Review: Frankfurt Airport’s Free Coronavirus Testing

Filed Under: Lufthansa, Travel

A lot of countries have struggled with the best approach to screening travelers for coronavirus. Should everyone have to go into a 14-day quarantine? Should it be possible to skip quarantine with testing? Should there be any restrictions at all?

Well, I recently arrived in Germany, and I was incredibly impressed by the country’s approach to testing travelers. In my opinion it’s the perfect middle ground between keeping people safe and having a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Basics of Germany’s coronavirus testing for travelers

Germany has a list of destinations that are considered high-risk. This list is constantly being updated, and is based on a place having more than 50 newly infected people per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days. You can find the current full list of high-risk areas here.

Testing and quarantine requirements are based on having been in one of those places anytime in the past 14 days, excluding just transiting somewhere. It doesn’t matter if you traveled by land, sea, or air, and the list includes both nearby European Union countries, and countries on the other side of the globe.

For those coming from a designated high-risk area:

  • A 14-day self quarantine is required
  • You can skip that quarantine either by getting tested no more than 48 hours before returning to Germany, or by getting tested for free upon arrival in Germany
  • If you get tested upon arrival you have to quarantine until the results are available

When it comes to air travel, most major German airports have testing facilities. In general it’s recommended that you get tested at your final destination, rather than at your transit point. In other words, if you’re flying from New York to Frankfurt to Munich, it’s recommended to get tested in Munich rather than Frankfurt.

Lastly, I should also clarify that the “high-risk” testing requirement is completely separate from any immigration entry requirements. In other words, the US is considered “high-risk,” but that doesn’t mean everyone can come to Germany from the US with testing. I was able to enter Germany because I have a German passport.

Coronavirus testing at Frankfurt Airport

We flew Lufthansa nonstop from Miami to Frankfurt. Frankfurt Airport has had a coronavirus testing station for several months now, and the procedure is well established.

Different German airports use different systems for testing — in the case of Frankfurt, the process is run by CENTOGENE, and registration is required in advance. Note that they’ll test anyone, but it’s only free for those arriving in Germany from a high-risk country or region.

Registering in advance for a coronavirus test

Before departing for Germany we registered on the CENTOGENE website. This is both to simplify the process when you get to the testing center, and also so that your test results can be shared through a portal.

The registration process took about five minutes per person. You have to create a log-in, and then share personal information. This includes your name and contact details.

Then you have to share your passport details, including uploading the picture page of your passport.

Then you have to select at which test center you want to have your test conducted.

Then you have to clarify if you’re looking to get tested in conjunction with an arrival from a high-risk destination, in which case you have to provide your flight details.

At that point you “order” your test, at no cost.

An email then arrives with a QR code, which is what you use to get tested.

Getting tested for coronavirus

The coronavirus test center at Frankfurt Airport is located in “The Squaire,” which is in the same direction as the train station. This is past the Marriott and Sheraton, and in the direction of the Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn. The test center signage in the airport is excellent.

Signage for coronavirus test center Frankfurt


Signage for coronavirus test center Frankfurt


Signage for coronavirus test center Frankfurt

When you walk for a few minutes down the very long corridor leading into the center part of the building, you’ll find the entrance to the test center.

Walking to the Frankfurt Airport coronavirus test center

There were several different counters, and we had to present our QR code to someone near the entrance, so he could point us in the right direction.

At that point we were directed to a different counter, where our QR code was scanned, and we were given a little card that we were supposed to give to the person conducting the test. This had a sticker that would then be placed on the tube so that our sample could easily be identified.

Coronavirus test sticker

At this point we got in a short line for the actual test — there were maybe a dozen people ahead of us.

Frankfurt Airport coronavirus testing

There were several private booths, and roughly a handful of them were being used. We had to wait for less than five minutes.


Frankfurt Airport coronavirus testing

There were two workers in each booth — one performing the actual test (with a lot of PPE), and the other person who took the sticker, handed the test kit to the other person, etc.

