All Posts by Edward

About the Author

After crisscrossing Europe for 6 years as a train conductor, I guide intrepid travellers roaming Europe by rail.

Czech Railcar Domazlice
Jun 30

Europe by Rail in 2020

By Edward | Cheaper Tickets

So what are your plans for travelling Europe by Rail in the rest of 2020? We've almost reached the middle without going anywhere.

It's been hard.

It's been three months of Sundays in which my only consolation (train-wise) has been a book. Did I say consolation? I meant replacement drug. Methadone. The book is

Europe by Rail.

Europe by Rail is a guide book for exploring Europe by train. It is written by Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries, runs to 544 pages and costs around £17/€20/$22.

It contains a section for before you leave, covering how to make an itinerary and how to get the best tickets. Then come the 52 routes that criss-cross Europe. The third part is an extensive reference section for rapid topical information.

This is the 16th edition. And for the first time, appositely, it includes the United Kingdom.

Before you leave

Verona Porta Nuova

Verona Porta Nuova station. I'm just cramming in a few of my own scenic pix, OK?

The first 50 pages lay the groundwork for your trip. They equip you with everything you need to be a self-sufficient railway traveller. I realise I'm making this sound like some arcane eastern practise, but advanced ticket whizzing is just that. 

The question of tickets and itineraries is a never-ending story and especially tickets could fill 1000 pages. Europe by Rail gives you the 20% knowledge you need to get 80% of the good deals, in just a few pages. Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries also have a surprising take on Interrail which completely changed my own opinion of the famous rail pass.

Fun fact: I've never had an Interrail pass.


A massive feat of curation

Europy by Rail routes

The 52 routes, seen from above. © David McCutcheon / DVD Maps" http://www.dvdmaps.co.uk

The 52 routes. Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries are also editors of hidden europe magazine, which they have been editing since 2005. There are few people alive who have seen as much of Europe as Nicky and Susanne.

These 52 routes thus represent a massive feat of curation by two of the most experienced, professional European travellers active today.. This isn't to be sniffed at. 

The routes are loosely grouped into regions - Exploring Britain and Ireland, Alpine adventures...Balkan journeys. 

Each route has a number and a name, e.g. Route 16: The Atlantic Coast of Iberia. Then stars are awarded for cities, culture, history and scenery. Countries covered, journey time and distance. A schematic map gives you an idea of the directions.

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email

One stellar feature in the latest edition is that each route now comes with a more detailed map online. Every route entry includes a short URL. Enter this into your browser and you are taken to a detailed, scaleable map of your impending journey. Here: click this.

What follows is sublime, evocative travel writing that draws you into the landscape and the cities along the way. Take Europe by Rail to the loo and they may have to send a search party after you.

Europe by Rail 2020 Route

Typical Europe by Rail route description

Highly distilled rail travel intel

After 400-odd pages covering the routes across Europe, there follow another 90 pages of references. "Reference" sounds like an afterthought, but this section comprises the Gazetteer - an A-Z of European countries with only the most relevant information - money, what sockets are used, national holidays. Then, what to expect in accommodation and train travel, country by country. I got sucked into this too. 

After that follows a reference section actually called reference section. An interesting addition is a compilation of city links - an A-Z of principal European cities and the approximate duration of direct train journeys to other cities.

Getting sidetracked

What I particularly love about Europe by Rail  is how it manages to reconcile concise, crystalline information with entertaining trivia. The book is interspersed with bite-size Sidetracks with at times only a vague connection to their position in the book.

But such delicious trivia. Did you know that the corridor along the side of compartment carriages was the end result of a Frechman being murdered in 1861? Or that Poland has a centuries-old Islamic tradition? Now you do. 

Europe by Rail 2020 Sidetrack

A typical Europe by Rail sidetrack

Summary

I may be starting to gush now. I don't see what other guidebook one could possibly need when travelling Europe by Rail. It wipes the floor with Rick Steves's Best of Europe.

If you were a complete novice you'd be off to the races with Europe by Rail. And even if you are an experienced traveller there is something for you in this book.

I always thought little of Interrail and Eurail. I never had a pass because my interests always lay further east. And for Western travel I was always fine getting my promo fixes.

Domodossola

Italian Pendolino at Domodossola, waiting to depart for Milan.

But reading Nicky Gardner's and Susanne Kries's take on Interrail changed my opinion. I've got a much more balanced, informed view now. I might even get an Interrail one of these days.

So what are your plans for the rest of 2020? We've almost reached the middle without going anywhere.

If you are preparing to hit the rails, then consider getting this book. If you are not going anywhere at all, then consider getting this book, too.

Look, I've put a button here. Click it to see where you can get your copy.

