7 Hidden Pearls of East Europe

Are you one of those who think Rome and Paris is all that Europe has to show? I guess no, you wouldn’t be reading this blog. You are interested in the hidden gems, and I am going to tell you about them. These are 7 countries that are generally less popular for tourists. And this is not the only good about them. Let’s see!

Moldova

Moldova is probably the poorest country in Europe. It’s not in the EU, it’s landlocked and small. Nothing interesting, eh? Wrong! This is a country with great preserved nature, friendly people, very low prices of everything, and a lot of this ex-USSR charm that’s quickly being lost in the other East Europe countries. And more – part of Moldova is the autonomic republic of Transnistria which is quite an odd place to visit. Getting to Moldova is easiest from Bucharest because there are very few direct flights to Kishinev.

Lenin monument in Moldova

Lenin monument in Moldova

Photo credit

Bulgaria

Bulgaria is sunny country with interesting nature. A lot of mountains, good food, and interesting culture. When going there make sure to not stay only in the capital Sofia. The real Bulgaria is most interesting to see in the small town and villages. See some interesting places to visit here.

Georgia

People usually don’t think about Georgia when talking about East Europe. The country is at the border of Europe and Asia. It’s a lovely place to visit. Georgia has this great mix of the both continent plus a bit of ex-communist feel and a punch of orient. It’s something that you can’t experience anywhere else. Add to this the delicious cheap food and very beautiful nature.

Armenia

Armenia is near Georgia and is another “hidden” place. How many people you know to have visited it? Armenia is next to Georgia, and if you come by land, Georgia is the only place to enter the country. Or maybe you can enter through Iran too. But not from Turkey or Azerbaidjan. Armenia is the oldest Christian country in the world. Part of it is kind of dessert. The city of Yerevan offers wonderful mix of Asia and monuments from the ex-Soviet era. Definitely a place to visit, especially if you are a westerner!

Romania

Although a bit more popular, Romania is also way off the beaten track. Romania has a lot of preserved nature and wild life. The country is big with a lot to see. Bucharest is well connected by air with the rest of the world. There are even low cost airlines travelling from Bucharest to Western Europe. So if you are for example in London, you can visit it on cheap.

Here are some ideas of what to do in Romania.

Bosnia

Bosnia is small country from the former Yugoslavia. It’s one of the very few Muslim countries in Europe. Combine Islam with ex-communist past and you got incredible mix! This small country also has interesting mountaineous terrain, architecture and good nature.

The best way to reach Bosnia is by land from Serbia.

Hungary

Hungary is the most popular tourist destination from the countries listed here. And even then it can be considered literally unknown for the non-European.

Hungary is also the richest and most Western from these countries. The capital Budapest is a cosmopolitan city. The mix here is between the East Europe and West Europe. The country is rich in history and architecture.

Getting to Budapest is very easy. There are flights from all over the world and many low cost flights from Europe.

Backpacker’s Choice: Australia vs. New Zealand

For those of us in Europe and USA Australia and New Zealand are equally distant and exotic destinations. Then how to choose where to go considering a trip “down there” costs quite a bit of cash to travel? Unless you have the time and money to visit both at once you need to take the decision long before the trip.

This little duel is going to help you :)

Costs

The overall cost of living in New Zealand is slightly lower than the cost in Australia with something like 5% – 10% (see here for more info). Such comparison is of course debatable because of the diversity in Australian cities cost of living. New Zealand seems to be more homogenеous on this side.

On the other side, we as backpackers are mostly interested in the cost of food, restaurants, hostels, and transport. New Zealand wins on 3 points – food and restaurants, and transportation within the country because it’s much smaller than Australia. The city public transport prices are similar in both countries but still this depends a lot on city-to-city basis.

What about hostels? A quick look at HostelWorld’s listings shows that hostel costs in Auckland, NZ start from $17 – $18 for a dorm bed and $25 – $30 for a private room bed. In Sidney the things start from a $2 – $3 dollars higher base.

Cost comparison winner: New Zealand.

But I’d say the cost differences are negligible so we won’t put too much weight on them.

How easy to visit? (visas, flights etc)

For these of us living far away in Europe or Americas the flight costs and length to New Zealand isn’t much different than to Australia. Flights to Sydney from London and New York for example are only slightly cheaper and shorter than these to Auckland.

But the visa requirements in New Zealand are much more relaxed. Citizens from EU and a lot other countries like China and USA can enter visa-free for up to 3 months, Compare this to Australia where almost every nationality needs a visa issued in advance.

Easy to visit comparison winner: New Zealand.

Things to see & Diversity

Now we are getting into more subjective matter. Many travelers claim that New Zealand is the most beautiful country in the world. On the other hand Australia is a lot more diverse, with both deserts, big cities, small farmer towns, and huge coastal line. A lot more wildwife is there in Australia. OK, but New Zealand has volcanoes and geysers, and glaciers.

So it really depends on what you want to see.

Things to see & diversity comparison winner: tie.

Culture

This is really hard to compare, but let’s try. New Zealand’s culture is unique and the Māori culture continues to play its role in it.

Australia is multiculture continent. You’ll find people from all over the world, with all religions, and cultures. You can find also the Indigenous Australians with their own culture as well.

Australia is a lot more diverse and wins here.

Culture comparison winner: Australia.

Food

New Zealand cuisine is not very different than the British one. There are few interesting things like Kumara (sweet potato), the large number of pies and sea food but in generally most of the food would not surprise the average westerner.

In Australia a non-vegetarian can taste a kangaroo, crocodile, and emu. You can eat tim-tam, a damper, chiko roll… And due to the big cultural diversity you can eat almost any other nation’s food.

Food comparison winner: Australia.

Safety

Natural disasters are not missing in both countries. In the recent years New Zealand became known for earthquakes but it also has tsunami, volcanic eruptions and sever weather issues.

How dangerous is this? I guess Australians can have some good laugh. Although earthquakes seem to be rare there, Australia can always welcome you with a flood, a fire,  a cyclone or just freaking-hot weather. Oh yes, and if you crash somewhere in the desert you may have no chance to find water.

And don’t forget the dangerous and poisonous animals which are abundant in Australia. Insects, reptiles, snakes, spiders, jellyfish, octopus, crocodiles… You count them.

What about the people? Crime-wise both countries are comparably.

Health risks? Australia has them more again – risks of skin burn, dehydration, mosquitoes and so on.

Safety comparison winner: New Zealand.

Going to other places

How easy is to go to other interesting places after getting to  one of these countries?

Both Australia and New Zealand can be a starting point for trips to Antarctica. New Zealand is however slightly closer. Australia is much closer to Asia – Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philipines – all these are just a couple of hours flight away.

Going to other places comparison winner: Australia.

The final result? No surprise, it’s a tie! :) Of course you have to decide on your own, and it’s all subjective, The idea of this post was to give you more information on some aspects rather than to tell you one of the countries is better than the other. If you can visit both, that would be best!