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Can Americans travel to Germany for tourism this summer?

Germany has long been a top travel destination for Americans - before the pandemic hit. Will US tourists again be able to pack their bags for the Bundesrepublik in the coming months?

Can Americans travel to Germany for tourism this summer?
Archive photo shows an American Airlines flight departing from Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Silas Stein

For more than a year, vacations to Germany were impossible as most travel from the US – and many other countries outside Europe – remained heavily restricted amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet as increasingly more Americans become fully vaccinated – and Germany’s coronavirus situation steadily improves – it’s looking more likely that travel for tourism could again be allowed this summer.

READ ALSO: Germany’s emergency brake ‘set to expire’ amid low Covid figures

The tourism industry – which is beginning to reopen in most of Germany – is eager for their arrival: From 2018-2019, Americans comprised the third largest group of international visitors to Germany, and the largest from outside of the EU, according to Statista

Typically around 2.2 million Americans visit the Bundesrepublik each year, making it the fourth most popular destination in Europe for them.

Which Americans can travel to Germany?

Yet tourism is still currently put on hold. At the moment, Germany only allows unrestricted entry into the country for a small handful of non-EU countries, not including the US, according to the Foreign Ministry. 

However, it continues to broaden the definition of “essential travel” into the country, as long as travellers comply with testing and quarantine rules. 

These reasons include meeting an unmarried partner who is a resident in Germany (if they first fill out a form), short term work including business trips, medical procedures, and those visiting for urgent family reasons, including the birth of a child or grandchild.

The US Embassy in Berlin has urged anyone unsure about their individual situation to contact their local consulate before booking travel.

On Tuesday June 1st, Germany downgraded its coronavirus threat level, which is likely to influence how other countries, including the US, will assess travel here. 

For Americans eager to jump the gun and book a flight to Germany, several commercial airlines and booking websites such as Orbitz are offering regular commercial flights from the US, with either the possibility of a full refund or change to a later date for free. 

READ ALSO: ‘Significantly better situation’: Germany’s Covid danger level downgraded for first time in six months

Will Germany relax the rules for vaccinated US tourists?

EU ambassadors for the 27 member states in May recommended that rules should be changed to allow non-essential visits into the EU by travellers who are fully vaccinated – in other words with both doses of a two-dose vaccine or one in the case of the Johnson & Johnson injection.

However, on the unresolved question of how visitors will be able to prove they have been vaccinated, the EU said it will be up to individual member states to decide what evidence they will accept.

Germany has already eased most quarantine requirements after travel for fully vaccinated people, with the exception of those coming from a virus variant area. Testing requirements are still in place, such as showing a negative test from the last 48 hours. 

In May the EU Commission president and former German defence secretary Ursula von der Leyen revealed the bloc’s plan “to revive the tourism industry and rekindle cross-border friendships”.

The sun rises in Warnemünde, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Friday morning. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jens Büttner

“We propose to welcome again vaccinated visitors and those from countries with a good health situation. But if variants emerge we have to act fast: we propose an EU emergency brake mechanism,” said Von der Leyen.

The EU has been trying to push a coordinated response across the 27 member states to allow for tourist travel from non-EU countries, which was effectively banned in March 2020.

It looks likely that Germany, and other EU member states, will allow travellers from certain non-EU countries deemed to be low risk if they are fully vaccinated, or potentially also if they can show a negative test result from a PCR swab test from within the last 48 hours before travel to Germany.

The rules, however, have yet to be confirmed.

Some EU countries, including Italy, Spain and Greece, have gone their own way, already announcing plans to allow vaccinated tourists to visit from the US.

When will the rules for summer be confirmed?

The German government is expected to make further announcements on the rules for travel from outside Europe this summer by the end of June – when it says the country’s travel pass scheme is set to be rolled out.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said that the country’s so-called CovPass, a health certificate that will allows people to upload their health status (such as full vaccination or negative test) for smoother travel, will be ready by the end of June. That’s roughly in line with the date provided by the EU.

READ ALSO:

The EU says it has been working closely to inform the US, the World Health Organization and others about its progress to allow the certificate to be used on a wider scale. But it is not clear how this will work in practice for travellers from the US, who mostly don’t have vaccine certificates with QR codes on them – a key part of the new digital passport. 

For now, most travellers coming from outside the European Union will still need to follow any entry bans as well as quarantine and testing rules, which vary depending on the country you are travelling from.

See The Local’s Germany travel news section for the latest updates.

For more information on the current restrictions and health situation in Germany please see the Foreign Ministry’s website (in English).

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TOURISM

Is Leipzig really Germany’s ‘ultimate travel destination’?

The Saxonian city of Leipzig has been named by traveller’s bible Lonely Planet as its “ultimate” travel tip for Germany. Does the Local Germany’s knowledgeable readership agree?

The city centre of Leipzig.
The city centre of Leipzig. Photo: Jan Woitas/dpa-Zentralbild

Long a cult favourite among Germany fans, the left-wing city of Leipzig appears to now be gaining mainstream recognition after the Lonely Planet crowned it the country’s top travel destination this week.

In a new book titled “Ultimate German Travel Destinations – the top 250”, the travel publisher put Leipzig ahead of picturesque getaways such as Lake Constance and the Zugspitze as its number one destination.

“The hype that some say surrounds the city isn’t hype t all: Leipzig really is hipper than Berlin, and hotter than Munich, especially among millennials,” the guidebook boldly claims.

It goes on to lavish praise on the city of 600,000 inhabitants as “young, exciting, multifaceted – sometimes colourful, sometimes grey – and with a vibrant liveliness.”

“Everyone wants to go to the city where the anti-GDR demonstrations started,” the guidebook continues. “It is the home of Auerbachs Keller (made famous by Goethe and Faust); it’s the city of street art and wave gothic festivals; and its artistic scene at the Baumwollspinnerei is second to none.”

READ ALSO: A love letter to the eastern German city of Leipzig

‘Not cooler than Berlin’

Reaction to the list among the Local’s readership was mixed.

“It is a beautiful city and it’s easy to navigate. I find it hard to say that it’s cooler than Berlin, though. Berlin simply has more,” one reader told us on Facebook. “It’s the kind of place where people find their ‘spot.” I think most people in Leipzig know about most places in Leipzig. It’s a much smaller city. That may just be a more favourable lifestyle for some.”

Praise for Saxony’s biggest city ranged from admiration for the beauty of its architecture (particularly its train station) to the vibrancy of its arts scene.

Others suggested that Leipzig is indeed overhyped and that it can’t compete with natural wonders such as the pristine Königssee in the Bavarian Alps.

https://twitter.com/cr15b/status/1447491633486995458

Lake Constance wins silver

Lake Constance, the country’s largest body of fresh water, came in second on the list.

The authors praised the southern See, which borders Switzerland and Austria, for “the many beautiful spots on its shores: Lindau, Meersburg, Überlingen, Constance and more – often surrounded by lush orchards.”

A regatta on the Bodensee in September 2021. Photo: dpa | Felix Kästle 

Hamburg’s new Elbphilharmonie concert hall came in third. 

“It’s impossible to imagine the Hanseatic city’s skyline without this glass work of art, which soars into the sky above the harbour like a frozen wave,” the book notes.

Also in the top ten were the Wattenmeer, which is a huge nature reserve on the North Sea coast, Berlin’s museum island, the sandstone hills of Saxony, and Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze in Bavaria.

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