Fact is, this won’t be any ordinary trip. Travel in a post-COVID world, even if vaccinated, brings its own set of logistical considerations. The most common questions I’m getting right now include:
- What are the current COVID-19 restrictions in Germany?
- How do visitors from Singapore prove they’re vaccinated?
- Where do I do a pre-departure PCR test in Germany, and what happens if I test positive?
I’ve spent the past week researching these, and also reached out to the (very helpful) Germany embassy in Singapore for answers. For avoidance of doubt, the information below is from my own research, unless I specifically mention it’s from an embassy source.
Germany: COVID-19 restrictions
The first thing to understand about COVID restrictions in Germany is that they differ by state and even city. I’ve compiled links to the relevant rules of the eight largest cities in Germany below (not all may be in English):
|✈ VTL flight|
Germany adopts a system known as the “3G rule”– geimpft (vaccinated), genesen (recovered) and getestet (tested). This means that individuals will need to show proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19 or a negative test to enter places such as:
- Air travel
- Cinemas, theatres, opera houses
- Driving schools
- Events, sporting events and concerts
- Gyms, swimming pools, sports halls
- Hairdressers, beauty salons, massage parlours, tattoo studios
- Hospitals, nursing homes (for visitors only)
- Nightclubs, discos
- Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoor areas)
- Zoos, amusement parks
|⚠️ A system called “3G-Plus-Model”, which features the 3G requirement plus a negative PCR test, is required for visiting nightclubs, discos and, er, brothels. In return, you get to take off your mask (among other things).|
This is not an exhaustive list, and private business owners/event organisers may impose the 3G rule as they see fit. The 3G rule does not apply to the following spaces:
- At work
- Doctor’s practices
- Garden centres
- Private gatherings
- Public transport
- Weekly markets
All VTL travellers must be fully vaccinated, so this won’t be an issue in any case.
Since 2 September, Germany no longer considers the number of new cases when determining whether or not to tighten restrictions. Instead, it looks at the seven-day average of new hospitalisations, which at the time of writing is fairly low at 1.69 cases per 100,000 people.
In Bavaria (Munich’s state), the following thresholds are applied:
- Level Yellow is triggered when there are more than 1,200 COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals within the last 7 days
- Level Red is triggered when there are more than 600 COVID-19 patients in ICU in the state
At Level Yellow:
- The mask standard will be raised to FFP2 (no more surgical masks)
- Contact restrictions will be enforced
- Only PCR tests will be accepted (no ART)
- Caps on capacity for public and private events
At Level Red, the state government will introduce further undefined measures in addition to those present for Yellow.
In other words, those reports you’re reading about a fourth wave in Germany shouldn’t necessarily alarm you, so long as hospital admissions remain low. You can monitor the situation on the RKI’s website (in German).
Vaccinated individuals will be able to access indoor sports facilities like gyms and swimming pools, indoor areas at restaurants, cinemas and theatres, close-contact services like hairdressers and beauty salons, religious services and hotel accommodation.
Museums, exhibitions, memorials, zoological or botanical gardens, palaces and other attractions are open. Registering for contact tracing will be required.
In other words, it’s pretty much life as normal, although nightclubs and discos will remain closed (Frankfurt says that clubs and discos may open, but I’m not sure if this is the latest information).
Masks are compulsory on public transport (including airplanes) and inside shops. Certain states may also require them in public buildings and attractions. Just observe and do as the
Romans Germans do, and when in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to leave the mask on.
Leave your cloth mask at home. Germany only permits surgical, FFP2, FFP3 and KN95/N95 masks to be worn. These are widely available in Singapore, and you can buy additional ones at any pharmacy (called an apotheke) or supermarket in Germany.
The Germany embassy informs me that there are currently no restrictions on interstate travel within Germany, although this is subject to change depending on regional developments. Again, lockdowns are less likely with a higher vaccination rate.
Remember, you can travel anywhere within Germany and still qualify for VTL travel back to Singapore.
Proof of vaccination
Under the 3G rule, proof of vaccination will be required to enter restaurants, cultural or recreational facilities, attractions and hotels.
- CWA stores vaccination certificates as well as facilitates contact tracing. Think of it like TraceTogether
- CovPass purely stores vaccination certificates and test results without contract tracing capability, for those with privacy concerns. Think of it like HealthHub
However, neither app is available for download to Singapore-based Apple or Android users; both are intended more for locals and visitors from the EU.
⚠️ Update: For easier contact tracing, you might consider downloading an app called Luca. This is available in app stores worldwide, and unlike CWA, is not an official government app- it’s created by a private enterprise.
Luca provides contact tracing and can store digital vaccination certificates; it also works with local health authorities and can be seen as a semi-official app in that sense. Read more about the differences between CWA and Luca here.
