England fans to use Gdańsk as base for Kaliningrad games
Travel companies experience a surge in bookings ahead of England game.
Thousands of football fans are expected to descend on Gdańsk during the World Cup and use the city as a staging post for matches in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
Such are the numbers that some travel companies are warning that fans could well face difficulties getting into Russia on match days owing to limited vehicle transport between Gdańsk and Kaliningrad and no rail or boat service.
One of the host cities of the World Cup group stages, Kaliningrad will be the venue for a number of games, including Belgium vs England, one of the big matches of the opening stages.
But with fears of possible violence in Russia and high hotel prices, many supporters are opting to stay in Gdańsk instead. Just 150 kilometres from Kaliningrad the Baltic city has a developed tourist infrastructure and low-cost flight connections with many other European countries.
A popular plan among fans, it appears, is to travel to and from Kaliningrad on match day.
“We have two coaches full and, if I could get another three coaches today they would be full in the next 24 hours,” said Chris Flory, director of the Coach Innovations, an English company laying on transport between Gdańsk and Kaliningrad. “I sent a begging letter today to our Polish company to see if there is any chance of getting one more bus. At the moment are phones lines are getting blocked by the number of calls and we’re being bombarded with emails, and to be honest and it is something we could do without. If I were a betting man I would say 5,000 England fans might go to Poland.”
Other travel companies have also experienced a surge in bookings.
“We are already fully booked for our transports to Kaliningrad, and we are still receiving more enquiries, and we put these people on a waiting list in case spaces become available,” said Karina Winiarek, from the travel company AB Poland Travel. “Most of our clients are from England for these transfers.”
Travel companies also stress that Belgians might also head to the city for the big England match and so increase the stress on transport services to Russia.
“Many of those going are going to find it absolutely impossible to get to Kaliningrad,” said Mr Flory. “So many England fans have now booked their flights, got their tickets, got their hotels paid for but now realise they can’t get from Gdansk to Kaliningrad. I think it will be a huge problem.”