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It appears Helsinki, Tallinn and St. Petersburg tour is not being offered.

No surprise given Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Is Poland next?

Posted by
2148 posts

It looks like I missed my opportunity to do the RS St. Petersburg Tallinn & Helsinki tour, friends went in 2016 but I was already committed to the Best of Italy tour in October 2016. No telling how long this war will last…Russia may be closed for the rest of my lifetime. I know- please don’t jump on me for being a self-centered American. I’m praying for the Ukrainian people and other Eastern European peoples. It is a terrible tragedy!

And, I just paid for my airfare to Gdańsk for my RS Poland tour 9/13-22. Rick may pull the plug on the Poland tour which, by the way, was supposed to run for the first time in 2020 (I was booked on the very first one).

Posted by
5756 posts

Anyone hoping to visit the Baltic countries or Poland needs to take recent events very seriously -- clearly the professionals at RSE are (never mind the people who live there).

We are literally in the opening hours of this war. It's going to escalate. More "sanctions" against Russia are about to be announced, there's growing pressure on the current US administration to "do something" and "stand up to" Putin. Don't be surprised if we see or hear about some cyber disruptions in our lives in the coming weeks. Hopefully, those will only be inconveniences and things won't continue to escalate, but once things are in motion, it's hard to stop. We may be in for a great deal of uncertainty going forward -- anyone in the business of taking tourists to places along the Russian frontier needs to be aware of those uncertainties.

Eastern and Central Europe are about to see a new wave of refugees. Last time that happened, it caused a lot of political trouble for governments across the continent. It might be different this time, but it might just strengthen the hand of autocrats.

How doubly-tragic it must be for those in the travel business: after trying to tough it out for the past 2 years, things have just started to improve, now there's this to deal with, too. What next, an asteroid hit?

Looking back, 2019 looks pretty good, eh?

Posted by
287 posts

At a minimum I would expect that Poland will be overrun with refugees, and that certainly could impact any tour or visit there.

If I had plans to visit Poland (or the Baltic states) in the coming months, I would certainly be monitoring this situation closely.

Posted by
371 posts

I was in Greece when they had a lot of refugees from Syria. While they were here and there, the refugees had no major affect on the tour other than a discussion of how the European countries should handle them and balance out the load.

Posted by
3354 posts

Poland and the Baltic countries are Nato countries, I can't see Putin threatening them. St Petersburg is far from the war, but I would not plan a visit there at the moment.

Posted by
11446 posts

I will be in Finland and Estonia the first week in May. I highly doubt either country is under threat.

Estonia, and Poland, are both NATO countries. If either is attacked, the rest of NATO must come to their defense. And if there is a war between Russia and NATO, you can say goodbye to travel to much of Europe.

Posted by
279 posts

Not a foreign policy expert, but I doubt Poland (or other NATO countries) is in imminent danger of attack. I'm sure the RS office could answer this directly, but I would guess that pausing the Russia tour has more to do with the unpredictability of doing business amidst the changing sanctions situation, a possible anticipation of falling demand, and, perhaps, uncertainty about North Americans' ability to get Russian visas in the upcoming months.


Posted by
1330 posts

Or it could be not wanting to spend tourist dollars supporting the regime in Russia. I know I would not go there for that reason.

Posted by
55 posts

From RS Facebook page today:
Our mission at RSE is to help Americans better know and understand our neighbors through travel. But when we bring travelers to another country, we also bring their dollars — dollars that would support Putin’s aggression. Therefore, as of today, we have canceled all 2022 tours that include a stop in Russia.

Posted by
1163 posts

I like Bob's response.
I spent 3 weeks in the then Soviet Union, including Odessa in the Ukraine, in 1990.
Everyone was so nice and there was such hope for the future, including freedoms and peace.
It was, for me, a life-changing trip, and it breaks my heart to see this war.
I can imagine that Rick and the staff have heavy hearts as well.

Posted by
877 posts

While Poland or the Baltic states might not be at any imminent risk, many pundits have been talking about Putin's Russian imperialism and anti-NATOism as putting countries formerly in the USSR or under its influence, and now members of NATO as potential targets of his down the line.

Posted by
5151 posts

Here's the entire post from Rick's FB page:

Comrades No More: Thoughts on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Today is a profoundly sad day. Russia’s aggressive action is heartbreaking for the death, suffering, and economic turmoil it will cause in Ukraine and, indirectly at least, beyond. Here at Rick Steves’ Europe, we hope that a diplomatic solution can be found and peace will return to that fragile and long-suffering part of our world.

Our mission at RSE is to help Americans better know and understand our neighbors through travel. But when we bring travelers to another country, we also bring their dollars — dollars that would support Putin’s aggression. Therefore, as of today, we have canceled all 2022 tours that include a stop in Russia.

Of course, we will keep a close eye on unfolding events and monitor any travel impacts through the rest of Europe. But it is important to keep geographic realities in mind and remember that a war in Ukraine is as far from our European vacation dreams as a war in Guatemala would be from Texas or Florida. For 40 years now, we have lived, worked, and traveled through many periods of tragic warfare in lands far from where we lead our tours (and some closer). And at this time, we see no reason to change the rest of our travel and touring plans.

The tragic reality unfolding in Ukraine only reminds me how important it is for Americans to keep on traveling and to do so in a way that makes us better and more engaged citizens of our world. I’m flying to Europe next month for a 40-day trip through a dozen great cities from London to Athens — and I’m proud that thousands of my fellow travelers will experience the European trip of their dreams while having rich learning experiences far from home on a 2022 Rick Steves tour.

In the meantime, let’s be thankful for our blessings, support our nation’s leaders as they do their best to navigate this crisis, and keep the troubled corners of our world (Ukraine, Russia, Afghanistan, and more) in our thoughts and prayers.

Posted by
5756 posts

Well said. Thanks to Rick and the RSE staff for doing the right thing. And thanks for re-posting this here (for those of us who don't do Facebook).

Posted by
122 posts

Well said, Rick. Travel has certainly helped me understand my neighbors in the world. I travelled in the USSR in 1985 and visited both Kyiv and Odessa. Even 37 years later, I vividly remember the people I met there. My friend and I spent a day with 2 young women we met on the street in Kyiv. They didn't speak any English, but we communicated. We sat and read the Glamour and Vogue magazines we brought to share with new friends. They took us on errands with them and bought us a cake as a sign of friendship. When I think of the events going on there today, I remember sitting on a square in the center of town with them; even the smell of the town. And I wonder where they are today. It gives a whole new meaning to this news story. It's heartbreaking.

I think we've all felt this way about places we have travelled to when they are later in the news.

We are scheduled for a Rick Steves tour the end of August. I hope we can make new memories.

Posted by
4956 posts

I'm glad I got to visit these places on my own in 2016 - the ferry from Helsinki to St. Petersburg and back was truly memorable, and St. Petersburg is a remarkable place. But I wouldn't dream of going to St. Petersburg now. I wouldn't want to put one ruble in Putin's pocket.

However, I would go back to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, or Poland now. These are NATO countries with US troops stationed in all of them. Russia is not going to date invade any of them anytime soon.

It's quite easy to get between Helsinki and Tallinn by ferry - and by bus to Riga and to Vilnius if you want do a self-tour of the Baltics. I'd do it again.