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"Europe: How Safe, How far East" Topic

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744 hits since 23 Jun 2013
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Andrew Preziosi Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2013 5:48 a.m. PST

I am a veteran of European travel, though last time I used those skills was 40 years ago, so an honest question:

How far East can you travel and be relatively* Safe?

*Relatively based on the udnerstanding that you can get mugged In London or Paris, so…

The (post Iron Curtain) rule was always Poland, Austria and Hungary and (parts of) Turkey, though the Baltic republics were later included, but no further…unless you either knew what you were doing or were willing to take your life in your own hands.

Today though, some of the Balkan repubs are supposed to be safe, some of the Baltic rups aren't and (former Soviet) Georgia is touted as something of a mini-paradise.

So, again…how far east should one travel in Europe, following normal safety and conventional travel methods, without having to worry, unduly, about one's safety?

Is the above still a good rule to follow?

Texas Jack23 Jun 2013 6:46 a.m. PST

I know a lot of people who have traveled to Latvia and Lithuania with no problems. And the area that used to be Yugoslavia is fine as well, just avoid the local beer.
How will you be traveling?

Personal logo Pictors Studio Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Jun 2013 7:05 a.m. PST

A friend and her sister went through Lithuania, Germany, Poland, Latvia and Hungary with no problem. And that was two girls traveling by themselves about a year and a half ago.

Chris Rance23 Jun 2013 7:19 a.m. PST

Pretty much anywhere outside the old USSR is safe if you take the usual precautions, though I can't speak to Albania. I've also never heard of anyone having trouble in the Baltics. But like your caveat, bad things can happen to you anywhere. Safe is always contingent on sensible.

Andrew Preziosi Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2013 7:51 a.m. PST

How will you be traveling?

In a really tricked out Berlin carriage, escorted by my Chasseurs a cheval de la Garde Imperial…but you never know when you're going to get waylaid by a highwayman and his toothless henchman! wink

In all truth, no where, as of yet, but I thought I would ask advice in advance of potential plans for 2014/15.

Texas Jack23 Jun 2013 8:49 a.m. PST

I think that method of travel will have you blend right in and no one would spot you for a foreigner. thumbs up

ghostdog Inactive Member23 Jun 2013 9:52 a.m. PST

i always hear things like: "a friend of mine travelled through..xxxxx and nothing happened.." they forget to say that usually they are travellers that had native friends thad give them advices about what places to avoid…
you should check your foreing office website. at least here in spain they use to give tips about travelling to some dangerous countries

Andrew Preziosi Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2013 10:10 a.m. PST

I think that method of travel will have you blend right in and no one would spot you for a foreigner.

Not west of the Niemen River!

GhostDog…that's a very good idea, Thanks.

willthepiper23 Jun 2013 10:12 a.m. PST

I travelled in Russia about three years ago and had no trouble – and I only speak English. However, I did end up getting married as a result of the trip – I count that as a positive, but your mileage may vary.

vaughan Inactive Member23 Jun 2013 11:06 a.m. PST

I don't know if the US gov has a similar website but this is useful advice, although may not always be applicable to US citizens.

Guinny Inactive Member23 Jun 2013 11:20 a.m. PST

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office maintains a list of advice and information about traveling to any country. If you're worried about visiing any of them, check them out here:


Personal logo Jlundberg Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2013 1:09 p.m. PST

My wife would express some concern if I traveled to Russia and came back with a new bride

Personal logo Pictors Studio Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Jun 2013 1:13 p.m. PST

" they forget to say that usually they are travellers that had native friends thad give them advices about what places to avoid…"

I'll add then that they had friends in Germany but in none of the other countries mentioned.

goragrad23 Jun 2013 6:12 p.m. PST

My sister and her husband have done a couple of Danube 'wine' cruises in the last year and a half. One last fall.

Now they only got off the boat for 'day' trips at stops, so that's not quite the same as driving through some of those ares.

Fifteen years ago we were told that our rental car insurance policies would be void if we crossed into Hungary due to the high incidence of car jacking occurring there at that time.

On the other hand they had no problems with us traveling through the former Yugoslavia. Doubt things have gotten any worse (other than Kosovo, of course).

Henrix24 Jun 2013 8:16 a.m. PST

I'd avoid Belarus. Other than that it's fine.

Romania is beautiful, even if poor.

BW195924 Jun 2013 7:39 p.m. PST

No worse than Chicago

Lentulus Inactive Member24 Jun 2013 9:24 p.m. PST

I certainly felt way safer in Budapest than in Detroit. And since you mentioned Austria, I can't say that I have felt safer anywhere in the last decade than just a few weeks ago in Vienna.

