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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

When will Germany’s €49 ticket start?

Germany announced a €49 monthly ticket for local and regional public transport earlier this month, but the hoped-for launch date of January 2023 looks increasingly unlikely.

When will Germany's €49 ticket start?

Following the popularity of the €9 train ticket over the summer, the German federal and state governments finally agreed on a successor offer at the beginning of November.

The travel card – dubbed the “Deutschlandticket” – will cost €49 and enable people to travel on regional trains, trams and buses up and down the country.

There had been hopes that the discount travel offer would start up in January 2023, but that now seems very unlikely.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s €49 ticket

Martin Burkert, Head of the German Rail and Transport Union (EVG) now expects the €49 ticket to be introduced in the spring.

“From our point of view, it seems realistic to introduce the Deutschlandticket on April 1st, because some implementation issues are still unresolved”, Burkert told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland. The Association of German Transport Companies, on the other hand, considers the beginning of March to be a realistic start date.

The only thing that seems clear regarding the start date is that it will be launched at some point in 2023.

Why the delay?

Financing for the ticket is continuing to cause disagreements between the federal and state governments and, from the point of view of the transport companies, financing issues are also still open.

Burkert from EVG said that the federal government should be prepared to provide more than €1.5 billion for the ticket if necessary.

“Six months after the launch of the Deutschlandticket at the latest, the federal government must evaluate the costs incurred to date with the states and, if necessary, provide additional funding,” he said. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Germany’s €49 travel ticket is far better than the previous €9 ticket

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn has warned that the network is not prepared to cope with extra demand. 

Berthold Huber, the member of the Deutsche Bahn Board of Management responsible for infrastructure, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that a big part of the problem is the network is “structurally outdated” and its “susceptibility to faults is increasing.” 

Accordingly, Huber said that there is currently “no room for additional trains in regional traffic around the major hub stations” and, while adding more seats on trains could be a short terms solution, “here, too, you run up against limits,” Huber said.

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