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What to expect if you’re travelling to Germany this Easter

Tourism to Germany has been difficult in the pandemic. But with many countries around the world easing measures, visitors are returning. Here's what you should know if you're planning or thinking about a trip to Germany.

Easter eggs hang from a tree in Schmilka, Saxony.
Easter eggs hang from a tree in Schmilka, Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

Some readers have contacted us to ask for advice about what Germany is like to visit now. From travel measures to Covid rules and culture, here’s a look at what’s changed (and what remains the same) since the pandemic began.

Travel – can you enter Germany?

Travel restrictions brought in to curb the spread of coronavirus remain in place two years later – but they have been significantly eased. 

At the beginning of March this year, Germany wiped all countries from its high-risk list. It means that people don’t have to quarantine – even if unvaccinated – when entering Germany.

But it is still the case that people coming from non-EU countries have to be fully vaccinated (with a European Medicines Agency approved vaccine). Unvaccinated people are generally not allowed to enter unless they have an essential reason.

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

Plus this 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. 

3G proof to get into Germany

Furthermore, you should know that before coming to Germany you will be asked to either upload your Covid documents (proof of vaccination, recovery or a test) while checking in or show evidence before boarding – regardless of where you are coming from, even if it is within the EU. This is known as the 3G rule in Germany, which stands for geimpft (vaccinated), genesen (recovered) or getestet (tested).

This rule applies to everyone aged 12 and over, and also applies to transit passengers. 

A bar owner in Augsburg letting customers know about the change in Covid rules (to 3G instead of 2G).

A bar owner in Augsburg letting customers know about the change in Covid rules (to 3G instead of 2G). Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Puchner

You are not excluded from carrying this Covid proof if you’re coming by other means of transport, like driving. In theory, random checks near borders can be carried out but this doesn’t seem to happen very often. 

Since no countries are currently on the risk-list, you no longer have have to fill in a digital entry form before travelling to Germany. The proof of vaccination, recovery or test is enough. 

People should keep track of any changes in the “risk level” of the country you are travelling from on the Robert Koch Institute’s risk list. If a variant deemed dangerous is discovered in a country then stricter measures can be brought in at short notice. 

The travel rules have been extended until April 28th 2022, but they may be extended beyond this date. 

READ MORE:

Are there Covid rules in Germany?

Yes, there are a few things to be aware of. Germany was supposed to loosen up almost all restrictions on March 20th. But due to infections increasing upwards again, states have been hesitant to lift the rules. 

From April 2nd there will be a change in culture though – the Covid entry rules to get into restaurants and bars will fall away. That means you won’t have to show evidence of Covid vaccination, recovery or a test. 

Masks – Plus there will be a huge change on mask restrictions. Masks will no longer be mandatory in shops and in restaurants and bars – usually you have to wear them when walking around a venue. They also won’t be compulsory in gyms, cinemas and museums. However, individual businesses can decide keep the mask rule in place so be prepared for that. 

You will still have to wear a mask if going to a GP, hospital, nursing or care home. Plus masks are still mandatory on public and long-distance transport as well as flights. In Germany the norm has usually been to wear a medical mask (that’s an FFP2 or the surgical mask). Cloth masks haven’t been around for some time. 

READ MORE: What are Germany’s new Covid-19 mask rules?

Exceptions – Some German states are choosing to declare themselves a Covid hotspot, meaning that the tougher restrictions are extended. So far the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Hamburg have chosen to take this route. We’ll update you on any other states who also take this route. 

Tourists sit in front of the Reichsburg in Cochem on the Moselle River.

Tourists sit in front of the Reichsburg in Cochem on the Moselle River. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Frey

Tourists and visitors to Germany are not meant to get the EU digital Covid pass. You can show evidence of your own digital or official vaccination certificate (like an American CDC card or Indian digital vaccine pass). Some places prefer that you have a QR code that they can scan. However, if you have official vaccination proof on paper from a foreign country, they are usually understanding. 

READ MORE:

What about culture changes?

Masks get thumbs up

One thing to note is that Germans have generally been on board with wearing a face mask during the pandemic. So it will be interesting to see if lots of people continue to wear one in future even in places where it is not mandatory. 

READ ALSO: Half of Germans will keep wearing masks after mandates end

Testing is encouraged

Germany really went to town on offering free (well, taxpayer-funded) Covid-19 antigen tests during the pandemic. You’ll find testing stations and centres dotted around cities and towns. People are encouraged to get tested regularly to keep an eye on their Covid status. You can also buy Covid tests in supermarkets, drugstores and pharmacies but they’re selling out regularly at the moment because of the coronavirus spread.

