Like many things, tourism took quite the hit because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Some countries depend on tourism, however. This is what it is like travelling to one of those countries, Croatia, from Hungary.
Most of the travel restrictions in the European Union were lifted in the second half of June and early July, however, the number of new coronavirus cases started increasing in some countries.
There were a rising number of cases in Croatia, for example, but they were reported to have been from family gatherings, weddings and christenings and not from tourists and travelling. As a precaution though, Croatia did close its borders to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Serbia.
Although it is now possible to travel between most EU states, there are still precautions one has to follow in order to make the trip as safe as possible and to minimise the chance of a second wave of the coronavirus. Countries have been categorised into green, orange and red zones, depending on the number of cases in the given country. The Hungarian government asks people to be cautious when travelling, even if the country is considered low-risk, as it is crucial to avoid a second wave.
Green countries – such as Croatia – are deemed safe to travel to and do not require a two-week quarantine after returning to Hungary. Orange countries require either a two-week quarantine or two negative tests after returning. Travel is not allowed to and from red countries. People are already looking for loopholes to avoid quarantine if they were to travel to orange countries.
By now, everyone knows that masks are required in public spaces, such as public transportation or grocery stores. Not everyone is okay with this rule, though, refusing to wear them over their nose or at all. Some governments took to fine those who refuse to wear them. Washing your hand regularly and thoroughly is another practice besides wearing a mask that lowers the risk of catching the virus as well as keeping a distance of 1,5-2 meters from others.
So do people actually follow these rules and precautions while travelling? Do Croatians take it more seriously than Hungarians or is it the opposite?
On Hungarian trains, a lot of the time, not even the conductor is wearing their mask correctly, or at all, and these conductors do not tell people to put theirs on either. While other conductors will get into fights with passengers until they put the mask on. The same can be said about Croatia, whether the mask rule is enforced depends entirely on what the conductor is like.
Each wagon on Croatian trains has two hand-sanitizing stations, at both ends of a wagon, which Hungarian trains do not yet have. And although hand sanitiser is not as good as a good, thorough wash with soap for 20 seconds, it is more than nothing.
It is quite hard to social distance in a train full of people, where personal space is continuously invaded. While on the way from Budapest to Zagreb each cabin only had as many people as were travelling together, on the way back, the cabins were filled with people almost to the maximum, because of a shortage of seats on the local train, apparently.
The air conditioning was turned off, the window could not be opened, and with five people stuffed in a small cabin, it is quite hard to breathe even without a mask, because there is no air.
Does the border patrol follow the mask rules? Or are they like the conductors and do what they feel like? On the way to Croatia, Hungarian border patrol did not wear masks nor gloves, while their Croatian colleagues wore both. On the way back, however, it was the opposite, and Hungarian border patrol could be heard asking people to put their masks properly on as they made their way down the train.
What could be improved?
Everyone should be accustomed to wearing a mask and washing their hands regularly, and while personal hygiene cannot be policed, masks can, and giving fines to people who refuse to wear them might solve the problem, as no one likes a fine.
Hand-sanitizing stations are also a great addition, as it is more accessible than the toilet on the train, which might be occupied at any time.
Limiting tickets and making sure there are no more than two people in one cabin – unless they are travelling together –, especially if that cabin does not have an openable window, would also be a great way to ensure a safe distance from strangers.
Conductors and border patrol should also take wearing masks more seriously, as people seeing them not wearing one will surely make them feel like they do not need one either.
And if you do have the chance to quarantine after returning home even from a “low-risk” country, please do so, to protect those around you.
Source: Daily News Hungary