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CHRISTMAS

Should I travel within Germany or abroad this festive season?

Many people in Germany are wondering if they should still go ahead with their trip over Christmas and New Year. With uncertainty over the Covid situation, we looked at the latest advice from German health experts and politicians on travel.

A passenger walks next to a Covid test centre sign in Hamburg airport
A passenger walks next to a Covid test centre sign in Hamburg airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

Lots of foreigners in Germany booked their trips weeks or months ago, with dreams of heading home. Or some of us might have snagged a fancy hotel elsewhere in Germany to see in 2022 with a glass of champagne and steak in bed. 

But with the discovery of the Omicron variant and a growing number of Covid cases in some countries (we’re worryingly looking at you, UK), things look a lot more uncertain again. 

Are people in Germany allowed to travel?

Yes. There are no rules that say you cannot travel at the moment.

There are, however, strict regulations you have to be familiar with on returning to Germany from abroad. These rules depend on the category of the country you’re coming from – whether it’s a ‘no-risk’, ‘high-risk’ or ‘virus variant area of concern’.

You can read more about the general current travel rules in our recent article here:

Is travel to and from Germany possible at Christmas?

And you can keep up to date with Germany’s risk countries on the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) list, which is updated regularly.

If you are travelling abroad you also have to be aware of the Covid rules of the destination country you’re going to. For instance, the UK has tightened its testing rules for arrivals, and is bringing in more restrictions for people living there.

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

Within Germany, most accommodation – like hotels and holiday apartments – remains open, but strict rules apply such as 2G (you have to be vaccinated or recovered from Covid) or 2G-plus (you have to be vaccinated, recovered and show a negative test). Check with the hotel you are travelling to.

A hotel in Hamburg
A hotel in Hamburg. The 2G or 2G-plus rules are in place in German hotels. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Ulrich Perrey

There may be some closures of overnight accommodation in badly affected districts in the states of Saxony and Bavaria because these two states have experienced the strictest lockdown measures this winter.  Again, check with the rules of the state, and the hotel or holiday apartment operator you want to visit before travel.

What’s the advice on travel at Christmas?

Germany has seen the infection situation stabilise in recent days but experts say the number of cases is still too high. On Tuesday the nationwide 7-day incidence was 375 Covid infections per 100,000 people. 

In its latest report dated December 9th, Germany’s RKI for disease control strongly advised that “all unnecessary contacts should be reduced and travel avoided”.

The RKI estimates the risk to the health of unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people in Germany as “very high” overall. For the fully vaccinated, the risk is considered “moderate, but increases as the number of infections rises”.

Many German political leaders are generally urging people not to travel during the festive season – even domestically. That’s because they want to see people reduce their contacts to slow the spread of Covid-19 infections. 

On December 5th Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) advised against travelling in the Christmas holidays.

“The winter of 2021 will be more dramatic than the winter of 2020,” he told Bild am Sonntag. “We must not take corona lightly.

“Contact restrictions, even in the private sphere, are important to combat the pandemic,” he said. “In the current situation, it seems more sensible to spend Christmas in a small circle at home and not plan any major trips around the country.”

However, CSU state group leader Alexander Dobrindt slammed Wissing’s advice, saying it gave the wrong message. 

“There is no ban on leaving Germany, nor is there a ban on travelling within Germany during the Christmas holidays,” Dobrindt told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

“Of course travel is possible, and of course in compliance with the corona rules.”

North Rhine-Westphalia’s state premier Hendrik Wüst last week also advised against people travelling over Christmas for trips that are not essential.

“I advise everyone to hold back on dissolute trips and travelling long distances,” Wüst said, adding, that no travel was currently banned.

Should I still go ahead with travel and socialising?

It’s important to note that the advice from politicians and health experts is a recommendation rather than an order.

Ultimately the choice is up to you, and will depend on risk factors like if you are fully vaccinated, you and your family’s health, where you are going, and the number of people you plan to meet.

People in Germany have been encouraged to do regular Covid testing when meeting up with family 

FDP member of parliament and doctor Andrew Ullmann told The Local last week that he recommended rapid tests be carried out daily to help stop transmission during Christmas festivities. 

In Germany self tests can be bought in most supermarkets and drugstores, while rapid test stations offer free tests. 

