I'm flying back to Berlin, Germany next week and as it stands, I have to do the mandatory 14 day quarantine. I tried to call the Health Ministry a few times, but I never got through to a person, so I ask my question here.

How am I supposed to buy groceries and other necessities if I can't leave my house?

PS - No, getting groceries delivered online is not super common in Berlin. I've been living there for seven years now and I have never come across anyone who actually uses Amazon Fresh or any other service. Now that's not to say that there are some people who actually use it - it's just not as ubiquitous as some are claiming it out to be. In fact, according to [this article][1] by Reuters DHL cancelled its partnership with Amazon Fresh due to poor sales. According to another [article][2], online grocery sales only account for "...only 1.2% of food sales in Germany in 2018."

Again, this doesn't mean that no one uses online grocery delivery services. In fact, I assume that during the COVID-19 pandemic sales have sky rocketed and it is now more common to purchase groceries online. However, based on personal experience and talking to my friends, it is still not as ubiquitous or as "obvious" of a choice.

I would like to end this by saying, thank you to the people who pointed out that online grocery delivery services are an option and that you can still contact the Health Ministry in case you require assistance.


[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-germany/dhl-stops-deliveries-for-amazon-fresh-in-germany-idUSKCN1VB0QM

[2] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-germany/amazon-trims-fresh-grocery-delivery-charges-in-germany-idUSKBN1XO1Z7


6 Answers 6


Not only are you to go into home quarantine, but you must report you presence to the local Gesundheitsamt (competent health authority). Each city district has one.

Each Gesundheitsamt seems to offer a different hotline number or an email address (each page is a bit different), where you make the 'first contact'.

Based on the Gesundheitsamt Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, the following information is required:

  • First and last name
  • Address including telephone number
  • Date of birth
  • Risk area (region) from which you are entering
  • Do you have symptoms that could be connected with a corona infection?
  • Corona virus test results

Here you can add the information that you will require assistance for shopping etc.

If you know your exact date of arrival at your flat, you can report this beforehand.

They will then contact you as quickly as possible.

Update: 2020-07-23

A preliminary decision by Health Ministers has been made that for Travelers from risk areas a mandatory, free test will be made directly on entry at a Airport. With a negative test result, quarantine can be avoided.

When this will be implemented was not stated.

Gesundheitsminister wollen Corona-Tests für Rückkehrer aus Risikogebieten (in German)

Home quarantine and reporting requirements for travelers
Wer über den Luft-, Land- oder Seeweg nach einem Aufenthalt in einem Risikogebiet oder einer Risikoregion in Berlin einreist, muss sich unverzüglich nach der Einreise auf direktem Weg in die eigene Wohnung bzw. Haus oder eine andere geeignete Unterkunft begeben und sich dort für einen Zeitraum von 14 Tagen nach der Einreise ständig aufhalten. Dies gilt auch für Menschen, die zunächst über ein anderes Bundesland in die Bundesrepublik eingereist sind. Während der Quarantäne ist jeder Kontakt mit Personen, die nicht dem eigenen Haushalt angehören, strikt zu meiden.

Anyone who arrives in Berlin by air, land or sea after staying in a risk area or region must immediately go directly to their own apartment or house or other suitable accommodation and enter and remain there for a period of 14 days after entry. This also applies to people who first entered the Federal Republic via another federal state. During quarantine, any contact with people who are not part of your household should be strictly avoided.

Darüber hinaus besteht für genannte Rückkehrende und Einreisende die Pflicht, sich unverzüglich beim zuständigen Gesundheitsamt zu melden und auf die Einreise hinzuweisen. Die Meldung bei anderen Stellen – Hausarzt, kassenärztliche Dienste usw. – ersetzt die verpflichtende Kontaktaufnahme mit dem Gesundheitsamt nicht. Sofern bei den Rückkehrenden COVID-19-Symptome auftreten, ist dies ebenfalls unverzüglich dem Gesundheitsamt zu melden.

In addition, the returnees and immigrants mentioned are obliged to report immediately to the competent health authority and to notify them of their entry. Reporting to other bodies - family doctor, health services, etc. - does not replace the obligation to contact the health authority. If COVID-19 symptoms occur in the returnees, this must also be reported immediately to the health department.


