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CHRISTMAS

Switzerland: What Germany’s new Covid rules mean for cross-border shoppers

The escalating Covid situation in Switzerland’s northern neighbour has led to tighter measures in several states. What does this mean for people from Switzerland visiting Germany for shopping or leisure, i.e. Christmas markets?

A picture of German supermarket Rewe
Cross-border shopping and leisure in Germany from Switzerland is still possible, but the rules are tight. Picture: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

Germany has been a popular shopping destination for people living in Switzerland’s border areas for decades, with German supermarkets and retail outlets offering much cheaper prices than those available in Switzerland.

Other than for petrol – which as The Local Switzerland reported recently is cheaper in Switzerland than in most neighbouring countries – most goods are cheaper in Germany. 

Fuel in Switzerland: Why are Germans crossing the border to fill up?

As of Wednesday, November 17th, the border state of Baden-Württemberg has put in place stricter measures as Germany struggles with a resurgence of the virus. 

This includes contact restrictions as well as replacing the 3G rule with a 2G rule, i.e. which requires that people are either vaccinated or recovered from the virus to take part in certain activities (i.e. negative tests are insufficient). 

3G refers to the German words for vaccinated, recovered and tested – geimpft/genesen/getestet – and has been used to describe the conditions required to take part in many activities in German-speaking countries. 

This will impact cross-border shoppers from Switzerland, as well as people visiting Germany for leisure – such as to attend Europa Park or visit the state’s Christmas markets. 

Keep in mind that you can use your Swiss Covid certificate in Germany, as Switzerland and the EU – of which Germany is a member – have agreed to recognise each other’s Covid passes. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

What do I need to enter Germany? 

Although there is a 3G requirement to enter Germany, this is waived if you will be in the country for less than 24 hours. 

READ MORE: Is Switzerland likely to bring back Covid restrictions this Christmas?

Therefore, unless it’s an excessively long shopping trip, you can enter without evidence of vaccination, recovery or a negative test. 

You do not need to fill in Germany’s entry form if you stay for less than 24 hours. 

Can people from Switzerland go cross-border shopping in Germany? 

Cross-border shopping in Germany is allowed, however the type of evidence you need to provide will depend on what type of shopping you will do. 

If you are visiting essential shops – i.e. supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations or bakeries – you do not need to show your Covid certificate. 

However, if you are shopping retail – i.e. non-essential stores selling electronics, clothes or other items – you need to be 3G compliant. 

What about meeting friends? 

Meeting people in private is restricted in Baden-Württemberg, unless you can show 2G compliance (recovered or vaccinated against Covid). 

If you are unvaccinated and not recovered from the virus, only one household can meet with one person. 

Couples who do not live together are counted as one household. 

What about Christmas markets? 

Generally speaking, you do not need a certificate to visit outdoor Christmas markets which are not fenced off. 

There are different rules in different states, however. 

State by state: Germany’s Covid rules for Christmas markets

In Baden-Württemberg, the rules are relatively tight. 

You can buy many of the arts and crafts which are on offer without a certificate. 

However, things change where the markets are fenced off or where you are consuming something, i.e. food or drink. 

Here, either 3G or 2G rules apply, depending on the Covid situation. 

Where the region is in the ‘warning’ area, the 3G rule will apply. 

If the region is in the ‘alert’ area, a 2G rule will apply. 

Several Christmas markets in Baden-Württemberg have already indicated they will adopt 2G rules. 

In Bavaria, things are comparatively relaxed. Generally speaking, you will not need to comply with 3G rules as long as you are outdoors, although fenced off areas and indoor areas may have 3G or 2G rules. 

Measures will be put in place on a regional level, so check ahead of time to see what rules will apply. 

What about cafes and bars?

Bars and restaurants in Baden-Württemberg have a 2G-plus rule in place. This applies on both the indoor and outdoor areas of the restaurant or bar. 

This means you need to be vaccinated, recovered from the virus or negatively tested with a PCR test. 

Antigen tests are not sufficient. 

READ MORE: What are the Covid rules for Switzerland’s Christmas markets?

What about everything else? 

3G rules are in place in hairdressers, 2G plus is required in hotels, and 2G rules are required in theatre, cinemas, clubs, concerts and museums. 