Buy the book

See where Europe by Rail is on sale

If you are interested in travel writing from unusual corners of Europe, you might also like hidden europe magazine, which is edited by Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries. It is comes out in print three times a year. The next edition is due shortly. I have been a subscriber for three years now and devour it as soon as it hits my letterbox.

And if you want to click another interesting button, below you will find one for subscribing to my blog. 

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email


eastern europe coronavirus
May 21

Coronavirus Train Disruptions – Eastern Europe

By Edward | Coronavirus

Coronavirus Train Disruptions - Eastern Europe

In Eastern Europe the coronavirus train disruptions are sweeping. While Russia seemed unfazed at first, it is now the worst-hit European country and myriad trains have been cancelled. Ukraine has done a better job containing the virus, but it has also cancelled all passenger traffic since 18th March. I don't know when it is going to resume.

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email


Russia - coronavirus train disruptions

🇷🇺

Face masks seem to be urged, but not compulsory on Russian trains. Social distancing distance is not defined, but a maximum distance is encouraged.

Russia border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
Closed
  • Ukraine
  • Belarus
  • Poland
  • Lithuania
  • Estonia
  • Latvia
  • Georgia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Mongolia
  • China
  • North Korea

Russia has now got a full blown epidemic on its hands and trains are severely impacted.

International Services

All international services have been cancelled. Trains to Kaliningrad pass through Lithuania without stopping. Trains that cross Kazakhstan via Petropavlovsk also pass through without stopping.

National Services

National services suffering badly. New social distancing measures are in place - essentially no train can be filled more than 50%.

  • In platskart only three passengers are placed per section (not six)
  • In kupé at most two passengers may be placed (not four)
  • in seated cars only window seats are sold.
Russia Social Distancing

How seats are allocated on Russian trains under social distancing

Here is the link to RZD's corona page.  The English version hasn't been updated since 10th April, so now I link to the Russian version. I'm not expecting you to read it. Just scroll down the page fast and you'll get the idea of how many trains are cancelled.

First services being reintroduced again. On the long list of cancelled trains, green check marks are beginning to appear.

RZD Reintroduced train

Example of a cancelled Russian train that has been reintroduced, as seen on RZD's corona-virus page

Refund policies

Tickets for cancelled trains can be returned and fully reimbursed. On cancelled domestic passengers are offered an alternate train/date or full reimbursement. 

Updated: 29th June

Ukraine - coronavirus train disruptions

🇺🇦

Face masks are compulsory in Ukrainian public transport. Social distancing distance is 1.5 m.

Ukraine border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
Closed
  • Slovakia
  • Hungary
  • Russia
  • Romania
  • Moldova
  • Belarus

International services

All international services are suspended until further notice. UZ did run special trains to bring Ukrainians back home from places like Poland and Czechia.

Right now I'm watching for when Slovakia starts running its rail bus to Mukachevo again. This I expect any day now.

National Services

Domestic services are gathering speed, but not everything is running yet. Check the UZ booking site for what interests you. Most trains seem to be running. I can't find anything running between L'viv and Odessa or L'viv and Kyiv.

Refund policies

All tickets are reimbursed free of charge.

Updated: 29th June. Outlook: improving

Now what?

Well, I'm going to update this page every week. Truth be told, I'm up for some distraction now.

  1. Why not have a look at my other posts and plan for better times
  2. Or look at my coronavirus page, where I have all my coronavirus-writing in one place
  3. Or join my free Rail Guide Europe club and get the password to my insider guides

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email
Frecciargento empty
May 21

Coronavirus Train Disruptions – Southern Europe

By Edward | Coronavirus

Coronavirus Train Disruptions - Southern Europe

In Southern Europe the coronavirus train disruptions have been mixed. Italy and Spain have had a catastrophic time, while the likes of Greece and Bulgaria have got off lightly - mainly because they had more time to react.

In Italy and Spain the railways have barely been running, while in Bulgaria, say, very few trains had to be cancelled.

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email

Italy - coronavirus rail disruptions

🇮🇹

Face-masks are mandatory on all Italian trains. It seems you also need to wear disposable gloves. Social distancing distance is 1 m.

Italy border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
  • Switzerland
  • France
  • Austria
Closed
  • Slovenia

Italy is in starting to ease its lockdown. Travel remains severely restricted. You are only allowed to travel with a sound reason which you have to have in writing when the police stop you. This is the form you have to have with you. 

International Services

International services are mostly running

  • Swiss local trains reach Domodossola. 
  • Thello services to Nice and Marseille are running
  • TILO regional services between Ticino and Lombardy are running
  • Services from Vienna to Bolzano restarted
  • Nightjets restarted at the end of June
  • Eurocity services from Milan to Switzerland running again
  • The Thello night train from Venice to Paris remains cancelled.

National Services

Presumably to ease contact tracing, all LeFrecce, Intercity and Eurocity tickets are to be personalised. That is, with your name and for your use only.

