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Black Traveller Going to Eastern Europe

I'm planning a trip to Europe soon. I plan on doing Western and Central Europe for sure. I'd like to go to Eastern Europe, but I have doubts about going. I'm an experienced traveller, but I'm going solo as a black man. I will obviously stand out and someone might target me because of that. Would you recommend that I go to Eastern Europe?

I've heard that it can be quite dangerous and racist for people of color traveling to the region. I REALLY want to avoid or at least minimize bad experiences on this trip. In Eastern Europe, I wanted to go Greece, Czech Rep, Hungary, Latvia, and Turkey.

Should I go to Eastern Europe, or is it too risky and asking for trouble?

Posted by
885 posts

Have you thought about taking a tour? Being with a group might help with your doubts? I was in Turkey last fall and there were numerous Africans in Turkey. I loved how some African tourists were dressed (very colorful) and one man gave me a great pose for a photo in Ephesus! I have been to all but Latvia and I can say I found everyone to be very nice. I am not sure about racial issues in any of these countries. It would be awful if you don't go, and I find it sad that you have to worry about this. I wish you luck and hope you have a great experience if you decide to do this trip!

Posted by
162 posts

I'm a black American guy and I've travelled solo to Czech Republic several times. No worries at all. Great people. I've also visited Budapest and I have to say Hungarians were the friendliest people ive met in Europe. No worries there either. Czech women are the hottest women in Europe! Go and have a great time!

Posted by
12040 posts

As others noted, the issue is if you are perceived as a migrant or tourist. As a readily identifiable tourist (ie, visiting the typical monuments, museums, carrying a camera and the usual travel accessories), you will likely be left alone.

Posted by
162 posts

Hmmmm, I wasn't thinking about the refugee/migrant issues happening in Europe, but my answer remains the same. I was in Prague this past Christmas and it was business as usual, I suppose. I know both Hungary and Czech Republic are pretty anti-migrant, but tourists were welcome. Actually, I found people in Europe rather eager to talk to me about political issues in America (Donald Trump, BLM, etc). Not to debate me, but just to hear an African-American perspective on things.

Posted by
5 posts

I've not traveled much at all but in 2010 I was in Turkey and Greece and found both places AMAZING. My first night in Istanbul we went to a corner store to buy water and the shopkeep was listening to Alicia Keys on the radio. There were some young girls who obviously had very little encounter with black people who wanted to take pictures with me. But it was all from a place of wonderous curiosity, not fear or hatred of the unknown.

Posted by
18 posts

I am Indian and we just got back from a family trip to Germany. We were driving on the autobahn through rural areas of former East Germany (close to Dresden) in a BMW rental car when the local police changed direction and followed our car to a restaurant and asked us for "our papers". I know I was not speeding and they had no reason to stop us other than that we looked different.

Posted by
1 posts

Poland , Georgia and Croatia are not risky at all. Haven't had issues in Prague either. I travel alone.. tours annoy me. In Poland right now and even walking at night is not an issue.

The worst thing about traveling in eastern europe are the smokers and walking on streets w/o proper skechers. I come to Poland every year for RAWA Blues and the biggest complaint are the smokers and walking shoes.
Haven't noticed any actual overt racism, just stares, which i don't mind. But one day last year as i was leaving H&M in Katowice a boy rode by and said Serena Williamns... ok... dont remember Serena being fat... but i will take that.

Hello: I do not think you will have trouble visiting Eastern and Central Europe even as an individual. Cities like Prague and Budapest are very cosmopolitan, and you will see people (tourists & locals) of all nationalities on the streets, in restaurants/bars, and at historic sites. We live in Budapest and have never run into anything remotely racist on the street. Government policies (and clearly this applies to Hungary) are generally xenophobic and ultimately racist, but these policies play to the country people who feel threatened by economic recoveries seen in the major cities, and they do not affect tourism. The Czech Republic and Poland have so many wonderful sites beyond Prague and Krakow -- and market them well -- that you should have no difficulty branching out there as well. English can be more of a problem the farther you roam, but not so overt racism unless you are a Gypsy.

What you may encounter, however, is a negative reaction to the insult of placing a country in Eastern Europe when the country itself make a BIG point of claiming it is in Central Europe. These are sensitive issues and apply to every visitor, not just Blacks, Whites, or Asians. Clearly, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic all identify themselves as Central. Poland is a bit trickier to define as are the Baltic States. More and more countries formerly in the Eastern Block now want to claim Central European designations in order to distance themselves from former Soviet hegemony -- to such an extent that anything west of Russia is "Central." We just shake our heads, laugh, and wonder where to classify Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine - and Poland? So, just be warned and be careful.
So, come on over, but do some history preparation. Every little bit helps. It gets complicated over here.