  • 140
    That's all true and helpful but doesn't actually answer the question: how do you get groceries and other necessities while in quarantine in Berlin?
    – Hilmar
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 12:51
  • 6
    @SkiMask That is a good question, that I can't answer. More reason to send an email with this information (including contact information about the people involved) before. Let the Gesundheitsamt clarify this before you arrive. Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 12:59
  • 7
    @Hilmar Actually it is answered: if you need assistance with shopping (can't organize it yourself), the Gesundheitsamt will organise it for you. As a house with a few hundred peaple were quarantined it was delt with by the local officials. Detailed instructions on how to pick up a telephone and order from a shop is not really required. Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 13:09
  • 33
    -1. Your answer does not quote an official source for your claim that they will help you with shopping. None of the links provided contained that information either. Please provide an official source for your claim that the Gesundheitsamt will help you with shopping.
    – Aubreal
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 21:17
  • 6
    @AlexandreAubrey That is because there really are none. When this started, public statements were being made as it envolved on the best way to react. Among them to make arrangements with neighbours (that what we did in our house). If this was not possible, you should not go yourself but report it. These messages were passed on by daily reports so peaple were aware what was going on. Not everything was done based on official sources. In the real world it works differently. Nobody was expected to starve, but were expected to work something out to avoid an overload of the system. Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 22:00

Unfortunately, there is no official service to help you out. You're supposed to ask someone to buy stuff for you and bring it over. The Ministry assumes that everyone knows someone who is able to help.

If you don't know anyone, you have to search for alternatives. If you stay in Berlin, you should be able to find a supermarket that will deliver groceries right to your doorstep. I think this also holds for other big cities.

In smaller towns, you might be better off searching for a Facebook group or similar, where people offer their help.

  • 13
    This is not true at all. The OP must report to the responsible Gesundheitsamt after arrival. If shopping assistance is needed, it will be organized through them. Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 12:34
  • 26
    Oh, don't assume the German supermarkets can organise something as simple as home deliveries in a major urban area... We've (as family) been trying to organise deliveries for the grandparent as that is the safest option. Delivery services partially don't exist, use Deutsche Post or end up with a lack of choice that requires Amazon for some orders...
    – DetlevCM
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 14:47
  • 2
    @DetlevCM Because you’re trying to get it as a package deal, shopping and delivery. Break it up: seek stores willing to pick the orders for you (most will cheerfully do it in-house) and deliver it curbside. Then seek someone else to take the picked order from the store’s curbside to its destination. Pickers don’t want to deliver, and deliverers don’t want to pick. Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 17:49
  • 7
    @Harper-ReinstateMonica Strange that other countries manage to offer this service just fine, e.g. France and also the UK. Typical supermarkets in Germany also do not have the staff to select your shopping - I'm not sure if you have ever set a foot in one. A small village grocer might, but not a city supermarket. And then how are you supposed to find people to pick up your shopping? People move to different cities and might not know anybody locally. "we" as immediate close relatives are spread over three countries, five if you look at it from my grandparent's level.
    – DetlevCM
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 20:50
  • 1
    @DetlevCM It baffles me that such a seemingly progressive country has issues adapting to new ways of doing things. I'm sorry that my country still uses archaic checks and cash but holy heck at least we have options.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Jul 22, 2020 at 13:31

Many grocery delivery services exist that will allow you to order online and have them delivered to your door.

Here's an article: Groceries Delivery Services in Berlin

It lists two delivery services and compares them

  • REWE Delivery Service
  • Bringmeister

EDIT: Originally this answer included a disclaimer that delivery times may be long, but it seems to have gone down. Thanks to @moink for pointing this out in the comments, some delivery services are back to being able to offer next-day delivery.

Here's another aticle: 6 Online Grocery Delivery Services in Munich to Help You Shop From Home. Wrong city but some of these services may be offered in Berlin as well.

