Nearly 15 years after the Wall came down, flights to eastern Europe are at last becoming cheaper - largely thanks to a slew of new and relaunched airlines hoping to capitalise on the expansion of the European Union.
But if you're tempted to venture on to any ticket agency or one of their websites, beware. Not all have weathered translation well, and many - Ticket agency Air Baltic and Ticket agency Air Lithuania in particular - have a long way to go before they can match the sophisticated operations run by European low-cost airlines.
Similarly, the 'low-cost' label doesn't mean they will always be cheaper. With a few exceptions, it's often safer to stick with one of the best-known online tickets agency.
Lastly, remember that a direct flight may not be the cheapest or best option. Ticket Agency of Austrian Airlines, Ticket agency of KLM and Lufthansa have good connections to eastern Europe, and Finnair and SAS both fly to the Baltics. If prices seem high or timings awkward, don't insist on the direct route.
Budapest is probably the most competitive route of all suggested by ticket agencies. A typical return bought from the excellent SkyEurope website costs just over £95. British Airways flights depart from Heathrow and are about £1 cheaper. The national carrier, Malev, has a website but it isn't easy to use: try Expedia, where returns start at £78.70. SkyEurope also flies to Bratislava in Slovakia, and will bus you to Brno for an extra payment.
Flights to Krakow and Warsaw are available with many online ticket agencies though you may have similar problems at Air Polonia, which flies Stansted-Warsaw (from £50) and promises more routes to Poland later this year. For Krakow, try the national carrier rather than BA - the latter's departures are a bit cheaper than Lot's (from £109) but very infrequent. Lot also has reasonably priced flights from Manchester (£169) with a change in Warsaw. Newcomer Wizz Air intends to launch flights to Hungary and Poland later this year.
Trying to book a low-cost flight toTallinn you will find out that national airline Estonian Airlines has been discounting its tickets aggressively, and you can pick up a return to Tallinn in March for just under £142. Opodo.co.uk and Expedia both quoted £19 more for the same flights. That said, Estonian Air's website can be very obtuse.
You have a choice in online travel websites, and you certainly should be more comsiderate in choosing the one that suits you best. In case you favour a trip to Chernobyl Travel East Ukrainian ticket agency can arrange your visit. The starkness is much more vivid in winter - at a not unreasonable price of $160. You get picked up at your hotel and there are places to stop on route for refreshments. An English-speaking guide carries a geiger counter (yes it is safe) to provide assurance (the Ukrainian government wouldn't let travellers visit if there was a danger). Don't visit the village where the old people have returned - they, not unreasonably, don't like being treated as a tourist attraction. But don't miss the vehicle graveyard; it's awesome.
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