Ask Harriet: Visas & currency in Eastern Europe

One of the great things about the Internet is how much information we have available to us—and this is especially true when it comes to planning our upcoming trips. I’ve always felt that the best advice I’ve received about new places I’m visiting is from friends and family who have already been there. That’s why I’m so happy we have our Travel Forums available for Grand Circle travelers. As soon as you book a trip, you can post questions to your fellow travelers about any concerns you have, packing tips, suggestions on places to go—basically, anything you want to know. Since we’re featuring Eastern Europe in this edition of Harriet’s Corner, I wanted to share a question asked by a traveler about to embark on Grand Circle Cruise Line’s Eastern Europe to the Black Sea River Cruise.

Just signed up for the Eastern Europe to the Black Sea River Cruise with the pre-trip in Prague. Would appreciate comments on several small issues from those who have been there recently. It appears that no visa is required in any of the countries visited, correct? It also seems that each country has its own currency. Are U.S. dollars accepted? Also, are there any “not to miss” sites in Prague that are not included in the tour? Is there any particular dish (food) that should not be missed? Thanks.

—Username jjb65 in the Grand Circle forum

These are great questions. If you haven’t already received your Travel Handbook in the mail from us, I encourage you to download a copy here, which will provide you with answers to your questions about visas and money exchange.

The short answer is that you’re correct that no visas are required for any of the countries you’ll be visiting during your trip. Also, each country has their own currency, and they rarely accept U.S. dollars. You have several options on how you can deal with this: You’ll be able to exchange your U.S. money for local currency while you’re in town, you can use a credit card at most shops, and you also have the option of using your ATM card to get local currency from your U.S. account.

Another thing to be aware of (which is also covered in your Travel Handbook) is that the Czech Republic requires proof of medical coverage. They don’t always ask to see the document—in fact, it’s uncommon—but if an official does ask, you must be able to provide it. Our Travel Protection Plan will suffice, so if you purchased it, you are covered. We’ll send you proof of coverage in your Final Documents. If you didn’t purchase our Travel Protection Plan, then you should get coverage elsewhere—from your own health provider, from a different travel protection provider, and sometimes, credit card companies will cover you abroad if you paid for the trip with your card. Whichever alternate option you chose, you need to bring proof of this protection with you (just in case).

As far as the second part of your question about places to visit and dishes to try, that answer is a bit trickier. There is so much to see in Prague, it can be overwhelming! We’ve been sure to include our favorite places in included and optional tours, but for some lesser-known locales that are just as worthwhile, I pooled the advice of our expert, local Program Directors in Eastern Europe for their suggestions on some of their favorite places to visit in Prague during free time. Tomas Brabec—one of our top Program Directors on The Best of Eastern Europe—offered his suggestions for two great hidden gems: the Hotel Lundborg (a family-owned hotel located under the Charles Bridge with a great cafe) and Wallenstein Garden (which features unique garden architecture and a quiet place to relax and enjoy art). Christian Pirv—one of our top Program Directors on Old World Prague & the Blue Danube—tells his travelers to visit the Strahov Monastery in the evening when not many tourists are there. He says, “Not only will you enjoy the castle and monastery restaurant (with their own brewed beer), but also a fantastic evening view over the city.”

Your Program Director is a great resource for providing ideas on what to see and do, so my suggestion on dishes to try is that you should be as adventurous as you can (and be sure to ask your Program Director what his or her favorite local delicacies are). The best way to find a new favorite dish is to try anything and everything!

Happy travels—and have a wonderful River Cruise!


Letters to Harriet

A few years ago, I read a book of “6-word memoirs.” So when I saw that Oprah recently revived them, it inspired me to reflect on my own—“Traveled the world to find myself.” Then I decided to give our travelers a chance to take a stab at writing their personal “6-word memoirs.” So, I posted the question on our Grand Circle Facebook page to find out what your “6-word memoirs” are. Be forewarned: Writing one is harder than you might think! Here are just a few of responses you shared with me:

  • Gerard Lebel: “We find love in unexpected places”
  • Erma Laraway: “And I really really liked me when I found myself”
  • Erma Laraway (again): “I should have left out one of the “really’s” to make it six words, but the meaning is the same. Gosh, that is hard to put it in six words.”
  • James Roddy: “Visiting great places; seeing new faces!”
  • Marie Oliva-Woodruff: “Never too late start something new!”

I agree with Erma—it’s tough to write these. I hope these “memoirs” have inspired you to come up with one of your own. Please share your “6-word memoirs” with me on our Facebook page. I look forward to reading more!

Ask Harriet a question or share your thoughts with her

Do you have a question you’d like to ask me, or comments about the stories featured in Harriet’s Corner? Please email me at harriet@gct.com—and your submission could be featured in the next Harriet’s Corner update. I look forward to sharing what you have to say!