Eastern Europe is now mostly like other parts of Europe. Gone are the days of the infamous Soviet-era lines, when it was also impossible for an American to find familiar hair care products or toothpaste brands. Now you can walk into a hypermarket, grab what you need, and check out wordlessly at a Western-style cashier. However, there are some things that you can’t get when you’re there, and these things you need to make sure you bring with you.
Papers, please! In all cases of international travel, including in the Schengen zone for non-Schengen residents, passports are necessary for travel to another country. Many of the countries of the region are within this border-free area. Others are not, but still allow temporary visits without visas (countries such as Ukraine, for example). Still others, like Russia, require a visa to be applied for in advance and shown upon entry to the country. Make sure you have researched in advance whether you need a visa and apply for it before your travel.
A Full-Color Photo Copy of Your Passport and Visas
If your original passport goes missing, a good-quality photocopy can serve you well (though don't expect it to act as a passport substitute while traveling). Store these separately from your other documents so that if your wallet gets lost, you’ll still have your color copies.
Means of Payment
Though credit cards are widely accepted throughout the region of Eastern and East Central Europe, particularly in the most tourist areas, in some cases cash is the only means of payment accepted. In other instances, if you lose or damage your credit card or find that your bank has blocked access to it, cash comes in handy in a bind.
Even if you plan to withdraw cash from an ATM while you are abroad, having backup cash that you can change into the local currency is always smart. Ideally, keep this hard currency in a location separate from your wallet and close to you so that it can serve in emergency circumstances.
Availability of medications differs from country to country. In some cases, you may be able to get prescription medications at local pharmacies, sometimes even over the counter if regulations differ. However, it's dangerous to count on the ability to do so, particularly if you depend upon your medications for optimal wellness. Bring enough prescription medication with you to last the duration of your trip plus a few days extra in case of flight delays. Travel with these in your carry-on luggage.
If you are going to be hiking, bring insect repellent. Mosquito populations can be dense in forested areas. You also need to be wary of ticks. Products are available in the countries you'll visit, but you may feel more confident with your own DEET-containing chemical spray or lotion.
Contacts and/or Glasses
If you have impaired vision, bring all the necessary supplies. You may have difficulty finding the products you need when you get to Eastern Europe. However, in some countries, regulations for contact lenses means that you can buy them without a prescription, sometimes even through vending machines.
Adaptors and Chargers for Electronics
If you carry a digital camera, computer, tablet, cell phone, or other electronic devices, you’ll want to be able to recharge it. Having a charger won’t be enough because American-style plugs won't work in Eastern European electrical outlets, so make sure you purchase a power converter/adaptor. The proper device will reduce the 220 volts to a safe 110 volts for your appliances, as well as use a plug with two round prongs to fit into the sockets of your hotel room.
Appropriate clothing is essential for comfortable travel, whether you'll be bringing winter dress or summer dress. Research temperature averages and check weather conditions before you go. Clothing that can be layered is typically the best option. Furthermore, comfortable shoes that you have broken in ahead of your trip are a must for enjoying your time in the regions cities, villages, and natural landscapes.