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.

Feb 11

Can we travel Europe by train in 2021?

By Edward | Coronavirus , Uncategorized

Remember 2020? Back when we were all "well in 2021 I will be travelling Europe by train again"?

How are those plans looking?

In this post we are going to examine the outlook for European train travel in 2021.

We can't look into the future, but we can look at signs and describe tendencies.

  • Half-arsed lockdowns across Europe have not dented the second wave of Covid, though they have probably prevented it from being even worse
  • Mutated variants of the virus have emerged, making travel restrictions fashionable again.

On 21st January the leaders of the European Union met to discuss borders and travel. They agreed to the following recommendations to member states:

  1. The internal borders in the Schengen zone are to remain open
  2. Leisure travel is to be discouraged
  3. Only essential cross-border travel is to be allowed.
  4. No exemptions for those inoculated against Covid.

What has happened since then?

  1. Most EU countries have closed their borders
  2. Leisure travel is restricted to day trips at home
  3. Each country has its own definition of "essential"
  4.  Some countries have opened their borders for those with Covid jabs.

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

Here are 5 factors likely to affect 2021 European train travel:


Quarantines

Each European country has its own take on Covid risk areas, and its own set of rules on who has to do what entering from where. Furthermore, these rules change every few weeks. It is impossible to keep up with it.

This is a strong incentive to stay either in your own country, or to visit one particular country and stay put for longer.

Mutations

European politicians are scrambling to contain mutations of coronavirus, such as the British and the South African variants. As I write, the Tirol is under strict lockdown and nobody is allowed to leave unless they have a negative test. Meanwhile, in Britain most infections are now with the British variant.

This suggests that massive travel restrictions are still going to be with us in 2021.

Train to Prague

Somewhere in winter Czechia (© Martin Pavlík)

Covid jabs

Covid vaccinations are being rolled out across the world. As more and more people have had their jab, they are going to start demanding back their unrestricted travel. 

As the ranks of the vaccinated increase, we will almost certainly be looking at some form of...

Covid passports

You know they are going to happen because of all the politicians loudly rejecting them. 

Countries that tend not to overthink ethical dilemmas, such as Poland and Georgia, have gone ahead. Anyone with proven Covid immunity can come to Poland or Georgia without going into quarantine. Come spring, the likes of France and Italy will follow.

Unless it turns out that the vaccines don't protect against the new variants of Covid, or that the vaccinated can still infect the un-vaccinated.  Then we are back to square one.

Serious Facekit

If we do set off, we are still going to need our face-masks.

The rules about face-masks are likely to get stricter. Bavaria recently raised the bar and insists on FFP-2 masks on all public transport, while in the rest of Germany it has to be at least a medical mask. France, too, demands proper medical masks and not just a scarf or handkerchief. 

Expect other countries to follow suit. Even Sweden now "recommends" face masks "during rush hour".

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

4 ways to get your fix (now)

Embrace your own country

cherepovets

What's not to love?

If you seriously want to go on some train journeys, you may have to make do with your own country as restrictions ease. 

Why not get out a map of your country and look at it with a fresh pair of eyes? Think: If I had to stay in England (or Belgium, or wherever) what would I like to see by train?

Explore local trains

Berlin S-Bahn

Just get on the wrong train on purpose

Local trains are going to be key. I discussed this with Nicky Gardner at our webinar last year, and 2021, even more than 2020, is a year to discover local trains.

What is exciting about local trains is how much closer they are to the country they are passing through and the people they serve. I once went from Munich to Venice on local trains and the memory of it is vivid because of how quickly everything changed - the people, their language and their faces.

So how about going right now and finding yourself a local branch line to use, as soon as restrictions ease? Even a different line on the London Overground or the Berlin S-Bahn can be exciting. 

Just get on the wrong train on purpose

Rural travel

Local train tickets italy

Ferrovie del Sud Est railbus at Otranto

Avoiding crowds and big centres is still a thing. If you do manage to go abroad, consider one of the less hyped destinations, or somewhere completely unheard-of. 

In their take on travel in 2021, the Economist pointed to fewer, but longer stays. Once in a particular country, there is much incentive to stay there because of quarantine rules. 