In Germany they typically do throat swabs rather than nasal swabs, which are significantly less unpleasant. We were sent on our way within a minute, and the whole process took less than 10 minutes.

Getting coronavirus test results

We proceeded directly to our Frankfurt hotel (where we were spending one night, and quarantining until the results came in). We got tested on a Saturday, the results arrived in around 10 hours — we got tested at around 10AM, and the results arrived around 8PM.

We received an email indicating the results were available, and then we had to log-in online to retrieve them.

Bottom line

I’m impressed by Germany’s approach to coronavirus testing for travel.

Many have been calling for a more streamlined approach to testing for travel. For example, the UK has a 14-day quarantine when returning from high-risk countries, with no option to skip it with testing. The list of high-risk places is constantly changing, so when you plan a trip you don’t know whether you’ll have to quarantine for 14 days or not.

Germany, on the other hand, strikes a great balance. Instead of a 14-day quarantine, you can get tested on arrival for free. You’ll have to quarantine until the results arrive, but they arrive within 24 hours, and typically even much faster than that.

Well done, Germany!

What do you make of Germany’s approach to coronavirus testing for travelers?

Comments
  1. This is not a bad way of going about it at all. Really impressed by the time it takes for the result to come back. Only drawback is testing negative, in case the virus was picked up during travel. If there was a way to quarantine on arrival, then testing on Day 4, followed by no quarantine if negative test, then that would potentially be safer without having to wait 14 days like in UK.

  2. Sorry but you are agreeing to take part in a company’s private research. They should make that clear when you agree to it but appears you only find out once you’ve agreed to be a participant.

  3. Let’s be realistic… a Covid test, used to “allow” certain activities based on a negative result, is completely useless unless it detects the virus in the early stages of development.

    Current wisdom is that the viral load is not visible to these Covid tests until 3-6 days after exposure. By this time the virus is being spread by the carrier.

    There are very few solid reasons for travelling just now. Do us all a favour and stay home and enjoy your loved ones. The virus problem will be over al lot quicker this day.

  4. So this test is in the Squaire, which is landside post-immigration.

    Is it just the honor system? In other words, you with your German passport coming from a high-risk country tell the immigration officer “we’re getting tested at the airport location.” What’s stopping you from then just skipping the test and going about the country?

  5. Unfortunately the quarantine rules will change in mid of October requiring at least 5 days of quarantine, even when getting tested.

  6. 5 day quarantine arriving in Frankfurt from U.K. on 16th October????
    I’ve only got 2 days before returning to the UK so I guess I’ll have to cancel the trip?

  7. @AlliW, German nationals and VERY CLOSE RELATIVES (in this case Ben’s husband) can visit Germany with no problems.

  8. Seems odd that they let you walk through the whole airport and travel out into the city, presumably by train, before getting any results.

  9. @traveller Ben is there to be with his mom, so this is not some typical tourist trip if you read his other article. Given what is currently happening in Florida his Mom really made the right call by moving to Germany and its smart that he and Ford got out before it gets way worse in Florida.

  10. I did the Centogene Test early August, the expedited one for euro 139 I think, coming off the same MIA flight. Lines for testing were much longer then but the paid version gives you a fast track line, all was done quickly. Since I had 6 hrs to kill anyway and no lounges were open then, I got a day room at one of the hotels located in the same complex, Hilton garden inn. When I woke up from my nap I had an email asking me to log in to my account to see result. All seamless, hi tech and easy, way way better than in the US, Miami at least.

  11. Hi Ben, thank you so much for this review. My family is German, and we’ve been living in the U.S. for the last 9 years. My parents still live in Germany, so not unlike your situation we’re about to move back by the end of the month. Likely long term, in our case.
    Your review was just what we needed, as it’s scary to expect the deep nasal swab for the kids (3/7) and I’m so glad to read that they do a throat swab. Thank you!

