Tips for Visitors to Eastern Europe

By: Keith Barrett

Prague, Budapest, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius and Bucharest were once just names that many of us might spot when leafing through a World Atlas. Few of us knew much about these cities or what they had to offer. Thankfully, we now have far more freedom to travel.

Prague, which once seemed so remote, is now at the very centre of the European travel industry. The many other beautiful cities and sights of the former Eastern Bloc have been quickly following suit, attracting visitors with their history, architecture, culture and atmosphere.

As well as being in the news as great holiday locations, there have been some scare stories about travelling in Eastern Europe. Fortunately, there are some simple tips that you can follow to ensure that you have a safe, enjoyable holiday:

1. If you have valuable belongings that you don't need to carry around with you, then leave them locked up in a secure location, such as your hotel safe.

Don't forget that items will tend to have greater value in many Eastern European countries, where wages are generally lower.

2. Do not allow yourself to be led by strangers. As with any situation, you simply need to show a little common sense. If someone that you are unfamiliar with offers to show you parts of a strange city, then you should always consider your own safety.

3. If you carry cash, then keep it well hidden. Eastern European cities are no different from the likes of London, Paris or New York in this respect - to avoid pick-pockets, you should ensure that money is well hidden about your person and that you keep an eye on your handbag at all times.

4. Beware straying into poorly lit area at night. One of the disadvantages of being in an unfamiliar city can be that you may not know which districts are best avoided.

5. Make sure that you are aware of any local customs. You will notice some behavioural differences when visiting some parts of the region.

6. Take the time to learn a few local phrases - you will find that this is appreciated by the local people and can also be very useful.

7. Read any advice offered by the Foreign Office. Fortunately, much of Eastern Europe now has a very stable political situation, but it's always worth reading the latest advice before travelling.

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