Entering Central Europe
There is little hassle when entering the region through gateway airports or from EU border states. Crossings to take note of include the following:
From Belarus or Ukraine To Poland, Slovakia or Hungary; expect time delays and tight immigration and customs controls. Have necessary visas for Belarus and/or Ukraine, and no more than the permitted number of cigarettes.
From Romania, Serbia or Croatia To Hungary or Slovenia; involves no great problems as long as you have the necessary visas and documents.
Frankfurt and Zürich are major international air hubs linked to points across the globe; Vienna is only slightly less connected. You can also reach major cities like Munich, Prague, Budapest and Warsaw from abroad. Airports in Ljubljana and Bratislava host intra-European flights only and tiny Liechtenstein has no airport.
What's that Bag Worth to Ya?
Beware when booking low-cost carrier seats; extra costs add up super fast. Most charge fees for checked luggage and impose strict weight limits with oversize penalties. Flying with a set of Czech crystal could cost waaaay more than you bargained for. Other add-ons to take note of include phone-booking fees, assigned-seat fees, paper-ticket fees, priority-line fees, fresh-air fees… Oh, wait, they haven't started charging for oxygen – yet.
Searching the Skies
International powerhouse search engines such as www.expedia.com and www.orbitz.com can help you find airfares on major airlines. Tracking down a budget carrier deal in Europe can be trickier; some of the low-cost airlines opt out of consolidator websites. We recommend searching these websites:
Fly Cheapo (www.flycheapo.com)
Large carriers take you to and from a host of world cities, and a web of low-cost airlines provide services across Europe.
Note that with cheap fares come many caveats. Some of the bare bones airlines are just that – expect nonreclining seats, nonexistent legroom and nonexistent window shades. At some far-flung airports, customer service may also be nonexistent – same goes for convenience. Some airlines, such as Ryanair, are noted for their destination euphemisms, eg Frankfurt in Germany is called ‘Frankfurt-Hahn’, a small airport 120km west of Frankfurt (and it's real airport) and two hours away by bus. Also beware of discount airline websites such as those of Air Berlin which show nonstop flights that are actually connections.
Transporting a bicycle by plane is possible (taken apart or whole); check with the airline for regulations and fees.
Major urban centres are well connected by bus to European destinations. However, budget air and rail prices rival bus fares, so do your research before you decide to take what could be a slow, miserable journey.
Car & Motorcycle
No special requirements exist for driving into Central Europe. If you've hired a car elsewhere, make sure all the countries you plan to visit are insured by the rental agency.
Regular train services connect Central Europe with practically every corner of the European continent. To get here by rail from Central Asia is possible but will require several days and/or transfers. In general all the Central European countries have good connections to large cities in neighbouring countries.
Though it's not the most common way of arriving, a few ferries do run to Central Europe. Compare prices and check routes at Ferry Savers (www.ferrysavers.com).
Germany To Scandinavia and the Baltic states.
Poland To Denmark and Sweden.
Slovenia To Italy.