‘We weren’t allowed to check in’: Travellers in Germany report confusion over internal restrictions

Germany's patchwork of internal travel restrictions put in place over rising Covid-19 rates have caused major confusion this week. A reader shared what it was like when he travelled from Berlin to Hamburg.

'We weren't allowed to check in': Travellers in Germany report confusion over internal restrictions
An ICE train in Frankfurt. Photo: DPA

From mandatory quarantine to banning tourists from corona hotspots, federal states have been implementing their own rules on travel and accommodation as the number of infections rises across the country.

And as The Local has been reporting, this has resulted in massive confusion over what is allowed, and what isn't.

To ease the situation, earlier this week most states adopted a rule that says overnight stays (in hotels or other accommodation) by people coming from coronavirus hotspots in the country are not allowed.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany's Covid-19 internal travel restrictions

However, anyone travelling is still urged to check with the local authority they are going to, and the accommodation, because there can still be differences among the rules across states.

Earlier this week, Local reader Joe Lee-Dowd got caught up in the confusion when he travelled from Berlin to Hamburg to stay in a hotel as part of his partner's birthday celebrations.

Currently as of Friday October 9th, Berlin is a coronavirus hotspot, with more than 50 infections per 100,000 residents in the last seven days (right now it's 52.8).

But on Wednesday, when Lee-Dowd was set to travel, the district in Berlin he lives – Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg – was deemed a hotspot, but not the city. To add to the uncertainty, some states, like Schleswig-Holstein, were recognising that the district was a hotspot, while others were not (they instead viewed Berlin as a whole).

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


'There was no mention of the rules'

After reading our news report about the domestic restrictions published on Tuesday, Lee-Dowd saw there were sets of rules for various places in Germany so tried to research for more concrete information before his train on Wednesday morning.

“I spent about an hour trying my hardest to find out what the rules meant, but all I could find were comments from state political leaders arguing about how confusing the new rules were,” said Lee-Dowd.

“The websites of the Hamburg government, the Berlin government, the federal government and our hotel had no mention whatsoever of new rules in place affecting domestic travel. Our hotel had a whole coronavirus section on its website but no mention that they wouldn’t be allowing people to check in coming from certain areas.”

Lee-Dowd said he wanted to call the hotel and ask but their phone line was only open from 9am-6.30pm so it was too late. 

“We assumed that given there was no information to be found anywhere, and that the hotel hadn’t notified us – they already had our address from when we booked – that we didn’t really have any choice but to go anyway,” he said.

'The lack of information was ridiculous'

When the couple arrived, they were greeted with a “very apologetic staff member” who said he wasn't allowed to check them in. 

“We either had to show two negative tests or quarantine for 14 days before we would be allowed to check in, neither of which were any good,” he said.

“We couldn’t even get the money back until we go through an online or telephone complaints process. We had no choice but to shell out another €110 on train tickets to go straight back home.”

The couple said they are understanding and on board with any new restrictions because the coronavirus infection spikes are “obviously worrying”.

“But these new rules seem like a bit of a mess, they’re way too complicated and inconsistent,” said Lee-Dowd. “The lack of information was pretty ridiculous. I would think that if there are new rules in place preventing people from travelling domestically, it should be fairly easy to find out about.”

Now the federal government and states are generally urging “all citizens to avoid unnecessary travel” to and from risk areas. However, clear rules are needed to help people know what to do and plan their trips (or to cancel them).

Lee-Dowd said: “Why didn’t the Hamburg government website have any notice that you shouldn’t travel if you’re from these risk zones? Why wouldn’t the hotel have any notification on its website that you wouldn’t be able to check in if you were visiting from a couple of hours down the road in Berlin?”


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REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. German is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, comes with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.