Due to its reputation for being less safe than its western counterpart, Eastern Europe is one destination that many travelers tend to shy away from. This is a real shame because the countries of Eastern Europe boast some of the most spectacular gems in the continent. Here you’ll experience stunning landscapes, charming small towns that are full of character, delicious local food, and some of the world’s most fascinating architecture, as well as several globally famous landmarks.

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Eastern Europe is by no means unsafe as way the rumors make it out to be. As long as you’ve got your wits about you, practice basic common sense, and follow these 10 simple tips, you can’t go wrong!

10 Bring Cash With You

As the world is becoming increasingly cashless, it might seem like a good idea to rely solely on a travel card while visiting foreign countries. It’s true that you don’t want to bring tons of cash with you while traveling, but in Eastern Europe, it’s a good idea to bring at least a little cash.

Many places throughout Eastern Europe simply don’t take debit or credit cards. If you go without cash, you’ll have to waste time running around in search of an ATM. While some bigger hotels or restaurants in more touristy destinations will accept card, you shouldn’t count on it. It’s better to come prepared.

9 Don’t Flash Your Expensive Belongings

Eastern Europe has a reputation for being less safe than the west, but that’s a huge generalization. As long as you follow common sense, you’ll be quite safe in many places in the east. Part of having basic common sense is not flashing your expensive belongings in public. This will make you a target for theft (as it will in most places in the world).

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Try to always keep an eye on your belongings, and when out in public, keep them close to your body. Don’t make yourself a target for thieves and pickpockets by leaving fancy accessories at home.

8 Drink Alcohol With Caution

In a region that is well-known for its culture of heavy drinking, it’s a good idea to stay cautious around alcohol. Some Eastern European spirits have a might higher concentration of alcohol than most people think, and you don’t want to unknowingly drink more than you can handle. This is especially true if you’re a solo traveler.

According to the travel blog Away with Maja, the Latvian spirit known as black balsam is 45% alcohol, which is 5% more than other similar liquors. Remember to be cautious around alcohol and always educate yourself on exactly what you’re drinking.

7 Don’t Assume You Can Drink The Tap Water

Speaking of drinking, the tap water is something else that you should approach with caution. In some countries in Eastern Europe, the tap water isn’t safe to drink, even if you’re told that it is. When traveling to places like Russia, Ukraine, Moldova or Belarus, it’s a good idea to avoid drinking or brushing your teeth with the tap water.

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Instead, stick to bottled water. You might also like to bring along a reusable bottle with a water filter. It might seem unnecessary, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!

6 Let Someone Else Drive Unless You’re Totally Confident

You have to be pretty confident to drive in Eastern Europe. For lack of a better description, the roads can get totally crazy. Picture honking horns, turning without using blinkers, driving over the lines and in the middle of the road, and passing each other on narrow mountain roads.

To play it totally safe, it might be better to stick to public transport or call a taxi rather than attempting to rent a car and drive yourself. Unless you’re qualified and confident, it’s likely to be an incredibly stressful experience.

5 Don’t Assume That Public Transport Is Available

While relying on public transport is preferable to driving yourself around Eastern Europe, you can’t count on public transport always being available. It tends to be more limited in the east, especially when linking to minor, lesser-known cities and towns.

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If you want to avoid getting stuck without transportation, always do your research before you go. Even if there is public transport between two locations, it might not run daily. Get as much information as you can about the availability and scheduling of public transport before making your plans.

4 Be Aware Of Political Tension

Eastern Europe is packed with history and has served as the setting of several significant events that have shaped the world today. Some of them took place relatively recently in history, so there are still tensions in many areas. Locals may have strong political opinions, and it’s best to be aware of this and sensitive to people’s views.

While the days of the Soviet Union are over, it’s still not wise to blurt out whatever’s on your mind about the current political situation, especially if you’re not well-informed on what’s going on. It’s best to listen to locals and be understanding about their views.

3 Get Used To Haggling

There are certain destinations where you’ll have to get used to the art of haggling, and Eastern Europe is one of them. It’s simply the done thing in many locations, and sellers will probably expect you to try and haggle the price down.

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If something seems too expensive, don’t be afraid to negotiate a better price. This can be difficult if you don’t speak the local language, but give it a try if the vendor speaks English. Often, asking for a lower price is all it takes to get a discount on an unnecessarily expensive item.

2 Do Your Research Into Visas

There are some countries in Eastern Europe that will require you to organize a visa before you can enter. This is true for Russia and Belarus, as well as other locations, depending on where you’re from. Australian and New Zealander tourists visiting Ukraine will generally require a visa, for example.

The last thing you want to do is arrive at your destination only to find that you don’t have the visa you need to get through customs. Visa regulations tend to frequently change, so always do your research before leaving.

1 Learn A Few Russian Words

It’s impossible to learn every language spoken in Eastern Europe, but if there’s one that you’re going to study before leaving for your trip, it’s Russian. Many people in former Soviet countries speak Russian as well as their official language, and you’ll find that Russian has similarities with the other Slavic languages that are spoken in the region.

It’s also a good idea to get familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet. That way, you’ll be able to read signs and notices in places like Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Macedonia, where there might not be an English translation.

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