Germany VTL: My experience with COVID-19 rules, regulations and life in Munich

Last Updated:

Germany presents a tantalising peek at what life could be like in a truly COVID-endemic country. Here's my experience with rules, testing and daily life.

One of the questions I get asked the most about the Germany VTL is what daily life is like in Germany right now. 

Are restaurants and attractions open? Will my Singapore vaccination certificate be recognised? What kind of mask do I need? How do I do my pre-departure PCR test? Is it true every taxi there is a Mercedes, and how was this utopia created? Etc, etc…

Having visited Munich, here’s my attempt to provide some colour on these questions. If you haven’t already done so, I’d highly recommend reading this article in conjunction with another called Explained: Germany COVID-19 restrictions, testing and proof of vaccination.

You can think of that post as the theory; this post is how it plays out in real life. 

🍺 Bavarians at the Gate
🇸🇬 Singapore- Germany VTL 🇩🇪

Overview

As a preface, it’s helpful to remember that COVID-19 restrictions in Germany differ by state and city. I’ve compiled links to the relevant rules of the eight largest cities in Germany below (not all may be in English):

City State
Berlin Berlin
Cologne North Rhine-Westphalia
Dortmund North Rhine-Westphalia
Dusseldorf North Rhine-Westphalia
Frankfurt Hesse
Hamburg Hamburg
Munich Bavaria
Stuttgart Baden-Wurttemberg
✈ VTL flight

You can monitor COVID-19 caseloads, hospitalisation stats and vaccination progress on the RKI’s website (Germany’s equivalent of the Singapore NCID). 

Sample daily report from RKI

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. 

Since I visited Munich, I’m going to be focusing specifically on the situation there. 

Immigration

Munich Airport immigration queue

Queues at Munich Airport immigration looked long, but moved very quickly; it took about 15 minutes to get to the head of the line. Unlike some countries with parallel immigration queues that force you to bet on a horse, the German system is perfectly equitable- single queue, first come first serve. 

The immigration officer asked me for proof of a negative test or vaccination. I showed the physical printout of my HealthHub certificate, which passed muster even though it had less information than the certificate from Notarise (I’d recommend printing the Notarise certificate just in case, since that one has your passport number). 

💉 How to generate your vaccination certificate

HealthHub: Login to HealthHub, click COVID-19 records, download PDF

Notarise: Login to Notarise, click Vaccination Certificate, fill in details, PDF will be generated and sent via email

Here’s a further important point to note: Sinovac is not on the list of recognised vaccines in Germany, and as such, those vaccinated with Sinovac will be treated the same as unvaccinated individuals.

This means they will need to present a negative PCR test to enter Germany, and undergo regular testing under the 3G rule (see below). 

Mask wearing rules

Permitted masks in Germany | Photo: Lufthansa

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 in Germany at any pharmacy (called an apotheke) or supermarket. 

I’d recommend bringing a few KN95/N95s in addition to surgical masks, because there may be periods of tightened restrictions where surgical masks are not allowed. For example, Munich’s state of Bavaria only recently eased its mask mandate to allow surgical masks; before 2 September 2021 this was not permitted. 

Mask wearing is compulsory in indoor settings, be it hotels, restaurants (when not eating), shops, supermarkets, or museums. 

Mask notification on entrance to cathedral
Mask notification on entrance to shops
Mask notification at hotel

Masks are also compulsory on public transport, whether bus, tram or train. 

Mask wearing on train

They’re required at stations too, even if they appear to be open-air. A good example is Munich Hauptbahnhof; even though it looks like a big airy shed, masks still need to be worn on the premises. Simple rule: do what everyone else is doing. 

Mask alert sign at Munich Hauptbahnhof
Mask alert sign at Munich Hauptbahnhof

You will also need to wear a mask in a private hire cars or taxis, although strangely the driver doesn’t. 

Uber in Munich

Once you’re outside, it’s mask off, period. You can of course choose to retain the mask if you wish; some people do and no one gives them funny looks. It may be advisable when in crowded outdoor areas, although that call is entirely up to you. 

