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How To Avoid Getting Kicked Off Your Train In The Middle of The Night

Posted by Jen King on 7/18/14 4:47 PM

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Yep. This has actually happened to some of ILP's volunteers while they were traveling through Eastern Europe.

Imagine sleeping soundly in your bunk, in your pjs, while your train chugs along.  You've purchased a ticket to get from your assigned city in Kiev, Ukraine to your chosen travel destination of Lithuania and the other Baltic states. Its a 16 hour ride so you're pretty exhausted and trying to get as much sleep as possible before you start exploring new areas of Europe during your schedule vacation time. Then, the train rolls to a stop and a worker on the train is speaking loudly in Russian as he walks up and down the aisle. He's heading towards you, but what is he saying? 

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Spoiler alert: He's asking for everyone to wake up and get out their passports and show their visa because the train has just crossed into Belarus. 

Currently, you can go from country to country in the European Union (EU) without a passport. One of the best parts of teaching English in Eastern Europe is that you can visit many different countries during your vacation times. If you're an ILP volunteer in Russia, you'll probably go visit Estonia. If you're an ILP volunteer in Lithuania, you'll probably travel to Poland. If you are living in Poland, you might check out Lithuania and the Czech Republic.  If you're an ILP volunteer in Ukraine, you'll probably get to go see Hungary. You can do all those things without needing a visa. You'll probably just need your passport when buying a train ticket or checking into your hotel. Easy peasy.  

So, here comes to train guy asking to see your passport as the train enters Belarus. Stumbling in the dark, half awake, you pull your passport out of the deep pocket that you safely hid it into your bag. He takes one look at your passport and starts yelling in Russian and points to the door of the train. He looks through your entire group's passports and suddenly everyone is being kicked off the train. 

Say what?!  

Yep, that's right. Even though its the middle of the night, you're being asked to leave the train. You cannot continue with them through Belarus. You're stuck. You're getting a hotel and figuring out what to do in the morning.

This is because Russia and Belarus do not follow the same no-visa-for-entry policies that the countries in the European Union does. You can be in Poland for a certain number of days without a visa. This is great for tourists. But, you cannot do this in Russia or Belarus. You need to purchase a visa for those countries. I know, you're just traveling through Belarus. You don't even care about getting off the train and stepping foot in the country. You. Still. Need. A. Visa. 

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You technically could try to get a visa. ILP volunteers really never do because not only can it be difficult to figure out, it can also be expensive. An added expense is not something you need while you're traveling for four months all over Eastern Europe. And you know what else? There's so many other amazing places to go to that it just doesn't seem to be worth it.

So, to sum it all up...

  • GET YOUR TRAVEL PLANS APPROVED BY AN ILP DIRECTOR!. This is a rule anyways, but make sure you follow it because, to be frank, they have the know how to help you avoid situations like getting kicked off a train. The directors are knowledgable about the areas you're traveling in. They know whats up.

  • Since you'll be avoiding purchasing those extra visas on your own:

    • ILP volunteers in Lithuania typically travel to Poland, Latvia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Austria, and Estonia. You're probably not going to take the days and days trip on the bus to drive to Ukraine.

    • ILP volunteers in Poland typically travel to Lithuania, Estonia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and other countries (minus Belarus and Russia, for visa reasons). These countries are pretty close to Krakow (where you'll be living) and you shoudln't need to drive through Belarus to get anywhere anyways. 

    • ILP volunteers in Ukraine typically travel to Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Poland and Slovakia.  You could technically fly to Lithuania to avoid the Belarus visa,  but there's not direct flights and so it can get expensive. You'll need to convince 2 other members of your group to also purchase flights. Just not likely. This also means that even though you're right on the border of Russia, you're not going to enter. Total bummer. We know.

    • ILP volunteers in Russia typically travel to Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, Finland and Sweden. ILP purchases your necessary visa to be in Russia.

Have fun seeing the sights of Eastern Europe. There's so many amazing places. Go see Charles Bridge in Prague or Auschwitz in Poland. Just make sure you get your travel plans approved by an ILP director first okay?

Topics: Ukraine, Russia, Travel Tips, Lithuania, Poland

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