From what I can tell, all services are back to normal.

Italo also seems to be back to normal.

Rules of train travel on Trenitalia

Refund policies

Trenitalia refunds all tickets fully. Long and medium distance tickets are reimbursed as a voucher, local tickets are reimbursed in cash.

Italo reimburses you with a voucher that can be used for up to a year.

Click here for all the Trenitalia details.

Updated: 1st July. Outlook: Improving

Spain - coronavirus rail disruptions

🇪🇸

Spain border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
  • France
Closed
  • Portugal

Face masks (mascarillas) are mandatory in all Spanish trains. Social distancing distance is 2 m. 

International Services

Services to France are resuming, at last.

Services between Portugal and Spain remain suspended.

National Services

There is much less about coronavirus on the Spanisch Railways' website, Renfe.com. Random queries come up with a lot of trains. I assume most trains are running again, but not all seats are being sold. 

Refund policies

All tickets for travel from the 24th of May to the 31st of August have been automatically cancelled and the money automatically 100 % reimbursed. 

Updated: 1st July. Outlook: stable

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email

Portugal - coronavirus rail disruptions

🇵🇹

Face masks are obligatory in Portugal. The social distancing distance is 2 m.

Portugal border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
Closed
  • Spain

International services

All international services suspended.

National services

Local and regional services are mostly restored.

Alfa Pendular and Intercity services are still vastly reduced.

Here is CP's coronavirus page.

Refund policies

Refund policies are as usual.

Updated: 1st July. Outlook: improving

Bulgaria - coronavirus rail disruptions

🇧🇬

Face masks are mandatory on all Bulgarian trains. Social distancing distance is 1 m. 

Bulgaria border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
  • Serbia
Closed
  • North Macedonia
  • Romania
  • Greece
  • Turkey


Here is BDZ's live timetable. I've set the link to show you the departures from Ruse, Bulgaria's northern frontier. 

International services

All international services are suspended. Services from Sofia to Belgrade are expected to resume on 1st July, services from Sofia to Bucharest on the 6th of July.

Services to Turkey and Greece remain suspended indefinitely

National Services

All domestic services are running. In sleepers, only single berths are being sold.

Refund policies

Refund policies are unchanged. BDZ assume no liability if you are prevented from making your journey.

Updated: 1st July. Outlook: stable

Greece - coronavirus rail disruptions

🇬🇷

Face masks are mandatory on Greek trains and the social distancing distance is 2 m.

Greece border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
Closed
  • Bulgaria
  • North Macedonia
  • Turkey

International services

All international services are suspended. I'm watching closely to see if the Belgrade-Thessaloniki service starts this year.

National Services

National services are still running at a reduced level. Here is the link to Trainose's coronavirus page (Greek). It is a list of the only trains that are running, while all others are cancelled. 

Recent press releases suggest more trains are beginning to run. The axis of Athens-Thessaloniki has been restarted.

Only half the seats are being sold and all windows are unlocked to increase ventilation (yay! open windows!)

Here is a nice video showing what Trainose does for your safety.


Refund policies

I can't find them. As the first shock waves have passed, reimbursement has become less of an issue, I assume.

Updated: 1st July. Outlook: stable


Now what?

Well, I'm going to update this page every week. Truth be told, I'm up for some distraction now.

  1. Why not have a look at my other posts and plan for better times
  2. Or look at my coronavirus page, where I have all my coronavirus-writing in one place
  3. Or join my free Rail Guide Europe club and get the password to my insider guides

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email
Empty LNER train
May 21

Coronavirus Train Disruptions – Western Europe

By Edward | Coronavirus

This photo shows an empty LNER Azuma and is courtesy of my LNER colleague, train manager Peter Strong. #railwayfamily. Thank you very much!

Coronavirus Train Disruptions - Western Europe

As it goes, Western Europe hasn't had a good pandemic. This has impacted the trains severely. However, things are on the mend. The general trend is that services are increasing. 

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email

Great Britain - Coronavirus  train disruptions🇬🇧

Facemasks are now mandatory. Social distancing distance is 2 metres.

GB border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
  • France
  • Belgium
Closed

Britain is easing its lockdown. The emergency timetable is being phased out and more and more services are resuming. National Rail claims that only 10% of the usual passengers can be carried. Travel is still actively discouraged.

Eurostar

Face-masks are now mandatory on Eurostar trains and at Eurostar stations. You won't be let onto the train without something covering your nose and mouth. 

France has eased its lockdown and is trying to get the tourists in again.

Eurostar is running one train per day between London and Brussels and up to two per day between London and Paris. 

As borders have reopened, the romantic getaway or or the brie run are on the menu again - except that when you return to England, you have to self-isolate for 14 days.

On returning to England, you need to have the following form filled out and submitted.

Click here for Eurostar's corona page and timetable.

