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What you should know about travel to Germany during the Omicron wave

Thinking of visiting Germany from abroad or going on holiday from the country and returning? Here are the latest regulations and changes you need to be aware of.

Travellers in Frankfurt airport on December 29th.
Travellers in Frankfurt airport on December 29th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Arnold

Can I travel to Germany right now?

Yes, it is absolutely possible if you meet all the requirements (more on them below). 

Germany is, however, in the grip of the Omicron wave and there are strict entry rules on visiting most public places, like restaurants and bars. These restrictions were recently extended and will probably stay in place until at least mid-February. 

READ ALSO:

Are there any entry bans?

No – currently there are no general bans on entering or returning to Germany because there are no regions on the ‘virus variant’ list – Germany’s highest risk category. 

Several southern African countries – including South Africa – and the UK were on that list due to the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. But they were removed from the list earlier in January because of the Omicron spread in Germany. 

Countries are placed on the ‘red list’ when a new Covid variant of concern is discovered, that has not yet become widespread in Germany. 

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 areas – which currently includes most countries in the world – you 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 three 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 over the age of six coming from high-risk areas are required to show a negative Covid-19 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. 

People under the age of six 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. 

People walk in Hamburg airport with suitcases.

People walk in Hamburg airport with suitcases. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonas Walzberg

What about if I’m travelling from a country that isn’t on the list?

Everyone entering Germany who is over the age of six, regardless of the classification of the country has to present their Covid-19 proof before crossing the border by plane, or they can face spot checks if entering by another means of transport. 

That means you have to show if you are vaccinated, recovered or have tested negatively against Covid-19. 

Are there any changes I should know about?

Yes. Importantly, and as we mentioned above, the recovered status has changed in Germany. People are counted as recovered from Covid if they received a positive PCR test result within the last three months. Previously, the cut-off was six months. 

There’s also a big change surrounding the rules for children. Now everyone over the age of six has to carry proof of their Covid-19 status when entering Germany (whether that’s vaccination, recovery or a Covid-19 test). 

Previously, this applied to everyone aged 12 and over. 

EXPLAINED: The Covid travel rules for children

Another change that you should be aware of is that people who’ve had Johnson & Johnson single jab are now not counted as being fully vaccinated by German authorities. 

They have to get a second dose of an EMA-approved vaccine to count as fully vaccinated – or supply a negative test instead. 

READ ALSO: What people who’ve had the J&J jab need to know for travel to Germany

Meanwhile, if you have the EU vaccination certificate, you also need to be aware that from February 1st, your ‘full vaccination’ status is only valid for nine months. It means you need to get a booster jab within this time to travel among EU countries. 

What about test requirements?

These have also changed slightly.

Those who are required to can take an antigen or PCR test before coming to Germany. The general rule is that they both can’t be over 48 hours old at the time of the planned entry to Germany. 

However, if entering Germany with a carrier (e.g. an airline), PCR tests have be taken a maximum of 48 hours before the (scheduled) start of the journey (departure time), the government says. 

But antigen tests must not be taken more than 48 hours before the (scheduled) time of arrival in Germany even if travellers are being transported by a carrier.

A test station in Lüneburg, Lower Saxony.

A test station in Lüneburg, Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp Schulze

What about if I’m travelling through Germany?

According to the government, travellers who are transferring at an airport in Germany also have to show proof of their Covid‑19 status. 

“This applies both to non-Schengen transit from or to third countries outside the EU and to transit from or to Schengen states,” says the government guidance.

“The negative test result, proof of recovery or proof of vaccination must be shown to the carrier for examination prior to departure.

“Only in the case of cross-border rail travel or cross-border short sea transport may the relevant documentation be presented during transit. Proof must also be shown to the German border authorities upon entry if requested.”

Do I have to take a test before entering Germany?

In some cases, yes. 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, and it has to be a PCR test
  • 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

So can anyone enter Germany right now?

There are strict rules on that front. 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).

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 January 27th), Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macao, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan.

What about children?

Everyone over the age of five can get a Covid vaccination in Germany. 

But 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.

A young person with a Covid test at a school in Germany.

A young person with a Covid test at a school in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

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 has so far only allowed 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-plus 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, plus a negative Covid-19 test or proof of a booster jab.

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. 

Anecdotally, we’ve heard that some pharmacies at German airports are charging a fee for visitors to get the EU vaccination certificate. We’ve contacted the Health Ministry again to find out if there are any updates on this and will let you know. 

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. Airlines are also likely to cancel more services due to staff sickness caused by the Omicron wave sweeping many countries. 

Keep up to date with Germany’s 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

€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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