If you really wanted to, you could download the CovPass app by creating a new Apple ID using Germany as your country, or changing your Google Play country to Germany (limit one change per year). Once in Germany, visit an apotheke that provides digital vaccination certificates, show them your Singapore vaccination card and passport, and get your digital certificate uploaded to the CovPass app.
I am assured this is unnecessary though. The German embassy tells me the following:
We have so far not heard of any problems of recognition for both the Singaporean vaccination card and/or the Singaporean digital vaccination certificate in daily life in Germany which are widely accepted.
This matches what I’ve heard from Singapore readers currently traveling in Germany. Simply presenting a physical or digital copy of your Singapore vaccination card will suffice.
⚠️ Update: A couple of readers have had success visiting a pharmacy, presenting their Singapore vaccination card and getting a physical printout of an EU Digital COVID Certificate.
Since the Singapore vaccination card is widely accepted in Germany, the EU Digital COVID Certificate is more useful for those planning to venture to neighbouring countries- something you couldn’t do under the VTL unless you were prepared to return to Germany and wait 21 days (14 days from 7 Oct 2021) before flying to Singapore.
To generate your vaccination card, login to Health Hub and navigate to section labelled “COVID-19 records”. Click on download PDF and you’ll get something that looks like this.
It may, however, be better to get a certificate that also features your passport number. To do so, visit Notarise and click on “vaccination certificate”. Follow the instructions, and you’ll receive an email with a HealthCerts .oa file, plus a PDF of your vaccination certificate with your passport number clearly stated.
I’d recommend you have both a digital and physical copy on your person at all times when out and about in Germany.
PCR testing in Germany
While travellers from Singapore will not need to do a PCR test prior to departure for Germany, they will need to complete four PCR tests in lieu of an SHN on the way back to Singapore.
(48h before flight time)
|🇸🇬 Singapore||On arrival||S$160|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Day 3||S$94.16|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Day 7||S$94.16|
|*The price in Germany is so variable because of the presence of 1-2 hour “express” solutions. The traditional 24h turnaround tests will be at the lower end of the spectrum.|
While tests 2, 3 and 4 are done in Singapore, test 1 must be done in Germany within 48 hours of your departure time.
The MOH has updated its guidance for Germany. Previously, it linked to a (very confusing) list of approved labs (which wasn’t very useful, given it said nothing about where you did the swab). Now, it merely says that you should take a test with an “approved provider”.
Here’s some options.
|Corona Frankfurt||1||€69-89 (S$110-142)|
|Corona Teststelle||3||€76 (S$121)|
|Covid Zentrum||1||€79.90 (S$127)|
|Test Smart||6||€89 (S$142)|
The crucial thing is to ensure your results test slip has your passport number and full name on it. That’s how the airline will match your result to your passport.
You may have noticed a big variance in the pricing for certain providers. That’s because of express testing options.
While 6 hours seems to be the best turnaround we can hope for a PCR test in Singapore, things move much faster in Germany. Some providers even promise turnaround times of just 35 minutes, and yes, I double checked that’s for a PCR, not an ART.
It won’t come cheap, of course. To illustrate, the CENTOGENE test centre at Munich airport offers the following options:
The real convenience of a 35/75 minute test is that there’s minimal disruption to the rest of your travel plans. Show up at the airport maybe three hours early, get your test done, show the certificate at check-in, pass immigration and be on your way.
24 hour tests are much less useful for airport locations, unless you really like hanging out at the airport or don’t mind interrupting your schedule to make a special trip down.
Testing positive while in Germany
While you should be familiar with the procedure if you test positive in Singapore (sent to GQF or hospital, as needed), what happens if you test positive in Germany?
If your PCR test is positive, the laboratory will inform the Gesundheitsamt (local health department), which will then issue an isolation order.
- If you are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, your isolation will take place at home/in a hotel
- If your symptoms are severe, seek immediate medical attention at a hospital
You may only leave self-isolation for the specific purpose of attending a PCR test.
Unlike Singapore, Germany does not have a system of managed quarantine in government facilities. The Germany embassy informs me that there is also no designated list of hotels where you can self-isolate; any one will do.
|⚠️ However, some hotels will not accept COVID-19 positive guests, e.g. Andaz Munich. You may want to identify an “emergency hotel” ahead of time. I’m told the local health authority will make recommendations if needed.|
Now here’s where it gets a bit uncertain. The duration of self-isolation differs depending on which source you refer to:
- RKI: Isolation must be a minimum of 14 days, but vaccinated individuals who test positive and are asymptomatic may be released after 5 days if their PCR viral load is below a certain threshold
- Federal Ministry of Health: Isolation may end after 10 days with at least two symptom-free days
*RKI is the German federal agency for disease control and prevention. Think of RKI like the NCID and the Federal Ministry of Health like the MOH.
