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COVID-19 TESTS

How can tourists and visitors in Germany get a Covid-19 test?

You'll probably need a negative Covid test if you're travelling into Germany, but what if you also need to get one while you're there? We take a look at how to go about it.

How can tourists and visitors in Germany get a Covid-19 test?
A member of staff opens the door to a corona testing centre. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jan Woitas

When do I need to get tested?

Due to its sinking infection rates, Germany is in the process of loosening up a number of its prior Covid-19 restrictions, but you’re likely to still require a negative test to enter some attractions such as museums and galleries, attend city tours or enjoy the indoor areas of pubs and restaurants. 

Equally, if you’re travelling from state to state – i.e. from Bavaria to Baden-Württemberg – you may require a negative test result to enter, and at intervals during your stay in the new state.

Rules on this vary state by state, so it’s worth looking up the website of the state or city you’re visiting beforehand to get the latest on the Covid-19 rules. 

The latest regulations for Berlin (in English) can be found here, while updates about Frankfurt and the state of Hesse can be found here, and the latest info on Munich can be found here.

Most – if not all – states provide Covid-19 updates in English on their websites, so a quick Google of the name of the state, plus ‘Covid-19’ should help you find what you need. 

You can also find up-to-date information on the various state regulations, and links to state websites, on the Germany Travel website.

Do I still need a test if I’m fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19?

In most cases, no. People who are fully vaccinated or can prove they have recovered from Covid are generally put on an equal footing with those who can present a negative test, so if you’ve got a vaccine certificate or PCR test to hand, you should be able to enjoy attractions freely.

If you fall into the “recovered” category, however, your PCR test must have been taken more than 28 days ago, and no longer than six months ago – so if you had Covid last year, for example, you will probably still need a negative test. 

READ ALSO: 

Self-testing kits in shops and pharmacies

If you simply want to have peace of mind on your travels and don’t have any Covid symptoms, one option for getting tested is to purchase a self-testing kit from a pharmacy, supermarket or local corner shop. 

At the time of writing, a set of five self-tests costs around €10 from budget supermarket Netto, and €3.75 from drug store DM

Be warned though: self-tests can’t be used for entry to tourist attractions, gastronomy, or for travel – so if you’re looking for a test for these purposes, you’ll need to visit an official testing centre in your local area, or at an airport or train station.

Rapid testing centres 

On March 8th this year, the German government said it would be paying for free antigen ‘rapid’ tests for German residents, and secured 925 million tests for the rest of the year (enough to test every resident approximately 12 times). 

When asked by The Local if the free tests – known as Bürgertests – extended to non-residents and tourists, a spokesperson for the German Ministry of Health confirmed that they did. 

States around Germany have implemented this policy differently, with some, like North Rhine-Westphalia operating test centres that require pre-booked appointments, and others, like Berlin, offering more casual walk-in centres.

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

In Berlin, you can use the ‘Test to Go’ search portal to find a testing destination near you, and find out whether booking beforehand is required.

With such a high concentration of testing centres, however – anywhere from in kebab shops to old gig venues – you’ll probably stumble across one yourself before you know it.

Testing centres at airports

When leaving Germany, you’ll probably need a negative PCR test in order to board your flight, and you may also require one to enter your next destination. 

If you don’t mind arriving at the airport early, most major airports in Germany – such as Berlin-Brandenburg, Frankfurt and Munich Airport – offer testing centres. Just be sure to leave enough time to get your results before you need to board your flight. 

You should be able to find out how long it takes by looking up the airport testing centre online beforehand. 

READ ALSO:

Will I need to pay for the test?

If you’re getting a rapid antigen test during your stay in Germany in order to, say, visit a bar, you won’t need to pay for it if you go to one of the testing centres for Bürgertests mentioned above.

However, if you need a PCR test before flying out of the country, you will have to pay for it yourself. 

The cost of these varies from vendor to vendor, but you can expect to pay anywhere between €40 and €160 for a private PCR test.

Some providers also charge a premium for ‘extra fast’ tests at airports, which might be seen as a tax on the disorganised. 

According to the spokesperson for the German Health Ministry, the variable prices reflect the fact that the government doesn’t control or standardise the cost of tests. 

“The Health Ministry has no influence on the prices of these PCR tests,” she told us. “They are set by the providers.”

If you have Covid symptoms, however, or have tested positive for Covid-19 with a rapid antigen test, you should be entitled to a free PCR test, paid for by the German state. 

What if I have Covid symptoms?

If you start to feel unwell on your trip to Germany and notice any of the most common symptoms of Covid, such as exhaustion, dry cough, or a fever, the government advice is to stay at your accommodation and contact your local Health Authority. 

The website of the Robert Koch Institute has a useful tool for finding out who the relevant Health Authority in your area is. Simply head here, enter the postcode of your hotel or accommodation, and you’ll find all the contact details you need. 

The Health Authority will be able to advise you on the next steps. 

Further guidance for travellers on Germany’s entry regulations can be found here.

What happens if I test positive for Covid?

If you test positive for Covid with an antigen test, and this result is confirmed with a PCR test, you will have to go into quarantine for 14 days. More information on what to do if you have Covid can be found (in English) on the Health Ministry website here.

Useful vocabulary 

I want to get a Coronavirus test – Ich will mich auf Corona testen lassen

I got tested – Ich wurde getestet

Rapid test – Schnelltest 

Self-test – Selbsttest 

Testing centre – Testzentrum

(No) Symptoms – (Keine) Symptomen 

Positive result – Positive Ergebnis 

Negative result – Negative Ergebnis  

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COVID-19 TESTS

Germany set to bring back free Covid tests

Germany is planning to bring back the offer of a free rapid Covid test per week to residents as concerns grow over the rising number of infections.

A test centre in Berlin shows the costs for a rapid and PCR test.
A test centre in Berlin shows the costs for a rapid and PCR test. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Paul Zinken

The German government shelved taxpayer-funded antigen tests on October 11th, saying it could no longer justify the free tests now that everyone has been offered a Covid vaccine. It was also hoped that getting rid of free tests would encourage more people to get vaccinated. 

The move meant people have had to pay a fee for tests out of their own pocket – and it has particularly impacted unvaccinated people who need to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test to access many indoor public facilities in Germany like eating indoors at a restaurant. 

READ MORE: 

But due to the rise in Covid infections in Germany, free antigen tests are set to return. 

According to a draft regulation by the outgoing federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU), the aim is to encourage people to get tested who may be avoiding tests for financial reasons, DPA learned from government sources on Wednesday.

Reports by German media said the new regulation is to come into force as early as next week. 

Everyone in Germany will then be entitled to at least one free Schnelltest a week.

The draft reportedly states that vaccinated people are also encouraged to get tested because they can get Covid-19 “and thus pose a risk, especially to vulnerable groups of people”.

Current rapid test providers across Germany can continue to operate. But the government draft says only medical supply stores (like pharmacies) and drugstores will be commissioned to provide tests in future. 

The aim is to prevent pop-up test stations which have previously appeared when tests were free. 

Earlier this week, coalition parties in talks to form a new government said free access to rapid tests should be brought back.

It comes after top German virologist Christian Drosten said the country needed tough contact restrictions to prevent at least 100,000 deaths.

“We have a real emergency situation now,” he said. “We need to do something immediately.”

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