Neues Rathaus area, sans masks

Enjoy that fresh air. 

The 3G rule

3G sign outside restaurant

Throughout your time in Germany, you’ll see signs with three Gs on them. This is known as the 3G rule:  geimpft (vaccinated), genesen (recovered) and getestet (tested).

What this means is that individuals will need to show proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or a negative test to enter places such as:

  • Air travel 
  • Casinos
  • 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

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
  • Supermarkets
  • Weekly markets

Children under the age of six are exempt. However, there is no such concession for those aged 6-11; since they cannot be vaccinated, they must go for an ART/PCR test. The results are valid for 24/48 hours respectively. 

I had no issues using the physical printout of my HealthHub vaccination certificate to access restaurants, hotels and attractions. In fact, the majority of tourists from outside the EU will be doing this, and establishments are already used to it. 

3G sign

Truth be told, it’s not the most robust of systems- I can’t imagine the average frontline employee has the wherewithal to evaluate and verify vaccination certificates from all over the world. But it’s a system nonetheless, and you’ll need to play along. 

You may also be required to fill out a contact tracing form. In some places this will be a bit more high tech…

Contact tracing form at Hofbrauhaus

…but in most places, less so. 

Contact tracing form to enter Residenz Museum

These are just minor inconveniences, and nothing to be concerned about. 

Update: For easier contact tracing, you might consider downloading an app called Luca. This is not an official government app; instead it was created by a commercial enterprise for those with privacy concerns.

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.

Some people have asked about getting their Singapore vaccination certificate recognised and digitised in the Corona Warn App (CWA) or CovPass, Germany’s equivalent of TraceTogether and HealthHub. The short answer is that you might be able to, but it’s really not worth the effort.

Many apothekes offer a free digitisation service called “digitaler impfpass”. The idea is that you show your physical vaccination certificate and passport, and get an EU Digital COVID Certificate (DCC) uploaded to the CWA or CovPass app. 

Pharmacy providing vaccination certificate digitisation

But people from Singapore can’t even download the CWA or CovPass app, at least not easily. For Apple users, you’d need to create a new Apple ID with Germany as your country. For Android users, you’d need to change your Google Play country to Germany (and remember, you’re limited to one country switch per year). 

Moreover, the official guidance from the German government states:

“As of 1st September 2021 the following persons, who are not vaccinated in Germany, are entitled to receive DCCs:

  •  who are insured in the Federal Republic of Germany in the statutory or private health insurance,
  • who have their domicile or habitual place of residence in the Federal Republic of Germany,
  • persons who were eligible according to § 1 paragraph 1 sentence 2 number 3 to 5 of the Coronavirus Vaccination Ordinance in the version valid until June 6, 2021,
  • persons employed in the Federal Republic of Germany, including seamen, who are employed on board a ship that is docked in a German seaport or operates in German inland waters or on German inland waterways,
  • other persons who are in Germany for medical treatment and who do not belong to the groups of persons specified in numbers 1 to 4.”

Some pharmacies follow this rule strictly, which means they won’t let you convert a Singapore vaccination certificate. Others don’t, so YMMV. 

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 before flying to Singapore.

tl;dr: There’s no need for it. Your physical printout will work just fine in Germany. 

COVID-19 testing

One of many test centres around Munich

As part of the 3G rule, unvaccinated individuals need to present an ART or PCR result (or proof of recovery from COVID) to participate in many aspects of daily life. 

❓ To prove you have recovered from COVID-19, show a previous positive test result. This is valid from 11 to 180 days after you tested positive.

To that end, numerous providers have sprung up all over Germany providing schnelltests (aka ART; schnell means fast) and PCR tests. 

Line for COVID test near Residenz Museum

Schnelltests are currently free-of-charge to German citizens, but this will end on 11 October 2021 in order to encourage more people to get vaccinated. That’s more of an FYI, since non-citizens have always had to pay for their tests anyway. 