  12. @ Greg Just to clarify, if you are a U.S. passport holder, you can’t get tested here. (unless you are there under one of the conditions listed) Ben is a dual passport holder of US and Germany. It is located in a place where you have to go through passport control. Not available for transit passengers. Turkey is the best place to get an in-transit test on the way to Croatia as US citizens are allowed to enter and transit there. Just did it a month ago.

  13. We were supposed to visit Germany this month.
    FRA DRESDEN LEIPZIG BERLIN
    Oh well .. next year then, I guess
    Or perhaps 2023/24 :/

  14. It is very good for those who have had the coronavirus, as this way there is no risk of having a positive test and there are no extra expenses on the trip.

  15. “Peer –
    Unfortunately the quarantine rules will change in mid of October requiring at least 5 days of quarantine, even when getting tested.”

    @Peer
    You mention the new rules on five day quarantine regardless of testing starting in mid October. I read that it was from 1 October in the media but have not seen anything on official websites. Is this now mid October? I have the opposite issue to Lucky with family in NY that I am keen to visit from Germany. I would like to go before the new rules start if I can!

  16. There is a little known walk up free public testing site in miami with no line and quick results in about 24 hrs in the Salvation Army parking lot off of Flagler and 21 st.

  17. @traveller – “Current wisdom is that the viral load is not visible to these Covid tests until 3-6 days after exposure. By this time the virus is being spread by the carrier.”

    Well, yes. There won’t ever be a test that can tell you that you have a virus instantaneously after exposure. It takes some amount of time for any virus to replicate in your body enough to show up on any kind of test. It also takes some amount of time to become infectious. And third, it takes some amount of time for your body to mount a response, which manifests as symptoms (like a cough, fever, etc).

    No test will catch 100% of infections with perfect accuracy, at all times. But we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. A PCR or antigen covid test during or shortly before or after travel from one area to another will help catch a lot of potential infections. And if you test everyone on a plane, where all names and seating locations are known, it makes it very easy to contact trace if some other passenger tests positive.

    This kind of testing scheme strikes a good balance between safety and ability to travel. We simply can’t put all travel on hold until the virus no longer exists, or until there’s a vaccine… because that may take years, or perhaps never. Most human viruses have never been eliminated, and those that have took decades of work. Vaccines don’t create perfect safety either, they only help decrease spread and create herd immunity faster. A rational, frequent, inexpensive testing scheme to allow for travel and economic activity like this is really important and a net positive for everyone.

  18. I am sure it is personal preference, but if the throat swab is anything similar to what is done to collect a specimen for strep – I’ll choose the nasal method all day long!! I was sick and had the Covid test and strep test done at the same visit – I gagged so bad on the throat swab I nearly puked on the person taking it!

  19. @Reed: “We simply can’t put all travel on hold until the virus no longer exists”

    You acknowledge that tests won’t pick up anything until 3-6 days after exposure. Wouldn’t the “good balance” then be a 3-6 day quarantine instead of 14 days, rather than crossing your fingers that travelers didn’t pick up something a couple days before?

  20. I am a US citizen. Can i enter Germany to see my girlfriend? thinking about booking flight mid November.

  21. How are you sure “transit Passenger” don’t need to offer PCR test… From Germany’s website shows “This does not apply if the person only “travelled through” a risk area without spending time there.” Actually this is kind of confusing…

    I am Taiwanese. Taiwan is non risk country to UAE and Germany. From restrictions, I don’t need to offer PCR test to Germany and Dubai. But my problem is I will fly from Taiwan to Germany, and transit in Dubai. I don’t know if I need to offer PCR test just because I “transit in Dubai”… because UAE is high risk country to Germany. I don’t know if “transiting” is considered spending time there or not..

  22. Any update on the change of rules on October 15th? I am flying beginning of November and would need to change flight dates if 5 days quarantine are required regardless.

  23. Hello, Ben & all commentators,
    if I am flying from Frankfurt to Dallas-Los Angeles, for American Airlines, this weekend,
    Do I need to have Coronavirus test results or go without it? please.

    Thanks
    Kadr

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