EXPLAINED: What you need to know about the latest rules on travel to and from Germany
Germany is frequently updating its travel rules to try and stem the spread of Covid-19 and variants in the country. Here's what you should know about foreign travel, testing and quarantine.
What are the latest rules?
There are three types of risk areas:
- Virus variant areas: places where certain SARS-CoV-2 mutations are common (highest risk)
- High incidence areas: places where the 7-day incidence is over 200 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people
- Risk areas: other areas where there is an increased risk of infection (usually above 50 Covid cases per 100,000 people in seven days)
This is an overview of the restrictions but federal states can enforce their own quarantine rules so you have to check the state website for the latest updates.
Travel ban for Covid variant areas
Germany in January introduced a travel ban on countries or areas deemed high risk due to mutations of coronavirus.
It means people in these areas are generally not allowed to Germany
Countries classed as 'areas of variant concern' which fall under these restrictions include: India (as of April 26th), Brazil and South Africa.
As of May 23rd, the UK was also to be classed as a virus variant area of concern due to the prevalence of the Indian variant.
The transport ban applies to people travelling on airlines, by rail, ferry and coach operators.
There are some exceptions to the ban, including for German citizens, German residents and emergency workers, although residents still need to follow the strict testing rules. They include arriving with a negative Covid-19 test no older than 48 hours. People are also required to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival in the country.
People stopping in Germany for a flight transfer are not included in the ban as long as they are not leaving the airport. See more information here.
Note that everyone coming to Germany has to fill out a form before travelling (more on that below).
New testing rules for all travellers
As of March 30th 2021 new testing rules came into force in Germany.
It means that everyone arriving in the country by plane, regardless of the risk status of the place they are travelling from, has to present a negative coronavirus test certificate no older than 48 hours before boarding.
This testing obligation came into place for all travellers over concerns that German tourists were flocking to Mallorca over the Easter holidays after the Spanish island was removed as a “risk” country by German authorities.
Before, only passengers coming from RKI-designated “high-risk” coronavirus areas or “areas of variant concern” were required to show a negative test upon arrival in Germany.
Others from “risk” countries were previously able to get a test when they arrived in Germany.
You will likely be asked to show proof of a negative test before boarding the plane, and also to authorities when you arrive in Germany.
Children under the age of six are exempt from the testing obligation.
The test must have been taken no more than 48 hours before entry (time of swabbing). Proof of the test result must be on paper or in an electronic document in English, French or German. The test result must be kept for at least 10 days after entry.
For information on test requirements have a look at this information sheet.
The pre-departure test obligation applies even to passengers who are in transit at a German airport, authorities say .
The new obligation to undergo testing and provide proof initially applies up to and including May 12th 2021 and could be extended.
In principle, entry to Germany is possible from EU countries and states associated with the EU (but rules and travel bans must be followed).
Entry is also technically possible from a small handful of other countries due to the "epidemiological situation assessment" by the EU. These currently include Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand.
What about quarantine?
Even with a negative Covid-19 test, people arriving in Germany from high incidence and risk regions need to do a 10-day home quarantine - unless travellers have come from an area not classed as a 'risk region' (with less than 50 Covid cases per 100,000 people). This is currently the case in the UK and the Dominican Republic.
In most German states this quarantine can be ended with a negative test taken at five days into self-isolation at the earliest, which people can leave their home or hotel isolation for.
There can be different restrictions and rules you need to follow depending on the state you live in or you're travelling to. You can find your local government here by entering the postcode.
Keep in mind that you are generally not excluded from these obligations if you travel into Germany by car or another form of transport.
As we said above, there are different quarantine rules if travellers are arriving from Covid variant concern regions.
Are there any exemptions from rules?
Those travelling from high-incidence areas and other risk areas are only exempt from registration, testing and quarantine requirements under certain circumstances.
This can include transit through a risk area without a stopover prior to entering Germany as well as transit through Germany via the fastest route, for example with a confirmed onward flight to another country.
Do I need to do anything before I travel?
Yes. If you are leaving Germany, you must check the rules for the region or country you are travelling to.
When coming to Germany this is what you have to know: if you have stayed within a non-German risk zone, high incidence area or virus variant area within the last 10 days prior to entering the country, you have to register online prior to entry by filling in your information on this site: www.einreiseanmeldung.de.
Once you have done that, you will receive a PDF file as confirmation. Your carrier may 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 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.
Will anything else change?
The government said in January that it reserves the right to introduce additional testing obligations for countries where the risk of infection is particularly high due to the spread of mutations of the virus or high numbers of infections (and this is what has happened with the extra testing requirements detailed above).
It also means travel bans can happen at short notice if the government deems it necessary. So you need to keep an eye on changes.
Where can I get a 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. However, free PCR tests are only for people with coronavirus symptoms rather than for travel.
When entering the country by air or sea, you can also find private testing stations at airports and ports (such as these ones at German airports).
On March 8th, Germany brought in a new rapid testing rollout which means every person can have one free antigen test a week. You can ask the test provider if it can be used for travel purposes.
If you get a positive result you have to go back home and continue the quarantine, plus make sure you follow orders from health officials.
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.
Can people actually travel?
The message hasn't changed: German officials do not want anyone to be travelling right now, whether it's within the country or abroad.
There is no general ban on travel, like last spring during the first wave. Merkel and other leaders are strongly urging people not to travel unless it is essential.
There are of course reasons why people are still travelling, whether it's for work or personal reasons.
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.