Is traveling to Eastern Europe still safe during the Russian war against Ukraine?

The world watched Russiathe seat of Ukraine for nearly a month now and with no end in sight, travelers who had planned trips to visit neighboring countries have been grappling with uncertainty.

From the start of the Russian invasion, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) – the EU agency responsible for monitoring the safety of the skies for passengers – warned air carriers against flights in the airspace over Ukraine, Moldova and parts of Belarus and Russia. Soon after, many European and non-European countries imposed sanctions and airspace restrictions on Russia, with Russia responding tit for tat, forcing airlines around the world to redirect their flights.


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In the weeks that followed, travel advisors said they answered many questions and mixed reactions customers with vacation plans in Europe, some of whom feared the violence would spread to surrounding areas and others feared that refugee activity could potentially disrupt their travels. A recent survey conducted by MMGY Global revealed that the armed conflict in Ukraine is now twice as likely affect US travelers’ European travel plans due to any COVID-19 concerns at this stage.

But, it should be noted that, weeks after the start of the conflict, the EASA had no reason to add other risk areas to its Conflict Zones Newsletter (CZIB), since the Russian invasion remains a contained military action, targeting only Ukraine. So does that mean there is no danger for travelers to neighboring countries like Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Turkey?

Based on the latest guidelines set by European travel authorities and the UK Foreign Office, euro news compiled information on whether tourist apprehensions on continuing travel plans to Eastern European destinations are valid.

An EASA spokeswoman told Euronews that the agency takes into account all available intelligence when updating the CZIB, working closely with the European Commission (the executive arm of the EU) and the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation, also known as Eurocontrol.

Gdansk, Poland.
Gdansk, Poland. (photo courtesy of Collette)

While the 27 EU member states, plus the US, UK, Albania, Canada, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, ban Russian planes from entering their space airlines – and Russia retaliated by banning them – only Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus have effectively halted all commercial flights.

Is it safe to fly to neighboring countries?

Although US travelers should always refer to the State DepartmentAccording to the latest indications of their destination, it is still considered safe to visit countries bordering Ukraine, such as Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. Those traveling to Poland should note that some areas near the Belarusian border are closed and tourists should book accommodation in advance, as there is currently an influx of Ukrainian refugees entering Poland.

A spokesperson for the Hungarian Tourism Agency recently told CNN: “Hungary remains a safe country and life goes on as normal here. The Hungarian government is doing everything possible to avoid being involved in the war and to preserve the safety of Hungarian residents and visiting tourists.”

Bird's eye view of Vilnius Old Town from Gediminas Tower, Lithuania (Photo via iiokua/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
Bird’s eye view of Vilnius Old Town from Gediminas Tower, Lithuania. (photo via iiokua/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

And the Baltic?

Global airlines continue to fly on their normal schedules to the Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – indicating that aviation experts and regulators consider it safe to do so.

Lithuania declared its own state of emergency on February 24 when Russia launched its attack on Ukraine, but the British Foreign Office issued no advice against travel to the country, meaning that it is still considered safe to visit. Note that visitors are currently required to carry photo identification at all times and be prepared to present it to law enforcement officials if required.

Is cruising still safe in the area?

Several cruise lines have been forced to change their routes following the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Baltic travel was particularly affected, as many of these routes usually stop in St. Petersburg. Most major cruise lines were able to make adjustments, rather than cancel sailings entirely, although Viking was forced to cancel its Ukrainian river cruises and suspend all operations in Russia for the year. “We have canceled all 2022 departures from our river routes in Russia – and will replace scheduled stops in Russia for all ocean routes in 2022,” a Viking spokesperson said.

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