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COVID-19

UPDATE: What you need to know about Covid testing when visiting Germany

We looked at what tourists in Germany should know when it comes to Covid testing, and Germany's health pass regulations.

UPDATE: What you need to know about Covid testing when visiting Germany
A sign for a rapid test in Norderney, Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

When do I need to get a test in Germany?

Under Germany’s Covid health pass system, entry into many indoor spaces is being restricted to those who are vaccinated (geimpft), recovered from Covid (genesen) or to those who have tested negatively (getestet). In German it’s known as the 3G system so if you see this sign, be prepared to show proof of one of the ‘Gs’. 

Typically you’ll need to show evidence of one of these things for indoor dining in cafes or restaurants and in the majority of states it will be needed for indoor leisure and cultural activities such  museums, art galleries and cinemas. 

It’s also needed to visit people in hospitals and care homes. 

You won’t need it for public transport or for essential services like visiting a doctor. 

If you are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid within the last six months, you can show proof of that. A digital certificate (such as the EU digital vaccination pass or similar) as well as paper certificates (such as from the CDC in the US or the NHS in the UK) are all accepted, as long as the vaccines in question are approved by the EU.

If you fall into the “recovered” category 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 need a negative test. 

You can find more details in our explainers here:

READ ALSO: 

If you’re vaccinated you may also have to take a test for travelling abroad. 

If you’re unvaccinated, you’ll have to take a test to get into many indoor public areas. This is especially important now it’s getting colder and more activities are happening inside. 

Under the rules, children up to the age of 12 – and pupils attending school – do not have to take a test for entry. 

Always check the local rules of the state you are visiting for any regional differences. 

In several states, such as Hamburg, Hesse, Saxony-Anhalt, Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Lower Saxony and Baden-Württemberg, businesses and organisations are able to exclude unvaccinated people altogether – known as the 2G rule.

READ ALSO: Supermarkets in Hesse can now block unvaccinated people 

Are Covid tests free in Germany?

Up until October 11th, antigen tests were free to all, including tourists and anyone else visiting the country. However, now they have to be paid for unless you fall into a certain category – for instance if you cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. In this case you have to bring proof such as a letter from a GP. 

The full list is in our story below. 

READ MORE: Who can still get free Covid tests in Germany?

The rapid test can be no older than 24 hours for entry into indoor spaces. 

The costs are set by the private providers and are usually anywhere between €10 and €20. 

What about PCR tests?

PCR tests are generally only free in Germany to people who have Covid symptoms (more on that below).

In general, the cost of PCR tests vary from vendor to vendor, but you can expect to pay anywhere between €44 and €100 – or more. 

Some providers also charge a premium for ‘extra fast’ tests, particularly at airports – which you may need if you are disorganised or the country you’re going to has a sudden change of rules that require you to get a PCR test at short notice. 

You can take a rapid test and use it for travel purposes if it meets the requirements of the country you are travelling or returning to. For instance, the US accepts lateral flow tests for entry into the country (with requirements). The test station will charge you for the test. 

READ ALSO: Motivation to get vaccinated or coercion? Mixed views on Germany’s plan to charge for Covid tests

Can I take a self test?

Germany sells DIY Covid tests in supermarkets, pharmacies and drugstores. These are a good option for peace of mind, and many people use them to monitor their infection status before meetings (if they don’t have time to get a rapid test from a centre.)

Be warned though: self-tests can’t be used for entry into indoor spaces 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.

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, a fever, or a loss of sense of smell or taste, the government advice is to stay at your accommodation and contact your local health authority. 

The Robert Koch Institute site has a useful tool for finding out who the relevant Health Authority in your area is. Visit this page, enter the postcode of your hotel or accommodation, and you’ll find all the contact details you need. You can also call the on-duty medical service by dialling the number 116 117.

The Health Authority will be able to advise you on the next steps. If they think you need a PCR test, you will be advised on how to book it and told to isolate. 

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 a period of time, usually 14 days, but follow the local authority’s advice. More information on what to do if you have Covid can be found (in English) on the Health Ministry website here.

In emergencies – like if you or someone you know is in severe respiratory distress – call 112. 

Member comments

  1. My wife (French) and I (Brtish) were in Landau yesterday and there was a test station in the market square. We don’t live in German and said so. We asked if we could be tested out of curiosity and they did it without a moment’s hesitation. It was set up by the Spar Kasse and only involved a wait of 15 minutes for the result.

  2. We are visiting Köln shortly. Are there any test centres that are inexpensive to get a negative COVID (either a PCR or Antigen) test before we return to the UK. We have to have this test 3 days before our departure.

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For members

HEALTH

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point. 

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