Since 8th June, on arrival in the UK you have to go into quarantine for two weeks - irrespective of where you have arrived from and how. 

National Services

All franchises have been suspended, putting all railways under state control. Trains are still running at a reduced rate. Roughly 70% of the normal timetable is in operation.

Strict social distancing measures are in place. Longer distance trains have compulsory reservations and only 1 in 6 seats are sold.

Here is National Rail Enquiries' corona page, with links to all operators' timetables.

Refund policies

Off-peak and Anytime tickets can be returned for 100% money back. Advance tickets bought before 07:00 AM on March 23rd can also be returned free of charge

Updated: 1st July. Outlook: stable

The Netherlands - coronavirus train disruptions

🇳🇱

From 1st June, face-masks (mondkapjes) are mandatory. Social distancing distance is 1.5 metres.

Netherlands border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
  • Germany
  • Belgium
Closed

International services

Thalys is increasing frequency. From 9th June there are:

  • Two daily services form Amsterdam to Paris Nord via Brussels-Midi (except Sunday, when there is only one service.

Around the 12th of July Thalys is expected to step up its services further.

IC Brussel has returned to its normal schedule between Amsterdam and Brussels.

ICEs to Germany are all running to their normal schedule again. 

The Intercity to Berlin has been running to schedule since 2nd June.


Local cross border services

The Abellio RE trains between Arnhem and the Rhineland continue to run. Means the Emmerich border crossing is open. 

Venlo border station is also working: the Eurobahn services from Venlo into Germany have returned to their normal schedule.

Gronau border station is open: trains from Enschede to Münster / Westfalen are running.

National Services

All trains are running again. Only essential travel is advised, though it is not policed. Here's what you need to know

  • Breaking: Bicycles allowed again at off-peak times
  • All seats are usable by passengers from 1st July
  • Touch as little as possible
  • Avoid crowds and the rush hour.
  • You need to wear your mondkapje.

Many thanks to Thierry and Gerben for writing in with all the details!

Refund policies

Refund policies seem to remain the same. On a national level, most journeys are done with the OV chipkaart, so advance deals don't apply.

International tickets are refunded 100% free of charge.

Updated: 1st July. Outlook: improving

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email

Belgium - coronavirus train disruptions

🇧🇪

Face-masks are mandatory on all trains. Social distancing distance: 1,5 m.

Belgium border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
  • Germany
  • The Netherlands
  • France
  • Luxembourg

Closed


Eurostar

There is one daily service from Brussels to London. 

Click here for Eurostar's corona page and timetable.

Cross border

  • There are five daily Thalys services to Paris. If travelling to France, be sure to have this form with you.
  • ICEs to Germany are running to schedule.
  • IC Brussel is running to schedule
  • ICs from Tournai to Lille Flandres are mostly running
  • Hourly trains between Athus and Luxembourg
  • The Nightjet to Vienna is suspended.

National Services

National services are back to normal.

Here is SNCB/NMBS's corona page.

The Belgian state is financing 12 free trips on SNCB within Belgium for Belgian residents. If you live in Belgium, you have 6 months in which you can take 2 free trips per month - 12 altogether. Nice.

Refund policies

Domestic tickets retain the standard rules. International tickets are refunded according to whoever is running them - be it Thalys, Eurostar or Deutsche Bahn. 

Updated: 1st July. Outlook: improving

France - coronavirus train disruptions

🇫🇷

Face-masks are mandatory on all French public transport. Social distancing distance is 1 m.  

France border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Great Britain
  • Belgium
  • Luxembourg
  • Italy
  • Spain
Closed

France has completely left lockdown. Train travel is encouraged again. No forms are needed anymore.

International Services

  • Some TGV and ICE services from Paris to Germany have resumed, but are not fully restored yet.
  • There is now one train each from Paris to Basle and Geneva
  • There is at least one, sometimes up to three Eurostars to London
  • Here is the link to Eurostar's update
  • The Thalys goes to Brussels five times a day, and to Amsterdam twice a day.
  • Here is the link to Thalys's timetable updates.
  • The Paris-Moscow and Nice-Moscow trains remain cancelled.
  • The Thello to Venice is cancelled at least until the 31st of July.
  • Services to Spain expected to restart 1st July.

National Services

Trains are running again and can be filled up to 100%.

Here is SNCF's Corona page. (French. English version is error 404)

RER and Transilien are increasing and currently at 75% of their normal frequency.


TERs are increasing in frequency again. In some regions, you now need reservations or access cards. This is to prevent overcrowding. Europe by Rail has more on this.

Paris: To use the Transilien services during the rush hour (Mo-Fri 06:30-09:30 and 16:00-19:00) you need a confirmation from your employer

French Covid safety

Those French Covid protection measures in full

Refund policies

Currently you can reserve an optional train and pay later, or change or cancel your tickets and reservations at your discretion. You can mess around with SNCF to your heart's content up until 31st August 2020.