So if you get to plan something, and want to do train stuff, find somewhere with a good station and a decent timetable.

Read Europe by Rail

This is the easiest and safest way to get your fix.

Though it covers 50 routes throughout Europe, Europe by Rail is very strong on local and rural travel. Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries have found the most interesting and gratifying train journeys for almost every European country.

Why not wander over to my review of Europe by Rail and have a look?

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


Alpen Sylt Nachtexpress on the Hindenburgdamm
Sep 03

ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress: A Pop-Up Night Train

By Edward | Night Trains

Transparency disclaimer: I work for the company that runs the ALPEN-SYLT night express. I've also put a lot of work into starting it up. So I may not be 100% neutral. Just so's you know.

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

At the beginning of the year, nobody knew about the ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress. Not even me.

Then in May, during lockdown, I got a phone call from the company I work for.

"You fancy doing something with night trains?"

My head began to spin. I steadied myself on my son's pram.

"Um. Yes?"

"We are starting a new night train service from Sylt to Salzburg and back, twice a week. We need you to come back"

So I went back to work. The company drafted me into the sales task force and wheeled me on as their night train consultant. 

My equipment raring to go

A little background

I've been working for this company (BahnTouristikExpress, and by extension Rail Development Corporation, an American rail company) since 2018 - see my Flixtrain post for more on that.

Most of the time I was working Flixtrain services for them, using couchette carriages in day mode. Flixbus sold the tickets and handled customer service, we ran the trains.

These veteran coaches plied the Hamburg-Cologne and Cologne-Berlin route by day heaving with stag dos and football fans.

Then came coronavirus, and for reasons I cannot divulge, the partnership with Flixtrain disintegrated into searing acrimony that continues to this day.

So what to do with all these couchettes standing around, to say nothing of the engines rented specially? 

Start a pop-up night train service, that's what.

The ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress - the service

The ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress (night express. NEX for short) is a twice-weekly overnight train service from the North Sea island of Sylt via Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich to Salzburg.

ALPEN Sylt Nachtexpress at Westerland

ALPEN-Sylt Nachtexpress ready to leave Westerland (Sylt). Photo credit: Marc Förste

It consists purely of couchettes and takes 16 hours to get from the very north of Germany to the very south and across the border into Austria.

On Thursdays and Saturdays it runs North-South, on Fridays and Sundays it runs South-North.

The current service is scheduled to run until the 7th of November. See below for future plans.

ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress - destinations

On its way south, the train starts at Westerland (Sylt) and calls at Niebüll, Husum, Hamburg-Altona and Hamburg Central to pick up passengers. Then it passes the night en route south. First stop for getting off is Frankfurt Süd, then Würzburg, Nuremberg, Augsburg, Munich, Rosenheim, Prien, Traunstein, Freilassing and Salzburg.

Alpen Sylt Nachtexpress on the Hindenburgdamm

The train on its way across the Hindenburgdamm. Photo credit: Marc Förste

What is the ALPEN-SYLT night express like?

The ALPEN-SYLT night express currently consists of couchettes only. These are ex-Deutsche Bahn couchettes as previously seen on CityNightLine services and now dispersed all over mostly private operators such as RegioJet and Snälltaget. A few went to ÖBB as well. 

NEX couchette

Some of the couchettes have nice new lining

These were most recently used for running Flixtrains. There hasn't been time to obliterate the Flix foil, so they coaches still run in green livery with ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress branding pasted over the Flixness.

Couchette Corridor

A look down the corridor on the ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress

Each compartment has six padded berths with blue lining. Sheets, pillows and blankets are provided.

ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress couchette

Middle bunk made up for sleeping

Every compartment has USB- and 220V sockets and every carriage is equipped with WiFi routers.

NEX Freebies

ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress compartment with its ducks in a row

How much do ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress tickets cost?

Whichever ticket you buy, you always get a whole compartment to yourself

Ticket prices

The cheapest promo tickets start at €99 for a single travelling with one child. 

From September there will also be a special offer for couples, starting at €199.

