A few things I did to feel more comfortable when travelling on the train in the UK
For a lot of people, trains are a lifeline. They allow us to travel both across the country and between countries, short distances and long hauls. Though we’re still discouraged to take public transport in the UK due to the ongoing pandemic, for some of us public transport is the only option.
With shops, restaurants and pubs reopening, leisure activities resuming, and the government increasingly encouraging staycations this year, the world seems like it’s returning to normal. However, after so much time with the government discouraging the use of public transport, it’s a little daunting to actually step onto a train.
In the UK, it is compulsory to wear a face covering on public transport. Earlier this week, it was announced that masks were also to become compulsory in shops, with a fine of up to £100 if you don’t comply. These muddled, back-and-forth rules are enough to confuse anyone, and can be distressing for the anxious among us.
Last weekend, I had a mini staycation in Bath, and I was quite nervous to get the train there. Here’s a couple of things I noticed when travelling, and things I did to ease my worries.
Take a spare mask
Will they kick me off the train if I lose my mask? Will I give someone coronavirus?
I had major mask anxiety ahead of my trip, with a niggling feeling that I was always about to mislay my mask, drop it between trains, or leave it on the platform. To remedy this, I kept a spare mask in a secure pocket in my backpack to ensure that if I did somehow lose my mask, I’d have another one to hand in an instant.
The strictness of mask wearing varied between stations and trains. We weren’t allowed in certain stations without a mask on (they checked you at the barriers), and some trains had staff patrolling them to ensure everyone had their mask on. All stations had announcements telling you to wear a mask. Everyone pretty much complied.
Book your tickets in advance, and book a seat if you can.
Memorise your itinerary if you’re taking multiple trains/connections, or have it on an easily accessible page.
Ensure the tickets are on your phone: some stations aren’t allowing for the collection of printed tickets at machines. If this gives you phone battery anxiety (I feel you), take a phone charger, and a portable charger if you have one. Most trains now have plug sockets, so you should be fine with either!
You’re not allowed to sit in aisle seats anymore, to ensure people walking through carriages can do so safely. Pick a window seat, ideally skipping a least a row between you and the next passenger.
I would also highly recommend, if possible, finding a window that you can open. This wasn’t possible for me on all trains, but sitting near an open window when I could allowed fresh air to circle, and made it much easier to breathe in my mask.
All that time spent with my face covered made my mouth super dry and my nose really stuffy. If you’re travelling by train, I’d recommend that you take a big bottle of water with you and take small, frequent sips. Keeping yourself hydrated is super important always, but especially when you’re feeling a bit worried, or not breathing as deeply as usual. I personally find drinking water really calming, too.
Taking small, frequent sips will prevent you needing to uncover your mouth for longer periods of time. You’re better off keeping yourself hydrated with tiny mask breaks than dehydrating yourself and needing a longer mask break!
Or hand wipes. When we sat down in our train seats, we made sure to sanitise the tables and armrests so we could sit comfortably without worrying about what we were touching. Also super useful if you take a trip to the bathroom!
Look after yourself!
Keep hydrated and fed. If you need 5 minutes off to have a sandwich, do that. Don’t pass out from hunger or thirst because you didn’t want to take your mask off, especially if it’s a long train journey.
Don’t rely on shops being open or food being available to purchase on the train. When I was travelling, there wasn’t a single shop open in any of the stations I passed through. Pack yourself a bag, and have a snack when you need to.
Also, have a small breather if you need. If you’re panicking and the mask is making you claustrophobic, not addressing the issue by having a breather is just going to make things worse. Ideally, do this near a window or between train journeys.