Andrew Preziosi Supporting Member of TMP25 Jun 2013 5:21 a.m. PST


Thanks for all your input and comments, you've pretty much answered my question and confirmed my basic theory. Thanks for the Baltic republic info though, I had heard, originally that they were nice and safe, but had gone downhill over the past several years.

Basically, do your homework and be wary of any former Soviet Republic and tread carefully through the Balkans.

No comments on the Repub of Georgia though?

IGWARG1 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian25 Jun 2013 6:11 a.m. PST

Watch "Taken" and "Taken 2"… link

Martin Rapier25 Jun 2013 6:25 a.m. PST

"Basically, do your homework and be wary of any former Soviet Republic and tread carefully through the Balkans."

That sounds about right, although I have a friend who regularly works in Kosovo and Macedonia and it is fine. My pals in a walking group have also been all over the mountains in Albania.

Rumania & Bulgaria are fine too, although you probably want to avoid the riots in Turkey at the moment. I wouldn't bat an eyelid at any central European country like Hungary, Poland, Slovakia etc.

"No comments on the Repub of Georgia though?"

If I had to rate anywhere as deeply dodgy, it would be the former USSR. Really quite a wild and scary place. Former USSR Republics with Islamic fundamentalist & separatist issues I would avoid like the plague.

The FCO advice above has big red 'do not go here' areas all over the southern former USSR which include chunks of Georgia.

Grinning Norm Inactive Member25 Jun 2013 6:38 a.m. PST

On Georgia: I've been told by someone who has spent some time there that it isn't too crazy. Of course it may be wise not to stray into the mountains there. Now they're even friends again with Russia, so no worries there. Exactly five years ago I planned to go there in the beginning of August. Didn't.

Out of own experience: Baltic countries: safe. Hungary: safe. Romania: safe. Balkan: more or less safe. Keep on the roads in Bosnia. All may have areas where you may not want to show off your wealth too much.

Belarus: very safe (because most likely there will be someone watching your every step) Wouldn't expect to be mugged there. As long as your papers are ok and you behave, you'll be alright.

Russia is stranger, which ranges between no worries if you don't venture into dark alleys at night to people watching your every step to make sure nothing happens to 'Don't go out alone at night because you will be killed', though that last bit might be exaggerated a bit.

Last but not least: you will stand out as a foreigner. The more you go east the more you will stand out. At least/especially in the former USSR. People are quite good at spotting non-natives.

Andrew Preziosi Supporting Member of TMP25 Jun 2013 9:13 a.m. PST

Last but not least: you will stand out as a foreigner. The more you go east the more you will stand out. At least/especially in the former USSR. People are quite good at spotting non-natives.

I'll dump the Hawaiian shirt and white tube socks!

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2013 6:47 a.m. PST

Funny you should mention that. I am thinking about a trip to Poland with a stop in Vienna; what I have read in a number of places is that white socks are looked down upon and immediately identify you as an American.

Andrew Preziosi Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2013 2:21 p.m. PST

Between my father being one step away from an Italian clothes horse and the fact that I lived, part time, with a German family, during my two years in Europe…years ago, admittedly…I've learned how to dress fairly fashionably, comfortably and innocuously…though they can still spot you a mile away.

I just always have that vision, admittedly beaten into me for decades by commercials and the media, of the typical American tourist:

Hawaiian, shirt, Bermuda shorts, white tube socks, sandals, straw hat, sunglasses and a big ass camera around his neck.

Wife dressed in a mu-mu, with a huge leia and even bigger straw hat.

John the Confused01 Jul 2013 10:24 a.m. PST

I have done work in Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo on several occasions, generally a week teaching in the respective capitals. I have had no problems. I might have been lucky.

The Czech Republic and Poland are fine. This is based on 10 year and 5 year old information.

I can not dress as a local, but I never where t-shirts etc, that give away my nationality.

As an alternative view, it is better to go to a country where there is organised crime rather than a country where the crime is more freelance.

PS I am currently in Ramallah and I have had just had an unpleasant experience with young "tough". No real worries, if necessary I could have showed him the error of his ways.

MaryJane Inactive Member04 Jul 2013 2:55 p.m. PST

It all depends really. Brussels, Paris and even my hometown Antwerp have certain areas that are best avoided. As a local you would probably know these but a tourist might accidently wander into them.

Austria and Switzerland are considered some of the 'safest' countries in Europe.

Never had any problems in any of the European countries west of Russia. However, friends have warned me to stay away from Albania and oddly enough, Bulgaria, after some really unpleasant incidents.

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