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Eastern Europe is now the most restriction-free region in the world

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As the first collective of nations to ban tourism in the wake of Covid, Europe is ironically opening the way for the restoration of international travel and for the promotion of a pre-pandemic normality. More than half of the continent has abandoned Covid-related entry requirements, and along its eastern front, the Balkans have become the most restriction-free zone 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’s, the continent’s barriers were raised and complex travel rules made it virtually impossible for many to get there. Even though the Balkans have always had a more relaxed approach to Covid, with countries like Croatia And Albania for the best part, the entire peninsula has now decided to completely remove entry barriers.

This is great news, considering that it was previously extremely difficult to comply with Covid rules while crossing Balkan borders:

Land border post between Romania and Bulgaria at Ruse, on the Bulgarian side of the border, Balkans, Eastern Europe

What are the Balkans?

Geographically, the Balkans is a peninsula in Eastern Europe comprising 12 countries. 9 of them are located almost entirely on 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 “Balkans” traditionally refers to the States that were once aligned with post-war communismincluding those that were once part of a larger, now-defunct country called Yugoslavia (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Slovenia), then Albania, Romania, and Bulgaria .

Picturesque Perat in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, Balkans

The Balkans are open for travel

Whatever definition of the Balkans you use – whether purely geographical or political – this region is fully open to tourism, regardless of nationality or vaccination status. From the castle-studded Alpine peaks of western Slovenia to the vibrant metropolises of eastern Turkey, the Balkans have no restrictions in place.

Traditional houses from the Ottoman era in Berat, central Albania, Balkans

Even as other European countries have also reopened, some in the West have adamantly refused to abandon all rules. This is the case of France And Portugal, which still require at least one type of Covid certification from a majority of travelers. Since it is open and geographically a group of 12 states, the Balkans are officially currently the freest region in the world for travelers.

As can be seen on the IATA website Covid-19 Travel Regulations MapTHE Balkan Freedom Bubbleas we call it, is clearly the easiest area to country-hop right now:

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

Crossing borders in the Balkans is easier than ever

Even if you have your heart set on visiting just one country, like Croatia, it is very likely that you will end up crossing one or two borders. The Balkan States being tiny, in most cases you will pass through other countries to reach your final destinationwhich makes traveling across the peninsula very easy, especially by car.

For example, when using Dubrovnik as access point in the Balkans, you will probably cross part of Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach other hotspots in Croatia, like Split or Zadar. Indeed, the only access to the Bosnian Sea separates Dubrovnik from the rest of the Croatian coast for 9 km.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

While this may sound exciting for those looking to check 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 hassleas each Balkan country had set its own entry guidelines: being allowed to enter Croatia did not necessarily mean that you would be allowed to enter Bosnia.

Today, the entire peninsula has reinstated pre-pandemic entry guidelines, and you are free to travel widely in the Balkan countries without having to worry about Covid screening before crossing the border, or even presenting a vaccination pass. Traveling from Croatia to Bosnia, then back to Croatia and ending in Slovenia or vice versa is easier than ever.

Historical part of Zadar with St. Donatus Cathedral and the ruins of the Roman Forum, Zadar, Croatia

All are welcome regardless of Covid status

In short, there are:

  • No tests before departure, regardless of vaccination
  • No vaccination requirements
  • No reminder letter for the unvaccinated
  • No testing after arrival
  • No mandatory quarantine
  • No other health-related entry requirements

Countries that have aat least part of their territory in the Balkansand which are open to travel are the following:

View of Petrovaradin Fortress on the Danube 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%)
  • Türkiye (3%)
  • Italy (0.1%)*

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

Even though all the above countries are welcoming tourists again, we advise you to read more about the History of the Balkans and plan your trip accordingly, as some countries – especially Serbia and Kosovo – still have unresolved conflicts that could affect travelers. The definition of “Balkans” used in this article is primarily geographical..

Learn more:

Travel insurance that covers Covid-19 for 2022

7 Underrated Destinations in Europe for 2022

Passengers miss flights across Europe after airport chaos continues

United and Delta to relaunch several flights to Europe

Why travelers should only bring carry-on luggage this summer

Learn more:

Top 5 Travel Insurance Plans for 2023 starting at $10 per week

How to easily earn points for free travel

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This article was originally published on TravelOffPath.com

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