Before boarding Lufthansa in May, my temperature was not taken nor was I asked anything about my exposure to other people.
 
“My temperature was taken for the first time upon arrival in New Jersey. I was all over Germany via bus, train, car, bike, and plane.”
 
Apergis struggled to get a flight back to the US due to cancellations. But said ultimately she doesn't regret taking the trip.
 
'I was hoping to get a test'
 
Germany eased rules for travelling in EU states in June. For people travelling in the EU (and the UK) the situation is usually smoother.
 
Alison Cuff, 48, who's based in Berlin, travelled to the UK and returned back on August 9th.
 
“I had to fill in a passenger locator form for the UK,” she said. “There was nothing on the way back to Berlin. I was hoping to get a Covid-19 test but I left out of a different terminal than usual and didn't see a testing centre.”
 
Some readers also reported having to fill out forms, social distance and wear masks.
 
 
Anthony Bale, 60, said: “We came from the UK to our second home in Germany.

“We did not have to fill out any forms or take a Covid test although we had had a test two weeks prior to travel.

“We did fill out an online government questionnaire prior to traveling back to the UK a month later but this wasn't mentioned by border control when catching the Eurotunnel back although we had been told that we would need to produce an electronic copy of our submission.

“Although there have been no recorded cases of Covid in our village we did social distance when relaxing with neighbours outside and of course were wearing masks when going into any shop, garage etc.”

Sandra Iddon, 65, travelled from the north of England to Germany from July 26th to August 5th.

She travelled by ferry to Calais and then through Belgium into Germany.

“We stayed in the Hunsrück (Rhineland Palatinate) area and felt very safe,” she said. “Everyone wore face coverings in shops and cafes including staff. Unlike here where it is hit and miss. We didn't have to take a coronavirus test on return to England but did complete the Locator form for the UK government.”

Like many others, Iddon said the only concern was “bringing the virus with us”.

“We were extremely careful the two weeks prior to our visit,” she said. “Our friends assured us that they had also been careful and only saw a very limited amount of friends.”

***
 
Thanks to everyone who shared their experience with us. Although we weren't able to include all the submissions, we read each of them and we are truly sympathetic to the challenges everyone is facing right now during this pandemic. 
 
If there's anything you'd like to ask or tell us about our coronavirus coverage or how the outbreak has affected you, please feel free to get in touch.

 
 
 

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