A Christmas tree in Bad Hindelang, Bavaria.
A Christmas tree in Bad Hindelang, Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

One thing to watch out for domestically is that local partial lockdowns may be considered – but hotels will probably not be impacted.

READ ALSO: Is Germany heading for a partial Christmas lockdown?

When it comes to international travel, it is conceivable that Germany will tighten restrictions, such as its testing requirements for re-entering the country. 

As The Local reported on Tuesday, Green Party health expert Janosch Dahmen urged the government to implement tougher restrictions to prepare for the rise of the Omicron variant.

He wants to see travel rules adapted so that entry to Germany from a high-risk area is only possible with a PCR test no more than 24 hours old.

Currently vaccinated and recovered people entering Germany from a high-risk area do not need to show a negative test, but unvaccinated people do. However, if coming from a ‘virus variant area of concern’, everyone has to show a negative test regardless of whether they are vaccinated or recovered.

There is also the possibility that more countries will be classified as virus variant areas if more cases of the Omicron variant – or another variant – emerge there. 

But Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has remained fairly quiet on the subject of travel at Christmas time, only saying that he wants Germany to do as much as possible to push back the fourth Covid wave to allow for a safe festive period.

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For members

TRAVEL NEWS

EXPLAINED: How will Berlin’s new €29 transport ticket work?

Germany’s capital launched its follow-up to the €9 ticket on Tuesday, but the ticket will only be valid for those with subscriptions. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How will Berlin’s new €29 transport ticket work?

Tickets for the new €29 Berlin city ticket went on sale on Tuesday and eager passengers will be wondering how they can get their hands on the discount offer. However, unlike the nationwide €9 ticket, Berlin’s travel deal will only be valid in the AB fare zone of Berlin and for customers with a yearly subscription.

Why has Berlin brought in the ticket?

The Berlin state government and transport companies in Berlin developed the ticket to set an example for climate protection and make public transportation more attractive for Berliners. The state of Berlin is financing the offer which will bridge the gap between the end of the €9 ticket offer and a nationwide successor which should arrive in January.

READ ALSO: Berlin gets green light to launch €29 transport ticket

Where and when will the ticket be valid?

The €29 ticket will be valid on all buses, trams, U-bahns and S-bahns within the AB fare zone in the city of Berlin. Those wanting to travel into the C zone will need to buy an extension ticket.

Who is the ticket for?

Some people might be disappointed to find out that the ticket will only be available as part of a yearly subscription. All other tickets will retain their usual prices.

That means that people won’t be able to buy a monthly ticket for €29 unless it’s part of a yearly package, so certain groups of people, such as tourists, may not benefit from the offer.

From October 1st to December 31st, 2022, the monthly price for the following subscriptions in the Berlin AB fare zone will be reduced to €29:

–   VBB-Umweltkarten subscriptions with monthly and annual payments

–   10 o’clock ticket subscriptions with monthly and annual payments

–   VBB company tickets with monthly and yearly payments

–   Education monthly subscription ticket with monthly payments

The offer will not apply to ABC semester tickets. 

How will payment for the ticket work?

According to information from BVG, subscribers who pay monthly will automatically be charged the lower amount, while compensation for those who pay annually is expected to arrive at the end of the promotional period.

Can I get a yearly subscription starting from October and still benefit?

Yes. If you sign up for a yearly subscription on the BVG or VBB website, starting from October, you will be charged the lower price for the first three months of the subscription. If you start in November or December, you will pay the lower price for just those months. 

What happens once the promotion is over?

For those who don’t cancel their subscription by December 31st, their subscription contract will run for a total of 12 months. However, passengers can also switch to another VBB fare product, to another fare zone or to the successor product to the €9 ticket, which is expected to be valid throughout Germany from January 1st.

READ ALSO: Germany to set out plans for €49 transport ticket in October

When can the subscription be cancelled?

It seems that people will be able to cancel their yearly subscriptions. The BVG website says: “If we were not able to convince you of our performance and you decide not to continue the subscription beyond the promotional period, you can cancel your subscription at any time at the end of the month without any disadvantages.”

Vocabulary

Subscription – (das) Abonnement

Extension ticket – (der) Anschlussfahrausweis

Yearly – jährlich

Monthly – monatlich

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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