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How Germany’s travel rule changes may affect your holiday plans

Germany has relaxed some of its travel rules, including wiping countries off its 'high risk' list. Here's what it means for you.

A passenger walks in Munich airport.
A passenger walks in Munich airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

What’s happening?

On Thursday March 3rd, Germany changed its Covid travel regulations and wiped all countries from its high risk list. 

Around 60 countries – including Austria, France, Greece, Switzerland and the Netherlands – have been taken off the Robert Koch Institute’s high risk list.

The RKI said the change was happening due to the Omicron variant being shown to cause less severe illness than previous Covid variants. 

“Therefore, as of Thursday, March 3rd, 2022 at 0:00am, no states/regions will be considered as high-risk areas with the Third Amendment to the Coronavirus Entry Regulation coming into force,” said the RKI. 

In future, countries will be classed as high risk in regions “where there is a high incidence in terms of the spread of variants with higher virulence, compared to the Omicron variant”.

READ ALSO: Germany removes all countries from Covid ‘high risk’ list

Meanwhile, a Health Ministry spokesman told The Local that the “designation of countries as virus variant areas will continue to be reserved for those areas where a new variant with very particular threatening characteristics emerges (e.g. if vaccination is not effective)”.

What does that mean?

The move significantly relaxes rules for travelling. 

When coming from a high risk region, unvaccinated travellers arriving in Germany have to quarantine for up to 10 days. They can take a Covid test five days into the quarantine at the earliest. If it is negative they can end the quarantine. 

With no countries on the list anymore, unvaccinated people will not have to quarantine.

It also means that anyone people do not need to fill in the online digital register before departure. That only applies when people have been in a high risk or virus variant country.

This also means that the Covid travel warnings have been lifted. A travel warning for non-essential, tourist travel applies in principle to countries classified by the government as high-risk areas or virus variant areas.

READ ALSO: The new rules for entering Germany with an EU Covid pass

Do I still need to take a Covid-19 test before travel?

Yes – if you are over the age of 12 and are unvaccinated you will need to take a Covid-19 test. Everyone coming to Germany has to show proof of their Covid status (vaccination, recovery or a test) before boarding a plane, or carry proof if they are arriving by road. This is known as the 3G rule in Germany. 

Previously people had to provide proof of their Covid status from the age of six. Now it applies to people over 12. 

Airlines often ask for customers to upload their proof during online check-in, or you may be asked to show proof while checking in at the airport or before you board. 

As a rule, Germany says that Covid‑19 test results (antigen or PCR tests) must not be more than 48 hours old at the time of the (planned) entry into Germany.

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

“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.”

Note that 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 Foreign Office. 

Has anything else changed?

Yes. if a country is placed on the high-risk list by Germany, families should be aware of some changes. 

Children aged 6-12 will be able to take a Covid test immediately after returning from any future high-risk area so they can avoid having to quarantine (if their test is negative).

Previously, all unvaccinated people over the age of six had to quarantine for up to 10 days, with the option to test for an early release on the fifth day of quarantine.

Children under the age of six will be exempted from the testing requirement, and will be automatically released from quarantine after five days. 

When are the rules in place until?

According to the German Health Ministry, the regulation “will expire at the end of March 19th 2022”. That’s in line with Germany’s plans to phase out Covid restrictions by March 20th except some basic measures like face masks. 

A sign at Berlin airport.

A sign at Berlin airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Monika Skolimowska

Can anyone enter Germany right now?

There are still some 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 take a test before travel as detailed above).

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 March 3rd 2022), Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan.

Do I need an EU digital vaccine pass in Germany?

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 still has some strict Covid rules in place (although they are being relaxed this month), meaning access to most public places (like restaurants and non-essential shops) is only allowed if you present proof of your Covid status. 

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?

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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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