For members


Around Germany: What you need to know about current Covid-19 travel restrictions

With the autumn holidays underway or about to start across Germany, you should make yourself aware of the travel rules currently in place.

Around Germany: What you need to know about current Covid-19 travel restrictions
A hotel in Cologne. Photo: DPA

Please note we've tried to keep this story updated but the situation is changing rapidly.

As the autumn holidays begin in schools, perhaps you're considering taking a trip in Germany. If so, be aware that due to a rising number of coronavirus infections, there are lots of internal travel restrictions in place in Germany (as well as external ones) that could affect you.

We've broken down the rules in more detail so you can plan a holiday safely or choose not to travel. Although we aim to give you the most up-to-date information, the situation is changing quickly so check local and federal government advice as well

Keep in mind as well that in view of the increasing number of infections, the Federal Government and states are generally urging “all citizens to avoid unnecessary travel” to and from such risk areas.

READ ALSO: 'We weren't allowed to check in': Travellers in Germany report confusion over internal travel restrictions

Which areas are classed as 'risk' zones?

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control in Germany says any place that reports over 50 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days is a risk zone.

These include the cities of Hamm and Remscheid in North Rhine-Westphalia and the districts of Cloppenburg, Vechta and Wesermarsch in Lower Saxony.

Other places to become hotspots are: Berlin, Bremen, Frankfurt, Offenbach, Hagen, Herne, Rosenheim and the district of Esslingen in Baden-Württemberg which have reported over 50 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days.

On Saturday October 10th, the city of Cologne was also declared a coronavirus hotspot.

READ ALSO: MAPS – Where in Germany are the Covid hotspots right now?

The below map by DPA shows the areas with more than 50 infections per 100,000 residents in the last seven days as of October 9th.

What's the latest on travel?

A majority of states decided on Wednesday that travellers from risk areas currently designated by the RKI, like those shown above, are not allowed to travel to non-risk areas and stay overnight in hotels or other tourist accommodation.

These states do not have this ban in place: Bremen, Berlin and Thuringia.

READ ALSO: 'Who's controlling it?': Why you could face domestic travel restrictions within Germany

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, however, wants to stick with stricter quarantine rules.

Here are the websites for the states for more information on coronavirus rules there: Schleswig-Holstein, Rhineland-Palatinate, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia, Niedersachsen, Thuringia, Bremen, Hesse, Hamburg, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Sachsen-Anhalt, Saxony, Brandenburg, Saarland

What does all this mean for me?

Travellers from risk areas should be prepared for different consequences depending on the federal state they are going to.

Earlier this week, people from Hamm, Remscheid and the four affected Berlin districts had to go into quarantine when visiting  Schleswig-Holstein, but these strict rules were overturned on Wednesday.

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the quarantine rules remain. People entering from cities (but not districts) must go into self-isolation. According to the Health Ministry entry restrictions or quarantine for returnees will only become effective if Berlin as a city-state shows a total of more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days. According to the latest calculations, the average value for Berlin is below 40.

In Berlin, Bremen and Thuringia there are currently no special restrictions for people entering from domestic risk areas.

Travelling by train throughout Germany is getting harder. Photo: DPA

People living in German risk areas or travelling from there to the other states are not allowed to stay in hotels, holiday homes or other commercial accommodation.

There can be exceptions to this rule, depending on the federal state, such as proving that you are not infected with coronavirus (for example with recent test results). So we'd advise getting in touch with the hotel or other accommodation before you travel.

Can I be released from quarantine in any federal state if I get a negative test?

MECKLENBURG-WESTERN POMERANIA: The coronavirus state regulation states that tourists from risk areas may only enter the country “if a medical certificate is available confirming that there is no evidence of infection with the corona virus Sars-CoV-2”. This certificate must not be older than 48 hours.

Nevertheless, there is an obligation to stay at home for 14 days immediately after arriving. The quarantine period can be shortened by the responsible health authority if a further PCR test is also negative after five to seven days.


What happens if I have already booked accommodation as a resident of a risk area? Will I get my money back?

