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‘Better than I could have imagined’: How foreigners feel about being able to travel to Germany

Although travel is by no means simple, it is easier for many people to visit Germany after restrictions were eased this summer. Here's how The Local readers feel about their trips and plans.

'Better than I could have imagined': How foreigners feel about being able to travel to Germany
People enjoy the Saxon-Switzerland national park in eastern Germany this summer. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

From catching up with friends, meeting family members – including newborns – or hoping to see the Christmas markets, many people are delighted to be able to come to Germany again, or at least hopeful that they can plan a trip. 

On June 25th, Germany lifted entry restrictions for fully vaccinated people coming from many non-EU countries, opening up the possibility of smoother travel. 

READ ALSO: Germany relaxes travel rules for non-EU residents: What you need to know

Of the people we surveyed earlier this summer, just over 30 percent had booked travel to Germany, while around 36 percent were planning a trip. 

Jennifer Hill, 48, in Wisconsin, the US, had been planning her summer trip to Germany for over a year.

She was due to visit Munich, Würzburg and her great-grandfather’s town in Lower Franconia in May. But she moved it to July. Luckily Germany eased travel rules for the US as well as other non EU countries at the start of summer so she could take her trip. 

“I had originally planned to include Austria, but decided it would be better to just stay in Germany,” she told us.

Hill opted to stay in Airbnb accommodation instead of hostels to avoid too much contact with other people. She also packed FFP2 masks and bought travel insurance with Covid medical benefits to prepare for the trip. 

She said the vacation was less about sightseeing and more about “seeing where my family lived and enjoying being in Germany”.

“My visit was better than I could have imagined,” said Hill, who is fully vaccinated. “I felt very safe there, regarding Covid. I visited a few churches and other sites, ate at beer gardens, hiked, did some family research, and stayed with relatives in my great-grandfather’s town.

“I really appreciated that masks were required in public spaces, as they are not here in the US. And the restaurants I visited had good contact systems in place.

“At the end, I took a rapid take home Covid test to re-enter the US. Cases are up now in my community at home, as they are everywhere with the Delta variant. I’m glad I had the opportunity to go there when I did.”

READ ALSO: How Germany’s travel rules to fight the Covid fourth wave could affect your holiday plans

Of those who answered our survey, the majority – more than 67 percent – were fully vaccinated against Covid. 13 percent were not fully vaccinated just yet, and just over 13 percent were not vaccinated but still wanted to come from Germany. 

‘I miss my children’

Lots of people told us they were desperate for family reunions or to see loved ones in Germany. 

Eloise Tunnicliffe-Grundy, from the UK, said: “I’m visiting to see my boyfriend of three years, as we’re in a long distance relationship. I’m looking forward to spending time with him and eating local food, as well as seeing his family.”

Lars Kroll, 32, in the Netherlands plans to go sailing with his dad, see his parents and grandma, as well as friends.

Lots of people said they were concerned about Covid rules affecting their plans. 

Pat Milner, 65, from Rugby in England, said: “I cannot wait to visit my son Stephen and Anne who I haven’t seen for a year. They were due to get married in 2020 and their rearranged wedding was for this July. Now it has been put back until summer 2022.

“I feel relatively safe as I have been vaccinated, but worry about being refused entry to countries because of Covid restrictions.”

People at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in July. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

George Throup, 20, from London, is planning a trip to visit his girlfriend and her family. “I’m most looking forward to good food and getting out of the UK. I’m worried that we will be hit in the UK by another variant and we’ll be put back on the banned list!”

For some people it has been really difficult to plan due to complications with Covid restrictions. 

Harafa Minga Jerome, 42, in South Africa said: “My children and ex husband are living in Germany. My kids are still young and in school. I last saw them in 2019 when I went to Hamburg to visit.

“I was planning to visit in February 2020 but lockdown started and our borders are still closed and I am unable to travel to Germany. I miss my children dearly. I am looking forward to seeing them smile, holding them, talking to them and we love to dance as a family.”

Susan Mathew, from Bangalore, said she wanted to visit her son and daughter-in-law in Germany, and enjoy the countryside.  

‘I fell in love with Berlin’

Others are looking to explore their past. 

