What you need to know if you're travelling to Germany from abroad at Christmas
Thinking of coming to Germany from a coronavirus 'risk area' during the festive season? Here's what you should know.
Perhaps you're arriving in Germany soon or thinking of travelling and returning. Here are some points to keep in mind. Always check the latest rules before you travel, though, as the situation can change very quickly.
For more information on the ban on flights from the UK to Germany check out our story here. We'll continue to provide updates on our site so keep an eye on the homepage. For the situation from a European perspective, read our story here.
When did the rules change and how long is the quarantine now?
On November 8th Germany officially brought in new quarantine and testing rules for people returning from regions deemed risk zones.
The rules were decided by the federal government and states but there may be regional variations across the 16 states.
Previously, you had to quarantine for 14 days when arriving in Germany from a risk area. You were able to get a free test on arrival, and you'd be released from the quarantine if the test came back negative. If it was positive, you'd continue the quarantine on the orders of health officials.
That's not the case anymore. Now, after arriving in Germany from your destination you must go straight home and self-isolate for 10 days.
You can end this quarantine with a negative coronavirus test taken at the earliest five days into the quarantine.
The test used to be free for people arriving from risk zones but now you'll have to pay for it. Tests can vary in cost, from around €50 to €60 but sometimes may be more depending on the provider.
It's very important to check the information with the German state you are travelling to as some may require two negative coronavirus tests, or may have a longer quarantine period. You can find your local rules here by entering the postcode.
Do I have to do anything before travel?
Yes. These are not ordinary times so you have to be prepared. If you are leaving Germany, you must check the rules for the region or country you are travelling to. For example, there may be restrictions or quarantine rules upon entering that place.
You may need to fill out a form before travelling, and you will have to follow the regulations for that country, whether it's wearing a mask or sticking to a curfew.
When coming to Germany this is what you have to know: if you have stayed within a non-German risk zone within the last 10 days prior to entering the country (the Robert Koch Institute provides an updated list here of risk areas), you have to register online prior to entry by filling in information on this site: www.einreiseanmeldung.de.
Once you have done that, you will receive a PDF file as confirmation. Your carrier will check whether you can present a confirmation before you can travel.
If, in exceptional cases, it is not possible to make a digital entry, you will have to fill in a replacement declaration on paper instead.
If you are entering from a country outside of the Schengen Area, the government says the registration check will be made by police at the border, presumably during your passport check.
If you have filled out this form you do not need to alert the local health authority (Gesundheitsamt) that you've arrived as you've already done the digital entry registration.
The government says if you have filled in this form "the public health office will be able to access the stored data digitally and thereby monitor the observance of home quarantine and/or require the submission of a test result or submission to a test".
So I've just arrived in Germany from a risk country. What do I do?
To answer this question we asked some readers for their experiences.
Aaron Burnett, a writer originally from Canada but who has lived in Berlin for almost 10 years, recently came back to Germany from London where he visited his boyfriend.
He described his experience, which involved going straight home after landing in Berlin. He self-isolated at home for five days and then went to a private testing centre at BER airport to receive a coronavirus test. You can't book an appointment there but at the moment you can register ahead of time which could help to shorten your wait.
You will probably have to queue for a test, though, depending on when (and where) you go. Burnett set his alarm for 5.30am to arrive early. The test centre he attended is usually open from 7am-7pm but there are different times over the holidays.
It goes without saying that you should cover your mouth and nose with a mask and keep distance from everyone when you leave your home during quarantine to go for a test.
"And then after the test you go home again," he said. "As soon as that test result arrives and it's negative, you are allowed to leave your quarantine early."
For Burnett, the negative test result arrived later that evening. If you have a positive test result you have to continue the quarantine, contact the health authority and follow orders. The health authority is also made aware of the result if its positive by the centre carrying out the test.
"There’s a certificate which I promptly downloaded to my phone and printed off," Burnett said. "I carried it with me for 10 days after that. You’re supposed to keep the result for that period of time"
Burnett said the rules can be complicated so it's important to "take it in steps".
To sum it up the important points Burnett said: "Check with your Bundesland (state). Go on their website or call their hotline
"Wait for five days and then go to a test centre. Go back home and quarantine until you have your test result. Then print it, keep it with you at least until the end of the quarantine period."
A sign on the German Autobahn telling people returning from risk areas to self-isolate. Photo: DPA
Will they check up on me during quarantine?
In Germany you are obligated to report your arrival to the health authority (by digital registration or by reporting your arrival).
The health authority can monitor your quarantine and if you're found to be breaking rules, you would likely receive a fine, which can be up to €25,000 in severe cases.
Authorities can require you to submit a test result (although it's not part of the process to submit every negative test) so keep your test result handy or in a safe place in case you need to present it.
Where can I get tested – and do I need a certain test?
According to the government, you can call the non-emergency number 116 117 or check www.116117.de to find out where in your area you can get tested.
You can also be tested by your family doctor if they allow it, so call them to ask.
When entering the country by air or sea, you can also find testing stations at airports and ports (such as these ones at German airports).
There are also private testing centres being set up across Germany. Even Berlin's famous KitKat club has turned into a rapid test centre.
According to the Robert Koch Institute "molecular based tests (PCR tests) for the direct detection of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 are currently accepted from all countries of the European Union" including Germany as well as most other countries.
Meanwhile, antigen rapid tests to detect coronavirus are accepted in principle "as long as they meet the minimum criteria recommended by the WHO for SARS-CoV-2-Ag rapid tests".
Experts say rapid tests are less reliable than PCR tests but they are still aceepted if they meet requirements. Check with the test provider if you're unsure.
One other thing: the test result must be available on paper or in an electronic document in German, English or French language and must be presented upon request to the competent authority after entry.
For information on test requirements check out this information sheet.
Do I need to do anything if I enter Germany from a foreign country by car?
If you enter Germany from a risk area you are required to complete the digital entry registration, whichever way you travel.
Travellers entering by car may be subjected to random checks by the competent authorities to determine whether a digital entry registration was conducted, says the government.
So it is okay to travel during the festive period?
Travel is not banned under the new lockdown rules, unlike in spring. But the government has urged people not to travel, either domestically or abroad.
Keep in mind that there are special rules for travelling to most countries and you may not even be allowed to enter the region.
Please keep in mind that this article, as with all of our guides, are to provide assistance only. They are not intended to take the place of official legal advice.