For members


Germany tightens rules on UK travel: What you need to know

Germany has banned most travellers from Britain, and tightened the restrictions for residents arriving from the UK. Here's what you need to know.

Travellers at BER airport in Berlin
Travellers at BER airport in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

What’s happened?

German authorities on Saturday December 18th announced that the UK was being added to its highest risk category – the ‘virus variant area of concern’ list – due to the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

At the end of November, Germany began adding a number of southern African countries to the list after the Omicron variant was detected there. 

The German Health Ministry says that “areas of variants of concern” are regions with “widespread occurrence of a virus variant (mutant strain) of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that is not widespread within Germany and that can reasonably be believed to pose a particular risk”.

The UK has seen a surge in Covid cases, reporting over 90,000 new infections on Saturday. This figure included 10,059 new confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.

The new German rules came into force at midnight on December 19th.

However, the way in which the rules have been introduced has created some confusion. When the RKI released its updated risk list on Friday evening, there were no new ‘virus variant’ countries included. 

Instead, a handful of countries, including Denmark and France, were added to the ‘high risk’ list. The decision to add the UK to the ‘virus variant’ list a day later suggests that pressure from German state health ministers contributed to the decision.

What does this mean?

A temporary “ban on carriage” is now in place for almost all travellers who want to come to Germany from the UK. 

There are exceptions, including for German nationals and people with residence rights in Germany plus their close family (such as spouses, partners they live with, and children).

Those people who are allowed to enter Germany do face extreme restrictions, though. They have to quarantine for 14 days on arrival in Germany even if they are fully vaccinated, or have recently recovered from Covid. 

Travellers over the age of 12 also have to show a test before boarding. The Local checked with the Health Ministry who said currently people can show a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours, or an antigen test no older than 24 hours but that the rules were being changed soon. It is expected people will only be allowed to show a PCR test soon.

READ ALSO: Do I need a PCR test when travelling to Germany from a ‘virus variant’ area?

People travelling to Germany from any kind of risk country have to fill in the digital register before entering.

Those coming to Germany will also have to prove they are a resident/citizen under the new rules – for example, they will have to show a German passport or residence permit. Some Britons in Germany still do not have this documentation yet after the Brexit transition period ended.

As has been the case in previous travel bans, people who don’t have this proof could show an address registration certificate (Meldebescheinigung) or a certificate of application for a permit (Fiktionsbescheinigung), or other proof – like a work contract – to show they live in Germany. 

How long will this rule be in place for?

When the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) published its updated risk list, it included a note stating that  the ‘virus variant’ countries would remain on that list until January 3rd, with the possibility of extension. 

How will this affect people?

Tourists or non.residents who planned to come to Germany over this period will most likely have to cancel their trip.

The restrictions are also a huge blow to people based in Germany who planned to or have already travelled to the UK for the holidays. Many people now face difficult decisions on whether to cancel their journey or deal with the new rules. 

There is also the added complication that airlines will cancel some of their flights during travel bans. So travel to Germany from the UK could become much more difficult and possibly more expensive.

Another issue is that it can be tricky to get a Covid-19 test in the UK before travel. Unlike Germany, Britain does not have a readily-available and fairly priced testing infrastructure. 

In the UK people can’t just go to any test centre to get a PCR test and instead have to book and pay for “fit to fly” tests offered by private companies specifically for travel.Cities like London have more opportunities for testing but those in rural areas or further north, may have to travel a long way and pay high costs for a test.

Wasn’t the UK on this list before?

Yes, the UK was placed on the ‘virus variant’ list in May 2021 due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant at the time. The risk factor was then downgraded in July when Delta became the dominant variant in Germany. 

And last Christmas, Germany controversially imposed a strict ban on travel from the UK, leaving many people stranded, including German nationals and residents.

What else should I know?

German experts and politicians are saying that an Omicron wave is inevitable. But they are trying to slow it down to buy time to get more people boostered.

Scientists said recently they expected the Omicron wave to build in Germany in the next two to three weeks. 

There are already estimated to be hundreds of Omicron cases in Germany, RKI boss Lothar Wieler said at a recent press conference.

The RKI said the outbreaks have also been found in community settings.

Experience shows that Germany removes countries from the ‘virus variant’ list when the variant becomes dominant in Germany. For people who are in quarantine when that happens, the quarantine ends immediately. 

What about the rules on travel to the UK?

The UK had already tightened restrictions on international arrivals. 

The British government demanded pre-departure tests for all arrivals from Tuesday December 7th onwards.

The requirement applies for those arriving in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. People travelling to the UK have to take either an antigen test or PCR test in the two days before travel. Self-administered tests are not accepted. 

