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How Germany’s new travel rules to fight the fourth Covid wave may affect your holiday plans

Germany gave its travel restrictions an overhaul this week. What does it all mean?

How Germany's new travel rules to fight the fourth Covid wave may affect your holiday plans
Bavaria's Königssee is a top destination for tourists at home and abroad. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

How exactly have the entry rules changed?

If you’re planning on visiting Germany, or heading on holiday and returning, you’ll need to be aware of the documents you need to enter the country. 

At the start of this month Germany changed its testing obligation rule. It means that everyone entering the country – regardless of where they are coming from or how they’re travelling – has to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test, proof of full vaccination or proof of recovery from Covid-19 within the last six months.

Before this point, the rule applied to everyone travelling by air. Now if you’re travelling by car, train or boat you should prepare for random checks around border areas. 

One important change in the testing rule is that it applies to people over the age of 12. That means those under 12 do not need to provide a negative test, or a vaccination or recovery certificate. Previously, everyone over six had to be tested. 

There are exceptions for short trips and commuters.

READ ALSO: Five things to know about Germany’s testing rules 

What type of tests are acceptable?

Both rapid antigen tests that meet the quality requirements (swab has to be taken within 48 hours before time of entry to Germany) and PCR tests (maximum 72 hours old at entry) are acceptable.

The antigen test must meet ≥80 percent sensitivity and ≥97 percent specificity to qualify for entry into Germany. If you’re unsure whether your test provider meets these standards, you can often find the information on the provider’s website or call them up.

If you’re coming from a virus variant area, the antigen tests must be taken within 24 hours of arriving in Germany.

Although vaccinated and people who’ve recovered from Covid can show proof of that instead of a negative test when travelling from most countries into Germany, if it’s a virus variant area everyone has to show a negative test – even if you’ve been vaccinated or have had Covid within the last six months.

Who pays for the tests?

Although antigen tests are generally free in Germany, if you’ve travelled abroad and have to get a test to get back into Germany, you pay for it yourself.

In the new regulations, the German government estimates the cost of an antigen test at a “single- to small-double-digit amount” for travellers abroad. PCR tests are significantly more expensive.

The government says it could cost more than €100 for travellers to have this test done abroad.  

Mallorca is a favourite destination for Germans. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/ZUMA Press Wire | John-Patrick Morarescu

What should I know about the documents I have to show?

According to the German government, unvaccinated people over 12 have to show that they have tested negatively for a Covid-19 infection with a certificate in German, English, French, Italian or Spanish language in paper or digital form.

The test certificate must indicate the date of testing and the type of test used. You may also be required to confirm your identity with photo ID when showing the test certificate. 

For vaccinated people: the vaccine used must be one of those listed on the website of the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut. You are classed as fully vaccinated in Germany at least least 14 full days after receiving the last dose. It can be in paper or digital form but should include details such as your name, the type of vaccine used and it must have been issued from a recognised institution. 

For people who’ve recovered from Covid, one dose of the vaccine is sufficient and the 14-day waiting period does not apply.

To show recovery from Covid-19, a positive PCR test result carried out at least 28 days but no more than six months previously can be shown. 

READ ALSO:

Will anyone check the documents?

Airlines already have to check proof of testing or vaccination/recovery before boarding. 

As we said above, for other forms of transport police or travel providers are carrying out spot checks. 

This isn’t supposed to lead to more traffic jams but given that it’s holiday season and roads around popular border areas are busy anyway, you should keep in mind that it may add a bit of a time onto your journey. 

READ ALSO: Holidaymakers stopped at German borders for test checks

What’s changed about risk countries?

Germany has simplified its classification of countries into a ‘traffic light system’ in order to make it easier for people to decide when travelling and to better understand the travel rules. 

The main difference is that the government has wiped the ‘basic risk’ area – used for areas with more than 50 new infections per 100,000 people within seven days, and instead has just three categories:

Non risk areas (green) – These generally include areas with less than 100 cases per 100,000 people but other factors such as vaccination rates are taking into account. 

High risk areas (orange) – High-risk areas are regions with a particularly high infection incidence of spread of the virus. These include, for example, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, the UK and Cyprus.

Virus variant areas (red) – Countries and regions in which virus variants of concern that are not yet widespread in Germany and are considered particularly infectious or dangerous are classified as virus variant areas. These are currently Brazil and Uruguay.

The table below in German shows what happens when you’re coming from non risk area (green), a high risk area (orange) or a virus variant country (red). It shows if vaccinated/recovered people, the unvaccinated, and children under the age of 12 have to fill out the online digital Einreiseanmeldung’ form, need a negative test or need to quarantine. 

