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EXPLAINED: The documents Americans need for travel to Germany

Germany opened its borders to Americans in June. Here's a look at what paperwork you need to get here - and what else you should be aware of.

EXPLAINED: The documents Americans need for travel to Germany
Travellers in Chicago's O'Hare International on July 1st. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Shafkat Anowar

Can Americans entry Germany for a tourist trip?

Yes! The German Government lifted travel restrictions for people coming from the United States on June 20th this year. It came following a recommendation from the EU commission to remove the entry restrictions for all arrivals from US and some other countries. 

It means that travel to Germany from the US for all purposes, including tourism, is allowed again. Non-essential travel from the US to Europe was essentially banned in March 2020 when the pandemic hit. 

Germany’s hotels and tourist spots are looking forward to the return of US visitors: around 2.2 million Americans visit the Bundesrepublik each year, making it the fourth most popular destination in Europe for them. 

If you’re planning on taking a trip around Europe, check out the requirements for each country before travel.


What’s the risk status of the US in Germany?

Germany has a three-tiered warning system in place for countries and regions across the world, ranging from a basic ‘risk’ zone, to a ‘high incidence’ area – and the highest risk category is ‘virus variant area of concern’.

Different rules are required for arrivals from countries around the world depending on their risk status. As of June 13th, the US is not on any risk list. That means people arriving from the US do not have to register online before travel

The 7-day incidence stands at around 33 infections per 100,000 people in the US. If the infection rate rises above 50 cases per 100,000, the US will move to the ‘risk’ category, meaning people will have to register online before travel and upload evidence of a negative Covid-19 test, proof of vaccination or proof of recovery of Covid within the last six months.

Keep in mind that countries are moved to the ‘high incidence’ list if they clock up more than 200 cases per 100,000 people. If variants of concern that aren’t already in Germany at a high level become widespread in a country, it can be moved to the ‘virus variant of concern’ category where travel is essentially banned. Those who are allowed in – like German residents and citizens – have to quarantine for 14 days and submit a negative Covid test before travel even if fully vaccinated. 

Keep an eye on the RKI list of risk countries here as the situation can change quickly.


Can I travel from the US to Germany even if I’m unvaccinated?

Unlike the rule for other non-EU countries where the focus is on allowing vaccinated passengers to enter, Germany is allowing unvaccinated people from the US to enter the country. But you will need to bring certain documents with you.

All unvaccinated air travellers aged six or older coming from the US must show a negative Covid test result before boarding the flight. 

Both PCR tests and rapid antigen tests are accepted. PCR tests must be taken within 72 hours of arrival in Germany and antigen tests that meet the requirements must be taken 48 hours before entry. 

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

What about if I’m vaccinated?

If you can show proof of vaccination, you do not have to provide a negative Covid test before travel to Germany. That’s also the case if you can show proof of recovery from Covid (if you contracted the infection at least 28 days ago and no more than six months ago).

People are considered fully vaccinated on the 15th day after the last vaccine dose was administered. It must be a vaccine approved by the EMA. So that’s currently Pfzier/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson.

On entry to Germany, you need to show proof that you have been fully vaccinated on an official document issued by a recognised health authority in your country of residence.

It can be in written form (for example a CDC card) or digital form. The government says that a photo taken on a phone is not sufficient. 

If you weren’t vaccinated in the US but are travelling form the US, these are the requirements:

The German government says the EU digital Covid pass or comparable proof of vaccination in German, English, French, Italian or Spanish must be presented upon entry to Germany.  This certificate must include the following information:

  • The personal data of the vaccinated person (at least first and last name plus your date of birth)
  • The date/s of vaccination and number of vaccination doses
  • The name of the vaccine (must be EMA-approved)
  • The name of the disease against which the person was vaccinated
  • The name and address of the person or institution responsible for vaccinating the person
  • Confirmation in written or electronic form with the qualified electronic signature or qualified electronic seal of the person who carried out the vaccination; if for administrative reasons this is not possible, a suitable format such as a stamp or state symbols should be used to clearly identify the responsible person or institution.

Note that all travellers coming to Germany must also not have any Covid symptoms, regardless of whether they’re vaccinated or not.

What other documents do I need?

You will likely be asked to show photo ID with the proof of vaccination, recovery or test (as is the case for people in Germany when showing proof of inoculation or tests).

Keep in mind that the airline you’re travelling with may require certain information or documents (e.g. an additional Covid test even if you’re vaccinated) so check with the airline for the requirements before your trip. 

What does the US say about travel to Germany?

This is also something that Americans really need to consider. 

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues travel advisories for each country, with most countries in Europe ranked level 3, meaning travel isn’t advised, or level 4 such as Sweden, where Americans are advised not to travel at all.

Germany is ranked at level 3 for the moment so US citizens are not advised to travel here. We’ve no idea at the moment when that will change. 

Are Europeans allowed into the US?

Currently the US is not reciprocating the offer of travel for Europeans coming the other way. Residents of the whole of Europe’s Schengen Area – 29 countries, city-states and micro-states, including Germany of course – as well as those in the UK and Ireland are still barred from traveling to the United States.

You are allowed to travel if you are a US citizen, or you spend 14 days before arrival in a country that is not on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s prohibited list. Certain family members are also exempt.