Greg Carter, 66, from Nevada in the US said he was stationed in Germany in the 70s. He loved the beer and food and has lots of friends he wants to visit. 

Steven Thompson, 61, in Las Vegas was also stationed the US in the 70s. “I would spend my weekends mostly in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and would like to look up old friends,” he said. 

“Since I’m not traveling until September, I’m in a wait-and-see mode right now.”

With tourist attractions across the country such as stunning castles like Neuschwanstein in the south as well as lakes, mountains and beaches, Germany is at the top of some people’s wish list.  

READ ALSO: Germany moves United States and Israel to ‘high risk’ list: What does it mean?

A stunning summer’s day at Titisee-Neustadt, Baden-Württemberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

Gary Michael Dubret, 57, based in New Orleans, Louisiana, said: “I want to visit my friend and I’d like to see the world largest model railroad train table in Hamburg.”

Melissa Mongelli, 45, is from the US. She came to Deutschland in 2019 and “fell in love with Berlin”, making her desperate for a return trip at the earliest opportunity.

“Love the city,” she said.

Charlie Ehrmann, 78, based in Georgia, US, said he attended high school in Berlin and met his wife on a trip to Munich so he’s taken many trips to Germany.

He wants to take his family – including his grandkids when they graduate from high school – to Germany. He loves the “Germany/Austria area, castles, mountains, food and music”.

Ehrmann said he was looking into how tourists can get tested in various cities. “Most hotels have been helpful in letting us know if they require and/or provide testing,” he said.

READ ALSO: Five things to know about Germany’s testing rules 

Mark Jeavons, 58, in England, wants to get back to the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) for his annual trip to improve his language skills. 

Chris Laing, 53, from Edinburgh, is also a frequent visitor. “We visit Germany every year,” he said. “We love the food, beer and mountains.”

David and Nancy, who are in their 70s and live in Indiana, US, also visit on an annual basis.

“We lived in Germany for six years,” they explained. “Looking forward to driving along the Rhein and Mosel rivers and enjoying the scenery and great restaurants. Unfortunately we missed Spargel (asparagus) season!”

Meeting grandchildren

Others who responded to our survey said they wanted to get back to their second home in Germany, attend weddings – or even prepare for studying in the Bundesrepublik.

For Sharon Rosslind in Cape Town, a trip to Germany will be “to meet my two grandchildren”.

Tsitsi Makoni, 59, in Zimbabwe, said she wanted “to see my grandsons”.

She added: “One was born in 2020 and due to Corona I haven’t been able to visit and meet him. My other grandson is arriving on the 27th of July 2021 and would really like to be with my daughter when she gives birth.”

***

Thanks to everyone who shared their experience with us. Although we weren’t able to include all the submissions, we read each of them and we are truly sympathetic to the challenges everyone is facing right now when it comes to travel during the pandemic. 

If there’s anything you’d like to ask or tell us about our coverage, please feel free to get in touch.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Who benefits from Germany’s €9 public transport ticket offer?

With Germany set to roll out the €9 monthly transport ticket soon, we looked at how it could benefit you (or not) - whether you're a car owner, tourist or a day tripper.

Who benefits from Germany's €9 public transport ticket offer?

For just €9 a month, passengers will be able to travel by bus, train and tram on local and regional transport throughout Germany over summer.

The ticket, which is in place for three months from June, is an unprecedented attempt to relieve German residents financially amid spiralling inflation, and to convince car owners to switch to more climate-friendly choices.

This Thursday, the Bundestag (German federal parliament) will make a final decision on the financing aspect to it, and on Friday it will go to the Bundesrat, which represents the 16 states.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block €9 ticket

Supporters see a great opportunity for more climate-friendly transport, while critics fear a flash in the pan and warn that overcrowded buses and trains are more likely to scare off potential new users. Of course, people with less disposable income will be helped most by this offer. But which other groups will actually benefit from the €9 ticket?

Long-term public transport customers (ÖPNV-Stammkunden)

If you have a subscription – known as an Abo in Germany – for local transport with a monthly or annual ticket, the ticket is a huge boost. That’s because you will only be charged €9 for the months of June, July and August or you’ll receive a refund or credit note. Many transport associations even hope to gain permanent subscription customers with the the lure of three low-cost months.