  • 2
    Delivered to your door by Deutsche Post (REWE...) - So forget fresh or frozen produce... - And a conurbation of 6-8 Million people should be large enough to offer a proper delivery service. Well, apparently not...
    – DetlevCM
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 20:54
  • 1
    Bringmeister and REWE Lieferdienst also have their own cars doing delivery (at least I see them driving around in the city and parking on cycling lanes delivering stuff), but as this was not requested as much before Corona, they likely don't have the capacity of delivering to all the new clients. Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 23:28
  • 5
    I live in Berlin and have ordered through REWE. It costs 3-5 euros delivery fee in addition to the cost of the products. While it used to be very difficult to get a delivery slot, it is not difficult anymore. I ordered last Friday to be delivered the next day, Saturday. I wasn't happy with the range of product offers (less than in a big REWE store, e.g. no peanut butter!) but the service worked as advertised.
    – moink
    Commented Jul 22, 2020 at 11:25
  • In addition, the local scouting group put a sign on our apartment door offering services to people needing them during the corona crisis. I don't know how wide their area is, but maybe you can call them? (Pfadfinder)
    – moink
    Commented Jul 22, 2020 at 11:26
  • 1
    This is a concrete solution to the problem described. And yes, not getting fresh produce sucks, you are in a pandemic, deal.
    – Yakk
    Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 14:48

For many cities and areas in Germany numerous groups have organised themselves to support others with buying groceries or other duties (walking the dog, filling prescriptions etc.). You can find them in social networks (e.g. facebook, nebenan.de) or by contacting e. g. the Stadtteilbüro of your district (just do a search for "Stadtteilbüro Berlin-district").

An overview of organisations that organise help in Berlin can also be found here: https://www.berlin.de/buergeraktiv/informieren/coronavirus/koordinierungsstellen/ (in German only).

  • 1
    ebay Kleinanzeigen also has a new category named "Nachbarschaftshilfe"
    – Lehue
    Commented Jul 22, 2020 at 9:24

Split up the job of online shopping

First, you must learn to make compromises. I used to make little buys at 8 different places, getting this or that, pursuing flavors I liked or savings. I had to drop that and focus on big grocers. Aldi/Lidl simply were not part of the plan anymore (and they realize they are getting left behind and are ramping up for curbside and delivery). That is something you must resign yourself to for the duration.

There are 2 separate parts to how online shopping works, and you can attack each part separately.

  • Picking your order in the store - that means walking the shelves with a basket selecting the items you want, and having them bagged and ready to bring to the curb.
  • Delivering the bags from the store to your home.

You can do both online. “Curbside” is only the first part. “Delivery” is both parts.

The first part is the “easy part”, and it’s fast work for the stockpeople who normally stock the shelves (so they know where everything is). Even in terrible March, it was no problem getting orders picked. (Well except for cold/frozen items, they had limited “curbside” freezer/fridge space, so they often disabled curbside for those items. Luckily you’re in Germany, which does not require refrigeration of eggs).

The limiting factor is delivery. That’s actually a very time-consuming operation by nature, but it’s made worse because delivery persons are using personal automobiles, which do not have a chiller compartment. So they must return to the store for each delivery. Further, most groceries actually subcontract delivery to somebody else altogether.

But the good news is, delivery is something many more agencies are geared up to do - such as the companies that do restaurant-food delivery, or even the “Uber” / taxicab gang will run a delivery if it’s the best use of their time at the moment. So you have more third-party options for the “delivery” part.

Further, this is a good role for your friends. It’s asking a lot of a friend to go to an unfamiliar store and pick 30 items. It’s asking a lot less to pick up a bagged curbside order that’s already picked.

What to watch out for

I probably don’t need to walk you through ordering on a store’s website, but there are a few things to watch out for:

  • It works much, much better if you create an account, tie it to username/FB/Google/Yahoo account, and be logged in. The sites like to log you off after awhile, and if you were a cookie-only customer, it will zero your cart.

  • It really matters what your local store is. The website probably geo-locates your browser and picks a “local store” for you. It’s probably the wrong one. You must override it, and watch to make sure the site doesn’t “correct” it back.