However, there are requirements and recommendations for people returning to the US from abroad, including citizens. So make sure if you do travel you’re aware of the US or state specific advice or rules. 

Do I need to obtain Germany’s digital Covid pass for travel in the EU?

No, you don’t need it. 

At the moment there is no formal agreement between EU countries and the US (or any other non-EU countries) for fully jabbed people to receive a digital vaccination certificate.

Anecdotally we’ve heard that some people who have been vaccinated in the US can receive a digital vaccine certificate from a pharmacy in Germany – but this is at the discretion of the pharmacist and probably does not apply to tourists – only German residents.  

READ ALSO: How I got Germany’s new digital CovPass with my US vaccination certificate

Are flights operating from the US?

Yes, but they could be more quiet than usual so the schedule may be reduced. Flights are more likely to be cancelled if there is an entry ban in force, such as from ‘virus variant areas’ (such as Brazil among others).

READ ALSO: Will it be possible to travel to Germany this summer?

You can find more information on the US Embassy in Germany site.

What’s going on in Germany at the moment? Are people worried about the Delta variant pushing up cases?

Yes – the 7-day incidence rate in Germany is just over 5 cases per 100,000 people right now so it’s still very low. But experts fear that the number of cases will be pushed up dramatically as we’ve seen in other countries including the UK. 

It means that the race to vaccinate before the Delta variant manages to make its presence even more felt is on. 

Aside from that though, German states have been relaxing Covid restrictions dramatically over the past month, with many events allowed again. 

Masks are still mandatory, however, when travelling on public transport and in shops, and people are urged to keep distance from others at social events. 

READ ALSO: ‘Stage zero’: North Rhine-Westphalia to scrap all contact restrictions from Friday

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UPDATE: When will Germany’s €49 ticket start?

Germany announced a €49 monthly ticket for local and regional public transport earlier this month, but the hoped-for launch date of January 2023 looks increasingly unlikely.

UPDATE: When will Germany's €49 ticket start?

Following the popularity of the €9 train ticket over the summer, the German federal and state governments finally agreed on a successor offer at the beginning of November.

The travel card – dubbed the “Deutschlandticket” – will cost €49 and enable people to travel on regional trains, trams and buses up and down the country.

There had been hopes that the discount travel offer would start up in January 2023, but that now seems very unlikely.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s €49 ticket

Martin Burkert, Head of the German Rail and Transport Union (EVG) now expects the €49 ticket to be introduced in the spring.

“From our point of view, it seems realistic to introduce the Deutschlandticket on April 1st, because some implementation issues are still unresolved”, Burkert told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland on Monday. The Association of German Transport Companies, on the other hand, said on Wednesday that they believe the beginning of May will be a more realistic start date.

The federal and state transport ministers have set their sights on an April deadline, but this depends on whether funding and technical issues can be sorted out by then. In short, the only thing that seems clear regarding the start date is that it will be launched at some point in 2023. 

Why the delay?

Financing for the ticket continues to cause disagreements between the federal and state governments and, from the point of view of the transport companies, financing issues are also still open.

The federal government has agreed to stump up €1.5 billion for the new ticket, which the states will match out of their own budgets. That brings the total funding for the offer up to €3 billion. 

But according to Bremen’s transport minister Maike Schaefer, the actual cost of the ticket is likely to be closer to €4.7 billion – especially during the initial implementation phase – leaving a €1.7 billion hole in finances.

Transport companies are concerned that it will fall to them to take the financial hit if the government doesn’t provide enough funding. They say this will be impossible for them to shoulder. 

Burkert from EVG is calling on the federal government to provide more than the €1.5 billion originally earmarked for the ticket if necessary.

“Six months after the launch of the Deutschlandticket at the latest, the federal government must evaluate the costs incurred to date with the states and, if necessary, provide additional funding,” he said. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Germany’s €49 travel ticket is far better than the previous €9 ticket

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn has warned that the network is not prepared to cope with extra demand. 

Berthold Huber, the member of the Deutsche Bahn Board of Management responsible for infrastructure, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that a big part of the problem is the network is “structurally outdated” and its “susceptibility to faults is increasing.” 

Accordingly, Huber said that there is currently “no room for additional trains in regional traffic around the major hub stations” and, while adding more seats on trains could be a short terms solution, “here, too, you run up against limits,” Huber said.

So, what now? 

Well, it seems that the federal states are happy to pay half of whatever the ticket actually costs – but so far, the federal government has been slow to make the same offer.

With the two crucial ministries – the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry – headed up by politicians from the liberal FDP, environment groups are accusing the party of blocking the ticket by proxy. 

According to Jürgen Resch, the director of German Environment Aid, Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Transport Minister Volker Wissing are deliberately withholding the necessary financial support for the states.

Wissing has also come under fire from the opposition CDU/CSU parties after failing to turn up to a transport committee meeting on Wednesday. 

The conservatives had narrowly failed in a motion to summon the minister to the meeting and demand a report on the progress of the €49 ticket.

“The members of the Bundestag have many unanswered questions and time is pressing,” said CDU transport politician Thomas Bareiß, adding that the ticket had falling victim to a “false start”.