Tourists and visitors can also use the antigen testing centres, although there’s a different system for PCR tests. And if you test positive? Here’s what you should do.

Lüften, Lüften, Lüften

Anyone who has spent a bit of time in Germany will be aware that the love and passion for the ventilation of rooms, known as Lüften in German, is strong. Due to the pandemic, it’s now even stronger. You’ll often find windows and doors wide open in cafes and other places, making sure that Covid does not linger in stale air for too long. So remember to wrap up when you go out for Kaffee und Kuchen.

You’ll also find a lot more options to sit outside to eat and drink, even when it’s chilly. When restaurants had to close many people took take-away food and sat outdoors in three layers to eat it and that outdoor-living culture has been embraced.

An exception? Smoking bars in Berlin – Raucherkneipen – are still smokey and nobody tends to open windows or doors to air them out. 

Germans still love cash

Despite an uptick in card payments at the very beginning of the pandemic, it didn’t really last. Bars, restaurants and shops still tend to prefer that customers pay in cash. So make sure you’re stocked up with euros when you head out for food or a drink. 

But there has also been a move to embrace more digital services, although who knows how long it will take for the land of the fax machine to move on completely to the digital world. 

READ ALSO: 7 things the Covid-19 crisis has taught us about Germany

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TRAVEL NEWS

UPDATE: When will Germany’s €49 ticket start?

Germany announced a €49 monthly ticket for local and regional public transport earlier this month, but the hoped-for launch date of January 2023 looks increasingly unlikely.

UPDATE: When will Germany's €49 ticket start?

Following the popularity of the €9 train ticket over the summer, the German federal and state governments finally agreed on a successor offer at the beginning of November.

The travel card – dubbed the “Deutschlandticket” – will cost €49 and enable people to travel on regional trains, trams and buses up and down the country.

There had been hopes that the discount travel offer would start up in January 2023, but that now seems very unlikely.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s €49 ticket

Martin Burkert, Head of the German Rail and Transport Union (EVG) now expects the €49 ticket to be introduced in the spring.

“From our point of view, it seems realistic to introduce the Deutschlandticket on April 1st, because some implementation issues are still unresolved”, Burkert told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland on Monday. The Association of German Transport Companies, on the other hand, said on Wednesday that they believe the beginning of May will be a more realistic start date.

The federal and state transport ministers have set their sights on an April deadline, but this depends on whether funding and technical issues can be sorted out by then. In short, the only thing that seems clear regarding the start date is that it will be launched at some point in 2023. 

Why the delay?

Financing for the ticket continues to cause disagreements between the federal and state governments and, from the point of view of the transport companies, financing issues are also still open.

The federal government has agreed to stump up €1.5 billion for the new ticket, which the states will match out of their own budgets. That brings the total funding for the offer up to €3 billion. 

But according to Bremen’s transport minister Maike Schaefer, the actual cost of the ticket is likely to be closer to €4.7 billion – especially during the initial implementation phase – leaving a €1.7 billion hole in finances.

Transport companies are concerned that it will fall to them to take the financial hit if the government doesn’t provide enough funding. They say this will be impossible for them to shoulder. 

Burkert from EVG is calling on the federal government to provide more than the €1.5 billion originally earmarked for the ticket if necessary.

“Six months after the launch of the Deutschlandticket at the latest, the federal government must evaluate the costs incurred to date with the states and, if necessary, provide additional funding,” he said. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Germany’s €49 travel ticket is far better than the previous €9 ticket

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn has warned that the network is not prepared to cope with extra demand. 

Berthold Huber, the member of the Deutsche Bahn Board of Management responsible for infrastructure, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that a big part of the problem is the network is “structurally outdated” and its “susceptibility to faults is increasing.” 

Accordingly, Huber said that there is currently “no room for additional trains in regional traffic around the major hub stations” and, while adding more seats on trains could be a short terms solution, “here, too, you run up against limits,” Huber said.

So, what now? 

Well, it seems that the federal states are happy to pay half of whatever the ticket actually costs – but so far, the federal government has been slow to make the same offer.

With the two crucial ministries – the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry – headed up by politicians from the liberal FDP, environment groups are accusing the party of blocking the ticket by proxy. 

According to Jürgen Resch, the director of German Environment Aid, Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Transport Minister Volker Wissing are deliberately withholding the necessary financial support for the states.

Wissing has also come under fire from the opposition CDU/CSU parties after failing to turn up to a transport committee meeting on Wednesday. 

The conservatives had narrowly failed in a motion to summon the minister to the meeting and demand a report on the progress of the €49 ticket.

“The members of the Bundestag have many unanswered questions and time is pressing,” said CDU transport politician Thomas Bareiß, adding that the ticket had falling victim to a “false start”. 

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