    • However, if you use a delivery service, they (or their automated system) has its own opinion about what is the closest store. You must yield to that, generally.
  • Anytime you add an item to cart for delivery or pickup, that item is localized to a particular store. If you are not careful, you can wind up with items waiting for curbside pickup from 3 different stores all over the place.

  • There is NO automatic transfer between stores. If Item A is out of stock at your store X, and store Y has it and you order it, that item is waiting for you at store Y, even though you paid for it on the same transaction.

  • The online system is wrong about stock - a lot. Not least, a walk-in customer may take the item after it accepted your order but before the picker picks it. Then, the picker will substitute an item, or cancel the item from the order. Some sites give you a checkbox “do not substitute” or a note box to give instructions to the picker. Some sites try to interact with you “live” during the picking for your advice on substitutes etc. So be available.

  • As you can see, the software infrastructure needed to do all this is simply staggering, and they threw it together fast. Yeah, it has bugs.

  • If the store has “Free ____ with minimum order of €30” or whatever, hedge the order by at least 150% of that (in March, 200%). Make sure if the 2 most expensive things fall off the order, you’re still over. Otherwise ____ won’t be free.

  • When an item goes out of stock, it is removed from your cart immediately, even if it’s back in stock on the day you checkout. If you have to try for days to get a delivery window, that becomes a big problem. You must keep a paper list and re-sync your online cart to the paper list.

Yeah. Nobody wants this. We do it because we have to.

Fix yourself first

Catch yourself in “seeking toward normality” and general defeatism. All due respect, you go out of your way to raise objections that really aren’t relevant in the COVID age, nor to a quarantine situation. Here are some examples:

I've been living there fore 7 years now and I have never come across anyone who actually [gets groceries delivered]

In fact, according to this article [from 2018] only 1.2%...

I assume that during the Covid-19 Pandemic sales have sky rocketed and it is now more common to purchase groceries online. However, based on personal experience and talking to my friends, it is still not as ubiquitous or as "obvious" of a choice.

See what I mean? You are basing your knowledge on how things were before COVID, which is absurd because COVID changed everything.

You say it’s not a desirable choice, yet, you admit it had an explosion of new customers during COVID. Do you figure they all were thrilled to shop for groceries online? No of course not, they had to slog through it on their computer and hated it as much as you do. But they had to do it. It was necessary.

So you knew all along the option was available, and what this boils down to is you don’t want to use it, because it doesn’t feel “normal”.

OK, catch yourself feeling that, recognize the validity of the feeling, then recognize that the world situation has overtaken you, and change tactics.

It’s much, much better today than in March, when everyone was quarantined and delivery services hadn’t ramped up yet. Took a week to even get a delivery window. So be glad for what you have.

  • 1
    (-1) I have trouble finding any practical advice in this “answer“. Most of it seems to be some philosophical musings on the nature of groceries deliveries with only a faint connection to the reality of what is or isn't available in Europe.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 7:03
  • @Relaxed sounds like a visibility problem, you quit reading before you got to it. So I'll put the "philosophical musings" at the bottom. I get you want a procedural "Step 1 step 2 step 3", but I for one prefer to explain the reasons for things, which many people do enjoy. Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 18:33

Maybe not the answer you expected, but likely better:
You can also make a test and depending on your local state the quarantine is therefore lifted. The airports at Frankfurt (59 Euro, with quick option 139 Euro) and Munich (190 Euro) provide testing facilities. For example in Bavaria you can make the test and send it to the local "Kreisverwaltungsbehörde". The tests are only for persons which doesn't have symptoms currently. I cannot speak for Berlin, but thankfully the Bavarian government is looking into make the tests free (no cost) for returning people. I cannot say if and when the government of Berlin city will do that. Please check their website.

I think it is better for everyone when we test as much as possible anyway. So I suggest doing it even if you have to pay for it.

  • 1
    In Berlin a test will free you from a quarantine, but you must still report your arrival to the Gesundheitsamt so that they can check the certificate. Commented Jul 22, 2020 at 13:31
  • this should be the top answer
    – Snow
    Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 9:27
  • Also, you might want to edit in the answer that these tests dont have to be done in Germany. They can be done in the country you fly from, up to 48 hours prior arrival
    – Snow
    Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 9:39

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