How to travel visa free to Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Moldova on a North American or European passport
So many of my readers (and viewers on YouTube) have been sending me direct messages on my Instagram asking me how hard it is to travel in Eastern Europe.
This really depends on which of the four, you are planning to visit. Their respective visa free regimes are quite different.
Here, I outline the main characteristics of the visa free regime for Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Moldova if you have an American, Canadian or European Union passport. The visa rules may differ if you hold a different citizenship.
With a American/Canadian or EU passport, Ukraine offers a 90 day every 180 visa free regime. That means for every 3 out of 6 months, you can spend it in Ukraine without having to get a visa.
Moldova also offers a 90 day every 180 visa free regime.
However, it is important to note that the territory of Transnistria is not under the de facto control of Moldova and so the Transnistrian government enforce their own visa policy. There is no formal visa requirement but if you are staying overnight then you will have to register with the Transnistrian authorities. However, this can be done for you by your hotel.
Since the end of 2016, Belarus has started to liberalize visa free access to the country and now has 2 separate visa regimes in place:
1. Minsk International Airport
1. If you fly into Minsk International Airport then you have 30 days visa free entry [new rule introduced in July 2018 – previously it was just 5 days visa free] and can travel around the whole of Belarus if you would like. You just need your passport and insurance valid in Belarus (in reality that nearly always means buying the insurance on arrival). You do not need to prepare any documents in advance.
2. You can also cross by land to the regions of Grodno and Brest near the borders with Poland and Lithuania. This does require getting visa documents and having insurance before you arrive. It is possible organize this online with an agent. The maximum visa free time period is 15 days for Grodno/Brest and you cannot travel outside the delineated area to the rest of Belarus.
Russia is the country of the four that is the least open to American/Canadian/EU passport holders.
There is normally only one visa free option which is for 72 hours if you enter by passenger ferry at a designated port like Vyborg or Vladivostok. You are also restricted as to where you can stay during this visa free period.
However, from January 1st 2021, there will be the opportunity for EU passport holders to apply online for an evisa, which will allow them 16 days travel within Russia but as yet there is no visa free.
It is also important to note that Russia and Belarus have an agreement that means that flights between these 2 countries are treated like domestic flights so just be careful that you are aware of this if you book a flight to Minsk via Russia. In this case you will have to formally enter Russia (for which in need a visa) even though you are only transiting in reality.
Furthermore, in 2014 Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea and so Russia de facto controls the peninsula. This means that Russia enforces its visa regime and rules (and not those of Ukraine) if you visit Crimea. Moreover, there is a risk that the Ukrainians will claim that you entered the country illegally if you travel to Crimea from Russia without the permission of Ukraine.
Have you ever been to Russia, Belarus, Ukraine or Moldova? If so please leave a comment below explaining your experience there. До скорого!