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Is travel to and from Germany possible over the Christmas holidays?

Travellers in Hamburg airport in November.
Travellers in Hamburg airport in November. Many people are keen to travel for Christmas. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius
Given last year's Christmas washout, lots of people have already made plans for the holiday season. But with some countries tightening restrictions, there's a lot of stress involved with travel. We look at the situation in Germany.

For some people, Christmas and New Year will be a chance to escape for a few days on holiday. For others, it will be about spending time with loved ones who live in another country – something that has been very difficult for people living or working abroad to do since the pandemic began.

And in the last weeks, a lot of doubt has been thrown into people’s plans. 

Travel has been tough to navigate in the past months – but with the emergence of the Omicron variant that has seen some countries shut their borders or tighten restrictions, planning a trip has got a whole lot more complicated. 

How does Germany classify other countries?

One thing to keep in mind is that Germany hasn’t changed its travel system in several months.

At the tail end of summer this year, Germany simplified its classification of countries into a ‘traffic light system’. There are currently three risk 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. Some countries have recently become high risk areas as Europe battles a resurgence of Covid, including Switzerland, Poland and parts of Austria.

Virus variant areas (red) – Countries and regions in which virus variants of concern that are not yet widespread in Germany and are considered particularly transmissible or dangerous are classified as virus variant areas. These are currently several southern African countries due to the Omicron variant being detected there. 

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See also on The Local:

What about the rules?

The key thing to know is that when you’re travelling from a risk country (that’s a high risk or virus variant region) there are additional steps you need to take before coming to Germany.

If you’re coming from a high-risk area and you are fully vaccinated or you’ve recovered from Covid (you have proof of a positive PCR test carried out at least 28 days but no more than six months previously), you don’t have to quarantine after submitting your proof to the online registration site: Einreiseanmeldung.de.

You also don’t have to show a negative Covid test before boarding a plane to Germany, because your proof of vaccination or recovery is enough. 

Unvaccinated travellers coming from high-risk areas are required to show a Covid test before coming to Germany. Unvaccinated people also have to enter quarantine for 10 days after arrival in Germany. The isolation period can be ended with a negative Covid-19 test taken at the earliest five days into quarantine. 

READ ALSO: What to know about Germany’s testing requirements 

A Covid antigen test station in Berlin.
A Covid antigen test station in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

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. 

You should also keep in mind that unvaccinated people from most non-EU countries are not allowed to come to Germany unless it’s for essential reasons. 

What about virus variant areas?

The rules are much stricter for Germany’s highest risk category – ‘virus variant areas of concern’. These include (at the time of writing) South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Travel is generally banned from these countries into Germany. 

Those who can travel to Germany – such as citizens or residents – from virus variant areas must enter a domestic quarantine for 14 days on arrival. 

Proof of testing is also required even if you are fully vaccinated or recovered.

READ ALSO: Germany bans travel from South Africa over new Covid variant

Will Germany’s travel rules change?

The incoming German government has so far not mentioned any plans to make big changes to the travel restrictions. However, there is the possibility that more countries will be classed as virus variant areas if more cases of the Omicron variant – or indeed another variant – emerge there.

That will depend on the research carried out on the variant to find out how transmissible and dangerous it is. Another point to remember is that if a variant becomes widespread in Germany then the ‘variant of concern’ travel bans will be lifted. 

That happened in July when the Delta variant became the most dominant Covid strain in Germany. 

If German politicians do decide to tighten travel rules – by putting in place stricter testing for example – then they will need to have a good reason to do so. 

Incoming Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who is known for taking a hard line when it comes to Covid restrictions, will be watching Germany’s pandemic situation closely. 

Ultimately, though, politicians will be desperate to allow for as much (safe) travel as possible over the festive period to boost the economy and support struggling airlines. 

What happens if I want to leave Germany?

There is absolutely no problem in doing that on the German side – but be aware that there could be restrictions when you want to come back into Germany (as we’ve mentioned above).

And you have to check the rules on the destination you’re going to. For instance, the UK government recently tightened its testing rules for entry. If you are fully vaccinated and want to head home to see family you now have to take a test before departure, plus book and pay for a ‘Day 2’ test, and isolate until you get the result.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: The new rules for travel between Germany and the UK

If you want to fly across the Atlantic to the USA or Canada you will also face stricter entry rules. To enter the US, for instance, you have to be fully vaccinated (unless you’re a citizen or resident) and take a test within 24 hours before travel.

Israel recently shut its borders to non-citizens (until at least December 13th). Japan is also not currently allowing people in unless they are citizens or residents. 

On top of that, you’ll have to see what the conditions are like in your country of destination. If there’s a Covid resurgence happening and possible closures on the horizon, it might not be the place you want to eat, drink and be merry. 

Can anyone travel to Germany?

Although Germany has eased entry restrictions allowing vaccinated people from most non-EU countries to enter, 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.

People should also be aware of the latest Covid restrictions in Germany, which include a ban on unvaccinated people entering non-essential shops, leisure and cultural facilities. 

READ MORE: Germany’s new Covid rules to fight fourth wave

Will things change?

Maybe. Due to the uncertainty of the Covid situation, lots of things are subject to change. 

You should keep an eye on government announcements (and The Local), plus check out Germany’s risk countries on the Robert Koch Institute list which is updated regularly.


Member comments

  1. I came through Berlin airport last week after visiting Malaga for four days. Going to Malaga I had to fill out a passenger locator form, my vaccination cert was scanned and my head was scanned by a thermal laser to check for a fever on arrival into the airport at midnight on Thanksgiving.
    Returning to Berlin I walked straight through. Not even a passport check and that was on a Monday afternoon. Why is nobody checking incoming travellers? Why are we so lax? And why am I checking vaccination certs and photo ID daily in my business (a restaurant) and turning people away without the right documents when the airport doesn’t even attempt to control it?

    1. Covid checks are the job of the airline at point to departure i think. No passport check is unusual however. I flew into Munich early November and had to show the passport.

  2. Fortunately for these articles we have been able to easily stay up to date on this information. We’ve had a trip planned since March and it has changed significantly multiple times. First we were landing in Munich but then USA was added to the high risk list so we changed to Zurich, with a stop in Austria for several days so our infant would not have to quarantine. Then Austria was added to Germany’s high risk list so we scrapped Austria and fortunately USA was removed from the list so changed our itinerary. Now Switzerland is also high risk so we removed our stay in Zurich. Now due to the high Covid levels in Bavaria we may lose our reservations in Garmisch-Partenkirchen but will see what happens, we are flexible.

    Fortunately OBB is providing refunds for our travel dates due to the quarantine.

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