A brief summer of Eurail

Careful travel tips from 5 Eurail colleagues

It's been a tough year for our travel-addicted Eurail colleagues. But in between lockdowns and better appreciating our local neighbourhoods, some of us were able to explore the parts of Europe that were briefly open for travel this summer. Minibreaks were made, face masks were worn and hands were washed - a lot.

For those colleagues who were lucky enough to travel this year, we asked them to share where they went, as well as their top tips for travelling with care in these times.

Sarah - Portugal

Several destinations re-opened in late summer, so we took the window of opportunity to Interrail across Portugal, grateful for the chance to travel. The highlight was a journey from Porto to the Douro Valley, a slow train offering beautiful views of the terraced vineyards and valleys, with the changing colours of autumn only serving to accentuate the natural surrounds. This was followed by a boat trip up the Douro River, allowing for further opportunity to admire the vistas.

Throughout this excellent adventure, we were positively encouraged by the measures taken to protect travellers in this country, with many of the attractions on our list remaining open. All that was needed was a little extra planning in advance and being mindful of the precautions we needed to take. I’d recommend any potential travellers to do the same once travel is possible once more – be careful, but remember to enjoy yourself too!

Nadine - France

I travelled with my family in France in August this year and took the opportunity to visit what’s normally a tourist hotspot, but this time without all the crowds St Émilion. The famous village is well known for its unique location amongst Grand-Cru rated grapevines, medieval architecture, and delicious macaroons made the same traditional way since 1620!

Throughout France I carried a mask with me; it was required to be worn in public areas and stores. Within the St Émilion city walls you were asked to wear a mask, but with the views on offer I didn’t even notice I was wearing it. And in case you were unsure of how to socially distance, the local boulangerie close to where we were staying had conveniently made a French baguette of 1.5 metres long, to remind you of how much space you needed between people – both creative and delicious!

Anne Marlotte - Austria

Austria is one of my favourite countries to visit in Europe. It offers practically everything that I look for in a holiday: beautiful baroque architecture; dramatic alpine scenery; and a variety of exciting outdoor activities. In the beginning of August, I used an Interrail Global Pass to travel between Innsbruck, Zell am See (pictured), Hallstatt and Salzburg. I picked these destinations purposefully, as they all have direct train connections and easy accessibility to the mountains surrounding them... There is no better place to practice social distancing than on top of a mountain!

At first I felt a bit hesitant to travel during a pandemic, but it was all relatively easy. My advice for safe travels? I would recommend to plan every train you will be taking before you go, reserve a seat in advance, if needed (reservation costs in Austria are very cheap), avoid busy transfers and big crowds. Lastly, add a face covering to your packing list and make sure to wear it on each train and in public places.

Dilyana & Žana - Slovenia

We travelled by rail from Utrecht, the Netherlands to Graz, Austria, and continued from there to Slovenia. The whole train journey took around 13 hours, with a few train transfers, yet the trip was smooth and went by fast. Although all the trains were rather full, people were respecting the rules which made travelling feel safe. Our trip consisted of exploring Slovenia's nature and cities. There weren’t many tourists while hiking around the Triglav National Park, so it was a great time to discover mountains and lakes. When it came to cities, streets were fuller but not overcrowded, bars and restaurants were open, but people followed the measures.

Overall, it was a pleasant journey and stay in Slovenia and travelling didn’t feel that different to what we are used to from before. With an exception of wearing a mask on a 13 hour train journey. For this reason, don’t forget to bring some chewing gum! :D Another advice for travellers: if possible, reserve a seat to avoid sitting close to strangers and for extra peace of mind. If travelling by yourself, make sure to book a single seat or two seats next to each other if travelling with a companion.

Bern, Switzerland

Lukas - Switzerland & Germany

This summer, when travel was allowed within Europe, my wife and I travelled from the Netherlands to Switzerland and Germany with Eurail Passes. After staying in the Netherlands for quite some time, it was really refreshing to have a change of scenery! We felt quite safe throughout the whole journey because face mask rules were observed quite diligently. We also made sure to carry hand sanitiser with us at all times, to disinfect our hands any time we felt like it was needed.

One thing that was definitely different was rushing to catch your train. In the past, we always loved the thrill of running to hop aboard at the last minute. Now that facemasks are mandatory on the train, it can be a lot more difficult to catch your breath and cool down from the sprint. I would definitely recommend giving yourself plenty of time to catch your train. Also, we tried to use trains that did not have mandatory reservations so that we could choose to sit in places where it would be easier to maintain social distancing.