Eastern and Central Europe (Eyewitness Travel Guides)

(Ben Green) #1



The best time to visit Eastern
and Central Europe depends
on the visitor’s itinerary.
However, most people prefer
spring and summer, from
April to September. Stretching
from the Baltic Sea in the
north to the Mediterranean
Sea in the south, the region
has a wide variety of climates.
Summers in North Eastern
Europe can be cool and rainy,
while in South Eastern Europe
they can be unbearably hot,
especially in big cities. The
Adriatic coast, with its hot,
dry summers and relatively
mild winters, has the balmiest
climate, but crowds can be a
drawback in the peak season
of July and August, making
May, June and September
better times to visit.
Elsewhere in South Eastern
Europe, long, hot summers
and long, cold winters are
the usual trends. The moun-
tains of Slovenia, Slovakia,
Romania and Bulgaria provide
ideal conditions for skiing,
with a season that runs from
mid December to late March.
Winters in the north of the
region, near the Baltic coast,
can be long, cold and dark.
During the depths of winter
the sun sets at 3–4pm, and
daytime temperatures rarely
rise above 0° C (32° F).
Summertime, on the other
hand, offers the prospect
of long daylight hours in
St Petersburg and the north-
ern Baltic States.
Visitors should bear in mind
that August is a busy month
in all parts of Eastern and
Central Europe, when most
Europeans take their vacations.


The countries covered in this
guide sit across three time
zones. Poland, the Czech
Republic, Slovakia, Hungary,
Austria, Slovenia, Croatia,
Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Montenegro and Serbia are all
on Central European Time
(CET), which is one hour
ahead of Greenwich Mean
Time (GMT) and 6 hours
ahead of New York. Lithuania,
Latvia, Estonia, Romania and
Bulgaria are on East European
Time (EET), which is 2 hours
ahead of GMT and 7 hours
ahead of New York. The
Russian cities of Moscow and
St Petersburg are on Moscow
Standard Time (MST), which
is 3 hours ahead of GMT and
8 hours ahead of New York.
In Europe, the clocks go
forward by one hour in late
March and go back by one
hour in late October.


Of the 14 countries included
in this guide, 11 (Lithuania,
Latvia, Estonia, Poland,
the Czech Republic, Slovakia,
Hungary, Austria, Slovenia,
Romania and Bulgaria) are
members of the European
Union (EU). EU citizens can
visit all of these countries
with a valid identity card.
Citizens of the United States,
Canada, Japan, New Zealand,
Norway and Switzerland can
also enter these countries
with a valid passport.
All of the EU members
listed above, except Romania
and Bulgaria, are signatories
of the Schengen Agreement.
Borders between Schengen

zone countries are open,
and once inside the Schengen
zone, identity documents
do not usually need to be
shown when crossing a
common frontier. However,
visitors should always keep
their identity documents
handy just in case random
checks are made.
In the rest of Eastern
Europe, entry requirements
differ from country to coun-
try. Visitors from the EU, US,
Canada, Australia and New
Zealand can enter Croatia,
Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Serbia and Montenegro on
the pro duction of a valid
passport. Citizens of other
countries, however, should
check current regulations
before they travel.
Russia requires almost all
foreign visitors to purchase
a visa before travel, which
usually involves applying in
person or through a travel
agent to the local Russian
embassy or consulate several
weeks before the trip. For
visitors who want to include
Moscow and St Petersburg in
their itinerary, it is advisable
to plan this part of the trip
well in advance.


Various bus and rail tickets
offer discounts on European
travel (see pp18–19), but, in
addition to these, students
with a recognized student
card may be eligible for a
wider range of discounts. The
best card is the International
Student Identity Card (ISIC),
which gives discounts on all
kinds of goods and transport
as well as cheaper admission



he countries in Eastern and Central
Europe have undergone great
trans formation since the
collapse of Communism in 1990.

Some states have adapted quickly
to the change and are now active

members of the European Union
(EU), while others continue to

wrestle with serious economic
and political prob lems. As a result, the

quality of tourist facilities varies greatly

throughout the region. Accommodation
and public trans port are well organized
and reliable in North Eastern
Europe. In the southeast, on the
other hand, travel may be slower
and standards less predictable.
However, with an impressive
diversity of his tory, culture and
folklore to discover, Eastern and
Central Europe makes for a rich and
enjoyable travel experience.

The European
Union flag
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