Travel in Germany: What's allowed (and not) over Easter holidays?
At Easter Germany will be enforcing a strict lockdown - but does that mean those with wanderlust will have to stay indoors? Here's what you need to know about travelling within - and outside of - the Bundesrepublik.
Since the publication of this article, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has cancelled plans for an Easter lockdown. See the details HERE.
A few days at the beach, a city adventure, or a holiday home somewhere in the countryside: All this remains difficult to impossible during the Easter holidays between April 1st to 5th. In light of rising infection rates, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 state leaders agreed on early Tuesday morning to continue to advise against tourist travel at home and abroad.
This does not mean you have to avoid travel completely, but a lot will no longer be possible.
Can I travel at all within Germany?
You can travel anywhere, you just can't find accommodation. This is because hotels and holiday homes will remain closed to tourists in all states during Easter. Overnight stays are still only permitted in special cases, for example if you are traveling for business.
In most states, you are also not allowed to stay overnight in hotels in order to visit relatives - only if there is an urgent reason for doing so. This also applies to Easter. Yet each state has specified their own rules in their disease ordinances.
Can I at least travel to visit my relatives?
In general, nothing stands in the way of an Easter visit to the family. However, even in this case, only a maximum of five people from two households are allowed to get together, and children up to the age of 14 are not counted.
There will be no relaxation of contact restrictions over the holidays - such as at Christmas, when meetings with four people beyond one's household were possible - at Easter. In addition, people are encouraged to take advantage of the free Covid-19 testing offers - that is, to get tested before coming together.
Where can I stay overnight?
Anyone who wants to travel for Easter will have to find private accommodation, for example with family members or friends. The states of Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Rhineland-Palatinate had lobbied to allow "low-contact vacations" (such as in a self-catering vacation home) in their own state over Easter, but failed to win over Chancellor Merkel’s approval.
What about day trips?
Day trips are permitted, but here, too, the federal and state governments advise caution. Restaurants and cafés remain closed. In a few selected regions with low incidence rates, individual areas of public life may be opened as part of temporary model projects with strict protective measures.
Will Mallorca remain an alternative to domestic vacations?
In principle, yes. On their return, however, tourists now have to be tested for the virus before boarding a plane back to Germany. In the future, this will apply to all flights to Germany and to all travellers - regardless of whether they’re coming from a coronavirus risk area or for what purpose they come to Germany - as long as the Bundestag votes to adopt this in the disease control law.
In addition, the federal and state governments have forbidden airlines from offering any additional flights to the Germans' favourite island during the Easter vacations.
However, the quarantine for Mallorca returnees will not be reintroduced. With the removal of the island from the list of the Robert Koch Institute’s risk areas, this measure has not been necessary since March 14th.
Where else can I travel abroad?
There is no travel ban for any destination. In principle, you can travel to all countries where there are no entry restrictions for Germany and to which there are flight connections.
However, quarantine is compulsory for about 160 of around 200 countries worldwide on return because they are classified as risk areas. Here is a complete updated list of current risk areas.
Apart from Mallorca and the other Balearic Islands such as Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera, only a few vacation destinations in Europe are not on the risk list so far. These include the Croatian vacation peninsula of Istria, parts of the Spanish mainland and Portugal's Algarve coast. However, hotels in the Algarve, for example, are not allowed to take in tourists - as is the case in Germany.
Can I also go on holiday in a risk area?
That is not forbidden either. And there are also flight connections to such areas, such as the Canary Islands. Many hotels are open there. However, you will have to accept quarantine on your return to Germany - and perhaps also critical questions from your employer and other people.
Why is the holiday abroad so controversial?
Virologists warn that increasing mobility and carelessness on vacation are driving up infection rates. "If travel activity goes up, incidence rates will go up. That's relatively clear," said Mainz virologist Bodo Plachter.
"On holiday, you want to relax, you want to then forget about the virus. And that leads to (...) that caution decreases and the infection rates increase." This effect already existed last summer, he stated.
The tour operators, however, insist that social distancing rules and hygiene plans are in place, and therefore that package vacations are relatively safe.
In light of the new wave of infections, does anyone still want to travel?
A large majority of Germans do not. In a survey conducted by the opinion research institute YouGov on behalf of DPA, 79 percent of respondents already said last week that they did not want to travel.
Only two percent had planned a holiday abroad at the time of the survey (March 16th to 18th), another four percent wanted to travel domestically, and ten percent had not yet decided.