A lot has happened in Eastern Europe and it has never been so easy to travel through the countries between Lithuania and Albania, Eastern Germany and Azerbaijan. Not only are the countries well prepared for backpackers, but there are also offers for more and more different forms of travel, or they have been around for decades – but hardly anyone knows about them.
This article is primarily intended to provide an overview of what is possible in Eastern Europe today. Which countries are worth traveling to? When should you travel where?
Eastern Europe travel – is it comfortable?
A trip to Eastern Europe is still an inhibition threshold for many. Even some of my friends still hardly dare to go to Poland. In some cases, the infrastructure there is now better than in Western Europe. Many countries are better positioned than Western Europe, especially when it comes to digital services. The EU countries in particular are already quite far along in their development.
The language barrier is also becoming less and less of a problem, as young people in particular often speak English. So travel in Eastern Europe is actually no more difficult than in the rest of Europe.
A trip to Eastern Europe is particularly worthwhile if you are interested in foreign cultures. Nevertheless, you sometimes have to be a little more flexible in Eastern Europe. In many cities, the standards are the same as in other western countries.
However, conditions in rural areas are often somewhat different, especially in countries such as Bulgaria, Albania, Georgia and Ukraine. But that is sometimes what makes these regions so charming, because it is not unusual to find the friendliest people in places like this. And it means that Eastern Europe is cheaper than Western Europe or Southern Europe.
Travel to Eastern Europe – which countries and cities?
We like each of the countries in our blog. But there are still some countries that have impressed us time and again and that we can recommend to everyone here.
Poland – Great for beginners
There are many interesting cities in Poland and it is very suitable for newcomers to Eastern Europe. Many Poles speak English. There are great cultural cities such as Krakow (Krakow), Gdansk (Gdansk), Warsaw (Warszawa) or even Wroclaw (Breslau). You will find a good infrastructure everywhere. There are clean and affordable hotels in Poland, many restaurant menus are also available in English, catering and transport are well organized and very cheap.
The landscape in Poland is also very different and there are beautiful places to discover. The Baltic coast near Gdansk is well worth seeing, as is the Polish side of the High Tatras, the mountain range on the border with Slovakia. Europe’s last primeval forest, the Bialowieza forest. There are also bison and elk there, which you can hardly see anywhere else in Europe.
Czech Republic – perfect for short trips
In the Czech Republic, on the other hand, just over the border with Germany, Bohemian Switzerland offers great natural rock formations for climbing fans. Prague, also known as the “Golden City”, is already one of the most popular destinations for city breaks in Europe. You can drink very good wine in Brno. And the Krkonoše Mountains are a great alternative to the Alps for skiing in winter. However, there are many other exciting places in the country that are also easy to reach from Germany.
Baltic States – three countries that have it all
The Baltic States offer everything – from beautiful old towns such as Tallinn, Riga or Vilnius to the beaches on the Baltic Sea. Estonia’s islands in the Baltic Sea and the beautiful Curonian Spit in Lithuania are also well worth a visit. All places that you should definitely visit.
There are also beautiful nature parks in each of the countries that invite you to hike and relax. And if you are interested in history, you can learn a lot about the countries’ past and how they have preserved their culture despite Russian, German and Soviet occupation.
Albania – the long-hidden jewel of the Balkans
Albania, a hidden gem of Europe, attracts travelers with its impressive diversity and untouched beauty. This country offers a unique blend of cultural richness, historical sights dating back to ancient times and breathtaking natural landscapes. From the pristine beaches along the Albanian Riviera to the picturesque mountains inland, Albania offers a wealth of discovery opportunities for nature lovers and adventure seekers.
Added to this is the warm hospitality of the locals and the delicious, varied cuisine, which combines Mediterranean and Balkan influences. All this makes Albania an ideal destination for those seeking the authentic and unexplored.
Romania – More than just Dracula
Most people probably think of Dracula when they think of Romania. Some of you may already know something about Transylvania the region where the historical Count Dracula came from. And indeed, Transylvania, as it is also known, is one of the most beautiful regions we have seen on our travels. The architecture is simply stunning and it is exciting to walk in the footsteps of the German minority, the Transylvanian Saxons.
