Many of the places that we go on our YPT tours involve crossing some of the worlds more interesting borders. Crossing into unrecognised countries from certain states can at times be a little challenging, however, I have found if you wear a smile and answer their questions by the book you will have no issue at all! After all, these guards are simply doing their jobs and often hate their own bureaucracy more than you do!
Recently crossing from Ukraine into Transnistria (a separatist state in Moldova) I encountered some questions which if answered in the wrong fashion could have meant a few more hours of useless interrogation. Firstly, people should understand that Ukraine has its own separatist movements in the eastern part of the country as well as, the whole Crimea – Russia situation.
After bags had been searched one of our customers was held back. He was wearing a shirt that said “Abkhazia”. For those that don’t know Abkhazia is a small breakaway republic of Georgia, which is recognised by Russia. The border guards weren’t too fond of this. After all, we were heading into an area of separatism something Ukraine is clearly not a fan of.
After working out that he was just a tourist and not some Russian-influenced spy, the questions began.
“So who does Abkhazia belong to?”
Understanding some simple regional foreign policy, Georgia was the clear answer. They smiled and continued
“What about Transnistria?”.
“Well Moldova!” I exclaimed, despite what my actual thoughts may have been.
Lastly, they dropped a bombshell, which I was expecting.
“Crimea?” he said raising his eyebrows.
I looked at him as if to say “how dare you!”, I immediately replied
“Ukraine of course!”.
This was followed by a moment of silence before I asked him,
“did I get an A+, was that 100%?”.
He tried to hide his smile before he let out a manly giggle. I told him that next time my friend would be wearing a “Slava Ukraine” (glory to Ukraine) t-shirt as to avoid further problems. He smiled further and gave me the flick of the hand as if to say “get outta here you little scamp”.
Finally, that international relations degree came in handy. Just remember to know who is friends with who, remain calm and give them a smile and you should lessen the bureaucracy as much as possible. Although sometimes it just can’t be avoided…
Want to test your skills at the Ukranian border? Join YPT on our next tour.
Click here for more information.