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I was one of the first American tourists to enter Germany: Here's what it was like

June 20, 2021
8 min read
Frankfurt, Germany
I was one of the first American tourists to enter Germany: Here's what it was like
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My journey to Germany was, well... interesting. After the European Union lifted restrictions on American citizens to travel to its 27 member states on June 16, we decided it would be a good idea to get someone from TPG to be there as the borders opened to nonessential travel. Because Germany is a member of the EU, we figured this decision by the EU included Germany. In fact, we were under the impression that as of June 18, Germany's borders were open.

But that wasn't the case.

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Attempt Number One

Thursday night, we booked a flight for the next day (June 18) at 3:45 p.m. with Lufthansa from JFK to Frankfurt (FRA). I purposely arrived at 1:15 p.m. so that I had enough time should any issues come up. And boy, were there issues. Because passengers needed to show proof of vaccination, a negative test or proof of recovery, we had to go through a longer check-in process than normal.

The line for Lufthansa check-in at JFK airport (Photo by Mimi Wright/The Points Guy)

I am fully vaccinated and I got a rapid test earlier that morning (with specific travel documentation) just in case they asked for it. When I finally reached the counter, the agent scanned my passport and told me my ticket was voided. This was the first of many hurdles.

The Rapid Test Center where I went the morning of June 18 ((Photo by Mimi Wright/The Points Guy)

I had a confirmation number, so I figured it was just a system error. After a few minutes, they told me they wouldn't be able to fix the issue and that I had to call the ticket issuer (our parent company's travel agency). I stepped aside and was told by the agency that I was issued two tickets by mistake, but there was an active ticket. I went back to the counter with the active ticket number (they didn't make me wait), but they told me I had to go to the help desk to get the active ticket switched with the voided ticket.

Related: France adds US to ‘green’ list: I’m in the country now — here’s what it’s like and what to expect

By this time, the Lufthansa check-in was becoming madness. At the help desk, an incredibly agitated man was unable to fly to his destination because the plane was full even though he had a confirmation number for a ticket. He berated the help desk agents for about 25 minutes, leading to two police officers arriving.

As he was dealt with, a few other customers in front of me had issues checking their bags because it was a codeshare with United. After their issues were handled, I explained my situation and the agent managed to get my active ticket to work.

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He led me over to another agent who questioned me about my purpose for travel. After saying business, she asked for confirmation of my business or papers. I had neither because I was under the impression that nonessential travel was allowed. I was then transferred to the deputy manager (who was helping the same angry man from earlier. Yikes). He told me that he was worried about sending me to the border without papers and thought I would be turned away. I looked up the current border restrictions, and there it was:

[pullquote]The German Government is lifting all travel restrictions for persons residing in the United States, effective Sunday, June 20, 2021. So starting Sunday, travel to Germany for all purposes will be permitted again. However, a proof of vaccination, proof of recovery from COVID-19, or negative test result is still required for entry via air travel.[/pullquote]

This was news to me and the deputy manager. He told me he was unaware of the lifting of restrictions by the EU, so he was glad I said something because he had been dealing with U.S. passports all day. All of this happened while a massive white dog in a crate barked for around 25 minutes. It was hectic, to say the least.

Related: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Unfortunately and unknowingly, I was one day early because the German Government decided that morning to lift restrictions for the following Sunday. He kindly reticketed me for June 19 (my flight would land in Germany on June 20, allowing me to enter ... hopefully). I ubered back home disappointed but determined.

Related: Germany opening to Americans with hitches

Attempt Number Two

On June 19, I woke up and did the exact same thing I did before. I got a COVID-19 rapid test with accompanying travel documents and ubered to the airport, this time arriving at 1 p.m. on the dot.

Rapid Test Center (Photo by Mimi Wright/The Points Guy)

The Lufthansa counter seemed a lot calmer than the day before. I got in line and waited. And waited. And waited.

The line at Lufthansa counter June 19 (Photo by Mimi Wright/The Points Guy)

I wasn't far from the counter, but it took me about 45 minutes to get to a gate agent. She scanned my passport, asked for my vaccine card, weighed my suitcase and handed me my boarding pass. I couldn't believe it. After everything I went through the day before, it was shocking to receive my ticket so easily. I've never taken such good care of a boarding pass as I did with this one. It truly felt like a Golden Ticket.

My Golden Ticket (Photo by Mimi Wright/The Points Guy)

I was thankful to get out of the check-in area because the line was snaking its way all the way to the entrance and was now multiple lanes deep.

After about 50 minutes of being at the Lufthansa check-in, the line had already snaked to the entrance. (Photo by Mimi Wright/The Points Guy)

By 2:02 p.m., I was through security and on the way to my gate (I have Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, which helped). With an hour until boarding, I got a bagel, checked up on work things and waited. Boarding the plane was efficient, calm and speedy.

Related: France is open to Americans; Here’s what it’s like now and when to go

I found my seat (37K) and settled in for the journey. It felt very similar to pre-pandemic flights, except for a few small changes. We were offered a towelette and earbuds, masks had to be worn the whole time (except for when eating or drinking), and service was a bit different. We received hot meals (vegetarian pasta with a roll, side salad, crackers and cheese, and a berry dessert), but alcoholic beverages were limited and not allowed between meals.

The hot meal offered on my Lufthansa flight. (Photo by Mimi Wright/The Points Guy)

The flight was smooth and on time. When I arrived in Frankfurt, I was worried about customs because I didn't know what the process would be like. In reality, it took longer for me to walk to customs than to actually get through.

Customs at Frankfurt Airport. (Photo by Mimi Wright/The Points Guy)

The border agent asked me if I was meeting anyone, what my purpose was, if I had a vaccine card and if I had a place to stay. He stamped my passport, and I was through.

Related: Everything you need to know about transiting through European airports during the pandemic

All in all, it was a headache getting to Germany, but mostly because we were a day early thanks to Germany updating its restrictions on short notice. For anyone planning a trip or heading there soon, as long as you have the proper COVID-19 documentation, you shouldn't have too much of an issue getting in. Remember that you need that COVID-19 test, and TPG suggests printing out supporting documentation from the government "just in case."

My best advice is this: Get to the airport way before your flight because those lines were brutal. And maybe pack some patience. You might need it.

Featured image by Getty Images/Westend61
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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740-850
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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
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  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
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  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023