Update: Or not. According to a couple of Singaporeans who visited after me, they’ll swab anyone who asks for it, regardless of nationality. Not that you’ll need a swab if you’re vaccinated, but if you like some extra peace of mind…

If you’re reading this I’m assuming you’re already fully-vaccinated. But if you’re travelling with a child aged 6-11, it’s slightly more complicated. He/she will need to take an ART/PCR  test (obviously ART makes more sense because it’s cheaper, and you can obtain and use the results within 15 minutes), while you won’t have to. 

Now let’s talk pre-departure PCR testing (PDT). VTL travellers from Germany (and from 10 September onwards, non-VTL travellers too) must present a negative PDT taken within 48 hours of their flight to Singapore. 

You can find many places offering PCR tests in Munich (note that some locations may provide schnelltests only; be sure to check before heading down). The more expensive tests can deliver results in as little as 35 minutes. 

⚕️ Munich Test Options
Provider Locations PCR Price
Centogene €69-239 (S$110-380)
Medicare 6 €75 (S$120) 
Corona Teststelle 3 €76 (S$121)
Covid Zentrum 1 €79.90 (S$127)
Test Smart 6 €89 (S$142)

I got my PDT done at a Medicare centre located at Marienplatz Galeria Kaufhof, in the heart of the old town tourist area. 

Medicare test centre, Marizenplatz

The entire process from arrival to discharge took perhaps three minutes. It cost €75 and the results were back in 23 hours. I was first swabbed in the throat, and then in the nose (well, that’s the order you’d hope they do!). 

Medicare test centre, Marizenplatz

Since it’s such an important aspect of VTL travel, I’m planning to do a separate post just on PDT in Munich. Stay tuned.

😷 What happens if you test positive? 

If your PCR result is positive, the lab is obligated to inform the local health authority (called the Gesundheitsamt). They will then issue an isolation order, which will be at home/in a hotel or in a hospital, depending on the severity of your symptoms. 

Self-isolation could be up to 14 days, although this may be reduced to five days for fully-vaccinated individuals with a low viral load. There is no general rule, and you’ll need to consult the local health authority for guidance. 

Even after you’re released from self-isolation, you’ll still need to wait until 21 days from the date of your positive test to fly home. That’s because ICA has a policy that anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 within 21 days of departure may not fly to Singapore. 

For the full details on the implications of testing positive in Germany, refer to the linked post. 

Daily life in Munich

Street performers

What’s remarkable in Munich (and I’m sure the rest of Germany) is how ordinary things look when you’re outdoors. The masks are gone, the crowds are back. If not for all the signs reminding you about testing and distancing, you might even believe it were 2019 again. 

I walked outside without a mask, listened to street performers, drank alcohol after 10.30 p.m, and dined with background music. I saw groups of people on walking tours, and attractions were open as usual. 

Marienplatz
Residenz Museum

I also dined at the famous Hofbrauhaus, although I suspect I may have done the beer garden experience wrong…

Nothing says beer garden like wine and a salad

Heck, I even enjoyed a self-serve breakfast buffet. The rules of engagement are simple. Wear your mask, grab a pair of gloves, and shovel food onto your plate. Rinse and repeat. 

Breakfast buffet at Aloft Munich

Sure, I took precautions, but nothing beyond what I was already doing in Singapore. Mask up indoors, avoid crowds, sanitize your hands, don’t touch your face. I also made a point of dining outdoors wherever possible. The only thing I couldn’t do was go to a club or bar, but even that’s expected to change from October. 

And to preempt questions about anti-Asian sentiment, I never once felt I was treated differently because of my skin colour. No one looked at me funny in the streets (at least, not any more than back home), and for all intents and purposes, I was just another dumb tourist blocking the sidewalk and talking selfies everywhere. 

In fact, the most hostile treatment I received was when I visited Bucherer in Marienplatz, on orders from a friend to seek and purchase hard-to-find watches. 

Abandon hope, all ye who ye who enter here

I pulled open the door, only to have my ingress blocked by the salesman inside. 

