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EXPLAINED: How Germany’s latest rules on international travel affect you

Just in time for the summer holidays, Germany has dropped its travel warnings on a number of key tourist hotspots around the world. Here's everything you need to know before booking that flight and packing your bags.

EXPLAINED: How Germany's latest rules on international travel affect you
A tourist drinks a pint of German beer in Spain, where the travel ban has been lifted in a number of regions. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Clara Margais

What’s the latest news?

From July 1st, the German government is dropping its blanket travel warning for tourists, meaning that holidaymakers now have a green light to go abroad this summer. 

More specifically, a number of countries that are considered ‘basic risk’ areas – including parts of Croatia, Georgia, Mexico, Spain and Turkey – are no longer subject to an official travel warning.

Until now, countries could fall under the scope of the travel warning if they were classified as ‘basic risk’ – which basically means countries with a 7-day incidence of between 50 and 150 cases per 100,000 people.

Now, in line with new guidance across the European Union, countries must have a 14-day incidence of 200-500 cases, or be classed as a ‘virus variant’ area, for a travel warning to be issued.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Germany in July 2021

The changes affect around 80 countries and provinces that are currently on the ‘risk list’. Around 40 still remain subject to a warning.

In addition, a number of European countries have recently been placed on Germany’s ‘non-risk’ list, meaning there is neither a warning nor a recommendation against travel – though the Foreign Office urges all tourists to be careful nonetheless.

That essentially means that residents of Germany will now be able to enjoy simplified travel to numerous foreign countries, at least as far as controls at the German border are concerned. 

Is a ‘travel warning’ the same as a ‘travel ban’?

Not exactly. In the words of the Foreign Office, “A travel warning is an urgent appeal not to undertake unnecessary trips. The travel warning is not a travel ban. Travellers decide at their own risk whether to go on a trip.”

However, the existence of a travel warning is not to be taken lightly. Before the pandemic, it was generally reserved for war-zones or occupied regions such as Syria, Yemen or the Gaza Strip. 

Beyond immediate danger, the existence of a travel warning can lead to other consequences for the traveller, such as invalidating health or travel insurance – so the removal of the warning could also be good news for your coverage.

Do I still need to show a negative test at the border if there’s no travel warning?

Unfortunately the swabs are set to continue for the time being – unless you’re fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid – even if you’re going to a basic risk or non-risk area.

Essentially, anyone travelling in or out of Germany will still have to show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid – or a negative Covid test – either in paper form, or using the EU-wide CovPass. 

The screen of a mobile phone bearing a QR code as part of a EU Digital Covid certificate. Photo: ERIC LALMAND / BELGA / AFP / Belgium OUT

If you’re coming from a ‘virus variant area’ you still have to provide proof of a negative test before entering Germany even if you are vaccinated, and you must be part of the exceptions allowed to enter, such as being a resident or citizen.

In a press conference held alongside Health Minister Jens Spahn on Thursday, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said that checks at airports by border control staff – and monitoring of quarantine orders by health offices – would be stepped up over summer. 

READ ALSO: TRAVEL – Germany to impose stricter quarantine and border checks for summer

If you’re coming into Germany from a ‘non-risk’ area, however, you won’t have to register on the portal.

Could this have anything to do with the summer break?

Indeed it could. The announcement comes a week after schools in a number of northern states – including Berlin and Schleswig-Holstein – broke up for the summer holidays, and just a few weeks before the rest of the states follow suit. 

“After long months of lockdown, we can look forward to some normality, and that also applies to travel,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD). “Just as we have learned to deal with the virus in everyday life, it will also be with us on the road this summer – on the plane, in the hotel or on the beach.”

According to Mass, the decision was also made possible by the fact that the European Union has managed to standardise rules on negative tests, vaccinations and recovery from Covid-19 throughout the bloc, as well as reaching joint agreements on the risk categorisation of countries, as mentioned above.

From July 1st, a digital Covid vaccination certificate will be rolled out across the bloc, meaning people from Germany can use their ‘CovPass’ – a digital certificate of vaccination – to travel around the EU and Schengen.

READ ALSO:  EXPLAINED – How to get your digital Covid vaccine pass in Germany for EU travel

OK – what countries currently count as non-risk areas?

As we mentioned, there are now several ‘non-risk’ areas for tourists to visit, including numerous EU and Schengen Zone countries, as well as several in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.

Germany’s neighbouring countries of Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Poland, for example, are currently classed as ‘non-risk’ countries, meaning smoother travel to these countries is now possible.

Of course, the classification of different countries is changing all the time as new variants spread and infection rates rise and fall, so it’s best to keep an eye on the Robert Koch Institute’s list of designated risk areas before you make plans to travel.  

Football fans gather in Copenhagen on June 21st. Denmark is now considered a ‘non-risk’ area for travellers. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Ritzau Scanpix/AP | Philip Davali

It’s also important to note that, while certain countries outside of the EU or Schengen may be on Germany’s ‘safe list’, the governments in these countries may themselves have placed strict controls on arrivals from Germany – so it pays to do research on the policies of both governments before getting on a place. 

What rules are in place for different risk categories? 

