FAQ regarding corona testing when travelling to Germany

Anyone entering Germany from abroad can be tested for the coronavirus free of charge within 72 hours. People from risk areas will soon be obliged to take the test when they enter Germany. Here you will find the most important questions and answers.


Anyone who enters the Federal Republic of Germany having spent time in a risk area up to 14 days before their arrival is obliged to proceed directly to their own home or another suitable accommodation and self-isolate there for 14 days. This does not apply if the person only travelled through a risk area without spending time there. The competent public health office monitors the quarantine obligation. Find your local public health office here: tools.rki.de/PLZTool/.

Regulation of the quarantine obligation falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Laender. Please visit the website of the Federal Land wherein you reside or will be staying for detailed information on its specific quarantine regulations.

A risk area is any country or region outside of the Federal Republic of Germany for which, at the time of entry into the Federal Republic of Germany, an increased risk of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus exists. The Robert Koch Institute maintains a continuously updated list of risk areas at the following link: https://www.rki.de/covid-19-risikogebiete.

Anyone having spent time in a risk area up to 14 days before their entry into Germany must report to the competent health office and provide the address of where they will be staying. If passenger locator cards are distributed on the plane, boat or train when entering Germany from a risk area, filling out the passenger locator card and returning it to the carrier will suffice.

Testing obligation

According to the Federal Ministry of Health’s Testing Obligation Ordinance, anyone having spent time in a risk area up to 14 days before their entry into Germany, if requested by the competent health office or a different authority designated by the Land, must either provide proof of having tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 or get tested within 14 days of their entry into Germany. The concrete implementation lies with the Laender.

This depends on how the tests are handled on-site. As long as no negative test result is available, you must in any case enter home quarantine. Anyone on their homeward journey from the port/airport should avoid close contact with third parties, the general DHM measures still apply: Distance, Hygiene, Community Mask.

In principle, yes, but the concrete implementation lies with the Laender.

The test must be carried out in a member state of the European Union or a country that is listed here https://www.rki.de/covid-19-tests by the Robert Koch Institute. If, when entering the country you already carry with you a test result, to be valid the test may not have been conducted more than 48 hours prior to entry. The test certificate must be written in German or English.

Travellers from risk areas unable to prove they were tested must have themselves tested by the competent authorities upon their arrival if requested to do so.

A negative test result can only ever represent a momentary snapshot. A repeat test conducted five to seven days after the first is therefore useful. In individual cases, a repeat test may be ordered by the public health service (through the competent health offices).

A positive test result signifies that the person concerned must self-quarantine for 14 days.

In most Laender, testing negative means home quarantine is no longer required. In specific Laender, a repeat test a number of days later may be necessary, however.

Irrespective of the result, if typical COVID-19 symptoms (difficulties breathing, newly developed cough, fever or loss of smell or taste) emerge within 14 days of entry from a risk area, your competent health office must be informed right away. Ambiguous symptoms – even following a negative test result – should be clarified with a doctor without delay.

However, people entering the country from elsewhere (not a risk area) may also get tested. If the test is carried out within 72 hours of entry, then it is free for all those travelling from abroad.

People travelling from risk areas should, wherever possible, be tested at airports and at ports.

If no test can be performed there, then having announced your visit ahead of time by telephone, a test should be carried out at your doctor’s surgery. Arrivals to Germany can find out from the medical appointment service centre where in their vicinity they can get the test by calling 116 117.

Travellers from risk areas are obligated to report to their competent health office
(https://tools.rki.de/PLZTool/) immediately upon returning and also provide it with details regarding potential symptoms and on whether a test was carried out.

Prior to a direct entry into Germany from a risk area by plane, boat, train or bus, travellers must fill out passenger locator cards at any rate. These cards also gather details on any symptoms and available test results. The passenger locator cards are collected and transmitted to the health authorities near the traveller’s home/destination in Germany (unless proof of a negative test result can be presented). These local authorities then carry out random checks to monitor adherence to the home quarantine.

No compulsory testing is planned. People not consenting to testing within 14 days of entering the country from a risk area after having been requested to do so must expect to pay a fine.

Tests performed in Germany are subject to what is known as a laboratory reporting requirement. This means laboratories must report positive test results to the competent public health office.

Negative test results are not reported to public health offices by the laboratories. People travelling from a risk area must themselves therefore, if requested, prove to their local public health office or a different authority designated by the Land that they tested negative by producing a test certificate issued to them by their doctor.

Close to borders, random checks may be carried out by the competent authorities. These can then transmit the travellers’ data to the health authorities at their destination (unless proof of a negative test result can be presented).

International travellers are informed of their obligations by their carriers (for instance on the train or plane). In addition, the Federal Centre for Health Education provides information on the testing obligation and signs will be posted along roads close to borders, at ports, airports, and train stations.

Violation of the obligations indicated above regarding reporting, consent to testing or home quarantine can result in heavy fines by local authorities.

The testing obligation enters into force on 8 August 2020 and applies to people entering the country from risk areas.

According to the Protection against Infection Act, the testing obligation can only apply when entering Germany from regions which the Federal Government deems involve a heightened risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection. The Federal Government examines on an ongoing basis which areas are to be classified as risk areas. The Robert Koch Institute publishes an up-to-date list of risk areas: https://www.rki.de/covid-19-risikogebiete.

Free testing

Yes, people returning from risk areas and non-risk areas can receive a free test. Since 1 August, the costs incurred are covered if the test is performed within 72 hours of entering the country. The costs incurred for one repeat test per person are also covered.

You can, for instance, present a boarding pass, ticket, hotel bill or other form of evidence. What is important is that the traveller can credibly establish a stay abroad took place.

Commuters from risk areas are usually exempt from the quarantine obligation according to their respective Land law. They are therefore not required to present a test certificate. If they so wish, they are however eligible to be tested for free for a period of up to 72 hours following their arrival in Germany.

The costs for these tests are borne by the Federal Government by way of an increased subsidy towards the health insurance. If the test is carried out by a Federal Land’s public health service, then that Land covers some of the costs itself.

Many countries have higher numbers of infection than Germany, which means in these places there is also a higher risk of becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2. Testing early on following their return to Germany reduces the risk of an infection going unnoticed and thereby unintentionally infecting others. This can potentially prevent major costs later down the line. Not testing could well prove more expensive.

In Germany, above all the following groups of people are tested for free based on their doctor’s or the public health service’s decision:

  • People with corona-like symptoms – even if mild.

  • Persons who have been in contact with someone infected with SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, e.g. members of the same household or persons identified as contact persons via the Corona-Warn-App.

  • People in community facilities and communal accommodation (e.g. doctors’ surgeries, schools, day care facilities, asylum seeker accommodation, emergency shelters, correctional facilities), if someone there was found to have been infected with the novel coronavirus.

  • Patients before their (re-)admission to hospitals, residential long-term care facilities, facilities for persons with disabilities and for other vulnerable groups, as well as those in outpatient care.

  • Patients and staff at rehab facilities.

  • Residents and staff at nursing homes as well as patients and staff at hospitals and other facilities through random testing, independent of cases.

  • In regions with many new infections (that exceed 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over seven days), the entire population or portions of it can be tested.

We have been successful in significantly increasing testing capacities over the previous months. According to the laboratories reporting to the RKI, testing capacities currently lie at up to 1.2 million tests per week. Over several weeks now, just under half their capacity was needed. In addition, these capacities are still being expanded.