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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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TRAVEL NEWS

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

Germany's cut-price transport ticket is supposed to go on sale next Monday - but a battle over financing is threatening to torpedo the government's plans.

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

An feud between the federal and state governments intensified on Monday as state leaders threatened to block the government’s most recent energy package when it is put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Friday. 

The battle relates to the government’s plans for a budget transport ticket that would allow people to travel on local and regional transport around Germany for just €9 per month.

Though the 16 states have agreed to support the ticket, transport ministers are arguing that the low-cost option will blow a hole in their budgets and lead to potential price hikes once autumn rolls around.

They claim that current funding promised by the Federal Transport Ministry doesn’t go far enough.

READ ALSO: 

“If the federal government believes it can be applauded on the backs of the states for a three-month consolation prize and that others should foot the bill, then it has made a huge mistake,” Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) told Bild on Monday.

The government has pledged €2.5 billion to the states to pay for the measure, as well as financial support for income lost during the Covid crisis. 

Transport Minister Volker Wissing. of the Free Democrats (FDP), said states would also receive the revenue of the €9 ticket from customers who take advantage of the offer. 

“For this ‘9 for 90 ticket’, the €2.5 billion is a complete assumption of the costs by the federal government,” said Wissing on Thursday. “In addition, the states are also allowed to keep the €9 from the ticket price, so they are very well funded here.”

Transport Minister Volker Wissing

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) speaks ahead of a G7 summit in Düsseldorf.

However, federal states want a further €1.5 billion in order to increase staff, deal with extra fuel costs and to plan for the expansion of local transport in Germany.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Reinhard Meyer (SPD), told Bild that there would be “no approval (on Friday) as long as the federal government does not provide additional funds.”

Baden-Württemberg’s Transport Minister Winfried Hermann (Greens) also warned that “the entire package of fuel rebate and €9 euro ticket could fail in the Bundesrat” if the government doesn’t agree to the state’s demands on funding.

The Bundesrat is Germany’s upper house of parliament, which is comprised of MPs serving in the state governments. Unlike in the Bundestag, where the traffic-light coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) has a majority, the CDU is the largest party in the Bundesrat. 

What is the €9 ticket?

The €9 monthly ticket was announced early this year as part of a package of energy relief measures for struggling households.

With the price of fuel rising dramatically amid supply bottlenecks and the war in Ukraine, the traffic-light coalition is hoping to encourage people to switch to public transport over summer instead. 

The ticket will run for three months from the start of June to the end of August, and will allow people to travel nationwide on local and regional transport. Long-distance trains like IC, EC and ICE trains will not be covered by the ticket. 

It should be available to purchase from May 23rd, primarily via ticket offices and the DB app and website. 

Some regional operators, including Berlin-Brandenburg’s VBB, have also pledged to offer the ticket at ticket machines.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get hold of the €9 travel ticket in Berlin

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