What you need to know about travel in Sweden (and abroad) over Christmas and New Year

This Christmas will be different, wherever you are. Many of us living in Sweden will stay put. But if you do need to travel, here are the rules and recommendations to be aware of.

What you need to know about travel in Sweden (and abroad) over Christmas and New Year
A set of luggage awaits the arrival of a train in Umeå, Sweden. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Can I travel within Sweden? 

Yes. There is no ban on travel between regions within Sweden – as long as you are completely free of coronavirus symptoms when travelling, although the message from authorities is to consider whether your journey is necessary. 

You should also make sure you travel in a responsible way, limiting your risk of catching or spreading the virus. 

“Any travel should take place in a way that minimises the risk of spreading the infection,” the Public Health Agency said in its winter advice. “Remember to limit public transport as much as possible. Avoid making new contacts during the trip and at the destination, beyond the smaller circle that you socialise with [your bubble of no more than eight people total].”
The agency asks anyone who needs to travel to choose an independent means of travel if you can, such as taking your own car, walking or cycling. If that isn’t possible, means of travel where a seat reservation is possible are better than those without.
Even if you are travelling by car, the Swedish Transport Administration has warned that replacing public transport journeys by car journeys isn’t a good solution if everybody does it. This could cause traffic jams and problems for essential traffic.

Another step to take is to avoid routes likely to be crowded, for example by avoiding travel during rush hour or on popular travel dates.

“You should also ensure that you can isolate yourself or get home in an infection-proof way if you develop symptoms of Covid-19,” the Public Health Agency said.
Sweden’s state rail company SJ has also produced its own advice on travelling safely on the rail network, advising travellers to sit alone, and keep their distance onboard. 

Do I need to wear a face mask while travelling?

Face masks are not part of Sweden’s national recommendations, but individual companies may require passengers to wear them. This is the case with airlines and at least one domestic travel company, Mohlins Bussar.
You may also choose to wear a face mask as an additional protective measure even if it is not required by your travel provider.
How do I avoid busy routes and times?
That’s difficult to know, but some transport operators have shared lists of their routes and times that usually have highest passenger numbers, including SJ and Skånetrafiken for example.

If you really need to use public transport to get to an airport or train station, you should avoid rush hour. As Christmas is celebrated on December 24th in Sweden, the 23rd is often a busy day for the roads, as well as the weekend before and after.

A train at Lund’s central station in early December, when a technical problem caused delays and therefore crowding. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
What else should I think about?
There are other ways to reduce the risk of catching and spreading the virus. If possible, you could limit your contacts even further in the days leading up to and immediately following travel.
You can also try to reduce time spent in indoor environments or around other people on the journey, whether it’s checking into your flight and printing your boarding pass at home, eating a meal before you leave rather than buying food or stopping at a restaurant en route, and taking a face mask and hand sanitiser with you in case you end up in a situation where social distancing or hand-washing is difficult.
Can I travel abroad? 

Yes, but there are several caveats.

“It is important that everyone who intends to travel considers whether it is really the right time to do it now. We prefer that as few as possible travel this Christmas,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde told the TT newswire on Wednesday.

“If you nevertheless decide to travel, it is important that you follow these three pieces of advice: Read up, follow local rules and plan your return trip.”

Most importantly, you should not be doing any travel, whether domestic or overseas, if you have symptoms of the coronavirus.

If you travel abroad, you should stay updated on local laws and guidelines, which may include test requirements, quarantine, and mask-wearing and social distancing while in the country.

Sweden currently advises against travel to all countries outside the EU, and this is in place until at least January 31st, 2020. This isn’t a legal ban, but has implications including that travel insurance may not be valid if you travel against the advice.

As of December 16th, the foreign ministry does not advise against travel to countries within the EU/EEA and UK. That doesn’t mean travel is risk-free.

File photo of a flight from Stockholm Arlanda to Greece. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT

Can I travel to Sweden from abroad? 

It depends where you are travelling from.

If you are travelling from an EU/EEA country or are an EU/EEA citizen travelling from elsewhere, you may currently enter Sweden. For others, it’s more complicated.

The Swedish government has barred non-essential travel to Sweden from countries outside the EU, with the ban set to expire on December 22nd. Currently eight countries are exempted: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Uruguay. 

This may be either extended or amended in Wednesday’s update. The Local has contacted the Swedish police for further information. 

This restriction does not apply to Swedish, EU, or EEA citizens, who may travel to Sweden. Other people with “important reasons” to enter Sweden are also allowed Sweden. You can find a list of “important reasons” here. Celebrating Christmas with friends or relatives is not among them, but in some situations you can travel if you are moving to Sweden to live long-term with a close relative.

Do I need to quarantine if I travel to Sweden?

No, there is no mandatory quarantine for arriving travellers. However, you do need to follow the national recommendations even if you are visiting.

That includes staying at home, avoiding all close contacts and getting a coronavirus test if you develop symptoms of the virus, as well as keeping distance from others in public and keeping close contacts to a minimum even when symptom-free.

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‘Arrive early’: Passengers at European airports warned of travel disruption

Europe's airports chief told passengers to leave time for delays this summer as the air travel industry struggles to meet surging demand after the pandemic.

'Arrive early': Passengers at European airports warned of travel disruption

“The clear conjunction of a much quicker recovery with a very tight labour market is creating a lot of problems,” Olivier Jankovec, head of the Europe branch of the Airports Council International (ACI), told AFP.

He said there were issues from airports to airlines, ground handlers, police and border controls, but insisted: “The system still works”.

READ ALSO: Budget airline passengers in Europe face travel headaches as more strikes called

“It’s important for passengers that they communicate with the airlines in terms of when they should get to the airport, and prepare to come earlier than usual to make sure to have the time to go through, especially if they have to check luggage,” he said.

Strikes by low-cost pilots and cabin crew across Europe – including this weekend – are adding to the disruption.

Speaking at the ACI Europe annual congress in Rome, Jankovec said airports had taken measures to improve the situation, which would come into effect from mid-July.

“Additional staff will be coming in July, the reconfiguration of some of the facilities and infrastructure to facilitate the flows will also come into effect in July,” he said.

“I think it will be tight, there will be some disruptions, there will be longer waiting times.

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

“But I think that in the vast majority of airports, the traffic will go, people will not miss their planes, and hopefully everybody will be able to reach their destination as planned.”

He also defended increases in airport charges, after criticism from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents airlines.

Airports face “the same difficulties and inflationary pressures” as airlines, which he noted were putting their fares up, he said.

“Staff and energy is 45 percent of our operating costs, and of course inflation is also driving up the cost of materials,” he said.