“Do you have an appointment?” he asked in a tone that suggested he already knew the answer. 

I conceded I did not.

“No entry without appointment,” he said as he withdrew into the sanctum and shut the door. 

Well now. 

Conclusion

You can’t tell what year this photo was taken

Munich and Germany in general present a picture of what post-COVID life could look like, if government and society are really willing to treat the disease as endemic. I’ve been tracking developments back in Singapore, and it’s disappointing to hear talk again of tightened restrictions and even circuit breakers.

Now, obviously the MTF has access to the bigger picture, thanks to their models and data, and I’m just some armchair pundit. That said, the optics are bad- with one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, we should be taking the lead in showing other countries what endemic COVID life looks like. Instead, there’s been a jarring change in tone from barely a week ago, almost as if we’re afraid to be the first to do something. 

Social distancing for gym equipment

Germany looks like a great model to follow. They haven’t gone all crazy like the UK and declared a freedom day; in fact, restrictions indoors remain very similar to Singapore. Masks stay on, alternate urinals/gym equipment are blocked, maximum X people in a lift, safe distancing markers on the floor, check-ins are required for contact tracing. These are sensible precautions.

But why require masks in outdoor areas like parks? Why make no distinction between the thumping bass of a club and the soft background music in an upscale restaurant? What’s the rationale behind banning alcohol sales after 10.30 p.m, when clubs and bars are already prohibited from operating? 

It’s frustrating to be sure, especially when you see how other countries with a much lower vaccination rate are learning to live with COVID. It’s as if we got to the finish line first by going gangbusters with vaccinations, and now we’re scared to cross it.

I know some might object to the term “finish line”, since we’re dealing with a virus that evolves and mutates. I completely agree. If COVID mutates in a way that nullifies the protection of existing vaccines, then there’s every reason to tighten restrictions again. But that’s a bridge we cross when we come to it. The data shows that vaccines still work in reducing serious illness, and while the elderly/immunocompromised will need boosters, it’s a process that can run in parallel with opening up. 

If nothing else, there’s now an option for Singaporeans to witness first-hand what life could be like in a truly COVID-endemic country. 

Albeit a 13-hour flight away. 

Any other questions about the on-ground situation in Germany? Post it below.

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion with the intention of helping people travel better for less and impressing chiobu. He was 50% successful.

Similar Articles

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
70 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Happy Camper

“… the most hostile treatment I received was when I visited Bucherer in Marienplatz, on orders from a friend to seek and purchase hard-to-find watches.”

🤣🤣🤣

Tim

Thanks, wonderful read. How does it feel to experience this first hand? Weird? Liberating?
And how do you feel about going back to SG (and all the restrictions) now that you’ve experienced the alternative?
Keen to go to Germany too, but I worry I couldn’t handle the return haha

Tom

The “silent majority” aren’t very silent! Indeed the re-upped measures seem to be more political than anything and specific looking to appease the “silent majority” – following the data seems to have died as a methodology

ZYX

Not only that, the G is also afraid of losing more votes in the next GE.

Justme

I do not think it is a majority anymore. I have asked at least 20 people from different walks of life. All do not understand the rationale for the current move.

Dave

Great, positive post during not so great and postive times.

Now let’s hope Lawrence Wong is a secret Milelion reader.

SQ Flyer

He was in Venice recently for a G20 Finance meeting – he would have witnessed Covid-endemic life first hand albeit in neighbouring Italy.

I am ready for endemic

Aaron, I really couldn’t agree with your last few paragraphs any more!

Sally Ong

The last few paras may incur the wrath of the authorities and you can be slapped with a POFMA; we must follow whatever the Government mandates and do not question their wisdom.

Last edited 12 days ago by Sally Ong
SQ Flyer

Nonsense.

Ben

Sally Ong’s post is more likely to be slapped with a POFMA than the Milelion’s last few paras, if only Sally Ong actually bothered to read the POFMA provisions.