The standard fare is €399 for the whole compartment to yourself, irrespective of whether it is just you or there are six of you and irrespective of where you get on and off.

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

Extras

Bicycles go for €49. If you book both ways, this is only charged once.

Breakfast is extra and costs €5. This ensures that only people who actually want breakfast get it - free breakfasts waste mountains of food. For my night train insider's breakfast rant, see my Astra Transcarpatic post.

NEX Salzburg

Me at Salzburg with the ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress

Where to buy

Most agencies in Germany specialised in railway tickets can sell you tickets for the ALPEN-SYLT night express. 

You can also simply book online. As yet the website is only in German, though I expect English to be added eventually. If you've subscribed to my blog, send me an email and I will gladly help you book.

What about future Nachtexpress trains?

The outlook is good at the moment. Many people are very excited about this train. The management is very enthusiastic too,

It makes such a difference: When I was at Deutsche Bahn the night trains were treated like some mad aunt who simply won't die. 

RDC, on the other hand, are completely enamoured of their new night train and already have exciting plans for 2021.

Alpen Sylt Nachtexpress Westerland

More night express awesomeness. Photo credit: Marc Förste

I can't write any of it just yet, but it looks like the future holds expanded service and more destinations. On the carriage front, they are looking into sleeping cars and seated cars.  

Right now I'm tasked with developing a service training for the night train crews - so there is definitely going to be something.

I suggest you subscribe to my blog. That way you will be the first to know when new Nachtexpress services are announced. And if as my subscriber you ever book on the Nachtexpress, just let me know. Perhaps you'll see me on the train too. 

I'll leave you with this video by vlogger Superalbs Travels in which he beautifully captures the entire experience.

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
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

Both Ukraine and Russia have lost control of coronavirus. The train disruptions are sweeping. 

While Russia seemed unfazed at first, it is now the worst-hit European country and myriad trains have been cancelled. 

The lights are going out in Ukraine. Several towns are in quarantine.

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


International Services

Services to Belarus have resumed.

Trains to Kaliningrad pass through Lithuania and Belarus 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 covid page.  The Russian version is more up to date than the English version. Many daily trains now run every other day. Some trains have been utterly cancelled. It seems Russia is trying to get the infections down before the New Year holidays. 

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: 10th February. Outlook: stable

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. 

National Services

It seems that most trains are running.

Refund policies

All tickets are reimbursed free of charge.

Updated: 10th February. 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
Frecciargento empty
May 21

Coronavirus Train Disruptions – Southern Europe

By Edward | Coronavirus

Coronavirus Train Disruptions - Southern Europe

Southern Europe is very much in the grips of a nasty second wave. And this time the Balkans are badly hit too. 

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 has gone back into a nasty lockdown. Travel is severely restricted. 

International Services

International services are suffering again.

  • Swiss local trains reach Domodossola. 
  • Thello services to Nice and Marseille are running
  • TILO regional services between Ticino and Lombardy are running at half their normal rate
  • Services from Vienna to Venice cancelled
  • Nightjets cancelled
  • Eurocity services from Switzerland to Italy running to reduced schedule
  • The Thello night train from Venice to Paris remains cancelled.

National Services

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

From what I can tell, Trenitalia seems to be running all its trains.

On regional trains, only 50% load is recommended. Dunno what that is supposed to mean.

Italo is running at the moment, but at a reduced rate. I found one daily train between Venezia Santa Lucia and Roma Termini. I do hope they survive. Here is their timetable in full:

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: 10th February. Outlook: stable

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 running.

Services between Portugal and Spain remain suspended.

National Services

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

There are 15 trains daily between Madrid and Barcelona on my last check.

Refund policies

Spain has reintroduced the state of emergency and all tickets can be exchanged free of charge. Spain-France: all tickets exchangeable at short notice up until 4th January 2021.

Updated: 10th February. 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 running.

Alfa Pendular and Intercity services are severely reduced and running to this schedule here

Here is CP's coronavirus page.

Refund policies

Refund policies are as usual.

Updated: 10th February. Outlook: getting worse

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
  • Romania
Closed
  • North Macedonia
  • 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

International services, such as are scheduled in autumn, are running.

