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Why (and where) Germans are choosing to go on holiday by car this year

Why (and where) Germans are choosing to go on holiday by car this year
An old-style VW camper van at the beach in St. Peter-Ording, Schleswig-Holstein in June. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Axel Heimken
The holiday season is already underway in Germany. And this year more people than ever are choosing to travel across Europe by car for their summer getaways. Here's a look at why, where they're going - and the rules.

After months of lockdown measures, Germans have clearly got the travel bug. But with air travel often coming with a higher risk of catching Covid – plus extra restrictions – lots of people in Germany are choosing to get to their holiday spots by car. 

That’s why hotels and holiday homes in some of the most popular destinations for Germans – Austria and Italy – are already booking up.

So if you are planning a trip to any of these countries, you might find that roads are busy because lots of other people have the same idea. 

But it’s not just foreign spots that are catching people’s eyes – staycations in Germany are popular too. 

Though the Baltic and North seas are top of many people’s lists, the German Hotel and Restaurant Association says that other areas of the German countryside will also be seeing an increase in tourism this year.

READ ALSO: How a rental car shortage across Europe could scupper holiday plans 

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Ingrid Hartges, the head of this association, said: “The good weather we’ve seen throughout June had a really positive influence on people deciding to go on holiday in Germany.”

Recently, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg and Berlin all started their summer holiday period, and the rest of Germany’s federal states will follow suit over the next few weeks. 

A major upswing can be seen in the number of people travelling by car for their summer holidays in 2021. According to TUI, Europe’s largest travel company, the most common destinations are in Germany, Austria, South Tyrol in Italy, and Istria, where most of the coveted family rooms in hotels and guest houses have already been snapped up. There will also be a large influx of campers and those with holiday homes in these areas. 

READ ALSO: Where (and why) demand for holiday homes in Germany is soaring

So are roads going to be super packed?

Some people are worried that the increased car travel will lead to major traffic jams this summer, but transport experts assure travellers that this will not be the case. Holidaymakers should expect a fair amount of traffic on motorways and on the common holiday routes, but roads are unlikely to be fully congested. 

Traffic on the A3 south of Cologne on July 3rd. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Henning Kaiser

From mid-July onwards, it looks like car journeys will only get longer especially at the weekends, and particularly for those travelling south. Most people travelling to Italy or Austria will be heading out sometime between now and the middle of August. 

In the summer of 2019, 594 traffic jams that extended more than 10 kilometers were reported across Germany. On the first weekend in August, there were 63 of these ‘mega’ traffic jams in Bavaria alone, with a combined length of 786 kilometers.

The worst of these occurred on the route between Munich and Salzberg. The major holiday destinations that summer were Austria, Italy and Croatia, as well as the Alps. The North Sea, Baltic Sea, Netherlands and France were also popular among drivers. 

Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has proved a challenge to travellers this summer. In many German states, hotels have had to impose a limit on the number of guests they can accommodate, and regular testing or proof of vaccination/recovery is still required to eat indoors in many restaurants. Any further lifting of restrictions relies heavily on the speed of the vaccine rollout. 

Plus some people are not so keen on the idea of driving hundreds of km for their holiday and are still choosing to fly. Now that more of the population has been vaccinated against Covid-19, and that cases remain low in Germany, it is becoming easer to go abroad. The top destinations for Germans travelling by plane are Mallorca, Crete, Antalya, the Canary islands and Greece.

READ ALSO: What are the rules for travelling to some of Germany’s favourite holiday destinations?

What are the Covid rules for entering Germany by car?

Germany changed its travel rules on July 1st due to the current low rate of infection, meaning that it is becoming much easier to travel around Europe and return to Germany.

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

In general if you are travelling by land (eg train or car) from a basic risk area (not a high incidence or virus variant area), you can submit evidence of your negative Covid-19 test, proof of recovery or proof of vaccination on the Einreiseanmeldung.de portal within 48 hours of crossing the border into Germany.

If this is submitted, travellers do not have an obligation to quarantine when they return to Germany.

None of Germany’s neighbouring countries are currently listed as ‘high risk’ or ‘virus variant’ areas by the government in terms of the coronavirus and its variants.

If coming from a high incidence area, the vaccinated and people who’ve recovered from Covid-19 don’t have to quarantine – but unvaccinated people will have to complete a 10-day quarantine that can be shortened if they have a negative test on the fifth day. 

In fact 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 – you don’t even have to register online when arriving from non-risk countries. 

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.  

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

Those travelling from ‘virus variant areas of concern’ – such as Portugal, the UK and Russia – are generally banned from entry into Germany. 

Only German nationals and those with residence permits are currently permitted to travel from virus variant countries, and it is currently necessary to both present a negative Covid-19 test result on entry and complete a 14 day quarantine – even if vaccinated. 

If you’re coming from a high incidence or virus variant area by car note that you have to register online before arriving in Germany.  


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