Those affected by OUIGO cancellations will get their money back automatically within three days.

TER tickets issued on paper can be returned to the SNCF boutiques up to 60 days after curfew has been lifted.

Updated: 1st July. Outlook: improving.

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email

Sweden - coronavirus train disruptions

🇸🇪

No face masks necessary. Social distancing distance is not defined. 

Sweden border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
  • Denmark
Closed
  • Norway
  • Germany

Sweden is getting lots of stick for its relatively low-key handling of the pandemic. Means that the likes of Norway and Finland are watching their borders with Sweden closely.

My faithful reader Niklas has written in from Sweden. Thank you, Niklas, for sending me the Swedish situation.

International services

NO TRAINS to 

  • Germany
  • Norway.

There is an hourly service across the Öresund bridge. Denmark has closed its borders to all but Danish residents or people working in Denmark.

Norway quarantines ANYONE arriving in Norway for 14 days. All SJ trains to Norway are cancelled.

National Services

Travel is discouraged. However, currently the whole network is still running, though SJ has reduced the frequency of its trains.

Here is SJ's corona page.

SJ has limited seat reservations so that if you book a window seat, the aisle seat is definitely empty. These restrictions are in place till 30th June. After that, load is to be increased, allowing, say, families to book and travel together. 

MTRX's Stockholm-Göteborg service continues to run. MTRX guarantee all passengers an empty seat next to them to aid social distancing. MTRX also provide every passenger with a complementary mask.

Snälltåget is running about half its trains.

Refund policies

All operators have relaxed their refund policies. Non-flexible tickets have been made more flexible.

MTRX and Snälltåget refund non-flexible tickets as vouchers.

Updated: 1st July. Outlook: stable

Norway 🇳🇴

Face-masks are not mandatory in Norway. Social distancing distance is 1 m. 

Norway border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
Closed
  • Sweden

Kristian has written in with the details for Norway and helped me immensely by putting it all in one place for me. Tusen takk!

International services

The international services to Sweden are suspended at least until the 8th July.

National Services

  • Some night trains are cancelled. The ones between Trondheim and Bodø and between Oslo and Trondheim are running
  • Some daytime domestic services are still affected by cancellations or closures
  • Here is Vy's coronavirus page.
  • And here is another useful Norway page: www.entur.no

Limited services on all long distance lines. 

Refund policies

Refund policies have been relaxed to a certain extent to allow extra flexibility.

Updated: 1st July. Outlook: stable

Now what?

Well, I'm going to update this page every week. Truth be told, I'm up for some distraction now.

  1. Why not have a look at my other posts and plan for better times
  2. Or look at my coronavirus page, where I have all my coronavirus-writing in one place
  3. Or join my free Rail Guide Europe club and get the password to my insider guides

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email
Empty DB train
May 21

Coronavirus Train Disruptions – Central Europe

By Edward | Coronavirus

This picture shows an empty DB Intercity. Courtesy of my friend and colleague Zugführer Martin Pavlík. Thank you!

Europe's trains during Coronavirus - Central Europe

Central Europe has fared better in the coronavirus pandemic than Western Europe, mainly due to swift, draconian measures in the Visegrád states and Germany's calm discipline. Czechia was in lockdown before coronavirus was really a thing in England.

This hit the railways hard. Slovakia introduced an emergency timetable (you can download it), and across Central Europe services were wound down to a bare-bones minimum. Only Germany kept most of its long-distance trains running, though local services plummeted.

Germany - coronavirus rail disruptions

🇩🇪

Face-masks are mandatory on all German trains. Social distancing distance is 1.5 m.

Germany border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Though border checks are still in place, you are allowed to travel again.

Open
  • Czechia
  • The Netherlands
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Luxembourg
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Switzerland
  • Poland
Closed

International Services

May international services have resumed. There are still NO TRAINS to Italy.

  • Railjets from Munich to Vienna are running.
  • TGV and ICE services from Karlsruhe and Frankfurt to Paris have resumed. 
  • There are now three daily services from Prague via Dresden to Berlin and back: EC 170/171, EC 174/175 and EC 178/179.
  • Trains to the Netherlands and Belgium are back to normal.
  • Select services to Denmark have been reintroduced
  • All connections with Switzerland are restored.
  • EN 462/463 Kálman Imre from Munich to Budapest is still hanging in there.
  • All Nightjets have restarted, except Munich-Vienna


Corona trains

EN 463 from Munich to Budapest, 23rd April. Courtesy of my friend Martin Pavlík.