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: 10th February. 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.

National Services

National services seem to be running normally.

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: 10th February. 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 Travel – 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

The second (or is it third) coming of Covid hasn't thrown the trains as badly as the first wave did. However, in England a new strain of Covid has emerged, grinding Eurostar to a halt.

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 travel??

Face masks are now mandatory on trains in the whole of the UK. Social distancing distance is 1 metre. Fine for not wearing a mask: up to 6,400 GBP

GB border status

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

Open
Closed
  • France
  • Belgium
  • Netherlands

Britain is in lockdown. Much is closed again, and this is likely to affect train services. Recently they invented a new, stricter tier for London and the south east.

The British variant of Covid means Britain is top of most other countries' risk lists.

Eurostar

Face-masks are mandatory on Eurostar trains and at Eurostar stations. You won't be let onto the train without something covering your nose and mouth. 
  • There is one daily Eurostar to Brussels and Amsterdam
  • There is one daily Eurostar to Paris


Before arriving in the UK you need to complete the passenger locator form. Here is the link to this British government form: 

Returning to England from France, Belgium or the Netherlands, you have to self-isolate for 10 days.

National Services

All franchises have been scrapped, putting the railways under state control.

  • Almost all trains are running normally.
  • According to National Rail, during peak times more trains are running, to aid social distancing... somehow I doubt that there is much wriggle room for this, but anyway.


Updated: 9th February. Outlook: getting worse

The Netherlands - coronavirus train travel

??

Face-masks (mondkapjes) are mandatory on all Dutch trains. Social distancing distance is 1.5 metres.

Netherlands border situation

Open
  • Germany
  • Belgium 
  • France
  • England
Closed

International services

Thalys has already laid waste to its timetables. 

IC Brussel is running to its normal schedule.

ICEs to Germany are all running to their normal schedule. 

The IC to Berlin is running to its normal schedule.

On daily Eurostar to England.

Local cross border services

All local cross border services are running.

National Services

On 13th December the new timetable came into force, in the Netherlands as everywhere else. All trains are running. You are advised to

  • Avoid crowds and the rush hour.
  • wear your mondkapje on trains, at stations and on the platforms

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

You can now register your trip in advance with the Treinwijzer. This helps you to see if your train is likely to be crowded. You can find out more about this here

Updated: 9th February. Outlook: getting worse

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 travel

??

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

Belgium border situation

Open
  • The Netherlands
  • France
  • Luxembourg
  • Germany
  • England

Closed


Eurostar


Before arriving in the UK you need to complete the passenger locator form. Here is the link to this British government form:

There is one daily Eurostar to England

International services

If you travel to France, make sure you have this form on you.

  • Thalys has reduced its service drastically
  • ICEs to Germany are running to schedule.
  • IC Brussel is running to schedule
  • The Nightjet to Vienna is cancelled until spring

National Services

National services are suffering now.  SNCB/NMBS have an app dedicated to helping you avoid crowded trains. Various services are reduced in frequency. Click here to have a look.

Here is SNCB/NMBS's corona page.

Updated: 9th February. Outlook: getting worse

France - coronavirus train travel

??

France has reintroduced a pretty strict lockdown, including curfews. You need a self-declaration with you in writing stating why you are out and about.

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

France border situation


Open
  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Belgium
  • Luxembourg
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • England
Closed


International Services

  • TGV and ICE services from Paris to Germany are drastically reduced
  • TGV Lyria services to Switzerland are drastically reduced
  • There is one daily Eurostar to London
  • Here is the link to Eurostar's updates
  • Thalys has drastically reduced services to Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne/Essen
  • Here is the link to Thalys's timetable updates.
  • The Paris-Moscow and Nice-Moscow trains remain cancelled.
  • The Thello to Venice remains cancelled.
  • Services to Spain continue to run.

National Services

All TGVs and Intercités are running. For TERs, check on SNCF.com after 17:00 for the next day.

If you train goes after 20:00 or before 06:00 you need a cast-iron excuse in writing. Telecharge your form here.

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

Dining car services (such as they were) are all suspended.