Last edited 12 days ago by Ben
W O

Hi Aaaron,

Is it possible to take the gargle PCR test instead of the nose swab in Germany? I read from your post that you did the nose swab.

Thanks.

W O

I only managed to find online a few clinics in Frankfurt that offer gargle test. Not too sure if these clinics are internationally accredited..

Jerome

Bruh, you’ve got a great complexion. Has anyone asked you about your skincare routine?

Felicia

Great post. The thought of wine at midnight sounds extremely liberating. It certainly makes me feel more confident to make the trip from Singapore to Germany in a few weeks. Much appreciated!

anon

actually our alcohol laws are weird too… cannot even buy from 7-11 or supermarket to bring home after 2230…

Bbron

What a great point you have raised! Technically 0000 hrs is the next day, so the break should be between 2230 to 2359 🙂

ZYX

I think is till 0700+1

SQ Flyer

That law was passed in the aftermath of the Little India riot. Can’t be discriminatory towards foreign workers so just ban everyone.

Last edited 12 days ago by SQ Flyer
ZYX

Keeping it forever would seem stupid…

SQ Flyer

Can’t say I disagree!

Jerry

Reading about your (endemic) COVID-19 experience in Munich felt like a breath of fresh and clearly shows the way forward. Especially in a country with a vaccination rate as high as in Singapore.

Prost! / Cheers!

freedom

Not enough people died in the early COVID-19 period, certainly, the government will not let more die after vaccination. Dilemma.

Imagine the headline, “less than 50 died without vaccination in the early days of COVID-19, hundreds die in post-vaccination Singapore”.

Last edited 12 days ago by freedom
freedom

Exactly, too many are watching the government to fail the endemic strategy, which will limit what the government can do.

Last edited 12 days ago by freedom
New norm

Hopefully natural selection will come claim them sooner than later, and we can move on with our lives in the new norm

ZYX

TOC liked your idea

Roko

“You can’t tell what year this photo was taken” – Not as mask in sight, this is surreal. Great series of articles the past month, you are really preparing of us for the new way of traveling. Thank you Aaron.

Justme

https://www.moh.gov.sg/news-highlights/details/collective-actions-to-slow-down-community-transmission

If you look at point 2 in the MOH page above, we are still admitting the majority of those who are asymptomatic or who have mild symptoms. A self-fulfilling prophecy? Our hospitals are filling up (yah, cos you admit mild cases), so we need to tighten.

freedom

Where do you suggest put those asymptomatic or with mild symptoms? And you trust them to lock themselves up at home?

ZYX

Again, if you really treat it as endemic, you won’t worry about this. Did anyone get quarantined for flu?

freedom

The flu can’t compare with COVID-19 in terms of transmission. The problem of endemic now is that breakthrough transmission is so common that more variants will come with more cases naturally.

Endemics

If it’s very transmissible but mostly asymptomatic or mild symptoms, it’s not a worry. So what if everyone carries has a new disease that doesn’t do anything?

For example most people are carrying HPV without symptoms and even without knowledge of it, there’s no need to quarantine or do mass testing to find out who’s got it or prevent transmission because it’s mostly harmless.

freedom

I don’t give a damn about whether those infected die or not, probably few care. But if those infected spread their virus knowingly and cause more variants, I have a huge problem with them.

Endemics

On the contrary, I care whether the infected whom have done the sensible things to prevent and avoid spreading the harmful disease die, it is the stubborn anti-vaxxers for whom I have little sympathy in their suffering and death for it was their choice.

freedom

The vaccinated are protecting themselves and they spread the virus just like the unvaccinated. And I would say in terms of number, the vaccinated spread to more people at the moment. Those infected should be isolated away from the general public.

Endemics

The unvaccinated are benefiting from high vaccination rate, and at the same time being the weak point and putting high-risk individuals such as the immuno-compromised or individuals genuinely unsuitable for the vaccine at risk.

freedom

The vaccinated puts those people at risk, too. The expectation of vaccine has quickly fallen apart to protection of the vaccinated, rather than to stop the spread of COCID-19 as it has been proved that the vaccine does not do much to stop the spread. Social distancing and masks will stay for the foreseeable future.

