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CHRISTMAS

Switzerland: What Germany’s new Covid rules mean for cross-border shoppers

The escalating Covid situation in Switzerland’s northern neighbour has led to tighter measures in several states. What does this mean for people from Switzerland visiting Germany for shopping or leisure, i.e. Christmas markets?

A picture of German supermarket Rewe
Cross-border shopping and leisure in Germany from Switzerland is still possible, but the rules are tight. Picture: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

Germany has been a popular shopping destination for people living in Switzerland’s border areas for decades, with German supermarkets and retail outlets offering much cheaper prices than those available in Switzerland.

Other than for petrol – which as The Local Switzerland reported recently is cheaper in Switzerland than in most neighbouring countries – most goods are cheaper in Germany. 

Fuel in Switzerland: Why are Germans crossing the border to fill up?

As of Wednesday, November 17th, the border state of Baden-Württemberg has put in place stricter measures as Germany struggles with a resurgence of the virus. 

This includes contact restrictions as well as replacing the 3G rule with a 2G rule, i.e. which requires that people are either vaccinated or recovered from the virus to take part in certain activities (i.e. negative tests are insufficient). 

3G refers to the German words for vaccinated, recovered and tested – geimpft/genesen/getestet – and has been used to describe the conditions required to take part in many activities in German-speaking countries. 

This will impact cross-border shoppers from Switzerland, as well as people visiting Germany for leisure – such as to attend Europa Park or visit the state’s Christmas markets. 

Keep in mind that you can use your Swiss Covid certificate in Germany, as Switzerland and the EU – of which Germany is a member – have agreed to recognise each other’s Covid passes. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

What do I need to enter Germany? 

Although there is a 3G requirement to enter Germany, this is waived if you will be in the country for less than 24 hours. 

READ MORE: Is Switzerland likely to bring back Covid restrictions this Christmas?

Therefore, unless it’s an excessively long shopping trip, you can enter without evidence of vaccination, recovery or a negative test. 

You do not need to fill in Germany’s entry form if you stay for less than 24 hours. 

Can people from Switzerland go cross-border shopping in Germany? 

Cross-border shopping in Germany is allowed, however the type of evidence you need to provide will depend on what type of shopping you will do. 

If you are visiting essential shops – i.e. supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations or bakeries – you do not need to show your Covid certificate. 

However, if you are shopping retail – i.e. non-essential stores selling electronics, clothes or other items – you need to be 3G compliant. 

What about meeting friends? 

Meeting people in private is restricted in Baden-Württemberg, unless you can show 2G compliance (recovered or vaccinated against Covid). 

If you are unvaccinated and not recovered from the virus, only one household can meet with one person. 

Couples who do not live together are counted as one household. 

What about Christmas markets? 

Generally speaking, you do not need a certificate to visit outdoor Christmas markets which are not fenced off. 

There are different rules in different states, however. 

State by state: Germany’s Covid rules for Christmas markets

In Baden-Württemberg, the rules are relatively tight. 

You can buy many of the arts and crafts which are on offer without a certificate. 

However, things change where the markets are fenced off or where you are consuming something, i.e. food or drink. 

Here, either 3G or 2G rules apply, depending on the Covid situation. 

Where the region is in the ‘warning’ area, the 3G rule will apply. 

If the region is in the ‘alert’ area, a 2G rule will apply. 

Several Christmas markets in Baden-Württemberg have already indicated they will adopt 2G rules. 

In Bavaria, things are comparatively relaxed. Generally speaking, you will not need to comply with 3G rules as long as you are outdoors, although fenced off areas and indoor areas may have 3G or 2G rules. 

Measures will be put in place on a regional level, so check ahead of time to see what rules will apply. 

What about cafes and bars?

Bars and restaurants in Baden-Württemberg have a 2G-plus rule in place. This applies on both the indoor and outdoor areas of the restaurant or bar. 

This means you need to be vaccinated, recovered from the virus or negatively tested with a PCR test. 

Antigen tests are not sufficient. 

READ MORE: What are the Covid rules for Switzerland’s Christmas markets?

What about everything else? 

3G rules are in place in hairdressers, 2G plus is required in hotels, and 2G rules are required in theatre, cinemas, clubs, concerts and museums. 

What about Europa Park?

If you’re headed to Europa Park over the festive season, you will need to comply with the 2G rule. 

Everyone aged 17 and under does not need to comply with this rule, however they will need to show a negative test to enter the park. 

Children aged 7 and under will not need to show a negative test. 

What do I need to show? 

Fortunately, you can show your Swiss Covid certificate in Germany due to a reciprocal agreement. 

As Germany still loves paperwork, any paper evidence you can bring will help, but the Covid certificate app should be sufficient. 

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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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