First German state opens completely for tourism

On Monday Germany’s northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein opened up hotels and indoor dining. The move comes ahead of a national three-day weekend.

First German state opens completely for tourism
A jogger runs past beach korbs in Scharbeutz, Schleswig-Holstein on May 9th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Georg Wendt

Many areas of life in Schleswig-Holstein are being revived. Bars and restaurants are once again able to open for both indoor and outdoor dining, and boat trips are back up and running. 

Up until this week, tourists were only allowed to spend the night in four areas within the northern state, which acted as trial regions before the full reopening of public life. Germany has closed most of its tourism infrastructure since November.

The state has the lowest rate of coronavirus infection in the whole country, with the 7-day incidence rate currently standing at 35.1 per 100,000 inhabitants. 

READ ALSO: Northern German state leads the way as Covid cases fall nationwide

This is not quite a return to normality, however. The terms of the opening mean that tourists will still have to meet hygiene requirements and wear masks in some public areas. It is still mandatory to wear a mask on public transport, but an FFP2 mask is no longer required. 

Visitors will also be required to present a negative Covid-19 test result upon arrival and then every three days going forward. 

A negative test result, proof of full vaccination, or proof of recovery from a recent infection, will also be mandatory if holidaymakers wish to eat and drink inside restaurants. 

The leader of Germany’s Hotel and Catering Association, Ingrid Hartges, is calling on other states to follow a similar approach. 

“I feel we can learn from Schleswig-Holstein,” said Hartges on Sunday evening. Despite the opening of the tourist industry in four trial regions, the infection rate has continued to drop across the state.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Germany’s new relaxed quarantine and testing rules for travel

Hartges made clear that there should be a focus on a ‘responsible reopening’ of the sector, saying that the hospitality industry is not a driver of the pandemic and has been hit particularly hard by Covid regulations.

Other tourism reopenings around Germany

As of Saturday, several regions in Baden-Württemberg have also reopened hotels and restaurants to the public and a number of other German states are planning to relax restrictions ahead of the Whitsun weekend. Germany has a national public holiday on Monday May 24th. 

The mayor of Hamburg, Peter Tschentscher, is set to suggest to the city council on Tuesday that outdoor dining should reopen for the religious holiday. 

Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where the 7-day incidence rate is in the region of 50 per 100,000, are taking a more cautious approach to neighbouring Schleswig-Holstein. Lower Saxony has initially only opened tourism to residents of the state. 

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, tourism will be open for residents from June 7th, and for guests from other states from June 14th onwards. It will be possible to eat both inside and outside restaurants this weekend.

Dietmar Bartsch, the head of Die Linke in the Bundestag, criticised the state’s hesitance in easing the lockdown, saying it did not make sense to postpone it for so long. 

Why tourism is opening up again

The reopening of tourism and hospitality is only becoming possible because of the significant progress of Germany’s vaccination programme. In some states, vaccine priority has been lifted at GP surgeries, meaning anyone can book an appointment to get their dose. 

Baden-Württemberg and Berlin are ploughing forward with this strategy from Monday onwards, with Bavaria following their lead during the week and Saxony implementing the new approach from next Monday. 

READ ALSO: When will tourism in Germany open up again?

However, in many places there will not be enough vaccine doses to meet demand, meaning not everyone will be able to make an appointment as quickly as they may like. The priority list still applies in vaccination centres. 

More than 30 million people in Germany have now had at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, and nine million people are fully inoculated. 

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How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:


WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.


Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.


TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.


Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.


Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.