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EXPLAINED: What are the rules for entering Germany this Christmas and New Year?

Whether it's travel bans, tests or quarantine orders we look at the restrictions you need to know for travelling into Germany this festive season.

A sign at Leipzig airport next to a Christmas tree.
A sign at Leipzig airport next to a Christmas tree. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Willnow

Germany has been tightening some of its travel restrictions. Here’s a look at the key points to keep in mind if you’re planning on visiting Germany, or returning to the country, over the festive period.

Are there any entry bans?

Yes – currently there are general bans on entering from regions that are on the ‘virus variant’ list – Germany’s highest risk category. 

The full ‘red’ list as of December 23rd is: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Britain and Northern Ireland (and all overseas territories) and Zimbabwe. 

There are exceptions to the entry bans, including for German nationals and people with residence rights in Germany plus their close family (such as spouses,  unmarried minor-age children, parents of minor-age children) and people catching a connecting flight in Germany.

People who are allowed to enter Germany from these countries face strict rules including:

  • Proving you’re allowed to travel to Germany (eg show a residence permit or German passport)
  • Filling out the online digital register
  • Testing before departure if you’re over the age of six (currently PCR and antigen accepted but airlines may require PCR)
  • Possible testing at the airport on arrival
  • Quarantine for 14 days at place of residence with no option to shorten it

These restrictions apply to everyone, regardless of vaccination or recovery status.

You can read our more detailed story on testing when coming from a virus variant country here. 

Do I need a PCR test to enter Germany from a virus variant country?

Keep in mind that the German Health Ministry told us that they are in the process of changing the requirements on testing for people coming from the red list. It is likely that only PCR tests will be allowed in future. 

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

Santa at Frankfurt main train station.
Santa at Frankfurt main train station. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

How long are these bans in place?

The German government says these restrictions will be in place for the countries mentioned above until at least January 3rd. It is not clear if more countries will be added to the list as Omicron spreads across several regions in the world. 

What happens if I’m coming from a ‘high risk’ country?

Germany’s next risk category concerns high risk regions. If you’re travelling to Germany from one of these countries – like France, most of Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands or Switzerland – you also have to fill in the online digital register before departure. 

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 negative Covid-19 test before coming to Germany.

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

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. 

People under the age of 12 can finish the quarantine after five days without a test. 

If this is your situation, you will likely be contacted by the local authority and given instructions on matters like testing. 

Do I have to take a test before entering Germany?

In some cases, yes. As we mentioned above the key things to remember are:

  • Everyone over the age of six has to test before entering Germany if they’re coming from a ‘virus variant’ area regardless of whether you’re vaccinated or have recovered
  • You have to test before entering Germany if you’re coming from anywhere in the world and you’re unvaccinated (and over six)
  • If you’re fully vaccinated or recovered and coming from a no-risk or ‘high risk’ zone you don’t have to show a test, you can instead show proof of vaccination/recovery

READ ALSO: Should I travel within Germany or abroad this festive season?

So can anyone enter Germany right now?

There are strict rules on that front too. Generally, you can enter Germany from other countries in the EU even if you are unvaccinated (but you still have to follow the rules depending on the risk status of the country).

Berlin's airport departure board.
Berlin’s airport departure board. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

For the vast majority of non-EU countries, you have to be fully vaccinated (with an EMA-approved vaccine) to enter Germany – unvaccinated people are not allowed to enter unless they have an essential reason.

The ban on entry does not apply to German citizens or members of their immediate family and to citizens of EU and associated states and members of their immediate family.

German authorities do, however, allow unrestricted entry for people coming from ‘safe list’ countries, which include (as of December 23rd) Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates and Argentina 

What about children?

The German government allows unvaccinated children from non-EU countries to enter as long as they are with a vaccinated parent or guardian. 

“Given the uncertainty surrounding vaccination for young people, unvaccinated children under 12 years of age are allowed to enter Germany if they travel with at least one fully vaccinated parent,” says the government.

Do I need an EU digital vaccine pass in Germany?

This is a topic that a lot of readers are interested in. Unlike some other countries – including France, Italy and Switzerland where tourists can apply for the respective country’s version of the EU digital vaccine pass – the German government currently only allows people who are based in Germany to transfer their vaccination pass into a digital version with QR code. 

So technically you have to live, work or study in Germany to get the certificate. 

Germany has strict nationwide 2G rules in place, meaning access to most public places (like restaurants and non-essential shops) is only allowed if you present proof of being fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid. 

When travelling on public transport the 3G rule is in place – travel is limited to the fully vaccinated, recovered or people who have taken a Covid test.

Foreign vaccination certificates are accepted in Germany. Some visitors have been able to get the pass, but it’s fairly inconsistent. 

You can read more detailed reports on this topic here:

Can tourists and visitors to Germany get the EU digital vaccine pass?

Visiting Germany: Is it possible to get the EU digital vaccine pass?

Anything else I should look out for?

Keep an eye on the situation because it can change quickly. We recommend checking with your airline before travel because they could have further requirements like a PCR test. Airlines are also likely to cancel more services if there are bans.

Keep up to date with Germany’s ‘virus variant’ and other ‘high risk’ countries by checking the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) list, which is updated regularly.

There are some exceptions to having to fill out the entry form, testing and quarantine. This German government page has detailed information on the exemptions in English.  

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€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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