| 8 December 2021, Wednesday |

Russians flock to Croatia in search of EU COVID shot

Croatia, which is already popular with summer visitors, is now seeing an increase in visitors from Russia looking for COVID-19 photos.

The number of flights from Russia has surged in recent weeks, and it is not uncommon to hear Russian spoken at immunization facilities in Zagreb, the capital. In Croatia, foreigners, like natives, can acquire immunizations for free.

“Approximately 1,000 Russians have got immunizations just this month. So far, we have received 4,908 foreign nationals, the majority of whom are Russians “Neda Ferencic Vrban, the director of Zagreb’s largest immunization center, agreed.

The Russian Express travel agency organizes vaccination trips to Croatia for Russians looking for a shot approved in the European Union.

“Demand is not just big, it’s avalanche-like and growing exponentially each day. We started offering these tours at the end of September. At first there were single bookings, but now we book up to 50 people a day,” said Anna Filatovskaya from Russian Express.

The trip includes flight, accommodation, medical insurance and a transfer to the vaccination centre. Prices start at 36,000 roubles ($500).

In Russia, a QR code proving vaccinated status can only be given to people who have received Russia’s Sputnik vaccine.

“We’re allowed to enter Croatia with Sputnik. I’d like now to have a booster dose with Pfizer so I can travel to Europe without quarantine or tests,” said Yuri from Moscow after taking a jab.

Most Russian visitors choose a weekend trip, but some also take in a visit to the coast or neighbouring Slovenia.

“It has nothing to do with not trusting the Russian vaccine. Sometimes there is a need to travel to Europe, so we had the idea of getting vaccinated in Croatia,” said Moscow resident Natalya Noks, now back at home after visiting Zagreb and Slovenia.

Russian Express expects interest in the vaccine trips to continue.

“People who need to travel to Europe and countries where the Sputnik vaccine has not been approved will search for a way to receive the required foreign jab,” said Filatovskaya.