Christmas: Is it possible to travel within Germany under new rules?

Christmas: Is it possible to travel within Germany under new rules?
A quiet road in Frankfurt. Photo: DPA
Is travelling to another federal state allowed during the Christmas holidays?

Germany is to toughen coronavirus measures from Wednesday December 16th until January 10th. Under the new rules, non-essential shops and schools will close, people can't drink alcohol in public and the sale of fireworks is banned.

From December 24th to 26th, the contact restrictions will be eased slightly. So can you travel to visit people during this time?

Is travel banned?

First of all, travel is not banned. However, the government and states have urged people against travelling unless it is absolutely necessary.

“The federal Government and the Länder (states) urge all citizens to refrain from non-essential travel in Germany and abroad between now and January 10th,” says the agreement.

Non-essential travel includes tourist travel.

The government and states also emphasise that entry into Germany from foreign risk areas means a compulsory 10-day quarantine period. The quarantine can only be ended by a negative test taken at the earliest on the fifth day after entry.

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See also on The Local:

Tests are no longer free in Germany after non-essential travel.

So if you decide to travel somewhere abroad that's a risk zone, keep in mind you'll have to quarantine when you get back.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about travel within Germany (and abroad) at Christmas

What happens if you decide to travel within Germany?

Despite the call to avoid travel, if you decide to go to another German state over the holidays, you must familiarise yourself with the coronavirus regulations of that particular region.

 For those travelling to another federal state, there's also the question of accommodation.

At the moment hotels are only allowed to serve guests who are travelling for essential reasons such as business. Tourist stays are not allowed.

However, some states, including Berlin, Bremen and Hesse said they were to allow relatives visiting family at Christmas to stay in hotels or other overnight accommodation.

At the moment this still seems to be the case in Berlin, Bremen, Lower Saxony,  and Thuringia. Other states are still deciding on this.

Some states, including Bavaria, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg have said they will not allow this.

Berlin mayor Michael Müller, however, emphasised that people must consider not travelling.

“If it is a trip that is not of a tourist nature, then there is also a possibility to stay overnight in the hotels,” he said after a Senate meeting.

“But the starting point is different. Staying at home is the urgent appeal, not travelling around.”

In Müller's view, necessary visits to relatives are different to tourist trips, because the former do not involve sightseeing or shopping.

The situation is subject to change so you must check your local state rules in the coming days, as well as the hotel or overnight accommodation you're thinking about. It would not be a great start to the holiday season if you travel somewhere only to be turned away at the door.

The opening of hotels to relatives is a contentious issue in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel last week slammed the idea of states opening for relatives, saying it was the wrong move and created “incentives” for travel.

READ ALSO: 'A trip home is impossible': How foreign residents in Germany plan to celebrate Christmas

How can you get around?

Travel by car is probably the safest option since you won't come into contact with other members of the public.

If you don't want to travel across Germany by car, there are alternatives: Deutsche Bahn, for example, is making extra trains available. 

A new reservation system also aims to ensure more free seats on trains – and distance between passengers.

The coach company Flixbus is also offering journeys again from December 17th.

Travelling by plane is also still an option although hygiene and distance rules apply at German airports and within planes.

For more information read our story on travel in Germany and abroad during the festive season here. Please also keep up to date with your local coronavirus rules.


Member comments

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  1. Dear Author, there is important information missing or need to be clarified. Are there any hours limitation we should respect during travel by car or by train? For example, have I return from domestic travel before 20/21 o’clock or etc

    Thank You in advance.

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