For decades, EU citizens have been able to move freely within the EU. Elaborate passport controls were no longer necessary at the national borders. But since the outbreak of the corona pandemic, law enforcement officers and customs officers have been looking more closely at the identification documents. There are traffic jams at national borders and long waiting times at the airport.
The EU wants to lift the restrictions. Private and business trips should become safer. Regardless of whether the citizens have been vaccinated, recovered or tested.
At the beginning of June, seven of the 27 member states activated the digital EU health certificate. Travelers can register via the local platforms and then receive the digital certificate via a connected EU platform. You can then travel without restrictions. In the next few weeks, more and more countries want to join and activate their platforms. In Germany, IBM is working on a solution.
What do I have to consider before booking a trip?
Before you pack your bags, you should definitely check how the coronavirus is developing in your travel destination. Is the country a high risk area? Has a virus mutation even broken out there? Then there is a quarantine obligation on return.
Information about this is provided by the European app “Re Open” (Download) or the German official “Safe Travel” app (Download here). There travelers can enter their planned vacation destinations including the intermediate stops. The programs determine the applicable entry and exit regulations.
The Federal Foreign Office also regularly updates the risk assessment in all countries around the world and provides the information on its official site ready. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is also evaluating the situation on a daily basis.
Despite the increasing desire to travel, consumers should not forget that no one can currently say for sure whether a trip will actually take place as planned. It is important to read the fine print. “There you can often find regulations on whether and to what extent fees are due in the event of a travel cancellation or cancellation,” explains the Bremen Consumer Center.
What applies to traveling from now on?
In order to be able to travel abroad, vaccinated and recovered persons have to present relevant evidence. Anyone who is neither fully vaccinated nor recovered needs a negative corona test. Depending on the travel destination, either a PCR test or a rapid antigen test is applicable, including within the EU. The rapid antigen test is to be used across Europe from the end of June.
All travelers must also register in certain holiday areas (e.g. in Spain or Greece) in advance using an entry form. Anyone returning to Germany must submit their details under Store “einreiseanmeldung.de”. The EU countries want to maintain this regulation until autumn.
Outside the EU, significantly stricter requirements apply. In many cases, quarantine is also necessary on the return journey.
What applies to traveling from the end of June?
From the end of June, the digital EU health certificate (digital vaccination pass) will be valid throughout Europe. Travelers then have to prove whether they have been vaccinated, tested or recovered and can only travel with the corresponding QR code.
If you want to travel to another EU country, you should find out about the applicable entry and exit regulations in advance.
Where can I travel now without quarantine?
In mid-May, the federal government lifted the general quarantine requirement on entry. More than 100 countries were affected at the time, including popular holiday regions such as Spain, Italy, France, Malta, Greece and Portugal.
However, the corona situation is still very dynamic. Therefore, individual countries can change the regulations at any time. From the end of June, the EU health certificate will ease the situation significantly – at least in Europe. Due to uniform rules, the quarantine obligation will then no longer apply in many countries. The concept already applies in seven countries.
For those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered, there is even no obligation to test on the return flight.
It is unlikely that you will need to quarantine while on vacation. Due to the low number of cases, Germany is not a high-risk area. However, the situation can change at any time.
What happens if I have to be quarantined at the travel destination?
Travelers should initially remain calm and adhere to the guidelines and instructions. Anyone who violates the quarantine obligation risks a very high fine. In some countries there is a threat of a complaint that can also land in court.
In many countries, the local authorities cover the costs incurred for accommodation, meals or transport. Tourists who have to be quarantined are brought to certain hotels and holiday homes outside of tourist regions.
FOCUS Online advises: Make a note of the contact details of the German embassies and consulates at the holiday destination on your smartphone before you start your journey. The European Consumer Center (EVZ) Germany also advises in a travel brochure that those affected should also contact the tour operator and the local authorities.
If the quarantine lasts longer than the planned vacation, it helps to notify the employer. In an emergency, they have to take unpaid leave or absenteeism. “How this is handled, the companies have to define themselves,” say legal experts unanimously.
When can vacationers cancel trips abroad free of charge?
Basically, if the Federal Foreign Office classifies a country as a risk area or virus variant area, then free cancellation is possible, explains the Lower Saxony consumer center. The decisive factor for a free cancellation is “the legal question of whether there are extraordinary, unavoidable circumstances”, explains the Foreign Office.
Cancellation fees that have already been paid can be reclaimed if “exceptional circumstances” existed when the planned trip began, explains the European Consumer Center (EVZ).
Do you want an even deeper understanding?
Well informed through the crisis with our Corona guide: Experts explain what you now need to know about Covid-19.
I have made a booking, but I cannot or do not want to travel anymore …
If you have Corona or feel unsafe before you start your trip, you can usually take the trip not free cancel.
Consumer advocates explain, however, that many companies advertise travel destinations with rebooking or flex tariffs. Consumers can postpone or rebook the trip once or several times free of charge (or at a reduced price). However, travelers should definitely read the fine print. Travel cancellation insurance, which basically covers personal reasons, is also helpful in such a case. The reasons for this can be found in the insurance provider’s general terms and conditions.
Can I rebook at any time?
It basically depends on what the travel provider’s rebooking option includes. Special bargains and cheap last-minute offers can hardly be rebooked free of charge. According to the Brandenburg consumer center, travelers should take a very careful look at whether the offer applies to the desired trip and under what conditions it can be rebooked.
The possibility of rebooking, for example, only applies if there is sufficient availability. In addition, vacationers can only book trips that cost the same or less than the originally booked trip – otherwise they have to pay extra.
- Case study: Martin has booked a week in Crete for mid-August. He now wants to book two weeks later. Martin must first check whether a free rebooking is possible. If this is the case, he can rebook, but must see whether rooms in the hotel or seats on the plane are available for the desired new period. The following applies: If the rooms or the flight are more expensive, they have to pay the corresponding amount.
Do I always need travel cancellation insurance now?
Whether an insurance company pays in extreme cases when a trip cannot be started due to a positive corona test depends on the policy in question.
Basically, according to Stiftung Warentest, insurers do not pay if an entry ban or travel warning has been issued for a holiday region or there are restrictions on site due to Corona.
Consumers should therefore make sure to read the fine print.
Flight and trip booked separately, what should I pay attention to?
If holidaymakers cannot reach their destination due to applicable travel restrictions, an entry ban or the location of the accommodation in the restricted area, they can cancel their accommodation under German law and demand their money back.
According to the Lower Saxony consumer center, a travel warning from the Federal Foreign Office does not automatically mean that accommodation cannot be reached.
Here it should be checked in each individual case whether the customer can claim his money back. If the accommodation was booked with foreign providers, local law usually applies.
What are the advantages of the corona vaccination?
Fully vaccinated persons can travel within the EU (two weeks after the last vaccination).
In Germany, there are significantly more relaxations for vaccinated and convalescent people. For example, you can meet with as many people as you want. Many other countries abroad have made similar regulations. However, the consumer advice center in Bremen recommends that you find out about the regulations at your travel destination before you start your journey.