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TRAVEL NEWS

Berlin weighs up free public transport ticket for summer

Just a few weeks before the €9 ticket is due to be released, the Berlin Senate is mulling a new idea to offer free summer travel for people who sign up to subscriptions.

BVG bus in Berlin
A 200-route bus waits at the bus stop at Zoologischer Garten in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Paul Zinken

According to reports in regional newspaper Tagesspiegel, the transport administration has pitched a three-month €0 ticket for customers that would run alongside the €9 ticket with the aim of pulling in new long-term customers.

In a letter obtained by Tagesschau and regional broadcaster RBB, the transport administration department told parliament that the free ticket would be exclusively available for new and existing season-ticket and subscription holders. 

“It is currently being discussed in Berlin to lower the prices for season tickets to €0 in the campaign months as an alternative to the €9 monthly ticket,” they wrote.

This could win over new customers and encourage them to start rolling subscriptions, they argued.  

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

The free ticket would run from the start of June until the end of August – just like the national €9 ticket – though it’s unclear if it would only be usable for local public transport in Berlin or if, like its €9 counterpart, regional and local routes nationwide would also be included in the offer. 

Pandemic effect

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, Berlin and Brandenburg’s transport operators have lost a number of their original customers. Some have switched to cars or bicycles while others are simply travelling less due to continued home office or less post-pandemic socialising. 

Fewer subscriptions – known as Abos – have been sold by S-Bahn and BVG this year. The operators are concerned that this could lead to significant revenue losses over time.

By dangling the carrot of free transport, the Senate is hoping that it can encourage some of these customers to return over summer and start paying for subscriptions when autumn rolls around.

However, the transport administration has pointed out that talks with the federal government, other federal states, transport associations and the companies involved have not yet been concluded.

“There are different models and therefore many parties to be involved,” transport administration spokesman Jan Thomsen told RBB. “A decision is still open.”

According to the Senate’s estimates, the €0 scheme would cost Berlin around €22 million. 

READ ALSO: What tourists visiting Germany need to know about the €9 ticket

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TRAVEL NEWS

Germany to relax travel restrictions for summer

Germany is set to significantly ease its travel restrictions to enter the country from June 1st until the end of August, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said.

Germany to relax travel restrictions for summer

The so-called 3G rule applies to anyone entering Germany from abroad – and it means travellers over the age of 12 have to show proof of full vaccination, recovery from Covid or a recent negative test. 

Travellers who are transferring at an airport in Germany also have to present proof of their Covid status before arriving in the country. This applies both to non-Schengen transit from or to third countries outside the EU and to transit from or to Schengen states.

However, Health Minister Lauterbach said he planned to temporarily ease this rule from June 1st due to the falling number of Covid infections. 

“Until the end of August, we will suspend the 3G rule on entry,” he told the Funke Mediengruppe newspapers. 

However, the rules for people entering Germany from so-called ‘virus variant areas’ will remain in force. They have to go into a 14-day quarantine on arrival, even if they have been vaccinated or have recovered. However, no country is currently designated as a virus variant region. 

Lauterbach said: “When such areas are defined, people entering the country have to go into quarantine. Even with lower incidences in the summer, we must remain cautious in the event of a global pandemic.” 

Travellers should keep an eye on any risk-level changes to countries they are travelling to Germany from on the Robert Koch Institute’s risk list.

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

Change expected on vaccines

According to German media reports, the amendment to the Covid entry regulations is to be passed by the federal cabinet today.

It also provides for another change – in future all vaccines approved by WHO, not only those approved by the EU, will be recognised upon entry to Germany.

Under the current restrictions, you have to be fully vaccinated to enter Germany if you are coming from most non-EU countries. Unvaccinated people are not allowed to enter unless they have an essential reason.

Germany does, however, allow unrestricted entry for people coming from a small group of ‘safe list’ countries.

This regulation does not apply to German and EU residents.

The Local has asked the German Health Ministry to clarify if the rule on entry from non-EU countries will remain in place. 

Meanwhile, it is worth remembering that the 3G entry rule on coming to Germany still applies until the end of May. Before entering the country, people have to upload or show their Covid documents (proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test) while checking in or before boarding. 

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