Local cross border services

Local trains continue to reach:

  • Kufstein and Salzburg in Austria. Austrian trains continue to reach Freilassing, Simbach, Passau and Lindau.
  • Strasbourg in France
  • Basel Bad and Schaffhausen in Switzerland

Domestic Services

Deutsche Bahn are running almost all mainline trains. Only a few ICEs and ICs are cancelled. There is an hourly service between most major cities.

Local services are back to normal.

The DB lounges remain closed, while the restaurant cars are selling only prepackaged food and drink.

All Flixtrain services are suspended indefinitely. I struggle to see Flixtrain re-emerging from this.

Click here for DB's daily updates. (German only)

Refund policies

If you postpone your journey: DB tickets purchased up to the 13th March for travel between 13th March and 30th April are automatically commuted to fully flexible tickets and will be accepted until 31st October.

Fully flexible tickets can be exchanged or reimbursed free of charge.

Flixtrain exchanges your ticket for a Flixbus voucher.

Updated: 29th June. Outlook: improving

Switzerland - coronavirus rail disruptions

🇨🇭

Face-masks are urged if social distancing is difficult. They are not mandatory. Social distancing distance is 2 m.

Switzerland border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open

  • Germany
  • France
  • Austria
  • Italy

Closed


International services

International trains are resuming service.

  • There are now a three daily trains from Basel to Paris, four from Geneva to Paris. One train goes from Lausanne to Paris.
  • Railjets and Eurocitys to Austria are running again
  • All Nightjets now running again 
  • Eurocitys to Italy (MIlano Centrale) restarted
Basel Bad

Blocked exit at Basel Bad. You are not allowed into Switzerland. Courtesy of my boots on the ground


Local cross border services

France: The Léman express is gathering speed. Trains have started to cross the border in the direction of Annemasse again. Presumably commuters are allowed to stay on the trains. Here is the link to the Léman Express corona page as of 25th May.

Italy: Local services reach Domodossola. TILO services reaching into Lombardy, including Milan.

Germany: Services back to normal.

Austria: all local cross border services back to normal.

National services

Most national domestic services are running to the original schedule again. Since the 8th of June, Sparbilette have been on sale again. The dining cars are open again, too.

Click here for SBB's updates

Refund policies

SBB are secretive about their refund terms. They say they are being "lenient". 

Get ready for some serious filling in of forms and click here.

Updated: 29th June. Outlook: improving

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email

Austria - coronavirus rail disruptions

🇦🇹

In Austria, face-masks are mandatory on ALL public transport. Social distancing distance is 1 m.

Austria border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Switzerland
  • Czechia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Italy
Closed

International Services

  • Trains to Slovenia have resumed.
  • There are five daily trains to Hungary
  • Railjets from Vienna to Bolzano have restarted
  • Micotra trains from Villach to Udine are running again
  • Railjet services from Vienna to Zurich via Buchs have resumed
  • The Railjets to Munich are also running. Same goes for the ICEs to Frankfurt via Passau.
  • Trains to Czechia and Slovakia have all been reinstated. 
  • Eurocitys from Munich via Innsbruck to Verona (Brenner Eurocity trains) are expected to restart around 25th June.
  • Most Nightjets and Euronights running again
EuroNight 462

One of the very few international trains still running: EuroNight 463/462 "Kálmán Imre"


Local cross border services

  • Local services continue to reach Simbach, Passau, Lindau and Freilassing. Kufstein and Salzburg are served by German local trains.
  • Local cross border services to Switzerland are running again, too.
  • The Micotra service from Villach to Udine and Trieste has restarted.
  • Trains to San Candido running

National services

Mainline and local services are back to normal.

Click here for more details.

WESTbahn are running every two hours between Vienna and Salzburg.

WESTbahn and ÖBB now recognise each other's standard tickets

Domestic Nightjet services continue to run.

Refund policies

ÖBB-Tickets up until 13th April to Italy, Slovakia, Czechia, Poland, Slovenia, Hungary, Germany and Switzerland can be cancelled free of charge via customer service.

This goes for all Nightjets, too.

Updated: 29th June. Outlook: Improving

Poland - coronavirus rail disruptions

🇵🇱

Face-masks are mandatory on all Polish public transport. Social distancing distance is 1 m.

Poland border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
  • Germany
  • Czechia
  • Slovakia
Closed
  • Ukraine
  • Belarus
  • Russia

International Services

EU international services are soon to be reinstated. First trains to Germany, Austria and Czechia running from 22nd June.

Here is a list of all PKP Intercity's international services

National Services

National services are getting back to normal. More and more lines are being restarted or extended to their full length. EIP services resumed 22nd May.

On PKP Intercity, from June 100% of seats are available for sale - not 50% like in other countries.

Restaurant cars remain closed.

Here is a current list of all PKP Intercity services running

And here is Polregio's extensive corona page.

Refund policies

Tickets bought before the 4th of March whose date of validity has not yet arrived can be returned for a full reimbursement.

