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Readers’ best tips for travelling to and from Sweden during the holidays

The Local's readers share their advice for travelling to and from Sweden over the holidays as pandemic restrictions and staff shortages cause delays and cancellations. 

Readers' best tips for travelling to and from Sweden during the holidays
People wait in line for Covid-19 tests at Newark Liberty International Airport in the US the day before Christmas Eve. Photo: AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey

In spite of restrictions, delays and cancellations, many foreigners were able to travel to visit family for the holidays for the first time this month. We asked The Local’s readers for their advice on how to get where you want to go despite the chaos and new restrictions. 

The WHO has also published advice on how to protect yourself while travelling.

Be early

Gone are the days of arriving at the airport half an hour before your flight. The most common advice we got from readers was about getting to the airport as early as you possibly can. Some responses even suggested that you get there four hours before an inter-continental flight. 

Most airlines now require manual check-in so they can check all your documents in-person and this results in lengthy queues at the check-in desk. Going through security is generally less tedious – we’re all used to putting our liquids in tiny bottles now – but it’s still good to arrive with plenty of time to spare before your flight. My personal experience involved waiting over an hour in line to check-in (I arrived two and a half hours before departure).  

Be kind

Travelling is stressful at the best of times, and even more so during a global pandemic. Staff shortages due to sick leave mean that already overworked airport staff are going to be more stressed than usual at such a busy time. 

Philip O’Connor suggests: “Be as early as you can, bring snacks and paper copies of all your docs (which you’ve checked the night before), and remember that it’s not the fault of counter staff – being nice to them will get you to where you want to go far quicker than pulling a Karen.” 

Be prepared

Print out your documents and keep them somewhere safe, preferably in one of those plastic wallets. Make sure to also have digital copies of everything just in case a piece of paper escapes. 

It differs by airline and destination, but you’ll likely need proof of vaccination, proof of a negative Covid test, and other supporting documents for your journey. It’s up to passengers to check the requirements for each country they are travelling to and through. The Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs has up-to-date information on the different regulations that apply to international travellers. 

If you are connecting flights, try to make sure there’s enough time between connections. You’ll be better off booking with a single airline instead of linking them with budget portals.

But even the best prepared traveller can be hit with unforeseen circumstances in times like these, so be prepared to be unprepared. 

Colin Stewart says: “Know the rules in detail from primary sources, keep a copy of every boarding pass, form, certificate, etc. Be prepared to rebook tests and pickups. Anticipate flight re-bookings, missed connections and extra days travel.”

Wear a mask 

Sweden’s major airports comply with European aviation regulatory guidelines which ask that all adults wear a mask in terminals (but based on reports to The Local the recommendation is not followed by all passengers, so that is something you may want to be aware of).

Wearing a mask on a plane is now mandatory everywhere. HEPA filters on board planes can help to clear viruses from circulating in cabin air, but masks provide another barrier against Covid-19 spreading. 

If you’re going on a long-distance flight, make sure to bring enough masks for the journey: a mask is only effective for four hours. Some airlines only accept single-use medical face masks to FFP2, KN95, N95 standards, while others accept other types of cloth coverings. It’s best to check with the airline you’re travelling with before leaving home.  

Save up money

Travelling during the pandemic has become more costly due to increases in the price of flights to cover for cancellation insurance and paying for the necessary tests and quarantine arrangements. This has been enough to put some people off travelling altogether. 

After spending £400 on Covid tests to visit family, The Local’s CEO and publisher, James Savage, said: “My top tip for travel to the UK: have a big budget and don’t expect to leave the house while you’re there.” 

Another reader suggested upgrading your ticket so you can get fast track check-in and enjoy the comforts of a less-crowded lounge.

Have you managed to travel home for the holidays despite the pandemic chaos? Let us know your tips for travelling below. 

Member comments

  1. This is not terribly helpful, is it? If anyone is flying between Stockholm/Iceland/Boston in the first week of Jan. 2022 and has an actual report of conditions on the ground – and if the system is functioning – I would like to hear about it. I am scheduled to fly from Boston to Stockholm on 11 January. Cheers from Vermont, USA.

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TRAVEL NEWS

EXPLAINED: What’s behind the queues at Stockholm Arlanda airport?

Travellers are reporting queues over an hour long at Stockholm's Arlanda airport. What's going on and how long is it expected to last?

EXPLAINED: What's behind the queues at Stockholm Arlanda airport?

What’s the situation at Stockholm Arlanda airport? 

On Friday morning, there were queues lasting over an hour at Arlanda’s security controls. By 10am, they had been reduced to below half an hour, according to the live update the airport operator, Swedavia, maintains on its website here

Swedavia first began warning of long queue times on Monday, saying the queues were the result of a resurgence in travel combined with staffing shortages at Avarn, the contractor responsible for managing the security checks. 

“The wait times are due to a staff shortage with our security services contractor – which is caused by ongoing recruitment and absences due to illness,” the airport said on its website

What are travellers saying? 

Twitter is predictably awash with angry comments from travellers, including some well-known commentators. 

The terrorism researcher Magnus Ranstorp resorted to capital letters to bemoan the “CATASTROPHE” at the airport. 

The Financial Times’ Nordic Correspondent also compared the situation at Arlanda unfavourably with the smooth controls at Helsinki Airport

“Never seen anything like it and sounds like might be worse today. In Terminal 5 both queues, SAS and Norwegian, were well over 100 metres long,” he told The Local. “It took me 50 minutes to get through security. Don’t think it’s ever taken more than 10 in the Nordics before.” 

What should you do if you are travelling through Stockholm Arlanda at the moment? 

Swedavia recommends that you arrive “well in advance” when taking a flight. You can contact your airline here to find out when their check-ins and baggage drops open.  

Swedavia also recommends that you do everything possible to speed up the check-in process, such as:

  • checking in from home
  • packing hand baggage to make screening faster
  • checking the need for a face covering in advance
  • checking that you have the right travel documents ready 

If you can’t check in from home, Swedavia recommends seeing if you can check in using an automated machine at the airport.

What is the airport doing to to improve the situation? 

On June 15th, the airport is reopening Terminal 4, which might help somewhat, although the airport warns that as staffing is the major problem, having more space will not fully solve the problem over the summer. 

In a press release issued on Friday, Svedavia’s chief operations officer, Peder Grunditz, said opening a new terminal was “an important measure”. 

“We are now going to have the three biggest terminals back in operation for the first time since the pandemic,” he said. 

The company and Avarn are also making “big recruitment efforts” and taking “operational measures” to improve the queue situation, although the “challenging labour market” made that difficult. 

When will waiting times return to normal? 

In his press release, Grunditz conceded that waiting times were not likely to return to normal during the summer, due to the rapid growth in the number of people taking flights. 

“Even though we expect gradual improvements, the queuing situation is going to continue to be challenging during periods over the summer,” he said. 

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