RER and Transilien are running, mostly.

Check to see if your train is running up to 3 days in advance by visiting sncf.com and entering your train number.

French Covid safety

Those French Covid protection measures in full

Ticket flexibility

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 7th March 2021, as long as you give them 3 days notice.

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: 9th February. Outlook: getting worse. Fine for not wearing a mask: €135 for first-time offenders.

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 travel

??

No face masks necessary, though they are recommended during rush hour. Social distancing distance is not defined. 

Sweden border status


Open
Closed
  • Norway
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Denmark

Sweden has been getting lots of stick for its relatively low-key handling of the pandemic. 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.
  • Denmark

Snälltåget have moved the start of their new Berlin service backwards to May.

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 remain cancelled.

National Services

The whole network is running, though SJ has reduced the frequency of its trains.

Here is SJ's covid page.

As of November 2020, SJ has limited seat reservations yet further, so that if you book a window seat, the aisle seat is definitely empty. 

Certain local services are without reservations. Here is a list of trains expected to be crowded, so you can avoid them (or not).

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 most of its trains again, sells only window seats and offers private compartments. If you want to visit the pub (their restaurant car) you need to reserve in advance.

Ticket flexibility

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: 9th February. Outlook: stable

Norway ??

Face-masks are not mandatory in Norway. They are only urged if you can't keep the social distancing distance, which is 1 m. 

Norway border status


Open
Closed
  • Sweden
  • Denmark
  • Russia

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

Norway is coming down hard on all people entering the country. It wants to become the New Zealand of Europe. You need to come to Norway with a fresh (negative) covid test. Anyone not resident then goes for a 10-day covid-sojourn at a government-stipulated hotel at their own expense (5000 NOK, c. €500).

International services

All international services are suspended.

National Services

Refund policies

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

Updated: 9th February. Outlook: getting worse

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

While Central Europe fared well in the first wave, this time it is different. Czechia is completely out of control, Germany is desperately bidding to get the upper hand again while Poland has even more cases.

Germany - coronavirus rail disruptions

??

Medicinal 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. However, stringent measures and travel restrictions apply, usually involving negative tests and quarantines

Open
  • The Netherlands
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Luxembourg
  • Austria (Salzburg, Passau and Simbach)
  • Belgium
  • Switzerland
  • Poland
Closed
  • Czechia
  • Austria (Kufstein, Mittenwald)

Important: If you enter Germany from what Germany considers a risk-area (say, Île de France, or parts of Romania) you need to fill out this form. Then you need to go into quarantine for 14 days. You can find the German list of risk-areas here. As of 5th November almost everywhere is a risk area.

International Services

Most international services are still running, but are beginning to suffer.

  • The Russian Railways service to Berlin and Paris remains cancelled
  • The sleepers and couchettes on the EN 463/462 Munich-Budapest have been cancelled again. Only seat cars going.
  • Only two daily direct services to Paris.
  • All ECs from Munich to Italy via Tyrol cancelled
  • Nightjets to Austria cancelled from 7th February.


Corona trains

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

Local cross border services

Most local cross-border services are running.

Services from Munich to Tyrol are cancelled due to mutant coronavirus.

Domestic Services

  • Deutsche Bahn are currently running all their mainline trains. 
  • Local services are running normally.
  • The DB lounges have reopened but are not serving drinks or food.
  • Restaurant cars are closed.
  • Flixtrains are cancelled and the FlixMobility boss is in newspapers whining that DB should cancel its trains as well. Poor man.
  • The ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress has cancelled its winter services.

Refund policies

Standard rules apply. Beware of the SuperSparpreis: it explicitly rules out any reimbursement, even in the event of full lockdown.

Updated: 15th February 2021

Switzerland - coronavirus rail disruptions

??

Face-masks are 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

Most International trains are running.