Michael

Great Post. MTF take note.

celine

Thank you to let everyone know how it works in a truly COVID-endemic country, and how beautiful it is 🙂

Tess

Did you have to make an appt for the PCR test, or just walked in? Some of the test centres are stating that you need an appt.

SQ Flyer

Thank you for this – the ML community is living vicariously through your travels. Stay safe!

Drakka66

Aaron, would like to ask you what is the standard operating procedures at the hotels. Do they station staff at the lifts to ensure that only the people booked in the rooms get to access the room? Reason I asked is because I am planning to go on a non-VTL flight. The problem with hotels is that when u have 2 adult 2 children, sometimes the max occupancy in a hotel room is 2a1c and they won’t allow u to book into a single room, or they make u book two rooms. If I don’t care about the hotel breakfast,… Read more »

Ken

Thanks for the great report, Aaron. Life back to normal as normal can be….

Unfortunately for me, the VTL in its current form with the PDT, poses too great a risk – my employer will not take too kindly to an unplanned, extended (21+ day) stay abroad.

open_up_already

Even Canada is opening up in the right way… there are plenty of examples the Garment can learn from. Can’t we petition them or do something?!

freedom

Exactly what to do? Germany and Canada both have plenty of enjoyable outdoor activities and low population density. If you enjoy massless outdoor activities under Singapore sun, please go ahead.

Sensible new norm

I gotta admit, sometimes I feel like an idiot being the only person walking with nobody in sight or within 100m of me and I have my mask on dutifully.

SQ Flyer

As long as you’re not talking, eating, coughing or sneezing, taking it off will almost certainly make you feel like less of an idiot. Just put it back on responsibly once others come into view or closer proximity.

Ming

Hoping to catch a flight to Germany this end year but held back when my partner asked a question that I am unable to firmly answer – if we fail the pre-departure PCR testing for the flight home, what is expected of us?

Does it mean we have to
– secure and pay for a hotel/apartment
– we choose or only selected hotels/apartments appointed by the health authority
– we are stuck for 2 weeks (inside hotel/apartment) plus 1 week of freedom
– rinse repeat the above till pass PCR (meaning an infinite extension)

Hope you’ve info on that.

kopi lim

You never really own a Phatek Pheeleep, your child merely inherits your place on the waitlist 🙂

Last edited 11 days ago by kopi lim

[…] out articles from Mainly Miles and The Milelion on VTL travel to and from […]

Great White

Hi Aaron, thanks for the very informative write-up! Extremely useful as I’m planning a trip to Stuttgart STR at year-end. You wrote that you cleared MUC immigration in ~15min? Based on my proposed itinerary, from SQ332 I have 1hr 05min to catch the connecting LH flight to STR. Do you see it as doable with the document checks and all that? I reckon that i need to clear immigration in MUC rather than STR. And for the return to SIN, the PCR test requirement should be 48hrs before the SQ331 ETD ya? Even if i check-in from STR and get… Read more »

Dunk

Thanks for a great overview of your experience in Munich. I’m due to head there in October (fingers crossed). Also very refreshing to hear your take on handling the virus back in Singapore. I have exactly the same sentiments especially regarding the 10.30pm closure & no music! Have you thought about running for PM in Singapore? 😉

Benjamin

I didnt know you need an appointment to go into a watch shop ? maybe becoz it’s Patek 🙂

Dan

Was at the exact same store yesterday. Same case, they will not entertain anyone without a prior appointment. The doorman did mention that the store will not sell Rolexes, APs or PP to foreigners… only to local residents.

Ellen Tan

Hi, may I check if Singapore recognises the PCR test done at Medicare? Cos I can’t find that it is CAP accredited.

CREDIT CARD SIGN UP BONUSES

Advertisment

Featured Deals

Advertisment

Follow us

7,110FansLike
2,641FollowersFollow

RECENT COMMENTS

TAGS