Holidaymakers should be able to get their money back from the hotel if they come from an area with high coronavirus infection rates and now have to cancel domestic trips.

Accommodation in these circumstances is now no longer possible due to the new regulation, said Paul Degott, a travel lawyer from Hanover. In this case, he said, money already paid in advance should be returned and no cancellation fees charged.

This applies not only to booked hotel accommodation, but also to stays in holiday homes, said Degott. 

What applies to me if I work in a risk area?

In Schleswig-Holstein there are numerous exceptions to the quarantine obligation for professionals. Among other things, exceptions apply to people who transport goods. Bus, train, ship and plane staff from risk areas do not have to go into quarantine either.

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, commuters or business travellers are exempt from the restrictions. In Rhineland-Palatinate, among other things, anyone who enters daily or for up to five days for professional reasons does not have to be quarantined.


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For members


Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the ‘die’ and carnival lingo

From the push to reform long-term unemployment benefits to the lingo you need to know as Carnival season kicks off, we look at the highlights of life in Germany.

Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the 'die' and carnival lingo

Deadlock looms as debates over Bürgergeld heat up 

Following a vote in the Bundestag on Thursday, the government’s planned reforms to long-term unemployment benefits are one step closer to becoming reality. Replacing the controversial Hartz IV system, Bürgergeld (or Citizens’ Allowance) is intended to be a fair bit easier on claimants.

Not only will the monthly payment be raised from €449 to €502, but jobseekers will also be given a grace period of two years before checks are carried out on the size of their apartment or savings of up to €60,000. The system will also move away from sanctions with a so-called “trust period” of six months, during which benefits won’t be docked at all – except in very extreme circumstances. 

Speaking in parliament, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) said the spirit of the new system was “solidarity, trust and encouragement” and praised the fact that Bürgergeld would help people get back into the job market with funding for training and education. But not everyone is happy about the changes. In particular, politicians from the opposition CDU/CSU parties have responded with outrage at the move away from sanctions.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz has even branded the system a step towards “unconditional Basic Income” and argued that nobody will be incentivised to return to work. 

The CDU and CSU are now threatening to block the Bürgergeld legislation when it’s put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Monday. With the conservatives controlling most of the federal states – and thus most of the seats in the upper house – things could get interesting. Be sure to keep an eye out for our coverage in the coming weeks to see how the saga unfolds. 

Tweet of the week

When you first start learning German, picking the right article to use can truly be a roll of the “die” – so we’re entirely on board with this slightly unconventional way to decide whether you’re in a “der”, “die”, or “das” situation. (Warning: this may not improve your German.) 

Where is this?

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Residents of Frankfurt am Main and the surrounding area will no doubt recognise this as the charming town of Kronberg, which is nestled at the foot of the Taunus mountains.

This atmospheric scene was snapped on Friday morning, when a drop in temperatures saw Kronberg and surrounding forests shrouded in autumnal fog.

After a decidedly warm start to November, the mercury is expected to drop into single digits over the weekend. 

Did you know?

November 11th marked the start of carnival season in Germany. But did you know that there’s a whole set of lingo to go along with the tradition? And it all depends on where you are. First of all, the celebration isn’t called the same thing everywhere. In the Rhineland, it’s usually called Karneval, while people in Bavaria or Saxony tend to call it Fasching. Those in Hesse and Saarland usually call it Fastnacht. 

And depending on where you are, there are different things to shout. The ‘fools call’ you’ll hear in Cologne is “Alaaf!” If you move away from Cologne, you’ll hear “Helau!” This is the traditional cry in the carnival strongholds of Düsseldorf and Mainz, as well as in some other German cities.

In the Swabian-Alemannic language region in the southwest of the country, people yell “Narri-Narro”, which means “I’m a fool, you’re a fool”. In Saarland at the French border, they shout “Alleh hopp!”, which is said to originate from the French language. 

Lastly, if someone offers you a Fastnachtskrapfe, say yes because it’s a jelly-filled carnival donut. And if you’re offered a Bützchen? It’s your call, but know that it’s a little kiss given to strangers!