Travel within Sweden returns to pre-coronavirus levels

Travel within Sweden is now close to the same level it was before the now-lifted restrictions on domestic travel were introduced -- but people in the country are still travelling less than at the same time last year.

Travel within Sweden returns to pre-coronavirus levels
The biggest increase was seen to, from and on the island of Gotland. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT

When the Public Health Agency issued a guideline to avoid all non-essential domestic travel in mid-March, trips within the country fell by around 20 percent, mobile data from Telia showed.

It then remained at the same level until roughly the end of May, meaning that far fewer people travelled during the holiday weekends of Easter and Walpurgis.

But from early June, travel has been increasing. The restrictions on domestic travel were fully lifted for symptom-free people on June 13th — though people in Sweden were asked to choose cars, cycling, or modes of transport where a ticket can be booked in the first instance, and continue avoiding public transport unless absolutely necessary.

Last week as a heatwave swept across Sweden, domestic journeys reached the same level they were at the week before the first guidelines were introduced.

File photo: Pontus Lundahl / TT

“At a national level, we're at a high level. Last week is the highest measurement since the restrictions were introduced in week 12 (the week beginning March 16th),” said Kristofer Ågren, head of Data Insights at Telia, which has been sharing its anonymised data with the Public Health Agency to help assess to what extent people are following guidelines.

The biggest increase was seen in journeys to, from and around the island of Gotland, up by almost 30 percent compared to the week before.

However, Telia data from last year shows that this is still a change in behaviour when measured year-on-year, since we usually travel more in June than the preceding months.

“There's still less travel than the corresponding period last year,” said Ågren.

But will the upward trend continue?

An increase in 'staycations' due to travel restrictions for people in Sweden and worry linked to overseas travel means it could do, according to Sarah Holst Kjaer, a professor in ethnology at Stockholm University.

“It's usually the high season for domestic travel in June, July and August. But this year we haven't really got going. A lot of people are still uncertain about whether there planned overseas trips will be possible and are holding off on booking something in their own country,” she said.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry still advises against overseas travel to most countries which means among other things that travel insurance is often invalid if travelling against this advice. This restriction was lifted for ten EU countries on June 30th, but Holst Kjaer says many people are still considering staying in Sweden for the summer.

“Even if [some] overseas trips are now allowed, it's not necessarily so fun to go somewhere where everything is closed or where you're forced to sit in your hotel room [as part of a quarantine],” she said.

Holst Kjaer also said that a consequence of the uncertainty could be that the holiday season is longer than usual. People in Sweden typically see July as the summer holiday month, with a four week vacation standard for many.

“If the holiday is structured around school terms for example, it's harder to get time off later in autumn. But for others I think the season can be longer,” she said.


a heatwave — (en) värmebölja

to advise against doing something — att avråda från

invalid — ogiltig

season (in the sense 'the proper time for', eg holiday season or skiing season) — (en) säsong

season (in the sense of the year's four seasons, eg summer or winter) — (en) årstid


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


EXPLAINED: What can I do if I miss my flight due to Sweden’s airport chaos?

Stockholm Arlanda Airport is once again suffering hour-long queues for security due to a surge in travel and personnel shortages. What can you do if you miss your flight?

EXPLAINED: What can I do if I miss my flight due to Sweden's airport chaos?

What’s the situation at Arlanda over the Ascension Day weekend? 

According to the airport operator Svedavia, the worst peak for the long weekend is probably over. “Today looks good with no long waiting time at Arlanda,” Ellen Laurin, the company’s press officer, told The Local on Friday. “Yesterday morning [Thusday], we had a morning peak before nine in the morning, and the rest of the day was OK.” 

According to Swedavia’s website, waiting times at security were less than five minutes on Friday morning.  

However, she warned that there could once again be big queues on Sunday when those who have travelled to Sweden over the long weekend make their way home. 

“Sunday is a big travel day when people will fly home again. There could be queues at peak times,” she said. “We recommend that passengers have a close contact with their airline for information about their flight. It is important to have extra time at the airport and to be prepared.  

READ ALSO: What’s behind the queues at Arlanda Airport? 

Which airports in other countries have problems? 

Arlanda is not the only airport facing problems due to delays staffing up again after the pandemic. On Friday morning, Twitter users were complaining of two-hour queues at the border control at Heathrow Airport in the UK, while at the UK’s Manchester Airport, passengers were reporting queues for security of up to two hours on Thursday. 

Dublin Airport is also facing regular two-hour queues at security. Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport had a 1km security queue on Thursday, pushing the Dutch airline KLM to cancel flights. 

Can I get compensation or insurance payments if I missed my flight due to the queues? 

The SAS airline has already underlined that it is their customers’ responsibility to make sure that they arrive at the airport in sufficiently good time to make their flight. 

“To be certain you can come with us, you should be in good time, and if you are in good time, you will manage to get your flight,” she told state broadcaster SR. “It is always the customer’s responsibility to be on your way as early as is necessary.”

People who miss flights are also likely to struggle to get payouts from travel insurance, warned Gabriella Hallberg, an expert on travel insurance at the Swedish Consumers’ Insurance Bureau. 

“If you’re at the airport and are hit by security controls that take a very long time, they consider that it is the consumer themselves who have not planned their journey,” she told SR

She said that it might be possible to find an insurance company that is willing to insure against flights missed due to security queues.