Germany's new test rules for unvaccinated travellers: What you need to know

Germany's new test rules for unvaccinated travellers: What you need to know

The German government has signed off a plan to make coronavirus tests compulsory for all unvaccinated arriving travellers as of August 1, no matter where they are travelling from, or which mode of transport they use. Here’s what you need to know. 

What’s changing with Germany’s test rules for travel?

It’s been up for discussion all week, but now it’s official: as of this Sunday, August 1, all travellers over the age of 12 will need a negative coronavirus test certificate, proof of recovery, or proof of vaccination, upon entering Germany - regardless of where they came from and how they travelled. 

“All unvaccinated people will have to be tested in future - regardless of whether they come by plane, car or train,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said in a statement on Friday. That means that not only arrivals into German airports, but also people who come to Germany by car, train or ship should also have proof of a negative test result. 

If you are entering the country from a so-called virus variant area, as designated by the Robert Koch Institute, you will have to supply a negative test result, even if you are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19

Are there any exceptions?

A handful: the new regulation does not apply to cross-border commuters and people who are only passing through Germany, without stopping, on their way to a different country. Regular cross-border commuters who have not been fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID will be required to show a test twice a week. 

Which COVID tests are accepted in Germany?

Returning travellers must present proof of either a negative antigen (rapid) test, taken no more than 48 hours before departure, or a negative PCR test, taken no more than 72 hours before departure. If you are returning from a so-called virus variant area (more information below), the antigen test may be no more than 24 hours old. 

Do I have to pay for the tests myself?

Yes. The government will not cover the cost of testing for individuals who choose to go abroad, neither will the costs be covered by statutory health insurance and so you will have to pay for your own tests abroad. It is possible, but unlikely, that these costs might be covered by some types of private insurance, for instance, travel insurance. Check with your insurer. 

How will the new rules be upheld?

As was previously the case, airport staff will continue to check for negative test results before allowing passengers to board the plane. Elsewhere, checks will be carried out at random at the border. There are no plans to systematically check everyone who enters Germany, according to the German police

Change to risk categories

At the same time, the German government is also making changes to its risk categorisation of countries abroad. In future, there will only be two categories, instead of three: high-risk areas and virus variant areas. Regions with a particularly high number of cases will be classified as high-risk areas, while the label of “simple risk area” (regions with more than 50 new infections per 100.000 inhabitants within seven days) is to be dropped. 

Going forward, therefore, someone returning from a designated high-risk region who is not fully vaccinated or recovered will have to quarantine for 10 days upon their return to Germany. This can be ended on the fifth day at the earliest with a negative test result. When returning from virus variant areas, you will still have to quarantine for 14 days at home, with no early release option. Children under the age of 12 who enter from a high-risk area can end their quarantine, without a test, after five days. 

The obligation to fill out a digital entry registration form will also remain in place, but since the category of “simple risk area” will no longer exist in future, fewer people will have to fill out the form overall. 



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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