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

Car commuters (Auto-Pendler)

In a survey by Germany’s KfW, three quarters of households that use a car said they would consider switching regularly to buses and trains. So those who are well served by public transport, and who have suitable bus and rail connections to work, may well decide to make the switch because of the cheap offer. This will especially benefit people in large and medium-sized towns. 

If this is you, you’ll definitely save cash by leaving your car at home and taking public transport. The €9 monthly ticket costs less than 50 cents per working day. You won’t get back and forth by car to your destination that cheaply, even if the cut on fuel tax comes as planned.

READ ALSO: How many people will use the €9 ticket?

People driving to and from Cologne.

People driving to and from Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Henning Kaiser

Day trippers (Ausflügler)

For many day trips and weekends away, and even for some longer holidays in Germany, it can be worth buying a car. But the €9 ticket does hold the promise of offering excursions throughout the country, as long as you use regional trains since long-distance trains – like the high speed ICE – are not included. 

The Local has even gathered some of the best trips possible with the ticket, and tourism is expected to see a big boost. However, at the start and end of long weekends, such as the upcoming Whitsun (June 5th and 6th) and Corpus Christi (June 16th) in some states, the passenger association Pro Bahn expects chaos on trains heading for the coast and mountains. So perhaps choose your times to travel wisely. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

Residents in villages and small towns (Dorfbewohner)

As some Local readers have pointed out, the low-cost ticket for public transport is not so much use if buses – or even trains – rarely stop at the place you live. This is the case in many villages across Germany. According to calculations by the railway subsidiary Loki, many rural stops don’t even have an hourly service. 

Drivers can save on fuel and parking fees with a €9 ticket, but you need the transport connections to be able to benefit from it. Otherwise you’ll have to shell out more on taxis on top of the public transport cost. 

Cyclists (Radfahrer)

First thing first, the €9 ticket does not include a bike ticket, so you’ll have to buy one if you want to board a train with your bicycle. However, even if you buy a ticket for your bike to carry alongside your €9 ticket, the quality of your trip will very much depend on the day and time of travel, as well as the route you’re going on.

It often gets cramped on trains for passengers with bicycles, plus the number of bike parking spaces is limited. If it gets too crowded, train staff can decide not to let any more people with bikes on – even if you already have a ticket.

Trains are expected to be very busy during summer because of the low-cost ticket offer. Some operators are asking people not to take bikes on board. Berlin and Brandenburg operator VBB, for instance, urged all passengers to refrain from taking bikes with them during the campaign period and recommends travelling outside of rush hours. 

A cyclist enjoys a break in Ingelheim, Rhineland-Palatinate.

A cyclist enjoys a break in Ingelheim, Rhineland-Palatinate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

Tourists (Touristen)

A group that will definitely benefit form this ticket is people visiting Germany. The ticket costs €9 per calendar month (so €27 in total). But a single day ticket in Munich costs €8.20 normally (and even more depending on the zone). In Berlin, a single day ticket costs €8.80. So even if you’re staying in Germany for two days, if you plan to be on public transport, you’ll get a good deal. 

READ ALSO: What tourists to Germany need to know about reduced-price public transport

Families (Familien)

According to Deutsche Bahn, 6-to 14-year-olds need their own €9 ticket or another ticket; as free transport is excluded from the cheaper transport offer.

Children under six do, however, generally travel free of charge. If you have a lot of children and only want to make a one-off trip, you may be better off with a normal ticket; it includes free travel for children up to the age of 14. For this one, it’s best to check on the local public transport provider’s options before you commit to the €9 ticket. 

Long-distance travellers and commuters (Fernreisende und Fernpendler)

As we mentioned above, the €9 ticket is not valid for long-distance travel, whether on ICE, Intercity and Eurocity, or the night trains of different providers, or on Flixtrain or Flixbus.

The DB long-distance ticket also includes the so-called City Ticket in 130 German cities: free travel to the station and on to the destination by public transport. So if you have this ticket, the €9 ticket is probably not needed.

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