Previously, on Tuesday, November 30th, the UK government had brought in other new restrictions affecting travel from abroad to the UK.


A new requirement was introduced that applies to all vaccinated arrivals (including UK citizens and residents). They must do a PCR test for their Day 2 test (antigen tests are no longer accepted) and they must self-isolate until a negative result from the test arrives.

The existing rules remain in place around the Passenger Locator Form, and if you are unvaccinated, you will need to quarantine for 10 days and take another test on the eighth day.

 The self-isolation can be done at home or at the address of family/friends. The British government says people who are travelling to the UK for less than two days still have to book and pay for a test and then isolate until they receive a result – or until they leave, if that comes first. 

You cannot leave self-isolation until the test result arrives. You can find the Passenger Locator Form HERE which has to be filled out before travel.

Read more on Day 2 tests in our story HERE but be aware that the travel rules from Germany to the UK have changed (as we’ve detailed above).

Should I travel to the UK?

Travel from Germany to the UK is not banned, so individuals have to weigh up the risks, read about the measures and decide for themselves. 

You should check the RKI risk list regularly to see if there are any changes, and keep an eye on any destinations you want to travel to.

Some people in Germany have already decided to cancel their trip to the UK for now because of the Covid situation there. So that could be an option for you if you feel that the risk is too high. 

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For members


Nine of the best day trips from Frankfurt with the €9 ticket

If you want to explore the area around Frankfurt this summer, there are plenty of destinations you can reach in under two hours. 

Nine of the best day trips from Frankfurt with the €9 ticket

Germany’s €9 monthly ticket, which launched in June, is also available throughout the whole of July and August. It can be used on all local transport across the country, as well as on regional trains. 

If you’re based in Frankfurt, or heading there on holiday, these destinations can all be reached on regional transport in under two hours, making them an ideal day or weekend getaway. 

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

1. Heidelberg

People sit in front of the Old Bridge at the Neckar river in Heidelberg.

People sit in front of the Old Bridge at the Neckar river in Heidelberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Anspach

With its arched Old Bridge and castle on the hill, it’s no wonder Heidelberg is known as one of Germany’s most romantic destinations. The castle, which dates back to the 13th century, was even immortalised by English romantic painter William Turner in a famous painting from the mid-19th century. 

Stroll the winding gothic streets, pay a visit to Germany’s oldest university and visit have a coffee in the historic centre which still bears witness to the medieval layout of the city.

To get to Heidelberg, take the RB68 direct from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof to Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof in 1 hour and 40 minutes.

READ ALSO: Is Frankfurt a good place for foreigners to live?

2. Hessenpark

Historic half-timbered houses and an old fountain in the market square of Hessenpark, a popular excursion destination in the Taunus region.

Historic half-timbered houses and an old fountain in the market square of Hessenpark, a popular excursion destination in the Taunus region. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

Take a step back in time in this fascinating open-air museum. With over 100 reconstructed historic buildings across 160 acres, the park gives visitors a close-up look at 400 years of rural life in Hesse. 

Amongst the highlights are the market place which boasts buildings from the whole state of Hesse; a 15th-century church and an austere school room from the turn of the 20th century.

With lively demonstrations of crafts and agriculture, exhibitions, colourful markets, the museum theatre and themed tours, a trip to Hessenpark makes a great day out for all of the family. 

To get there, take the RB15 from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof to Wehrheim Bahnhof and from there, hop on the 63 bus to Neu-Anspach-Anspach Hessenpark. In total it should take you 1 hour and 15 minutes.

3. Darmstadt

A man walks through the Mathildenhöhe UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A man walks through the Mathildenhöhe UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

A day trip to Darmstadt is a must for art and architecture lovers, as Hessen’s fourth-biggest metropolis is home to some particularly interesting cultural sights. 

The former artists’ colony on Mathildenhöhe, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the most important Art Nouveau sights in Germany and the Wedding Tower and the wacky ‘Waldspirale’ (forest spiral) are well worth a visit.

Also on Mathildenhöhe is the richly decorated Russian Chapel where one of the sisters of Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig married Nicholas II, the last Russian Tsar. 

You need only half an hour to reach Darmstadt, with a direct ride on the S3 from Frankfurt (Main) South station.

READ ALSO: Less traffic, more ticket sales: How the €9 ticket is impacting Germany 

4. Königstein (Taunus)

The Königstein castle ruins are a landmark of the Hochtaunus town and are among the largest castle ruins in Germany.

The Königstein castle ruins are a landmark. They are among the largest castle ruins in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Arnold

At an altitude of around 300 metres on the wooded slopes of the Taunus lies the health spa town of Königstein. 

Königstein has been a climatic health resort since 1935, thanks to the purity of the air in the region and is home to various health clinics. 