There is also Maramures another very beautiful region and the Stonehenge of Romania is also nearby – Sarmiszegetusa Regia . The mountains of the Carpathians are perfect for hiking and the beaches of the Black Sea for swimming. And the natural paradise of the Danube Delta is one of the original experiences here. Bucharest is also a very interesting city because it is full of contradictions. As you can see, there are many reasons to visit Romania.
Georgia – Shashlik, the Black Sea and Caucasian giants
Georgia is not exactly the closest destination for us in Europe. However, it is one of the countries that are quite easy to reach, as there are direct flights from many destinations around Europe. You can also enter Georgia without a visa and stay up to 180 days!
In return you get a great country with the beautiful mountain landscapes of the Caucasus, vibrant cities with a great cultural life such as Tbilisi and Batumi, great sandy beaches on the Black Sea and Georgian cuisine one of the best cuisines in the region. What is actually stopping you from traveling to Georgia?
Ukraine – the sleeping giant
At the moment you only know Ukraine from the bad news on TV. And of course we don’t advise you to travel to Ukraine at the moment. The country is at war and missile attacks can occur at any time, even in the regions away from the front. But if Ukraine has won the war, the country is one of the best destinations for a trip to Eastern Europe. Not only is it the largest country in Europe, it is also one of the most exciting.
In addition to old cultural cities such as Kyiv , Odesa , Lviv and Chernivtsi there is scenery worth seeing in all parts of the country. The beaches are among the most beautiful on the Black Sea and the Ukrainian cuisine among the best in the world. And the people of Ukraine are among the friendliest we have met on our travels. For this reason alone, the country should have a permanent place on your long-term bucket list!
When and where to travel in Eastern Europe
There are many exciting destinations in Eastern Europe throughout the year. But depending on the time of year, some destinations are particularly worthwhile.
- Ideal for beach vacations on the Baltic Sea (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) and Midsommar festivals
- German Baltic Sea coast (Rügen, Poel) for swimming and relaxation
- National parks in Lithuania with clear lakes, similar in Latvia and Estonia
- Black Sea, especially in Romania and northern Bulgaria
- Croatian coast and Montenegro for coastal stays, Albania still an insider tip
- Perfect for city trips: Krakow, Gdansk, Prague, Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, Budapest, Bosnia (Sarajevo, Mostar), Ljubljana, Belgrade
- Beautiful regions in Romania (Maramures), Croatia (Plitvice Lakes, Dubrovnik)
- Ideal for nature parks and forests, e.g. Bialowieza National Park in Poland, national parks in Lithuania, Latvia, Slovak Paradise, Bohemian and Saxon Switzerland in the East of Germany
- Transylvania in Romania for cultural exploration and hiking in the Carpathians
- Skiing in the Giant Mountains (Czech Republic), High Tatras, Caucasus (Georgia)
- Spa visits in Budapest
- Saunas in Lithuania and Estonia
- Christmas markets in Tallinn, Dresden, Wroclaw; gingerbread in Torun, Poland
- Orthodox Christmas at the beginning of January in Orthodox countries
You can find out more about the regions and when they are particularly worthwhile in our article on the best destinations in Eastern Europe depending on the season.
To Eastern Europe by flight, train and bus
Depending on the country, not only do many roads lead to Rome, but also to Prague, Budapest, Belgrade or Tallinn. This is because low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, Wizzair and Eurowings have made many destinations quick and easy to reach. You can easily book a long weekend from many European airports and then book your own hotels along with the flight.
Climate-friendly travel is also possible without any problems, as there are also convenient night train connections to many cities in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia, for example. This makes it easy to get to these countries, saves you a hotel for one night and allows you to explore the cities during the day.
With Flixbus or Student Agency or other bus lines, you can also travel cheaply and directly from larger cities to destinations throughout Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
On the road in Eastern Europe
Travel in many countries in East-Central Europe, Eastern Europe, North-East Europe and South-East Europe remains inexpensive. Public transportation is actually well developed everywhere. Sometimes the trains or buses are not the newest, but the tickets are often very cheap, which makes traveling an inexpensive experience.