Updated: 23rd June. Outlook: improving

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email

Czechia - coronavirus rail disruptions

 🇨🇿

Face-masks are mandatory on Czech public transport. Social distancing distance is 1.5 m.

Czechia border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
  • Germany
  • Slovakia
  • Austria
  • Slovakia
  • Poland
Closed

Czechia is easing its lockdown. Shopping centres, theatres and restaurants are reopening. The borders are expected to open by June.

Here is a map of the services that are running, as of 25th May.

International Services

International services are restarting! YAY!

  • Trains from Prague to Berlin are running
  • Regiojet is resuming services to Slovakia
  • Services to Austria running
  • Day services to Poland restarted
  • Night trains to Slovakia, Austria and Switzerland restarted
  • Night trains to Poland and Hungary remain suspended

National Services

SuperCity Pendolinos between Prague to Ostrava/Český Těšín are resuming.

National services are improving.

RegioJet have adjusted their reservation system to ensure that there is enough space between travellers. Disinfectant soap is guaranteed in all loos. Free water now only in 1st class.

Leo Express is running one train a day between Prague and Bohumín in both directions. They provide every passenger with a face mask.

Refund policies

Tickets can be returned for a full reimbursement, even First Minute Europe promo tickets.

Updated: 29th June. Outlook: improving

Slovakia - coronavirus rail disruptions

🇸🇰

Slovakia border status

Here you can see which borders you can cross by train. Restrictions may apply. Be sure to check these.

Open
  • Austria
  • Czechia
  • Poland
Closed
  • Hungary
  • Ukraine

Face-masks are mandatory on Slovak public transport. Social distancing distance is 1.5 m.

International Services

  • International services to Czechia have resumed from the 9th of June.
  • Services to Austria restored
  • Hungary and Ukraine to follow 1st July. 
  • Night trains to Czechia running again

National Services

ZSSK, Slovakia's national operator is starting to return to the normal timetable. Not everything is running yet, but since 10th May things have been improving.

Night trains are running again.

Here is that timetable in full.

Motorail services (Autovlaky) are scheduled to restart 1st July.

Since 1st April, free travel for students has been suspended. Everyone is urged to pay for tickets contactless.

Time for a video:

Refund policies

If you bought your ticket before 13th March, 06:00 AM, you have until 30th June to exchange it free of charge or get your money back.

If you have bought your ticket after 13th March, 06:00 AM, administrative fees apply, but I can't find where they say how much. It won't be much.

Updated: 29th June. Outlook: Improving

Now what?

Well, I'm going to update this page every week. Truth be told, I'm up for some distraction now.

  1. Why not have a look at my other posts and plan for better times
  2. Or look at my coronavirus page, where I have all my coronavirus-writing in one place
  3. Or join my free Rail Guide Europe club and get the password to my insider guides

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email
ARkimbz
Apr 23

How to Cook your Favourite @_DiningCar Dishes At Home

By Edward | Dining Cars

How to Cook your Favourite @_DiningCar Classics at Home

When I started my blog two years ago, I didn't see us all trapped at home and all European borders closed. On my Corona page I have been cataloguing the carnage on the European railways.

The dining cars were the first services that bit the dust. In sidings all over Europe, dining cars are standing empty, their cooking ranges cold.

Now. As we are all mostly at home and have lots of time on our hands, how say we do some cooking? Perhaps bring that dining car magic (and I don't mean the microwave) home to our own tables?

With the help of my great friend @_DiningCar I am now starting a series on how to cook your favourite dining car classics while #StayingAtHome.

If you haven't met @_DiningCar yet, check out his Twitter channel. You can also find pictures from his exploits on Flickr.

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email

The things I do for you

Now more than ever, I go to great lengths for you, my reader. I could have easily slapped together any old recipe and video and thrown them at you. It would have taken me two days, tops. Instead I painstakingly sought out workable recipes, tried them out myself and took my own photos. It took more than three weeks.

Polish Dining Car at Home. WARS: Żurek (sour rye and sausage soup)

Polish Dining Car

Polish WARS dining car. Courtesy of @_DiningCar.

Poland has one of the best dining cars in Europe. Most of the cooking is still done to order.

Żurek is fermented rye soup and one of the signature dishes in the WARS restaurant car, as found on Polish trains and the Moscow-Paris and Moscow-Nice expresses.

If you want to do it properly, you'll need to go to a Polish food shop and get a bottle of Żurek sourdough. Or ferment some rye flour with water and garlic for 4 days beforehand.

Zurek in WARS Dining Car

One of WARS's signature soups, Żurek. Coutesy of Martin Pavlík.

Żurek recipe

Żurek is so ubiquitous in Poland that everyone has their own way of making it. I have tried quite a few recipes before arriving at this one by Polish food blogger Magda from skutecznie.tv.   