Source: German government

What are the quarantine rules?

Unvaccinated travellers and those who’ve recovered from Covid coming from high-risk areas are required to enter quarantine for 10 days after arrival, which can be ended no earlier than the fifth day by a negative PCR test. 

As the monitoring of quarantines is controlled at the regional level, your local health office should send out an email with details of where you can take the test or with any other instructions. 

For children under 12, the quarantine period can be ended at the end of the fifth day after entry with non need for a test. 

All returnees coming into Germany from virus variant areas must enter a domestic quarantine for 14 days on arrival. 

As we said above, proof of testing is also required even if you are fully vaccinated or recovered.

In some cases, fully vaccinated people may not have to quarantine if coming from a virus variant region. Check out our story below for the details on that.

READ ALSO: Germany’s new quarantine rules for vaccinated travellers

Do I have to do anything else before entering Germany?

If you’ve been in a country classed as a risk country (orange and red category) by Germany within 10 days of heading to the country you have to fill out the Digital Entry Portal at Einreiseanmeldung.de.

You can upload proof of vaccination/recovery or a negative test and you’ll also have to answer questions about where you’re coming from 

You don’t have to fill in this form if you’re coming from a non risk area. 

Can anyone travel to Germany?

Although Germany has eased entry restrictions allowing vaccinated people from most non-EU countries to enter, and expanding the ‘safe list’ of countries, there are still some strict rules. 

There are entry bans in place for virus variant countries and tougher rules for unvaccinated people in many cases. 

And, of course, the country you’re travelling from may not recommend travel to Germany so take this into account too.

You can keep an eye on Germany’s risk countries by checking the Robert Koch Institute list regularly. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

€9 for 90: Everything you need to know about Germany’s cheap travel deal

Germany's €9 monthly transport ticket is coming. Here's everything you should know about the deal that will allow you to to travel the country for next to nothing this summer.

€9 for 90: Everything you need to know about Germany's cheap travel deal

What’s all this about cheap transport?

Germany is about to launch a mega cheap transport ticket – and a lot of people are getting very excited about it.

The “€9 for 90” ticket is a monthly travel card that people can buy for just €9 per month over a three-month period. It’s a fraction of the price of a normal monthly travel card and – even more incredibly – can be used anywhere in the country on local and regional transport. 

The deal was initially announced back in April as part of an energy relief package put together by the government. And despite some anger from state leaders over funding for the scheme, the ticket cleared its final hurdle in the Bundesrat on Friday.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block the €9 ticket in the Bundesrat

So far, the €9 ticket has received a lot of publicity and attention. That’s probably because it’s one of the more fun measures to combat the energy crisis – one that doesn’t involve complicated claims and write-offs in your tax return.

Instead, the government is hoping that the new ticket will cut monthly transport costs for households and encourage people to use more eco-friendly transport options. With fuel prices spiralling, it’s a great time to leave the car at home and travel around for next to nothing, while doing your bit for the environment. 

Sounds great. Can everyone buy it?

Yes! It doesn’t matter whether you’re a tourist on a weekend trip from Austria, a part-time Germany resident or Chancellor Olaf Scholz himself: everyone will be able to purchase the €9 ticket. (We imagine Olaf may already have his own transport, though.) 

It will, however, have your name on it, so it can’t be pooled between friends (as tempting as an even cheaper travel deal would be). 

READ ALSO: What tourists in Germany need to know about the €9 public transport ticket

Busy train in Stuttgart

People board a busy train in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

When will it be available?

It’s currently available in a handful of cities, including Hamburg, Stuttgart and Freiburg – but everyone else will be able to purchase it from May 23rd onwards. 

The deal itself will be a summer travel offer. That means the first monthly ticket will be valid from June 1st and the last monthly ticket will expire on August 31st. Each of the tickets will be valid for the full calendar month so you won’t be able to mix and match with existing tickets.

For example, if you’ve already bought a ticket that’s expiring in mid-June, you wouldn’t then be able to buy a €9 ticket running from the middle of June to the middle of August.

Instead, you would require two €9 tickets  for June and July – though you can get a refund for the part of the prior ticket you didn’t end up using.

Where can I get hold of it?

The ticket will be available via Deutsche Bahn’s DB Navigator app, on the DB website, at in-station terminals and at ticket desks and offices.

Regional transport operators are likely to have their own ticket purchasing options as well – most likely online, but in some cases also at ticket machines and in-station offices. 

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin

A regional train near Hornberg, in the Black Forest.