Daytrippers can soak up the tranquillity in the parks or in the picturesque city centre.

The ruins of Königstein Castle, which date back to the first half of the 12th century, are also well worth a visit. 

There are several routes to get you to Königstein from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof in under 50 minutes, the fastest being the S5 to Oberursel, followed by the X26 bus to Königstein.

5. Wiesbaden

The Kurpark in Wiesbaden.

The gorgeous Kurpark in Wiesbaden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hannes P Albert

​​Nestled in a beautiful valley between the Rhine and the mountains of the Taunus lies Hesse’s capital Wiesbaden. 

There are plenty of things to see on a day trip to the city, including the English-style landscaped garden of the Kurpark, the neo-Gothic Market Church on Schlossplatz and the Hessian State Museum.

Those who fancy trying their luck should pay a visit to the Casino Wiesbaden – one of Germany’s oldest casinos in the former wine salon of the Kurhaus. 

Wiesbaden is also known for its thermal baths and no trip is complete without a hot tub and sauna visit. 

READ ALSO: Weekend Wanderlust – Getting my feet wet in. Wiesbaden

You only need around 50 minutes to reach Wiesbaden from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof with the S1 or S9 to Wiesbaden central station.

6. Felsenmeer

Hundreds of visitors climb over the rocks of the Felsenmeer , which is a popular attraction in the Odenwald.

Hundreds of visitors climb over the rocks of the Felsenmeer , which is a popular attraction in the Odenwald. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Around 60 kilometres south of Frankfurt is a true natural wonder that will delight nature lovers of all ages. 

The Felsenmeer, which literally translates as ‘rock sea’ is a mass of boulders across Felsberg in Oldenwald. The rocks are hundreds of millions of years old, and at the information centre at the foot of the hill, you’ll find all the geological, historical and practical information you need to make the most of a hike through the sea of rocks. 

At the top of the hill, you can reward your exertions with a tasty snack at the kiosk on the summit. 

A trip to the Felsenmeer will take you around an hour and 40 minutes with the RB82 from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof to Reinheim Bahnhof, followed by the M02 bus to Reichenbach, Felsenmeer.

7. Limburg (Lahn)

A view of the Lahn river and the cathedral in Limburg.

A view of the Lahn river and the cathedral in Limburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Frey

A visit to Limburg in the west of Hesse, is a bit like travelling back in time to the Middle Ages. There are dreamy castles, palaces, charming half-timbered houses and ancient legends swirling around the city’s cobbled streets.

A particularly visit-worthy ancient relic is the imposing St. Lubentius Basilica. Perched on an outcrop of limestone rocks on the west bank of the Lahn river, it was the region’s most important church until the 13th century.

You can reach Limburg in just over an hour with the RE20 from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof.

8. Mainz

A glass of wine stands on a table near the cathedral in Mainz during the Johannisnacht festival in 2019 held in honour of Johannes Gutenberg.

A glass of wine stands on a table near the cathedral in Mainz during the Johannisnacht festival in 2019 held in honour of Johannes Gutenberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Arnold

A short train ride away from Frankfurt, you’ll find the city of Mainz on the Rhine River. Known as Germany’s wine capital, there’s plenty to explore in the cobblestone streets of the Altstadt. Mainz has a steep history after being founded by the Romans.

For more than 1,000 years, the city’s skyline has been dominated by the cathedral.

We’d also recommend checking out the the Gutenberg Museum – one of the oldest museums of printing in the world. And of course, make sure to visit a little wine bar – known as a Weinstube.

Get to Mainz by taking the RE4 from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof.  It takes just over 30 minutes. 

READ ALSO: Nine of the best day trips from Munich with the €9 ticket

9. Walldorfer See

People enjoy a dip in the Badesee Walldorf.

People enjoy a dip in the Badesee Walldorf. Photo: picture alliance / Daniel Reinhardt/dpa

What better way to cool off this summer than to head to a lake? The beautiful Walldorfer See, south of Frankfurt, is known for being a little less busy and calmer than the nearby Langener See, which is the biggest lake in the region. 

On the southern shore at the entrance is the large sandy beach which has a snack bar, toilets, plus a beach volleyball and barbecue area. You can also explore the forest around. 

Keep in mind that the lake is near the airport so you will also see some planes overhead (which might be fun, especially if you have kids with you!). 

Get there on the S7 or RE70 from Frankfurt Haubtbahnof, and then jump off at Walldorf (Hess), and get the the 67 or 68 bus in the direction of Frankfurt airport to Mörfelden-Walldorf-Egerländer Straße. It’s then an 18 minute walk to the Badestelle Walldorfer See.

With reporting by Rachel Loxton