Posted by
10651 posts

I have a business and a home in the region; Budapest to be specific. In an average week we will see no more than 2 black tourists and I am not sure that we have ever encountered a black resident. So, yes, you will be unique. But as stated above the Hungarian people are among the kindest and most generous that you will ever meet. I wouldn't hesitate for a second to recommend anyone to visit Hungary or anyplace in the region. The xenophobia comment is just name calling to avoid a frank discussion; which doesn't belong on a travel forum anyway. I doubt you will experience anything like it, but as you know it only takes one bad person and like all places on earth; the region has them. AND, unfortunately there is a growing extreme right in most of East and Western Europe that we all have to contend with.

The migrant issues are pretty much contained at the borders. While I said I rarely see a black person, I do see quite a few middle easterners and Indians and hundreds of east Asians and I am not aware of any mistreatment. Of course I don't walk in their shoes either. I am pretty sure, by and large, you will just be seen as an American tourist.

As for the Eastern vs Central labels; don't you just hate labels? In 1946 Winston Churchill gave a graduation speech at Westminster College, in Fulton, Missouri. In that speech he rightfully identified the then common classification of the region:

... Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of
Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest,
Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the
populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere ...

So obviously before 1946 there existed a Central Europe and Hungary had always claimed membership to that position. Then the Cold War began and the "Western" powers needed to define an enemy and Central Europe disappeared as Austria was re-categorized as West (good people) and everyone else was categorized as East (bad people). Cowboys and Indians. So these peoples wanting to regain their identity isn't laughable. Today, in the EU and the UN, depending on what program you are looking at the states can be catalogued as Eastern, Western, Central, and even South Eastern. Again, don't you just hate labels? But, I have also never met a person who became irritated because the American tourist said the wrong thing. Look at Rick Steves for instance; he promotes is Eastern European Tours. But you will impress them if you call it Central Europe. Go have fun and don't fret the details.

Now, leaving my tirade behind, this is the most amazing part of the world. Tourism is on the uptick, but enough of the region is still unaffected enough that you can still see the lands, peoples and cities in a state somewhat unpolluted by tourism. I guess Prague is the one glaring exception of this but it is still a beautiful and magnificent city. If you are into experiencing new cultures, I mean real ones, not ones fabricated for tourists, then this is the place to be and now is the time before it gets McDonalized like the rest of Europe; because it will happen.

If you include Hungary in your travels I would be pleased to help.

Posted by
24 posts

On my visits to Croatia, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovenia, I did not see many black people. However, I don't believe a black person would have any trouble in the above countries. They all are very welcoming people. The only country where I have heard problems with black people was Russia. I did not experience such myself, but heard this from people from Russia.

Posted by
1 posts

If you haven't already toured Central and Eastern Europe, please go ahead and have fun. Also, please ignore the negative remarks in this forum, which thankfully are outnumbered by positive remarks and vibes. I was offended by the overtly racist comment of 7/2/16, in which a fellow American assumes that you as a Black man reside in a neighborhood where there are drivebys; I too am Black and do not live in such a neighborhood.

As a Black traveler who loves to travel abroad, I totally understand your reasons for concern. In fact, when I have experienced negative experiences as a Black American tourist abroad, it has been as a target of white American tourists, who have made comments both racist and misogynistic, approaching me without my permission and otherwise ruining a particular moment in a museum, gallery, cafe, not to mention a stretch of pavement or promenade. In Paris years ago, two white American sailors whistled at me profusely and called me names as if I were a whore, instead of paying attention to the fact that I had just stepped off of a tourist bus (this was in Montparnasse, near the boulevard so named) and that I was carrying souvenirs in a plastic bag emblazoned with a gift shop's name. I never have been so embarrassed as in that moment, and in that moment, I was not proud to consider those two sailors as my fellow Americans.

I could go on and on -- such as being interrupted, while writing a poem on the second level of the Eiffel Tower at dusk, by a Chicagoan who started blasting off rap lyrics and apparently inner-city slang, but I was sure to let her know that I was raised in the suburbs alongside white people and happened not to be a big fan of rap music. How I counteract those negative experiences abroad at the mouths and gestures of my fellow Americans is to travel more, continue to be educated about various cultures and customs, and to act respectfully like an American cultural ambassador. Oftentimes a local resident expresses that he/she wishes that more U.S. citizens were like me.

Happy and safe travels!

Posted by
645 posts

I was just in The Czech Republic. We did see black tourists. There didn’t seem to be any issues about race at least not visible to this white woman's eyes.

We did see issues in Paris. Security coming off the train, at the Eiffle Tower, and at the d'Orsay singled out black people for more extensive searches. White people showed their bags, black people got patted down. Coming off the train only black people were stopped and asked questions. It was disconcerting to watch. But they all did seem to get in albeit with greater inconvenience and stress.