Reality Check: “Covid Express” To Croatia
RegioJet’s special direct overnight train connection to Croatia comes to an end on September 25th, and with the epidemiological situation deteriorating in both Croatia and the Czech Republic, taking it now might not be the best idea. But what was it really like on board? Our guest contributor Joe Emerson has been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale… Photo credit: Regiojet.
Hardly a journey journal but a few thoughts on board the fittingly-named Covid Express (not my words, but those of a local Croatian we met in a cafe coughing into his Covid Express-o). Anyway enough bad-taste jokes, let’s keep this plague and simple…
We took the 19.48 overnight train from Brno to Rijeka. One big plus was having no lengthy trip to the airport. A second was not waiting with the rabble in the lounge buying overpriced snacks, and a third not worrying about my oversized luggage going into the measurement box of doom. We were straight onto the train from the centre of town with a massive bag at no extra charge, and liquids well over 100ml!
Carriage 12, Coupe 13: Our home for the next 12 hours. Old-school decor but clean and functional, big window, aircon with flip-up beds. A little hard but comfy enough to catch some rocky sleep.
My girlfriend teleported all the way to Croatia – by which I mean she slept the whole way and woke up to a croissant and a coffee delivered to her bed, saying she’d never slept better. Unfortunately that moment of joy was pretty short-lived as I clumsily kicked the coffee all over her favourite jumper.
Speaking as the most unpopular man in coupe 13, I did manage to sleep a few hours as well, which is more than I anticipated, being a lanky 6ft 2 (1m88) light sleeper.
Anyway, here are some potentially useful facts if you decide to risk it…
Passengers could choose between a seat (with a TV Screen and movies provided), or a shared or private coupe. The layout of bed and seat positions on the website was slightly confusing; there is either a seat or a bed and you don’t get both. You could sit in the coupe when the top beds were not flipped, and they rest against the wall. It was also possible to upgrade from a seat to a bed before your trip, if you changed your mind about the 12-hour sitting expedition.
One friendly train attendant looked after our carriage; he showed us how to put the beds up, checked if we wanted food/drinks etc., and he also reminded us of our upcoming stops. We still missed our stop on the way back but that was entirely our fault. I mainly blame relying on the traditional method of coffee consumption, as it obviously didn’t have a big enough kick to it, but lucky for us Brno has two stops, so we narrowly avoided the unnecessary trip to Prague.
You can pre-order food online when you purchase your ticket. Pasta pots, sandwiches and other snacks are also available on board but the selection may be limited. Alcohol could be purchased on board but you weren’t allowed to drink your own. A free breakfast was provided, consisting of a croissant and choice of tea or coffee.
We were stopped twice for roughly 15 minutes at the borders in the morning. They just checked our passports/ID. This was all very straightforward, however as I’m from the UK, which is a red zone virus-wise at the moment, they questioned me a little and asked for extra identification. I brought some proof that I was living in Brno and all was good. I think the combination of red zone and Brexit makes for a pretty undesirable character. My hand-made “I voted Remain” T-Shirt didn’t seem to have the desired effect either, but it did come in handy to clean up the spilt coffee.
Bedding: Washed, bagged and sealed bedding is provided along with pyjamas, pillow etc.
Lights out: They automatically turn off the lights at around 10.30pm, but you have a little bedside light to use throughout the night.
Wifi: It dropped in and out but was otherwise okay.
Smoking: There were no cigarette breaks for 12 hours, so people were smoking as much as possible before getting on the train. I’m pretty sure I saw someone smoking two cigs at once before the departure whistle sent them scurrying up the carriage steps.
Cancellation: Not possible within 14 days of travel.
Overall I thought it was a really great service and I can certainly recommend.
This route is ending for this year on September 25th, but travel is at your own risk, as Croatia and the Czech Republic are both currently registering big increases in the number of cases.
Here is some other important information taken from the Regiojet website and also some helpful links regarding the current travel restrictions:
- Dear passengers, it is not possible to buy a ticket from Rijeka to other Croatian destinations. If you plan to use RegioJet buses in Croatia, please purchase the entire route to your final destination as one ticket. Dear passengers, before the trip, please get acquainted with the rules for entering Croatian territory. Before the trip, it is necessary to fill in the form, after which you will receive a so-called “confirmation of notification” by email. Please have this confirmation with you, it can be requested by border control staff. Before the trip, it is also necessary to have secured accommodation (either privately or through a travel agency) and to bring with you a booking confirmation / voucher for accommodation, etc. Thank you for your understanding.
- Up-to-date travel information from the Czech Embassy in Zagreb (in Czech)
- Enter Croatia (Croatian Ministry of Tourism)
- More info about the route and travel options from RegioJet