According to the German Foreign Office, the following restrictions apply from July 1st: 

  • Virus variant and high-incidence areas: A travel warning for “unnecessary” (i.e. tourist) trips applies to countries that are classed as a high-incidence or virus variant area.
  • Basic risk areas: For countries that are classified as a risk area (i.e. countries with a 7-day incidence of 50-200 cases) – but neither as a high incidence nor as a virus variant area – unnecessary tourist trips are not recommended, though there is no longer a travel warning.
  • Restricted areas: For countries with significant restrictions on travel and freedom of movement, travel that is not necessary is not recommended, even without if the country isn’t classified as a Covid risk area by the German public health authorities.
  • Non-risk and EU/Schengen areas: For EU countries and those in the Schengen area (i.e. Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland) and for third countries without travel restrictions, there are no firm travel restrictions, but the government advises that holidaymakers remain vigilant and cautious. It’s worth noting, however, that some EU countries – such as Portugal – are currently classed as virus variant areas, so different restrictions would apply to travel between Germany and Portugal.

Do I still need to quarantine?

That depends on where you’re re-entering Germany from. If you’re entering from a basic risk area, you can avoid the standard 10-day quarantine by providing a negative test or proof of full vaccination or recovery from Covid.

If you’re travelling from a high-incidence area, you can avoid the same quarantine period by providing proof of vaccination or recovery, or end it early (after five days) by providing a negative test.

For anyone coming from a virus variant area, the rules are far more stringent: you must quarantine for 14 days, even if recovered, tested or fully vaccinated. 

However, Health Minister Jens Spahn has indicated that he could relax the rules on people entering from some of these countries – which currently includes Portugal, the UK and Russia – if the proportion of Delta variant cases continues to rise in Germany. 

READ ALSO: Germany could ease travel rules for UK and Portugal soon, says Health Minister

What other advice is the German government giving to tourists?

While the travel warning has been lifted, the Foreign Office has emphasised that this is no excuse to party like it’s 2019.

When travelling abroad, the government is urging tourists not to lose sight of the threat of the virus or drop any of the measures associated with fighting it, such as masks, hygiene and social distancing. 

Signs on the beach Palma, Mallorca, remind tourists of Covid-19 measures. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Clara Margais

“Hope and confidence will return to Germany in the summer,” said Maas.

“With all the justified confidence, the absence of a travel warning is not an invitation to be carefree. Travel with common sense and a sense of proportion, that is the motto of this summer. The danger posed by the virus and its mutations is far from over.”

The Foreign Office has also made clear that dispensing with the travel warning is not an invitation to travel to risk areas for no good reason.

“Even if there is no travel warning for a country, travellers should always inform themselves about the travel and safety information [of that country,” their Covid-19 guidance reads. “This also contains important information on entry restrictions, quarantine regulations for travellers and other restrictions.”

What are other people saying?

Unsurprisingly, tourism stakeholders are thrilled at the loosening of travel restrictions. 

Welcoming the news earlier in June, German Tourism Commissioner, Thomas Bareiß, described the removal of the travel warning for risk areas as an important message for the travel industry.

“The stigmatisation of travel is finally coming to an end,” he said.

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For members


EXPLAINED: How will Berlin’s new €29 transport ticket work?

Germany’s capital launched its follow-up to the €9 ticket on Tuesday, but the ticket will only be valid for those with subscriptions. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How will Berlin’s new €29 transport ticket work?

Tickets for the new €29 Berlin city ticket went on sale on Tuesday and eager passengers will be wondering how they can get their hands on the discount offer. However, unlike the nationwide €9 ticket, Berlin’s travel deal will only be valid in the AB fare zone of Berlin and for customers with a yearly subscription.

Why has Berlin brought in the ticket?

The Berlin state government and transport companies in Berlin developed the ticket to set an example for climate protection and make public transportation more attractive for Berliners. The state of Berlin is financing the offer which will bridge the gap between the end of the €9 ticket offer and a nationwide successor which should arrive in January.

READ ALSO: Berlin gets green light to launch €29 transport ticket

Where and when will the ticket be valid?

The €29 ticket will be valid on all buses, trams, U-bahns and S-bahns within the AB fare zone in the city of Berlin. Those wanting to travel into the C zone will need to buy an extension ticket.

Who is the ticket for?

Some people might be disappointed to find out that the ticket will only be available as part of a yearly subscription. All other tickets will retain their usual prices.

That means that people won’t be able to buy a monthly ticket for €29 unless it’s part of a yearly package, so certain groups of people, such as tourists, may not benefit from the offer.

From October 1st to December 31st, 2022, the monthly price for the following subscriptions in the Berlin AB fare zone will be reduced to €29:

–   VBB-Umweltkarten subscriptions with monthly and annual payments

–   10 o’clock ticket subscriptions with monthly and annual payments

–   VBB company tickets with monthly and yearly payments

–   Education monthly subscription ticket with monthly payments

The offer will not apply to ABC semester tickets. 

How will payment for the ticket work?

According to information from BVG, subscribers who pay monthly will automatically be charged the lower amount, while compensation for those who pay annually is expected to arrive at the end of the promotional period.

Can I get a yearly subscription starting from October and still benefit?

Yes. If you sign up for a yearly subscription on the BVG or VBB website, starting from October, you will be charged the lower price for the first three months of the subscription. If you start in November or December, you will pay the lower price for just those months. 

What happens once the promotion is over?

For those who don’t cancel their subscription by December 31st, their subscription contract will run for a total of 12 months. However, passengers can also switch to another VBB fare product, to another fare zone or to the successor product to the €9 ticket, which is expected to be valid throughout Germany from January 1st.

READ ALSO: Germany to set out plans for €49 transport ticket in October

When can the subscription be cancelled?

It seems that people will be able to cancel their yearly subscriptions. The BVG website says: “If we were not able to convince you of our performance and you decide not to continue the subscription beyond the promotional period, you can cancel your subscription at any time at the end of the month without any disadvantages.”


Subscription – (das) Abonnement

Extension ticket – (der) Anschlussfahrausweis

Yearly – jährlich

Monthly – monatlich

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.