Eastern and Central Europe (Eyewitness Travel Guides)

(Ben Green) #1

to many museums, galleries
and other sights. Most stu-
dents can obtain this card
from their educational estab-
lishment at home, but it can
also be obtained abroad from
an ISIC issuing office or from
branches of STA travel (see
p17). For US students, this
card also includes some
medical cover.


Duty-free allowances are not
available to visitors travelling
from one EU country to
another. However, duty-free
goods can be purchased on
entry or exit from the EU as
a whole. The allowances
are as follows: tobacco (
cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250 g/
9 oz of loose tobacco);
alcohol (1 litre/2 pints of
strong spirits, 2 litres/4 pints
of alcohol under 22 per cent
proof, and 2 litres/4 pints of
wine); coffee (500 g/18 oz)
and perfume (60 ml/0.1 pint).
When returning to their
home country, visitors may
be asked to declare any items
purchased abroad and pay
duty on any amount that
exceeds their home country’s
allowance; the scope of these
allowances will vary from one
country to another.


In both EU member-states
and most other countries in
Eastern and Central Europe,
all goods and services (except
certain items such as food
and children’s clothing) are
subject to Value Added Tax
(VAT), which is included in
most prices. Visitors may
claim a refund on this tax if
they are neither citizens of
the EU nor of the particular
country they are visiting, but
it can be a lengthy process.
The easiest way to do this
is to shop at places display-
ing the “Euro Free Tax” sign,
although the stores that offer
this service may be expensive
or sell only luxury goods.
Visitors need to show their
passport to the shop assistant
and complete a form, after
which VAT will be deducted
from the bill. In certain

countries, visitors need to
keep their receipts and VAT
forms and present them at
a tax refund desk with their
unopened pur chases when
they leave the country. These
forms will be processed and
a refund is eventually sent to
their home address.


Although Eastern and Central
Europe is a relatively safe
region to travel, visitors
should always take certain
precautions. Pickpocketing
and petty theft are by far the
biggest threats to visitors,
although these are more
common in some countries
than in others – specific
information is given in the
practical and travel infor-
mation section of each
country chapter.
The safest way of carrying
money is in the form of
travel ler’s cheques. Visitors
should have their belongings
ade quately insured before
leaving home and not leave
them unattended. In the event
of a robbery, it should be
reported imme diately to the
local police and a copy of the
report acquired. Visitors are
advised to keep their valuables
well con cealed, especially in
crowded areas or on public
transport. If driv ing, it is safer
to leave the car in a car park
rather than on the street.


Travel insurance is essential
to cover any loss or damage
to possessions and for
unexpected medical and
dental treatment. Many major
credit cards offer some insur-
ance if travellers pur chase
their flight tickets or holiday
package through them, so it is
advisable to check before
buying a separate policy. If
possible, it is better to buy a
policy that pays for medical
treatment on the spot, rather
than one that reimburses later.
Most general insurance poli-
cies do not cover potentially
hazardous outdoor activities
such as climbing, skiing and
scuba diving, although these
can be included at extra cost.


Conditions for disabled
travellers are improving
rapidly throughout Eastern
and Central Europe, however
facilities can vary drastically
from one country to the next.
In some cities, pavements,
tourist attractions such as
museums and public transport
have been adapted for
wheelchair users, while
elsewhere much of this work
still remains to be done.
In general terms, the cities
of South Eastern Europe
lag behind those of Central
and North Eastern Europe in
serving disabled travellers.
Not all destinations provide
adapted accommodation
for those with special needs;
wheel chair users should plan
their itinerary carefully and
much in advance. Hotels
with ratings of four stars and
above usually have rooms
adapted for wheelchairs, but
these are generally expensive
and tend to be concentrated
in and around the big cities
and major tourist towns.
Spa tourism is well
developed throughout the
region, and many of the
highly reputed health resorts
offer excellent facilities for
the disabled.

The metric system is used
throughout Eastern and
Central Europe.

Imperial to Metric
1 inch = 2.54 centimetres
1 foot = 30 centimetres
1 mile = 1.6 kilometres
1 ounce = 28 grams
1 pound = 454 grams
1 US pint = 0.47 litre
1 UK pint = 0.55 litre
1 US gallon = 3.8 litres
1 UK gallon = 4.6 litres

Metric to Imperial
1 millimetre = 0.04 inch
1 centimetre = 0.4 inch
1 metre = 3 feet 3 inches
1 kilometre = 0.6 mile
1 gram = 0.035 ounce
1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds
1 litre = 2.1 US pints
1 litre = 1.76 UK pints
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