In some countries, however, the level of comfort is approaching and sometimes even exceeding that in Germany – especially when it comes to seat reservations and digital payment. That’s why in many countries you can rely on public transport and leave your car at home. Train journeys in Poland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine are particularly beautiful!
Safety when traveling in Eastern Europe
Many people who are thinking of traveling to Eastern Europe have concerns about safety. Apart from the current war and crisis zones, all countries in Eastern Europe are actually safe. Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and the Baltic states in particular pose no problem for travelers. It is usually just as safe as in Western Europe, or even safer. There is a functioning police force and medical care in Eastern Europe is good.
If you are an EU citizen, you are already covered by health insurance in EU countries. For faster treatment, however, it is usually advisable to take out international health insurance anyway. This is strongly recommended when traveling outside the EU and is sometimes even required for the visa to be issued. You can find the most important information about safety in the countries you are traveling to in Eastern Europe on the travel and safety information pages of the Federal Foreign Office.
Is English enough to travel in Eastern Europe?
English is also widely spoken in Eastern Europe. The more touristy the country, the more people speak English, is a rule of thumb that also works here. Especially in cities and with young people, you should have no problem with English. In tourist information offices, at airports and at many train stations, as well as in hostels and hotels, you will always find someone who speaks English. However, knowing a few words of the local language is almost always a good door opener for striking up a conversation with the locals.
Find accommodation in Eastern Europe – cheap and often better
Finding accommodation in Eastern Europe and the Balkans is no problem at all. Not only are they often inexpensive, they sometimes offer quite a bit of luxury for comparatively low prices. The hotels have good standards. You can find cheap rooms in almost all states in the regions. In smaller accommodations in some countries you can get double rooms from 20 euros a night. In the Czech Republic or Poland, on the other hand, they usually cost from 40 euros.
If you are traveling on a budget, there are hostel beds from 10 euros a night in comfortable and renovated hostels. Pay attention to the reviews and compare them between Booking.com and Google to see if they are accurate.
In many countries, it is often worth staying overnight in private guesthouses, as you can meet friendly people there who often cook typical local dishes themselves and offer them for little money.
Food in Eastern Europe – why you can eat well here
I can’t even think about food in Eastern Europe without getting hungry immediately! The food there is very varied and not the same everywhere due to the many countries and regions. Every kitchen in Eastern Europe is different. What they all have in common, however, is that most dishes are rather hearty. Potatoes come in all shapes and varieties in Eastern Europe. My favorite cuisines in Eastern Europe are special:
- Czech cuisine for its Bohemian dumplings and inexpensive schnitzels
- Polish cuisine, because of the piroggi or golabki
- Ukrainian cuisine because of the borscht and the Wareniki
- Lithuanian cuisine because of the zeppelins (similar to Thuringian dumplings), saltibarsciai (cold bosh) and delicious herring
- and Hungarian cuisine, because of goulash and langos
- Georgian cuisine because of shashlik and kinkali
Can you travel to Eastern Europe as a vegetarian or vegan?
Almost everyone now knows what a vegetarian or vegan is. Especially in larger cities, there are vegetarian or vegan restaurants or vegetarian dishes on the menus. Knowledge about vegetarians is even less widespread in rural regions. It is also occasionally necessary to make it clear that chicken and fish are not vegetarian or even vegan dishes.
However, as many of the region’s cuisines are based on relatively simple ingredients and meat used to be considered a luxury, tasty vegetarian and vegan dishes are available almost everywhere. If you are not sure, ask in the larger cities and ask vegetarian and vegan restaurants to tell you about typical dishes without meat that are available in the respective countries.
Travel to Eastern Europe – you just have to want to!
Eastern Europe is a melting pot of cultures with a wealth of discoveries ranging from historic cities and cultural treasures to stunning natural landscapes and diverse cuisine, all at an often more affordable price than Western Europe. The connections to most countries are good and there is really nothing to stop you from visiting them. Off we go to the (not always quite so) wild East!