Save Money on Travel in Eastern Europe
|Prague Castle at Night|
When you think about travel destinations, what comes to your mind? An exotic destination? A seaside retreat? A small adventure? Do images of Hawaii, Paris, or the Seychelles, spring to mind? Most people do not immediately think about Yalta, Vilnius, or Warsaw. But Eastern Europe is opening up and welcoming travelers in ways not previously imaginable.
Eastern Europe offers not only history and culture, but also sun and fun type holidays. Services and offerings are constantly improving and prices are excellent. Yalta is a famous Ukrainian seaside resort with a pretty promenade (boardwalk) and many lively restaurants, bars and cafes. Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania is well established as being amongst the world's most attractive cities. Warsaw is a fun and exciting city offering excellent dining and nightlife at affordable prices.
Eastern Europe is changing rapidly. Visas used to be required in all Eastern European countries; this is no longer the case. Many Eastern European countries no longer require visas for short stays. Poland, Czech Republic, Lithuania are now part of the EC and generally do not require visas for westerners. Even Ukraine has recently dropped its visa requirements for travelers from many western countries. As visa situation changes frequently, it is suggested that the traveler confirms visa requirements before departure.
Until recently it was relatively expensive to fly to many Eastern European destinations. But now, low cost carriers are changing this. Czech Air flies from New York to Prague for fares which are less than many US domestic rates. Lithuanian Airlines, Air Baltic and Estonian Air are all positioning themselves as low cost carriers and all have extensive routes throughout Eastern Europe. EasyJet, one of Europe's largest discount airlines now flies to Budapest, Warsaw, Split, Bratislava, Ljubljana, Prague, Rijeka and offers return rates of under GBP 100 to many of these destinations.
The past decade has seen an incredible development in the level of hotels. Eastern European cities such as Prague, Warsaw, Vilnius, Kiev and Moscow all have top quality hotels. Many of the international chains are there such as Intercontinental, Sofitel, Raddison. But the best part is that many of these hotels, even the internationally recognized chains, offer rates and specials that would not be imaginable in the West. Imagine staying in a beautiful top quality hotel with a breathtaking view, rich buffet breakfast and luxurious wellness facilities (Sauna, Jacuzzi, Swimming Pool) all included for under euro 100. This is possible in cities such as Warsaw and Vilnius.
|St Vitus Cathedral in Prague|
How do you do it? Start with a list with links to hotels. Most of the National Tourist websites offer a databank of all hotels, generally organized by city and hotel category (5 star, 4 star, etc). First check the hotel websites. Often times you will find a special offer that meets your needs. If not, simply compose a general letter requesting the hotel's best offer. Give the type of room (double/single) and your travel dates, decide what category you are interested in, and send it to all of the hotels in that category. Then sit back and wait to see what offers you get! Unless nearly filled, many Eastern European hotels will make offers well below the advertised rates. We have used this strategy successfully in Poland, Lithuania and Czech Republic, but it probably will not work in Belarus, for example. Usually the amount you save will be well worth the effort.
Gene is from California and Galina is from Minsk, Belarus. They live in Switzerland and have traveled extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. Check out their Travel Resource.