How to travel around Sweden safely during the coronavirus outbreak

How to travel around Sweden safely during the coronavirus outbreak
Dreaming of getting away this summer? Here's a look at your options. Photo: Jessica Gow / TT
After months of being asked to avoid all non-essential travel, it will soon be possible to go wherever you like within the country, as long as you keep following other guidelines. Here's a look at how to do that safely.

The guidelines

From June 13th, it will be possible to travel within Sweden as long as you do not have any cold- or flu-like symptoms and you also follow the other recommendations in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus. That includes limiting social contacts, keeping distance from others in public, and maintaining good hand hygiene for example.

On June 11th, the Public Health Agency said that people should walk, cycle, or use other means of transport than public transport during the summer if at all possible. The agency said that travel with public transport where you can't book a seat, such as buses, underground trains, and some local trains, “should be avoided”.

So if you do need to use public transport, look for an option that gives you a fixed seat and make sure you'll still be able to follow the guidance around social distancing. 

The guidance may change in response to the situation in the summer, but you can keep updated by following The Local and the Swedish Public Health Agency. If you do choose to travel within the country, you have several options.

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See also on The Local:

Flights

If you travel with SAS, face masks are compulsory on all flights. The airline is currently operating a number of domestic routes, including to and from Stockholm, Malmö, Gothenburg, Kalmar, Skellefteå and Luleå. See an up-to-date list of flights in operation here.

If you have a flight booked and want to cancel, you can rebook without a fee if you booked before March 4th and your departure date is before August 16th. If your flight is cancelled, you are always entitled to an alternative flight or full refund. Read more about how the coronavirus is affecting SAS flights here.

Swedish airline BRA was very hard hit by the economic effects of the outbreak, and has no flights at all until after summer, when there will be a more limited schedule than previously.

Over the summer, it is working with travel company Amapola to offer flights within Sweden from Stockholm's Bromma airport to Malmö, Gothenburg, Visby, Ängelholm or Halmstad between June 15th and August 9th, and customers with a ticket voucher from BRA can rebook with Amapola. Amapola also offers other flights, including to and from Stockholm's Arlanda airport.


An empty airport terminal in Stockholm. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Trains

There are a few different train companies that traffic different stretches in Sweden, but the largest rail operator is SJ. If you're planning extensive travel within Sweden, it may be worth your while to buy a 15-day or 30-day pass, which start at 3,295 kronor for 15 days with discounts for students, under-26s and pensioners.

From July 1st, it will be possible to book adjacent seats on SJ trains for passengers travelling together, something which isn't currently possible (although you can ask train staff to sit together after boarding). You should still keep a distance from other passengers on board, and SJ will not be filling trains to the usual capacity. 

If you develop symptoms and are unable to travel on your planned date, SJ allows fee-free cancellation. You can read about SJ's efforts to reduce the spread of infection, and train cancellations, here.

MTRX, another alternative for travel between Stockholm and Gothenburg, also introduced measures due to the coronavirus, but be aware that many of these change from June 14th. For journeys with departure up until June 14th, you can cancel up to 48 hours beforehand and receive a voucher for the equivalent amount, and all new bookings with departure up until June 14th include a free seat next to you, meaning you won't be sitting next to a stranger.

MTRX hasn't yet announced any measures for after June 14th, but you can read more about how they're responding to the virus outbreak here.

Snälltåget has cancelled its overnight Malmö-Berlin train until June 15th, and is currently offering free rebooking of all tickets bought before May 13th. You need to rebook at least 24 days before departure in most cases, and seven days before hand if you had booked a cabin.

Trains will also not be filled to capacity to help passengers keep their distance and seat bookings have been spread out through carriages. Keep up to date on the company's coronavirus measures here.

The Inlandsbanan, a tourist train offering slow travel options and package tours from Kristinehamn in the south of Sweden up to Gällivare in the north beyond the Arctic Circle. It only operates during the summer and in 2020 has postponed the season start to July 6th due to the pandemic, while journeys into Norway are cancelled until at least July 15th.

If your pre-booked trip is cancelled, you'll receive a full refund or re-booking, but most of the company's tours are set to run as normal. Read more about the company's response to the outbreak here.

Photo: Jörgen Svendsen/Scanpix/TT
 

Ferries

Tallink Silja has opened up a new route from Stockholm to Visby, Gotland via Mariehamn. The company will not allow boats to be filled to their capacity of 2,500, taking a maximum of 1,000 passengers only. All their international routes are currently cancelled for tourists, although some remain open for necessary travel. Read more about their coronavirus guidelines.

Viking Line is allowing booking for ferries from Stockholm to Visby from July, although its June departures are cancelled, as are all its international routes for tourism purposes. It is also running cruises from Stockholm into the archipelago, although onboard services such as the restaurant and entertainment are limited. The company is also offering free cancellation cover at the moment. Read more about their coronavirus guidelines here.

Car hire

Travelling by car means that the risk of infection is lower, and there are several car companies in Sweden including OKQ8Avis, EuropCar, Hertz, and Enterprise.

To further reduce the risk of infection, look for a company that offers contactless car pick-up and drop-off. For example, EuropCar allows you to book online, has masks and gloves for staff at its stations, and sanitises cars, keys, and equipment like child seats between use, and OKQ8 has also increased cleaning and allows free cancellation up to 24 hours before pick-up.

Local transport

If you're staying within your region this summer, you may still want to get out of your neighbourhood. Check with your region's transport operator if they have their own recommendations or changes to timetables due to the coronavirus, and don't forget their may be planned renovation works to contend with too — summer is a popular time for these due to the lower numbers of commuters.

In Stockholm, transport operator SL still asks passengers to avoid travelling with them unless absolutely essential, and especially to avoid rush hour. Read their guidelines here.

One of the main companies which operates ferries to the archipelago islands, Waxholmsbolaget, is operated by SL so the recommendation to make only essential journeys applies for these boats too. Capacity on the boats is limited in order to ensure social distancing, and the crew may deny boarding to other passengers if the boats get too full, or if you are showing symptoms of illness.

In Skåne, there are also changes although there's no general recommendation to avoid travel, except during rush hour. Up until June 14th, Skånetrafiken is offering a 7-day ticket to help people who usually get longer travel passes but are facing uncertainty. The company has also launched a live map where you can not only see where buses and trains are, but also how many seats are filled on each one.

The region also wants to promote travel within Skåne, which has so far been much less affected by the virus than other densely populated parts of Sweden. You can buy a summer ticket for 699 kronor, which can be used on trips within the region between June 15th and August 15th, on all routes run by Skånetrafiken. 

In Västra Götaland, Västtrafik has asked everyone to avoid non-essential journeys between 6am-8.30am and 3pm-6pm as well as avoiding all non-essential trips to the archipelago. Each week, the company also shares a list of the lines and stops which have been most crowded, to help passengers plan their journeys. Read more about their guidelines here.


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