A regional train near Hornberg, in the Black Forest. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

What types of public transport can I use it on?

The ticket is valid throughout Germany, but only on regional and local transport.

That means you can use it on all local trains like the U-Bahn and S-Bahn, as well as on trams and buses. You can also travel on the Regionalverkehr (regional trains) across Germany. 

You can’t use the ticket for private services like Flixbus and Flixtrain or on other long-distance rail services like IC, EC and ICE trains. If you’re travelling around your state and aren’t sure if the ticket will be valid, check if the train you’re taking has an ‘RE’ in the name. That’s the shorthand for regional trains.

It probably goes without saying, but taxi services won’t be included in the price. And, yes, you will still need to pay for those e-scooters as well. 

Can I use it to travel first class?

If you’re hoping for a month of budget transport but also want to be treated like royalty whilst on board, we may have to disappoint you. The €9 ticket can only be used in second-class carriages.

This is largely because there’s likely to be huge demand for the budget offer – so there could be scuffles for first-class seats with that extra bit of legroom. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

I’ve already got an Abo. What can I do?

This has been a big concern for the folk who have already opted to pay full price for their public transport. (What fools they were…) 

Luckily, this group of keen transport users won’t miss out either. According to the DB website, people who’ve already shelled out on a monthly or annual ticket will be contacted by their local transport provider and informed about how they can get a refund.

If you’ve got a standing order set up, the transport operator will likely just debit the €9 from your account instead of the usual amount. Otherwise, you may get sent a refund via direct debit. 

Your subscription ticket will be valid for local public transport throughout Germany during the three month offer period – not just in your area.

Will students also benefit from the ticket?

Absolutely – though this is one area where things may be a little less well-organised. If you’re a student with a semester ticket, you will be entitled to a refund of the extra amount you paid, which will likely be handled by your university. 

One thing that seems a little unclear is whether the semester ticket will suddenly be valid outside of your local region, just like the €9 ticket is. We assume it will, but we’ll try to clarify this with DB and other service providers in the coming weeks. 

Can I take my bike on board?

Unfortunately, bikes aren’t included in the offer – and this seems like a deliberate choice. 

DB is recommending that people leave their bikes at home during the three months that the €9 ticket is on offer. This is because trains are likely to be extremely busy and they can’t guarantee that they’ll have room for everyone, let alone a hundred or so bikes. Instead, you can usually hire a bike at your destination.

However, if you’ve already got a subscription that allows you to take your bike with you (i.e. a student semester ticket or another type of Abo), you’ll still be able to do so. 

What about my dog? 

You will unfortunately not be able to purchase a €9 ticket in the name of Rover T. Dog (well, you could try, but it probably won’t work). However, the usual rules will apply to travelling with a furry friend. 

In some places, you may need to buy an extra dog ticket for Rover, while in others, he’ll be able to accompany you free-of-charge. 

READ ALSO: Who benefits from Germany’s €9 public transport ticket offer?

A woman carries her dog through a Berlin train station

A woman carries her onesie-clad dog in a Berlin train station. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

Do children need to pay for a ticket? 

Children under six can travel for free on public transport, while children over the age of six will need their own €9 ticket. 

What about seat reservations? 

Transport operators are trying to keep things as flexible as possible to cope with demand over summer, so you unfortunately won’t be able to use the ticket to reserve a seat in advance.

Won’t public transport be rammed? 

At the moment, nobody really knows. According to the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), there could be as many as 30 million public transport users per month over summer – but this is only a rough estimate.

READ ALSO: How many people will use the €9 ticket?

One way around this is to try and travel on weekdays and off-peak services where possible and (as mentioned) to hire bikes rather than bringing them in the train.

It could also be helpful to familiarise yourself with different transport connections and routes in your area. 

The other thing that could help ease the crush on public transport is the fact that the government is also planning to cut taxes on fuel in tandem with the €9 ticket. That means that, for three months over summer, drivers will be able to get cheaper petrol and diesel – so some may indeed decide to take the car after all.

The ticket ends at the end of August. What happens next? 

Once again, it’s hard to say. Critics of the €9 ticket say that the scheme will leave gaping holes in transport budgets and could ultimately lead to ticket prices going up in autumn.

On the other hand, proponents of the offer believe that it could have the effect of luring people back to public transport after the Covid crisis. That would mean that more people would be buying subscriptions after summer and using local buses and trains, which can only be a good thing for transport budgets in the long-run. 

READ ALSO: ‘Fantastic’: Your verdict on Germany’s €9 transport ticket

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