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SWEDISH VOCABULARY

Travel within Sweden returns to pre-coronavirus levels

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

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

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

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

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

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


File photo: Pontus Lundahl / TT

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

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

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

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

But will the upward trend continue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vocabulary

a heatwave — (en) värmebölja

to advise against doing something — att avråda från

invalid — ogiltig

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

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

 

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DRIVING

What’s it like driving from Scandinavia to the UK with a young family?

With the cost of airline tickets increasingly discouraging, is driving from Scandinavia to the UK becoming a more attractive option? The Local Denmark editor Michael Barrett gave it a try.

What’s it like driving from Scandinavia to the UK with a young family?

This summer has seen the return of large-scale international travel after a couple of Covid-hit years that have not been a picnic for anyone.

While the end of restrictions came as a relief, severe delays and disruptions at airports have added a new uncertainty around travel in 2022.

Scandinavia has not been an exception to this, with strikes at Scandinavian airline SAS and delays at Copenhagen and other airports among the problems faced by the sector.

Additionally, the increasing price of airline tickets in a time when inflation is hitting living costs across the board has become another factor discouraging air travel.

Finally, there’s the impact of air travel on climate to be considered. So is there an alternative?

The plan

Unlike colleagues who have made long distance journeys from France and Sweden respectively by rail, our plan was to make the trip from our home in Denmark to the UK by car.

There are a few reasons we picked this less climate-friendly option. I’ll readily admit they were driven (no pun intended) by our own needs, and not those of the planet. I hope we can offset this by using the train more than the car for longer journeys within Denmark, where costs are competitive.

Once we decided not to take our usual Ryanair flight, we only really considered driving. This is primarily because we have a toddler (age two), and felt that on such a long journey, the ability to control the timing and length of our stops would be crucial.

Secondly, the route would have taken longer and been more difficult logistically by rail, and would also have cost more. For example, we arrived at Harwich International Port late on a weekday evening, from where onward travel was to rural Suffolk. The thought of doing this on multiple local rail (possibly bus) services with a tired two-year-old makes me shudder a bit.

The route

From our home in central Denmark, we set out on a Monday morning and drove south on the E45 motorway, crossing the German border and continuing past Hamburg. We then got on to the A1 Autobahn and made for Bremen, where we stopped overnight.

Travelling non-stop, this journey takes just under four hours. It took us around five and a half. We stopped twice and were caught in traffic at Hamburg, where there is lot of construction going on around the city’s ring road.

Leaving early (just after 6am) the following day, we drove southwest and crossed the border into the Netherlands after a brief stop, but then managed to complete the journey to the port town Hook of Holland without a further break.

Our ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich was due to leave at 2:15pm and check-in time was an hour before that. This was the only deadline we had on our journey that would have been problematic to miss, so we gave ourselves plenty of time for the drive from Bremen. We arrived in Hook of Holland at around 11:30am.

Next was a six-hour ferry crossing to the East Anglian coast. We booked a cabin – they are inexpensive on daytime crossings – which gave us a chance to relax after the drive and our daughter a comfortable spot for her afternoon nap.

After a queue at customs in Harwich which took around 45 minutes, we were driving through the Essex countryside just before 9pm local time. The final drive to our destination took an hour and a half.

What went right

It’s not the most relevant information for anyone considering a similar trip, but I have to mention our car. A 2003 VW Polo we bought two years ago that has never had any mechanical issues, I was nevertheless braced for possible problems given its age (and ensured I had roadside assistance for outside of Denmark, more detail on this below).

However, there was not so much as a hint of an issue of any kind at any point during the 900 kilometres it covered on the journey, nor on the way home. Respect.

Our plan to split the trip into two days paid off. I think you could do it in one day (there are also overnight ferries) if you shared the driving and needed less flexibility. I should also recognise here that we live relatively close to Germany and our destination was close to the east coast of the UK. If you were travelling, for example, from Copenhagen to Cardiff, you’d have significantly more driving to do.

For us, knowing we could take long breaks if we needed them took a lot of stress out of the journey and allowed us to adapt to our toddler’s needs – changing nappies, finding a service station playground or stopping for an ice cream.

Stopping overnight also gave us the chance to see some new places (we switched things up on the way back and stayed in Groningen in the north of the Netherlands, instead of Bremen) and gave us a feeling of being on our own little bonus holiday.

What went wrong

In all, things went as well as we possibly could have hoped for and our conclusion after we got back home was that we’d like to travel this way again.

We were stopped by traffic police in Groningen city centre because I failed to understand signs showing we were entering a public transport-only zone. The officers who stopped us then offered to escort us to our accommodation a few streets away.

The ferry, operated by Stena Lines, had far less to do on board than we’d imagined there would be on a six-hour voyage. Two tiny off-duty shops, a cinema showing a superhero film and a minuscule play area (which our daughter nevertheless enjoyed) were about the extent of it. We hadn’t downloaded any films ourselves or brought much entertainment with us from the car, so we got a bit bored during the crossing. This is hardly a serious gripe and an easy one to rectify on the return trip.

The practical stuff 

Roadside assistance is obviously crucial for a journey like this, and it’s also important to double check your insurance is valid once you leave the country in which your car is registered and insured – Denmark, in our case.

Foreign authorities can check your insurance is valid. You can document this with the International Motor Insurance or “Green” card, which serves as proof you have motor insurance when you drive outside of the EU (you don’t need it within the EU).

This means that (in theory) you can be asked to present it in the UK. We weren’t asked for it.

The Green Card can be printed via your insurance company’s website. You’ll need your MitID or NemID secure login to access the platform and print off your document. Here is an example of the relevant page on the website of insurance company Tryg. If you can’t find the right section on your insurance company’s website, contact them by phone.

A number of Danish companies specialise in roadside assistance, including Falck and SOS Dansk Autohjælp. You can also include roadside assistance as part of your motor insurance package. We have the latter option, but in either case, I’d recommend calling your provider to make sure you are covered for breakdown in the EU and non-EU countries like the UK (if that’s where you’re going). Obviously, you should add such cover to your existing deal if you don’t have it, or change to a different deal.

The company which operates the ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich is Stena Line. Both directions have daytime and overnight departures.

There is a range of prices, and I couldn’t cover all the options here if I tried. However, I’d recommend a cabin on the daytime departures, because it’s inexpensive and gives you a bit of personal space and privacy, which is useful with children.

After calculating what our approximate fuel costs would be, the price of the hotel stays and ferry tickets, we found that the trip cost around 1,500 kroner more than we would have paid to fly from Billund Airport to London Stansted with checked-in baggage with Ryanair on the same dates. In return, we could take as much luggage as we want with us (and back), we got to see Bremen and Groningen and had our own car with us in the UK. This was more than worth the additional expense.

I also spent 50 kroner on a “DK” sticker for the tailgate of the car (because the car is so old it predates the EU number plates that include the country code) and 70 kroner for some headlight stickers which prevent full beam headlamps from dazzling oncoming drivers when you are driving on the left in the UK.

As I busily fixed them onto my car as we waited to disembark the ferry, however, a lorry driver parked next to us said these were, in fact, entirely unnecessary.

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