Is it safe to travel to Eastern Europe right now? We asked the experts

As the Russian-Ukrainian war nears a grim month-long stage, people continue to feel uncertain about traveling to neighboring countries. But are these worries justified?

Hours after the invasion, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) warned airlines against flying over Ukraine, Moldova and parts of Belarus and Russia. Over the next few days, airspace bans and sanctions solidified in Europe — and Russia retaliated — dramatically changing the scope of global air travel.

Readers planning to travel to Eastern Europe have shared their concerns with us. And travel agents always report a “nervousness” around vacation booking more generally – weakening experts’ forecasts for a travel boom in 2022.

A recent investigation conducted by travel agency MMGYGlobal found that the war in Ukraine is now twice as likely as Covid to impact Americans’ plans to visit Europe. 62% of respondents feared the invasion could spread to neighboring countries, while 47% intended to wait and see how the situation developed before booking a vacation.

A few weeks after the invasion, EASA had no reason to extend its Conflict Zone Information Bulletin (CZIB) to other countries. So does that mean it’s safe to travel in the wider region?

Here we answer your questions about traveling in Europe, based on the latest information from travel organizations and the UK Foreign Office.

How does EASA decide which countries can be flown over safely?

The regulator shares its assessments on the airspace around Ukraine via the Conflict Zones Information Bulletin (CZIB), published here. The February 24 update warns against travel to the Chisinau region of Moldova and Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

It also advises air operators to exercise caution over Moscow and the southern Russian city of Rostov “due to a strengthened military”, which could include launching medium-range missiles. carried in controlled airspace.

EASA takes into account all available intelligence information when updating the CZIB, a spokeswoman told Euronews Travel, working closely with the European Commission and the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation – known as Eurocontrol.

The security agency has operated another CZIB in eastern Ukraine since 2016, following the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014 at an earlier point in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Which countries have banned Russian planes?

All 27 EU member states plus the US, UK, Albania, Canada, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland have banned Russian flights from entering their airspace. In return, Russia also banned flights entering its airspace. Although Japan does not have an outright ban, it has decided to avoid Russian airspace.

Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus are the only countries to have stopped commercial flights from or to their borders.

Euronews Travel has contacted all airlines serving Ukraine and neighboring countries. Their answers are in this articlethat we keep up to date.

Is it still safe to fly to border countries like Poland and Hungary?

Yes, it is still safe to travel to Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, but still check out the latest tips before you leave. Poland currently receives a large number of Ukrainian refugees across its borders, so tourists planning to visit the country should book their accommodation in advance. Regions of Poland close to the Belarusian border are also closed.

“Hungary remains a safe country, and life goes on as normal here. The Hungarian government is doing everything possible to avoid any involvement in the war and to preserve the safety of Hungarian residents and visiting tourists,” a spokesperson said. of the Hungarian Tourism Agency told CNN Travel.

There is no change to the UK Foreign Office’s advice on visiting Poland and Hungary, except to note that Russian military strikes have taken place in Ukraine less than 20km from the Polish border. But it’s understandable that tourists, business travelers and those trying to reconnect with family and friends have concerns.

Here are our answers to the questions you asked on Euronews Travel’s Instagram.

“I’m going on a trip to the Baltic countries in a few days. I’m starting with Estonia and Lithuania. Safe?”

Airlines are still flying on schedule to and from the Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – which means aviation experts consider it safe to do so.

Former Soviet countries and NATO members have deployed troops to reinforce their borders with Russia and Belarus.

There is no indication that this will affect travel between the Baltics or from other destinations, but tensions in the region are high.

“I’m flying to Vilnius in a week, I’m afraid to fly over Belarus – what should I do?”

Lithuania declared a state of emergency on February 24 in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

If you are visiting the country, you are now required to carry photo identification at all times and present it to law enforcement officials upon request.

Spot checks may also be carried out at border crossings, but the UK Foreign Office does not advise against traveling to Lithuania, so it is considered safe to visit.

“I booked a Baltic cruise, can I still leave safely?”

Many cruise ships had to alter their itineraries in response to the war. Baltic cruises have been particularly hard hit, as many liners usually call at St. Petersburg.

“In light of Russia’s recent attacks in Ukraine, Princess Cruises is modifying the itineraries of 24 cruises that call at St. Petersburg, Russia, with alternate ports,” Princess Cruises said in a statement.

“Alternate ports will vary by itinerary, including popular destinations such as Stockholm, Sweden (overnight stopover); Visby, Sweden and Gdansk (Gdynia), Poland. Customers can remain booked for their long-awaited cruises and have the opportunity to visit medieval architecture, world-famous monuments and natural beauty on these Northern Europe cruises.

While most major cruise liners have made changes instead of canceling altogether, some river cruise operators have been forced to cancel trips planned for Ukraine. The large Viking cruise liner canceled Ukrainian river cruises and all operations in Russia in 2022.

“We have canceled all 2022 departures from our river routes in Russia – and will replace scheduled stops in Russia for all ocean routes in 2022,” a spokesperson said.

A list of cruise lines that have changed their itineraries is available here.

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