What about Europa Park?

If you’re headed to Europa Park over the festive season, you will need to comply with the 2G rule. 

Everyone aged 17 and under does not need to comply with this rule, however they will need to show a negative test to enter the park. 

Children aged 7 and under will not need to show a negative test. 

What do I need to show? 

Fortunately, you can show your Swiss Covid certificate in Germany due to a reciprocal agreement. 

As Germany still loves paperwork, any paper evidence you can bring will help, but the Covid certificate app should be sufficient. 

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DISCOVER SWITZERLAND

IN PICTURES: Swiss push for destruction of ‘eyesore’ abandoned ski resorts

In a remote, secluded valley in the Swiss Alps, a line of rusty ski lift masts scar the grassy hillside where cows lazily graze.

IN PICTURES: Swiss push for destruction of ‘eyesore’ abandoned ski resorts

The lifts at the once bustling Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland’s southern Wallis canton, near the Italian border, stopped running in 2010.

The Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland's southern Wallis canton, near the Italian border, has been abandoned since 2010. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland’s southern Wallis canton, near the Italian border, has been abandoned since 2010. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Since the local company that ran the small station folded, the infrastructure and facilities have been left as a disintegrating blemish on the Alpine landscape.

“Frankly, I would like to see them destroy it, raze it,” former resort director Claude Lattion acknowledged to AFP.

“You arrive from Italy over the Great Saint Bernard Pass and see this,” he said, nodding towards the graffiti-covered ruins and piles of broken glass that once housed the restaurant and ski lift departure station.

With its spectacular mountain landscapes and pristine slopes, Switzerland draws winter sports fans and tourists from around the world.

Former resort director Claude Lattion poses in the ruins of the departure gondola lift station of Super Saint-Bernard ski resort. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Former resort director Claude Lattion poses in the ruins of the departure gondola lift station of Super Saint-Bernard ski resort. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

But in recent years, shortages of snow and especially of money have seen many of its smaller, local stations struggle to keep their ski lifts running.

At least 14 out of 2,433 are currently out of order, according to the Federal Office of Transport. 

Snow business: How to find a job in winter sports in Switzerland

‘Eyesore’ 

Swiss law requires resort owners to pay for the cost of dismantling abandoned ski lifts.

But the situation is more complicated when resorts file for bankruptcy, as Super Saint Bernard has done.

Discussions about whether a buyer can be found, or if regional or local authorities should foot the bill, can drag on for years.

In the small neighbouring village of Bourg-Saint-Pierre, mayor Gilbert Tornare said several solutions have been examined “to get rid of this eyesore”.

But the cost is too steep for the community of just 200 people, he said.

The lifts at the Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland haven't run since 2010. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The lifts at the Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland haven’t run since 2010. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In all, up to two million Swiss francs ($2.1 million) will be needed to dismantle the station, removing the ski lift masts and decontaminating a site that stretches up to an altitude of 2,800 metres (9,200 feet).

Wallis canton, meanwhile, has suggested using army conscripts for the job to limit the cost.

The case illustrates the chronic difficulties facing smaller ski stations across Switzerland.

For resorts with fewer than 100,000 skiers a year, it is “difficult to turn a profit”, Swiss tourism expert Laurent Vanat told AFP.

Super Saint Bernard, which only had around 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) of slopes and was hampered by its remote location, far from the nearest village, was drawing only about 20,000 skiers per season before it closed.

The Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland's southern Wallis canton, near the Italian border, has been abandoned since 2010. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The abandoned Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

New use?

While the high-altitude station typically sees plenty of snow, other small resorts are being hit by the impact of climate change, which has left the white gold in short supply.

Watching his two dogs sniff around the wreckage of the business he once ran, Lattion said he would have liked to see Super Saint Bernard “put to new use”.

One young local entrepreneur wants to do just that and has proposed creating a hotel reachable by a small cable car.

Two unprepared slopes could be used in winter, while plenty of paths are available for summer hikes, offering a softer approach to mountain tourism than the one driven by the large resorts.

But their plan has been stalled for five years, with a controversial wind farm plan blocking all public financing for new ski projects in the area.

Rebuilding a ski station, Lattion acknowledged, “is not really in the spirit of the times”.

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