Travelling from Germany to England in times of COVID
The relatively short distance between my native country and country of residence means I used to go back 2-3 times a year, which has obviously changed. My last visit was in October 2020, and even that was on quite shaky terms (indeed, Germany started its notoriously long lockdown the day after I got back).
By early August, I was finally fully vaccinated and various other stars had aligned, so I managed to book a short trip to England. This was anxiety-inducing, though, because of all the uncertainty and confusing rules, not to mention that Brexit is still a pretty new thing and I honestly wasn't yet sure what to expect when coming back.
Each constituent country of the United Kingdom keeps its own list of countries designated as "red", "amber", or "green", according to severity of the COVID situation there. Germany was added to England's green list this summer, which meant that visitors arriving from Germany would no longer have to quarantine upon arrival. (The UK, on the other hand, is currently classed as a Hochrisikogebiet — high-risk area.)
Here I will detail how I went about organising various documents and preparation before I left.
N.B.: This information applies to travel between Germany and England, not the rest of the UK. Any information on this page is correct at the time of being published. I am not liable for any mishaps resulting from following this post!
Before booking the flight
Familiarise yourself with what is required to return to Germany. Currently, Germany only non-Germans who are fully vaccinated to (re)enter the country. Your airline might have its own additional boarding requirements. It's good to know the exact situation in advance, and you can read up on it more extensively (in German) here.
After booking the flight
Book a Day 2 PCR test. If you are coming from a greenlisted country, which Germany currently is, you no longer need to quarantine upon arrival in England and you also no longer need to carry out an additional Day 8 test. The government website has a list of approved private providers. I ended up paying £75 for my test (the list of prices needs updating...) As soon as you possibly can — maybe if you're getting it sent to someone's house before you arrive, ask them to — open up the test and check what you need to do to register it. Because it turned out to be a bit of a faff doing it on the morning of.
Book a pre-departure test. I mean, a lot of places take walk-ins, but test centres are gradually closing in Berlin, so I booked one to be on the safe side. The test must take place <=72 hours before your flight. A free lateral flow test (Schnelltest) should suffice. The UK government website says that the effectivity of the test must meet certain criteria in order to be considered valid, but luckily, Germany has only approved tests that do. Print out the result.
Fill out the passenger locator form for entering the UK. You can't actually do this until 48 hours before you go. In additional to all the usual travel info, like passport number and date/time of your arrival, you will need to enter the booking code from your Day 2 test. Again, print it out, as you will have to show it at the airport at at least one end.
Be sure to pack your yellow Impfpass. For reasons that will become clear below.
On day 2 of your stay
Register your PCR test, do it, send it off. The exact instructions will vary by provider, but hopefully you will have already had a chance to find out what exactly is inside. Despite ponying up for what you'd think is speedy service, these private test providers are currently "overburdened"; I didn't actually get my (negative) result back via email until the day before I left. After getting the result, no further action is required from your side, unless you're positive, in which case you are obliged to quarantine.
The day before you leave
Fill out the passenger locator (Einreiseanmeldung) for entering Germany. I don't think there's a time limit on this, but maybe it makes sense to do it just before you leave anyway. They will ask you to upload evidence of a negative test or full vaccination, and in this case I just took a picture of the page of my yellow Impfpass with both COVID vaccinations and sent that (even though in my opinion, this isn't exactly a reliable way of checking). Print the PDF document that is then created.
My experience leaving England and arriving back in Germany
When I got to the gate at Stansted Airport, they asked first if I had a negative test printout. I answered that to go to Germany, proof of vaccination is enough. First I tried showing my QR certificate on the CovPass app, but they didn't accept it because they wanted to see both vaccines (even though "2/2" plus date of full status clearly means I've had two... why does the first one matter??). So I showed my Impfpass instead and they accepted that.
At customs in Berlin (this trip also marked my first use of the new airport!), I gave them the Einreiseanmeldung printout. They asked to see a test, and I showed them CovPass and that was enough. CovPass is supposed to be recognised around the EU, which is maybe why they weren't familiar at the UK airport.
On a Brexit-related level, they asked (in English) how long I was staying in Germany, to which I said that I live here. Then they saw my residence permit and asked if I spoke any German 🙄
After coming across news articles like this, I tried to find out whether I also needed to register myself as vaccinated with the NHS. I'm still registered with my GP, and I called to check, but they seemed to know nothing about this so I'm assuming it's not necessary. Then again, maybe they hadn't had someone in my situation enquire before.