Tatiana's Eastern European Entry Restrictions
We've almost been three weeks up here in the northeastern tip of Slovakia. And as lovely as it is, I'm starting to get itch to get back on the road.
I've been looking at the map of Eastern Europe for going on two weeks now, trying to figure out some sort of path for us. It's hard, when all I see are dollar signs and question marks.
How far west do we go, and into what countries?
I thought I'd finally developed us a little loop earlier this morning. It took us across Hungary, into Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia, and up into Romania, with my sights set on Moldova (a country I'm particularly keen on seeing).
From some research done a few weeks prior, I knew that Moldova would require a visa for Tatiana. The saving grace for her is usually her Chilean passport, which allows for entry into almost as many countries as my U.S. passport (though some require more paperwork hoop jumping, such as visas). Her Peruvian passport is pretty much only good for getting into and out of Peru, with the extra booklet pages useful as toilet paper in a pinch.
Normally the visa fee for Moldova is a hefty $60 for a mere 30 days (recently relaxed restrictions allow me to get a full 90 without the paperwork), but I'd read about a wine festival in October that would allow her to enter (for a handful of days) without having to pay the fee:
Due to the National Wine's Day, a privileged visa regime for foreign citizens is established, annually, for a 15-day period (7 days before and 7 days after the holiday), the entry-exit visas being provided free of charge.
I've e-mailed a pair of Lonely Planet authors in the region for clarification on the procedurals—I don't think it's as easy as just showing up at the border. 'Visa fee-free' probably doesn't me 'visa-free'.
But all this got me to thinking: I wonder what other countries she's going to have problems entering the region? After a few hours of research, I had my answers—and they weren't good. My brainstormed path was shot down almost as quickly as I'd dreamed it up.
This is what I learned of her travel limitations in the region:
- No visa is needed for the member states of the European Union (in blue, with our current location in gold). We can still travel within the borderless Schengen zone for about 60 more days. Bulgaria and Romania aren't part of the zone, and will each grant us a 90-day stint in their country.
- No visa is needed for the countries in green (Croatia, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Turkey). To enter Macedonia, Tatiana would have to use her Peruvian passport. The recently declared independent nation of Kosovo is currently under United Nations interim administration, and has no visa regime in place.
- A visa is required for the countries in red (Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia, Bosnia & Hercegovina, and Montenegro). No 'visa on arrival' policy is in place, with stipulations of a formal letter of invitation (sent from inside the country) to accompany the paperwork that must be submitted at a consulate.
I actually really wanted to see Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia—and possibly the others in that southwestern corner of the region—but it looks like that isn't going to happen with the family in tow. The visa restrictions in place for Tatiana are just too much for me to bother organizing at this point.
I've decided that I'm going to return to this particular region alone or with a friend, and have at it with a bicycle and some camping gear. I really think that's going to be the only decent way to see and explore these countries on a shoestring budget.
As for our path, I'm not going to spend the money to head west, and then backtrack through Hungary. Bus and rail travel are very expensive here, and simply wouldn't be worth the expense to transit back through the same country just to visit Croatia and Slovenia. I think we'll be sticking with NE Hungary, and then moving over into Romania—the path of least resistance.
Aside from Sarajevo and Vienna, I have little interest in seeing a capital city in this region outside of Moldova (which is so small it's almost unavoidable). Budapest sounds exotic by name and stigma only, and does little to attract me within its expensive expanse. There will be no more big cities for a while.