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Eastern Europe Is Now The Most Restriction Free Area Of The World

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Being the first collective of nations to bar tourism in the wake of Covid, Europe is ironically paving the way for the reinstatement of international travel and pushing for pre-pandemic normality. More than half of the continent has dropped Covid entry requirements, and along its Eastern front, the Balkans have become the most-restriction free area in the world.

Girl Making A Heart Sign With A View Of Stari Most, The Old Bridge In Mostar, Bosnia And Herzegovina

Especially after major setbacks like Omicron, the continent’s barriers were put up high and complex travel rules made it virtually impossible for many to visit. Even though the Balkans have always had a more relaxed approach to Covid, with countries like Croatia and Albania for the best part, the whole peninsula has now decided to abolish entry curbs fully.

These are wonderful news, considering that navigating Covid rules while crossing the Balkans’ borders was extremely challenging before:

Land Border Crossing Between Romania And Bulgaria In Ruse, The Bulgarian Side Of The Border, Balkans, Easten Europe

What Are The Balkans?

Geographically, the Balkans are a peninsula in Eastern Europe comprising 12 countries. 9 of those are located almost entirely in the peninsula, including Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia, and Bulgaria. Also included are parts of Slovenia and Romania, the Greek mainland, and European Turkey.

Politically, the term ‘The Balkans’ traditionally refers to modern states that were once aligned with Post-War Communism, including those that were once part of a wider, now-defunct country called Yugoslavia (Croatia, BiH, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Slovenia), and then Albania, Romania, and Bulgaria.

Picturesque Perat In Kotor Bay, Montenegro, Balkans

The Balkans Are Open For Travel

Irrespective of what definition of the Balkans you use – whether it’s the purely geographical or political – this region is entirely open for tourism, irrespective of nationality or vaccination status. From the castle-dotted, alpine peaks of Westernmost Slovenia, to Easternmost Turkey’s vibrant metropolises, the Balkans have no restrictions in place whatsoever.

Traditional Ottoman Era Houses In Berat, Central Albania, Balkans

Even though other European countries have also reopened, some in the West have staunchly refused to drop all rules. That is the case with France and Portugal, which still require at least one type of Covid certification from a majority of travelers. As it is open, and geographically being a group of 12 states, the Balkans are officially the freest region in the world for travelers right now.

As can be seen on IATA’s Covid-19 Travel Regulations Map, the Balkan Freedom Bubble, as we are dubbing it, is clearly the easiest zone to country-hop at the moment:

IATA Covid 19 Travel Regulations Map – Source: https://www.iatatravelcentre.com/world.php

Crossing Borders In The Balkans Is As Easy As Ever

Even if you have your heart set on visiting a single country, such as Croatia, it is very likely you will end up crossing a border or two. As Balkan states are tiny, in most cases you will be passing through other countries to reach your final destination, which makes country-hopping across the peninsula super easy – especially when driving.

For example, when using Dubrovnik as your entry point into the Balkans, you will likely pass through a section of Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach other hotspots in Croatia, such as Split or Zadar. That is because Bosnia’s only access to the sea separates Dubrovnik from the rest of Croatia’s coast by a 9 km stretch.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

While this may sound exciting for those looking to tick off as many countries as possible, crossings in the region can be a very unpleasant experience when there is traffic. During Covid it was a big hassle, as each Balkan country had set out their own entry guidelines: being allowed into Croatia did not necessarily mean you would be granted entry into Bosnia.

Now, the whole peninsula has re-established pre-pandemic entry guidelines, and you are free to travel the Balkan countries extensively without having to worry about testing for Covid prior to a border crossing, or even presenting a vaccine pass. Traveling from Croatia to Bosnia, then Croatia again, ending up in Slovenia or vice-versa is as easy as ever.

Historical Part Of Zadar With Cathedral Of St Donatus And Roman Forum Ruins, Zadar, Croatia

All Are Welcome Irrespective Of Covid Status

In sum, there are:

  • No pre-departure tests, irrespective of vaccination
  • No vaccination requirements
  • No recovery letter for the unvaccinated
  • No post-arrival tests
  • No mandatory quarantine
  • No other health-related entry requirement

Countries that have at least a part of their territory in the Balkans, and that are open for travel are the following:

View Of Petrovaradin Fortress On The Danube River In Novi Sad, Serbia
  • Albania (100% in the Balkans)
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina (100%)
  • Bulgaria (100%)
  • Kosovo (100%)
  • Montenegro (100%)
  • North Macedonia (100%)
  • Greece (83.7%)
  • Serbia (65.8%)
  • Croatia (42.4%)
  • Slovenia (24.7%)
  • Romania (4.6%)
  • Turkey (3%)
  • Italy (0.1%)*

*Italy, yet another country that has removed all entry requirements recently, also has 0.1% of its territory in the Balkan Peninsula.

Even though all of the above countries are again welcoming tourists, we advise you to read more on the History of the Balkans and plan your trip accordingly, as some countries – particularly Serbia and Kosovo – still have unresolved conflicts that may affect travelers. The definition of ‘Balkans’ used on this article has been mostly the geographical one.

Read More:

Travel Insurance That Covers Covid-19 For 2022

7 Underrated Destinations In Europe For 2022

Passengers Missing Flights Across Europe After Travel Chaos At Airports Continue

United And Delta To Relaunch Several Flights To Europe

Why Travelers Should Only Go Carry-On This Summer

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories


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D

Thursday 9th of June 2022

Just finished up Albania. Massively overrated country that is supposedly “underrated” by Western standards. Didn’t see a mask practically the whole time I was there.

AyL

Thursday 9th of June 2022

visited Albania last summer. didn't see a single person wearing a mask. visited Poland in October, it's as of Covid was never a thing there. then flew to Italy and got scolded for not wearing my mask over my nose

Kashlee Kucheran

Thursday 9th of June 2022

True- I just spent 3 weeks in Albania and I didn't see a mask once.

Christian

Thursday 9th of June 2022

The map is outdated as German has no entry requirements.

dumbo

Friday 10th of June 2022

@Kashlee Kucheran, germans being zermans? who would've imagined.

Kashlee Kucheran

Thursday 9th of June 2022

Germany decided at the last minute to not remove them completely for third-party travelers - the map is correct I just transited through Germany a few hours ago and to enter (leave airside and go through immigration) I would have had to be fully vaccinated, which by their definition, requires a booster. They also removed the possibility to provide a negative test instead of 3x's vaxxed for third-party.

H

Thursday 9th of June 2022

I may be mistaken, but I thought that travelling between Serbia and Kosovo was quite restricted and difficult.

Kashlee Kucheran

Thursday 9th of June 2022

The author talks about that in the article