Berlin is full of life again, bustling with tourists trying to capture the best picture for their Instagram feeds. The clubs the city is famous for are open again, with tourists and locals alike dancing to techno into the wee hours of the morning.
Susan Choi, owner of cocktail bar Mr. Susan, depended on locals to keep the doors open during the height of the pandemic. Now that travel is back, Choi has noticed the influx of international guests through her doors, especially visitors from the United States.
“You can see at the bar all the Americans are back drinking margaritas and dirty martinis,” Choi says.
With the easing of coronavirus restrictions in the past few months, there has been a clear sign of pent-up travel demand as visitors slowly return to Germany for a little European holiday. Here are a few tips if you also decided to go.
How to get there
Travel to Germany is open for all, regardless of vaccination status. As of June 11, travelers no longer need to show a negative test or proof of recovery for entry. But there are other restrictions: Although the European Union has recommended lifting the mask mandate when flying, FFP2 or medical-grade masks are required for flights taking off or landing in Germany. In German airports, masks are recommended but not required.
Airports in Europe are seeing the same crowds and chaos as U.S. airports because of labor shortages, so be sure to give yourself enough time to check baggage, get through security and immigration checkpoints, and eat before a long flight.
What to know about restrictions
You no longer need to show proof of vaccination or wear a mask to enter shops, hotels, bars and restaurants in Germany. A mask — specifically an N95, KN95 or FFP2 — is required on public transportation. Since regulations easily can change, Ostendorf recommends regularly checking for updates in Berlin and other regions you will visit.
To ease the rise of the cost of living, the German government is offering a 9-euro monthly transit pass valid anywhere in the country for June, July and August. This ticket is available to everyone, including visitors, and can be used for local and regional trains, buses and trams. Tickets can be purchased at Deutsche Bahn ticket machines or local public-transport stations.
While the discount ticket encourages people to use public transportation, trains throughout the country have been packed with travelers taking advantage of the deal. Deutsche Bahn warns that if you are planning a trip along touristy routes with the 9-euro ticket, expect a higher number of passengers, especially on the weekends and sunny days. To avoid crowds, travel on the weekdays if possible.
How to dine and explore
Katherina Klimke, vice president of operations of 25hours Hotels, said bookings from Americans have doubled compared to last year, but they are not at pre-pandemic level. She advises visitors to book their hotel stay early to secure the best rates and availability.
“While leisure destinations fill up more quickly and reservations two to three months in advance would be advisable, some city destinations might also have last-minute availability,” Klimke adds.
Sebastian Riewe, director of sales and marketing of the Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin, also has noticed an increase in bookings from Americans. They have had some last-minute booking requests that they were unable to accommodate.
“So ideally, we would recommend that clients go back to the old booking patterns — i.e., a lead time of at least six to eight weeks, or ideally two to six months for international trips,” Riewe says.
Hotels and restaurants are not the only ones seeing an increase in bookings; tours around Germany are on the rise again. Since March, BottleStops founder Jerome Hainz has gotten many inquiries and bookings for his wine tours and tastings for Mainz and the surrounding German wine regions. The one significant difference is that more people are opting for private tours.
“This has to do with people wanting to be careful about sitting in a car with strangers,” Hainz says.
Because of this demand, Hainz suggests booking private tours three to four weeks in advance, but he said public tours are more flexible and can sometimes be arranged at the last minute.
How to find tests before returning home
As of June 12, it is no longer required to show a negative coronavirus test to enter the United States. You still might want to get tested before your flight home for peace of mind.
You can find testing sites at any major airport in Germany, but expect to book an appointment and pay a premium. The easiest and cheapest way to test is to buy an at-home coronavirus test, which can be found in most grocery stores and pharmacies for less than $2.