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30 Days, Six Countries ... Had an excellent time.

30 days:  IAH to KBP (Kyiv) to ODS (Odesa) to IST (Istanbul) to ZGB (Zagreb) to Split to Dubrovnik (through Bosnia & Herzegovina) to Montenegro (Perast  Kotor, Ceintje) back to Dubrovnik to ATH (Athens) to HER (Crete), back to ATH to IST to IAH.

I’ve posted about each stop, and this is sort of a trip summary.

In general the headaches of the trip were not significantly different than 2 years ago.  The significant difference being most countries required me complete an online PLF.

Of course I chose a trip to countries that appeared to have a stable track record and policy attitude in dealing with COVID. That added to my mental comfort.  The fact that the countries in question were on my “A" list added to the enjoyment.

What I discovered, that might be of interest to the forum is:

Social Distancing at airports and on flights is non-existent.

No more than 75% of the individuals in the airport were wearing masks properly.

Vaccine cards at border crossings were generally looked at, but not with any great study or concern.  I imagine a Library card would have been accepted a few times.

At my stops everything was open and there was generally no working attempt at social distancing.  Well to be honest, inside dining was generally limited, but I was traveling to countries where I wouldn’t have dined inside this time of year anyway.

Masks were required inside buildings, but not all tried to wear them correctly.

In 3 out of maybe 20 tourist stops my vaccine card was required, but like at the borders  not really studied when presented.

I just passed my COVID test at the Istanbul Airport and will be boarding my flight home soon.  Hotel to airport to final test result, through passport control and security took 2.5 hours.  Nothing extraordinary about any of it. 

Most of the flights were Turkish Air. None canceled and all pretty much on time. IST is a pretty sweet well organized airport.

I hired some pretty good guides and private transportation which made it more enjoyable.

Posted by
6821 posts

Regarding masks here in Italy yesterday there was a fight on the small commuter Tuscan train from Empoli and Poggibonsi between a young man about 30ish and two punk teenagers around 18-20 years old who refused to pull up their masks. The same person operating the train had to break it up with the help of others.

Posted by
6366 posts

Of course I chose a trip to countries that appeared to have a stable track record and policy attitude in dealing with COVID. That added to my mental comfort.

I would say, James, however, that you have another added advantage. You think a lot ahead and are savvy, so you don’t put yourself in situations that might be difficult. And, I’m guessing, even when you DO end up in a “difficult” situation, you are calm and rational in thinking how to approach dealing with it.

Posted by
2017 posts

Happy to hear your trip went smoothly. Even though people are going on trips this year, the enthusiasm seems to be missing from pre-COVID years. Understandable. Our trip is set for September 7 and I am getting excited planning the days, packing, etc., but there is still a little apprehension. Our small ship cruise was cancelled, a major disappointment. So now I am working to fill in that week for us and our 4 traveling buddies. Luckily it is in Croatia so I know where to go and for how long and how to get there.

Posted by
12314 posts

Not much of a trip reports beyond the COVID travel issues ... Sorry.

First, I had to determine if I would be comfortable with little mask wearing or social distancing and with few vaccine checks. Sure it could have been better but I assumed the worst just to be on the safe side.

Then I had to know I would enjoy a trip to one of the handful of countries that appeared to have a stable tourism/COVID policy.

Then I had to choose an airline that served non-EU countries as a major part of their business to avoid canceled flights. And one with transfers in a country with a stable COVID policy.

Toss all of that together, and I still had a trip I knew I would enjoy.

Of everything planned, only one 4 hour cruise got canceled.

Plan B? If this didn't work, there wouldn't be a workable Plan B.

Posted by
9592 posts

Kim hinted at it and James's report sort of nailed it......traveling to Europe in 2021 is probably not a good idea for a novice. Being prepared and knowing how to make changes on the fly will make for a less stressed trip.

Posted by
12314 posts

Frank II, I don't agree with that. The trip went very smoothly and despite being booked months ago went off without a hitch and with out any on-the-fly changes. I am no rocket scientist.

I can't think of a better time to see destinations I went. Prices were down, crowds are down and the locals were so, so happy to see the tourists return.

I jumped around a bit, but any one or two of the countries I visited would make a good, easy, 2 or 3 week trip.

If you can be comfortable with few COVID restrictions, I believe now is the time to go.

Posted by
1351 posts

I too am in the midst of a 6 country swing through the Baltics and Balkans and so far no real issues, though I’m only in country #2. Started in Lithuania, currently in Estonia before heading through Kosovo, Albania, Greece (Corfu only), and one final night in Munich before heading home. Will try and do a separate thread for those who may benefit from the first hand experience. I’m also transiting/will transit through Germany, Poland, Latvia, and Austria so getting used to all the entry forms that are needed.

Posted by
9592 posts

While Eastern Europe has been consistant, most new travelers stick with the western Europe countries of France, Italy, and Spain. The changes there seem continual. New restrictions, passes and the like that are going to make travel slightly more complicated than in the past.

So perhaps I should have said, this is not a good time for novice travelers to much of western Europe.

Posted by
12314 posts

Frank II, the terms Eastern and Western Europe are sort of obscure without explanation or context. In my case 2 out of the 5 countries I stayed in were not in Eastern Europe by any definition.

As the intent was to be particular in my observations as to why my trip was smooth I avoided generalizations; and I think first time travelers to Europe are somewhat the minority on the forum.

Study each country independently if you want to choose well during these confusing times.

Here are the posts:

Country 1 - Ukraine https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/country-one-entering-ukraine Country 2 - Turkey
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/country-two-turkey Country 3 - Croatia
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/country-three-croatia Country 4 - Bosnia & Herzegovina
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/country-four-bosnia-herzegovina
Country 5 - Montenegro
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/country-four-montenegro
Country 6 - Greece
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/greece/current-covid-situation-in-greece#bottom