The world has watched Russia’s siege of Ukraine for nearly a full month now and, with no end in sight, travelers who had planned on trips to visit neighboring nations are wrestling with uncertainty.
As soon as the Russian invasion began, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)—the E.U. agency responsible for monitoring the skies’ safety for passengers—warned air carriers against flying in airspace over Ukraine, Moldova and portions of Belarus and Russia. Shortly afterward, many European and non-European countries imposed sanctions and airspace restrictions on Russia, with Russia responding tit-for-tat, which forced airlines worldwide to reroute their flights.
In the weeks that followed, travel advisors reported fielding plenty of questions and mixed reactions from clients with European vacation plans, some of whom feared that violence could spill over into surrounding regions and others who worried that refugee activity could potentially disrupt their trips. A recent survey conducted by MMGY Global found that the armed conflict in Ukraine is now twice as likely to affect U.S. travelers’ European travel plans as any concerns over COVID-19 at this point.
But, it’s worth noting that, weeks into the conflict, the EASA hasn’t had reason to add any further risk zones to its Conflict Zone Information Bulletin (CZIB), since the Russian invasion remains a contained military action, targeted solely at Ukraine. So, does this mean that there’s no danger to travelers bound for such neighboring countries as Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Turkey?
Based on the latest guidance laid out by European travel authorities and the U.K. Foreign Office, Euronews compiled insights into whether tourists’ trepidations about proceeding with travel plans to Eastern European destinations are valid.
An EASA spokeswoman told Euronews that the agency takes all available intelligence into account when updating the CZIB, working closely with the European Commission (the E.U.’s executive arm) and the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, also called Eurocontrol.
Gdansk, Poland. (photo courtesy of Collette)
While all 27 E.U. member states, as well as the U.S., U.K., Albania, Canada, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, are prohibiting Russian planes from entering their airspace—and Russia has retaliated by banning them back—only Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus have actually halted all commercial flights.
Is It Safe To Fly To Bordering Countries?
While U.S. travelers should always refer to the State Department’s latest guidance on their destination, it is still considered safe to visit nations that border Ukraine, such as Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. Those going to Poland should note that there are areas near the Belarusian border that are closed, and tourists should secure accommodations in advance, as there is currently an influx of Ukrainian refugees crossing into Poland.
A Hungarian Tourism Agency spokesperson recently told CNN, “Hungary remains a safe country, …….