I made this for Żurek for Easter Sunday lunch and fed it to my Polish parents-in-law. I know the difference between polite praise and genuine, and their praise was genuine and profuse. So this recipe is proven.

Cooking time: 30 minutes (apparently. It took me 90 minutes). Makes 2 litres

Żurek ingredients

For the recipe in Polish, click here. Below, find my English translation.

  • 500 ml żurek sourdough (you can get this in East European shops in bottles, or make it yourself. 
east european shop

Polish shop in Scarborough

To make 1 litre of your own Żurek sourdough, mix well six spoons of rye flour with boiled, lukewarm water. Add three crushed cloves of garlic. If you have a crust of sourdough bread, put this in too. It helps the fermentation get going. Leave to stand in a warm place (not direct sunlight) for 3-4 days. Stir once again on the first evening. (I had only two days. Here is what I did: I made it all as described, but added a tablespoon of rye sourdough starter {don't judge me}. This kickstarted the fermentation. Then I kept the liquid in warm intensive care. It was ready just in time.)
Dining Car at Home Zurek Sourdough

Home made Żurek sourdough

  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 grains of allspice
  • 4-5 grains of black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 l water
  • 2-3 ​dried mushrooms.
    (can be left out, but they do enrich the flavour somewhat)
  • 400 g sausage:
    – 250-300 g Polish white sausages ("biała kiełbasa" (white sausage) is the original Polish word. If you can't get Polish, see if you can get something German.)
    – 100-150 g smoked, cured sausages ("swojska, wiejska kiełbasa" in the original Polish, which means home-made, country sausages. These are usually quite coarse and smoked. Even if you use simply 400g of white sausages you'll be fine) 
Sausage comment: Poland has a rich sausage culture and myriad varieties available nowhere else. I have browsed UK-Polish cooking fora. Polish people cooking żurek in England use either very good cumberland sausages or German bratwurst obtainable in Lidl and Aldi. Bangers won't do. In the USA, I really don't know what would be best, but I would aim for high quality and high meat content. I was cooking this in Germany. It goes without saying that my Polish shop was sold out of both ready-made żurek sourdough and biała kiełbasa just before easter. I used Munich White Sausages (Münchner Weisswurst)
  • 100 g smoked bacon
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 tsp of majoram
  • 1/2 glass of sour cream or śmietana. You want something between 10-25% fat. The best stuff is available in East European shops.
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper
  • hard boiled egg (one per bowl of soup is good)
  • optional:
    – 2 tbsp of horseradish, either freshly grated or from a jar.
    – potatoes (diced)
Join my free Rail Guide Europe Club and access a growing library of Insider Rail Guides! Find out more...
sausages boiling for zurek

First make the broth by boiling sausages

Żurek method

1. Put the white sausages into a saucepan. Add the bay leaf, allspice, peppercorns and salt. Add water, bring to the boil and leave on a small flame with the lid on.
Let cook while you dice the onions, country sausages and bacon and fry them.

2. Now prepare the fried ingredients.
Peel and dice the onion. Cut the bacon into strips or dice. Chop the country sausage into fattish half-moons or dice.

Dining Car at Home Polish

bacon and onions ready to go

3. Heat frying pan, add the bacon and wait till it starts to render fat. If using dried mushrooms, travel back in time to half an hour before you started cooking and soak them. Add mushrooms. Stir frequently until the pieces start to colour. 

4. Add the onions and fry until they become translucent. Then add majoram and crushed garlic. Stir and fry for a few moments, until the smell of garlic starts to waft up. Turn off the heat.

Dining Car at Home Polish

Bacon, onions and sausage frying

5. Revisit the saucepan with the boiling sausages. These should be ready by now. Take out the sausages and pour the contents of the frying pan into the sausage-broth in the saucepan. Let boil with the lid on for 10 minutes.

6. Peel the boiled white sausages and cut into bite-size chunks. 

7. Mix the sour cream with the flour. Make sure there are no lumps.

8. Now put it all together. Add the żurek sourdough liquid to the boiling broth (before adding give the liquid a good shake). Add the sour cream - first take a few spoons of broth and mix it into the cream, then pour this mixture into the boiling broth. Stir carefully and boil until the flour thickens the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Dining Car at Home Polish

Finishing up

9. At this stage you can add some freshly grated horseradish, if you are that way inclined. I did, and I recommend it. 

Serve hot with bits of sausage in it and hard boiled egg. Fresh bread goes nicely with it.

Dining Car at Home Polish

Żurek ready to eat

Żurek Video

Here is the video of Magda at work making żurek. 

FREE Access

Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


  • The password to my Insider Rail Guides
  • My FREE Telegram help group
  • Ask me Anything status by email

Slovak Dining Car at Home. Wagon Slovakia: Čiernohorský rezeň ("Čierna Hora Cutlet