If you are planning a trip to Eastern Europe then this article is for you. As a tour guide myself, I get the same questions from travellers who are travelling to Eastern Europe. So I decided to answer them all here and I am certain you’ll find this helpful.
1. What countries are in Eastern Europe?
Let’s start with the definition of Eastern European Countries. This really depends on how you split Europe into regions. You either have Western and Eastern Europe or you split them into more appropriate regions of Balkans, Baltics, Central Europe and Eastern Europe.
In the wider sense, there are 20 Countries in Eastern Europe and they can be also split into these 4 regions.
- Central Europe: The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary,
- Eastern Europe: Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and the European part of Russia.
- The 3 Baltic states: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia
- The Balkans: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania
If are getting Balkans and Baltics confused, I recommend reading my article Baltics and Balkans Countries explained.
2. Is it safe to travel in Eastern Europe?
I have been asked these questions for many years but this year, the main reason is the war in Ukraine that has everyone worried. So let me answer both points:
Is travelling to Eastern Europe safe for solo travellers or women?
Absolutely yes. Apart from Belarus, every county in Eastern Europe has a lower crime rate than countries in Western Europe. So the chances of you being robbed, pickpocketed or involved in any form of crime are on par with Western Europe.
I personally feel safer as a solo woman on the streets of Eastern European capitals than in London or Paris at night. The point is, you are as safe as in Western Europe. Our 12 tips for safe travel apply when travelling to Eastern Europe and the rest of the world too.
Please note: Some capital cities have a small number of bars where male tourists end up “spending a lot of money” on drinks with pretty girls that invite them there.
Is it safe to travel to Eastern Europe right now with the war in Ukraine?
With the ongoing war in Ukraine, I hear more people being hesitant about travelling to Eastern Europe. Personally, being from Slovakia, I don’t believe it matters if you are in Poland, Germany or Austria. Should this conflict spill over into other countries beyond Ukraine in Eastern Europe, they are all part of NATO and it would mean the whole of Europe is at war based on international law.
3. What is the best way to travel around Eastern Europe?
Is Eastern Europe easy to travel around? Yes, it is. Travelling to Eastern Europe from Western Europe is easy, there are plenty of flights to get you to your first point of travel or you can get there by train to bus. As for continuing your travelling in Eastern Europe, well the infrastructure is also great.
Here are recommended ways to travel around Eastern Europe:
Travelling in Eastern Europe by trains
While trains in Eastern Europe might not be as fast as TGVs in France or Switzerland and Italy, the good news is that there are many and they often cost a third of the price. There are great overnight trains with sleepers and some exceptional private trains too, such as Regiojet.
I wrote a dedicated blog on how to travel Europe by train for all the know-how. As for Eastern Europe, just remember the Balkans have too many mountains and trains might not connect all cities, buses are therefore a better option. But trains are a fantastic option for Prague – Bratislava – Budapest journey. You can continue on Belgrade or add Warsaw and Krakow.
I use Trainline to search, compare and book the cheapest train fares all over Europe. Their website is so user-friendly and the prices are unbeatable with the average saving being up to 60 off%!
Travelling to Eastern Europe by bus:
You can get everywhere and anywhere on buses in Eastern Europe. Some of the best international routes are run by Flixbus (a German Company), Eurolines, Regiojet and Omnibus. The good news is that they often include free wifi, sometimes even a coffee and USB chargers. Plus they can be super affordable and buying a ticket is easy online.
I recommend using Rome2Rio to check the connection for the best option to get from A to B. And to make instant reservations, we use BookaWay to reserve train and bus tickets all over Europe.
For domestic routes, you can always find buses that will get you there.
Car Rental in Eastern Europe:
Yes, car rental in Europe gives you a lot of freedom if you are keen to explore countries in depth with smaller towns or national parks. If you’re planning to see the main cities, you are better off using a train/bus/plane to get between them and then public transport as the best way to get around the cities is on public transport (trans, metro, buses) and with a combination of uber/grab/taxi.
Parking, tolls and the cost of fuel when renting a car might add up quickly when travelling to Eastern Europe and around. And sometimes being able to rest on a 5-hour train journey is a better option than a 4-hour drive by car.
Lowcost Airlines in Eastern Europe
With the expansion of low-cost companies across eastern Europe, you can get some amazing deals with airlines such as AirBaltic, Ryanair, Easyjet and Wizz Air with a base in Budapest being the best one.
With Wizz Air, you might be able to fly from Bratislava to Sofia for as little as 11 Euros. Budapest to Zadar for 20 Euros.
To find the best deals, book on Skyscanner.
Is country hopping in Europe possible?
Absolutely. You can choose your type of transport with BookaWay or mix it up. Travelling to Eastern Europe these days can easily include multiple countries in a trip.
4. Which countries in Eastern Europe are part of the European Union?
When travelling to Eastern Europe, don’t forget to check your visa requirements. For most nationalities travel here is straightforward within the EU (the majority of countries are part of the Schengen Zone where free movement without borders has been established across 26 countries), but it’s always good to check countries’ requirements from outside of the EU.
11 Eastern European countries are part of the European Union:
- Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
9 Countries in Eastern Europe are NOT part of the European Union:
- Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia are in the process of integrating the EU legislation into national law and might become part of the EU in the next years.
- Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Moldova, and Ukraine are not part of the EU, but some are hoping to join.
5. What is the best country in Eastern Europe?
This is a really difficult question to answer as each country has something to offer. Just because Croatia is more visited than Romania doesn’t mean it’s less worth it. Travelling to Eastern Europe is a joy because often you will find amazing places you knew little about.