The German embassy tells me there is no general rule for the duration of self-isolation, and the local Gesundheitsamt will ultimately decide and provide guidance.
|⚠️ While intended for UK nationals, this advice from the UK government on testing positive in Germany equally applies to visitors from Singapore.|
So unfortunately, there’s no bright-line rule here. You need to be mentally (and financially) prepared to undergo a 14 day quarantine. Since quarantine will be hotel-based, you definitely want to pick a travel insurance provider that can help offset some of the costs involved.
|Provider||Daily COVID-19 Quarantine Allowance
|Allianz Travel Insurance||None|
|Aviva Travel Insurance||S$0-100|
|Singapore Airlines x AIG||S$50-200|
It’s equally important that your travel insurance provider covers overseas COVID-19 related medical treatment, payable at your own expense. This is a distinct category from regular medical treatment- read your policy wording.
|Provider||COVID-19 Medical Expenses
|Allianz Travel Insurance||S$1M- unlimited|
|Aviva Travel Insurance||S$10-20K|
|Singapore Airlines x AIG||S$350K|
More information can be found in my article on travel insurance with COVID-19 coverage.
Another thought occurred: since self-isolation is meant to begin the moment a positive result is received, you should ensure the hotel you’re at during the period your results are expected is one you’d be financially OK to stay in for 14 days. I mean, you can hardly check-out, take a cab and check-in elsewhere following a positive result, right?
Needless to say, you will also have to reschedule your flight back to Singapore. Singapore Airlines offers full refunds without fees to anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, or you can make changes under the regular complimentary rebooking policy.
Returning to Singapore after testing positive
There’s another potential banana peel to navigate. The ICA states that travellers should not travel to Singapore if they:
- Have symptoms of COVID-19;
- Are diagnosed or suspected to have COVID-19 infection in the last 21 days (14 days from 7 Oct 2021) before departing for Singapore; or
- Had close contact with any person with COVID-19 in the last 14 days (10 days from 7 Oct 2021) before departing for Singapore
(2) is the issue. Even if your self-isolation ends after 7 days, the above rule suggests you’ll have to stay in Germany for a further 14 days (7 days from 7 Oct 2021).
|☂️ What about travel insurance?|
|In such a situation, your travel insurance would not cover the days you are out of self-isolation, but cannot yet return to Singapore. For example, if your self-isolation lasts 14 days and you fly back to Singapore on the 21st day, you will not receive any quarantine allowance for days 15-21.|
I realise this has the potential to be a deal breaker for those whose leave arrangements are not as flexible, and reached out to the ICA to confirm whether it’s the correct interpretation.
2 Travellers who test positive on their COVID-19 PCR test should seek appropriate medical care and ensure that they have fully recovered and are non-infectious before travelling to Singapore.
3 Depending on travel history within the last 21 days prior to arrival, all inbound travellers will also be required to take a COVID-19 PCR test within 48 or 72 hours before departure for Singapore. If a PCR test is required to be taken before departure, i.e. a condition for entry into Singapore, travellers must take the test regardless of whether they have recovered from COVID-19.
4 Effective from 7th May, 2359 hours, travellers will be denied boarding by their airline or ferry if they are (a) diagnosed with COVID-19 infection 21 days or less, from the date of travel; and/or (b) tested positive on the pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test.
5 Kindly note that all inbound travellers are required to submit their arrival information, including health declaration, using the SG Arrival Card e-service form at https://eservices.ica.gov.sg/sgarrivalcard/, up to three (3) days before entry into Singapore.
6 Applicants are reminded to take all health, travel and SHN-related declarations seriously, and to submit truthful and accurate information. Firm enforcement action will be taken against those found to have made false declarations
7 Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents should not apply for a VTP to travel to Singapore under the VTL, as they can return to Singapore without the need for entry approval provided they adhere to the VTL requirements. Please click here for more information on the requirements.
8 Thank you.
Based on this, you’ll have to stay in Germany for 21 days from the day you tested positive. That’s…not ideal, but to be fair, it’s no different from the rules for travellers from any other country.
While Singapore is preparing to transition to endemic COVID, Germany is way ahead on the curve. This means that many of the things we may expect (e.g. positive cases whisked away in an ambulance in a hazmat suit) don’t actually happen over there (e.g. the rather unstructured nature of self-isolation).
Likewise, it’d be unthinkable here to have COVID-positive guests casually checking into a hotel for isolation with no special entrance or blocked-off floors- yet I’m told that’s pretty much how it works in Germany.
So there’ll probably be some mental adjustments required for visitors from Singapore, but hey, that’s the direction we should be moving in anyway. Physiologically speaking, it’ll take time to transition to treating COVID no differently from the flu, although maybe one day:
“How was your weekend?”
“Not too great, had a little bout with COVID”
“Oh sorry to hear that. Did you watch Arsenal lose again?”
In the meantime, Germany offers a glimpse of what future life may look like. With better beer.
If you have additional questions that aren’t addressed here, leave them in the comments and I’ll compile to ask the embassy.