  • 3 daily TGVs from Zürich/Basel and Geneva respectively to Paris
  • 2 daily TGVs Lausanne-Paris via Jura
  • Eurocitys to Italy are reduced. Most services terminating at the Swiss border. Simplon services end at Brig.
  • Railjets and Eurocitys to Austria are running
  • Nightjets to Germany are cancelled
  • Euronights to Czechia cancelled
  • Euronight to Budapest cancelled from 8th February 2021
  • Euronight to Zagreb and Belgrade appears to be running: I can't find anything saying it is cancelled


Local cross border services

France: The Léman express is running normally. Services between Neuchâtel, Portiers and Frasne are running twice a day

Italy: Tilo services are running, but half the S50 trains between Varese and Milano Malpensa are cancelled. 

Germany: Services running normally.

Austria: all local cross border services running normally.

National services

All day trains running. Various late night services are cancelled.

As of 22nd December the restaurant cars are closed.

Click here for SBB's updates

Updated: 15th February 2021

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, FFP2 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 (Salzburg, Simbach and Passau)
  • Switzerland
  • Czechia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Italy
Closed
  • Hungary (open only to Hungarians)
  • Germany (Kufstein, Mittenwald)

International Services

International services are suffering.

  • Railjets to Venezia Santa Lucia terminate at Villach
  • Seasonal ski trains all cancelled
  • ECs from Italy via Tyrol to Munich all cancelled
  • Download and fill out this form to enter Italy
  • IC 336 has been shortened and is running only between Linz and České Budějovice.
  • The Russian Railways' Moscow-Nice service has yet to be reinstated
  • Hungarian Railways MÁV have taken their sleepers and couchettes out of service again.
  • International services to Hungary are scaled back due to draconian measures in Hungary.
  • The IC 44/45 Vienna to Košice and 143/144 Cluj Napoca/Satu Mare are cancelled until further notice.
EuroNight 462

One of the very few international trains that ran throughout lockdown: EuroNight 463/462 "Kálmán Imre"


Local cross border services

Most local cross-border services to all border countries are running. That includes the Micotra service from Villach to Udine and Trieste.

There are no trains to Bavaria via Kufstein, MIttenwald or Griesen.

National services

Mainline and local services are running normally.

Click here for more details.

WESTbahn are running every hour between Vienna and Salzburg.

WESTbahn and ÖBB not recognising each others' tickets anymore, from 8th February, Westbahn expected to reduce its timetable.

Updated: 15th February

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

International services to Germany, Czechia and Slovakia are running.

National Services

National services remain scaled back. Only 50% of seats are available for sale.

Refund policies

Tickets bought for cancelled trains can be returned free of charge or used on other services. I assume some form of new reservation will have to be made.

Updated: 8th February 2021

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 were reintroduced on 1st September and are mandatory on public transport throughout Czechia. 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 had returned to normal, but now it is having an appalling second wave. Services are severely impacted. No night trains at all.

International Services

International services are still running

  • Trains from Prague to Berlin are running (but for how long, still?)
  • Regiojet is going to Slovakia
  • Services to Austria reduced
  • Day services to Poland reduced
  • Services to Munich (Ex6 / ALEX) running between Munich and Plzen only.
  • Night trains to Slovakia are cancelled
  • Night trains to Hungary are suspended
  • RegioJet services to Slovakia are running
  • Day trains to Slovakia and Hungary are running as of 8th February 2021

National Services

České Dráhy: Domestic services are seriously impacted now.

Here is a map of all České Dráhy services from 8th February.

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. RegioJet continues to serve Slovakia.

Leo Express appears to be running to schedule.

Refund policies

Standard refund policies apply.

Updated: 8th February

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 2 m.

International Services

  • Day trains to Czechia and Hungary are running as of 8th February 2021
  • International services (ZSSK and RegioJet) to Czechia are reduced, but running.
  • Most services to Austria running
  • Ukraine is closed 
  • Night trains to Czechia cancelled
  • The IC 44/45 Košice-Bratislava-Vienna is cancelled
  • Here is ZSSK's coronavirus page:

National Services

ZSSK, Slovakia's national operator is running most of its schedule.

Ticket offices have been closed.

Domestic night trains are running.

Restaurant cars are closed. Trains that did have a restaurant car now have a minibar in coach number 2.

Here is that timetable in full.

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

Time for a video:

Refund policies

Standard refund policies apply.

Updated: 8th February 2021

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