EXPLAINED: What you need to know about rapid Covid testing around Germany

As Germany begins to reopen public life, you might fin it hard to wrap your head around exactly when and where you need to get a Covid-19 test. We break down the rules for the country's five most populous states.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about rapid Covid testing around Germany
A rapid testing centre is set up outside of Tierpark on May 6th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jens Kalaene

Each German state has slightly different rules for when you need to present a negative Covid-19 test result. Luckily, you are entitled to at least one free rapid test per week throughout the country. 

Germany is following the Geimpft, Genesen oder Getestet (vaccinated, recovered or tested) strategy, meaning that you can enter shops, outdoor dining areas and in some cases indoor hospitality facilities as long as you can prove you have either been tested for the Covid-19 virus, recently recovered from the infection, or been fully vaccinated. 

Below we explain where and how to get tested for coronavirus in five of Germany’s most populous states, as well as the places you will be required to present a negative test result. 


In Berlin, you can get free rapid antigen tests or Schnelltests in countless test centres around the city. Everyone is entited to one free test a day.

However, it is not recommended that you go to these centres if you have symptoms of a Covid-19 infection, in which case you should follow government advice on self-isolation, and getting a PCR test. This is a rule everywhere in Germany.

Also keep in mind that if you get a positive rapid test result, you are required to get a PCR test to confirm the result and follow advice on self-isolation.

Almost all shops, besides supermarkets, post offices, pharmacies and a few other essential stores require you to present proof of a negative test result from a test centre from the last 24 hours. Now that cafés and restaurants have reopened outdoor dining, you will also need a negative test if you want to eat out at any of these. 

READ ALSO: Germans return to pools and beer gardens as some Covid curbs are lifted

The Test-to-Go website lets you search for a testing facility close to you and also lets you know whether or not you need to book an appointment beforehand, or whether you can get a test as a walk-in.

Most test centres will not require an appointment, but it may be quicker if you register beforehand and simply present your confirmation QR code on arrival. Make sure to bring some ID with you, such as a passport or driving license. 


Bavaria’s health secretary announced at the start of May that the state would be massively widening its testing campaign, with drugstores and hardware stores now able to register as rapid test centres. Schnelltests have been available to all residents in the southern state since March 2021.

There are 97 official test centres in Bavaria, and residents can search for their closest facility here, as well as for local pharmacies offering the rapid antigen tests. Residents can get at least one free rapid test per week. The website also shows the opening hours and booking requirements for each test centre.

Whether you need a test to enter shops in Bavaria is based on the 7-day incidence rate in the local area. Since April 12th, new regulations have been in effect for retail stores depending on the regional 7-day incidence value. 

Most regions have an incidence between 50 and 100, which means that ‘click and meet’ appointment shopping is available without a coronavirus test. If the local incidence rate is below 50, there are no in-store shopping restrictions in place, but if it rises above 100 again, a negative test will be necessary for click and meet. 

READ ALSO: Bavaria and Berlin ease rules for vaccinated people

North Rhine-Westphalia

In NRW, in areas where the 7-day incidence rate is below 100, shoppers can enter stores without an appointment and without a negative test result. When the rate drops to between 35.1 and 50, outdoor sports will be allowed without a test, and indoor sports will be permitted for those who can present a test result that is less than 24 hours old. 

Most of the test centres in NRW require a pre-booked appointment, but the rapid antigen tests are free. Local testing facilities along with booking information can be found here.


In Hesse, you are also entitled to free rapid Covid-19 tests, even multiple times a week. The tests can be booked through the test centre website and results can come through in as little as 15 minutes. 

In Hesse, all but essential shops are remaining closed until May 30th, with the exception of click and meet, for which a negative test result is generally required. As long as the 7-day incidence rate remains below 100 after this date, the rules on shopping will be relaxed, but a negative test result will still be necessary to enter most stores. 


Residents of Baden-Württemberg can get free rapid tests at centres around the region. Local testing facilities, as well as relevant booking information, can be found here.

To enter into certain facilities, a negative test result that is no more than 24 hours old is necessary. At the moment, click and meet shopping is available without a Covid-19 test, though there are limits to the number of customers allowed in each shop. 

Some restaurants have been able to open indoor seating, for which a negative result is necessary. This also applies to outdoor dining, which is now open throughout the southwestern state.

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now