Prague, Warsaw, Zagreb, Budapest, and Moscow receive the greatest number of international flights to Eastern Europe. If you're planning to explore the entire region, you might consider starting at one of these gateways and catching connecting flights to less-serviced destinations.
While most airports in the Eastern European countries covered in this guide accommodate flights from a variety of international airlines, each welcomes most of its tourists on connecting flights run by its national carriers from major western European hubs. These are:
Bulgaria: Sofia Airport (SOF); Bulgaria Air, tel. +359 2 402 0400, www.air.bg/en.
Croatia: Zagreb Airport (ZAG); Croatia Air, tel. +385 (0) 91 77 312, www.croatiaairlines.com.
Czech Republic: Prague Airport (PRG); Czech Airlines, tel. +420 239 007 007, www.csa.cz/en/portal/homepage/cz_homepage.htm.
Hungary: Budapest Airport (BUD); Malév Hungarian Airlines, tel. +36 1 235 3888, www.malev.com/bp/eng/index.asp.
Poland: Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airport (WAW); LOT Polish Airline, tel. +48 801 703 703, www.lot.com
Romania: Bucharest Henri Coanda/Otopeni Airport (OTP); TAROM Romania Air Transport, tel. +40 021 317 4444, www.tarom.ro/en.
Moscow: Sheremetevo-2 Airport (SVO); Aeroflot, tel. +7 495 223-55-55, www.aeroflot.ru.
Slovakia: Bratislava M.R. Stefánik Airport (BTS); Czech Airlines, tel. +42 (0) 239 007 007, www.csa.cz/en/portal/homepage/cz_homepage.htm.
Slovenia: Ljubljana Airport (LJU); Adria Airways, tel. +386 1 369 10 10, www.adria.si/en/index.cp2.
Public transportation in Eastern Europe generally is excellent and a good way to cover a lot of territory inexpensively. However, access to a car is a must if you want to see remote attractions or if you don't have time to wait for train or bus connections. If you plan to rent a car, reserve it before you leave home. Rates are lower and you are likely to get a better choice of cars. Look for a weekly rate with unlimited mileage. Expect to pay $50 and up per day for an economy car with manual transmission and unlimited mileage. Often cars at that price point are not air-conditioned or low-mileage models, either. Gas, parking, and insurance are always extra.
Note: Be sure you examine and document any scratches, broken equipment, or interior stains when taking possession of your car. You could be charged for the damage when you return the car if you haven't pointed it out ahead of time and noted it on your contract.
Train travel in Eastern Europe is comfy, pleasant, and fairly efficient. Almost all major population centers (with the exception of Dubrovnik, Croatia) are linked by rail service. Overnight trains serve a double purpose: They get you to your destination and save the cost of a night in a hotel. If you use this option be sure to ask if you have to make a separate reservation for the berth in addition to the reservation for your transport. The Thomas Cook European Timetable (www.thomascook.com) gives an inclusive listing of train schedules and tells you when you have to book in advance or pay extra for things like a pillow. In general, train travel in Eastern Europe is more expensive than bus travel and sometimes fares are comparable with airfares within the country. Not all countries in Eastern Europe honor rail passes. Hungary is the only country covered in this book that accepts the Eurailpass. However, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Hungary sell single-country rail passes. Note: Intercountry rail travel is becoming less of a hassle in Eastern Europe as national rail lines are beginning to align their schedules to make connections and border crossings easier. However, you might run into a glitch (and a long layover) unless you do meticulous planning ahead of time. Intracountry travel usually is problem-free.
Bus travel is a way of life in all of Europe, including Eastern Europe. Usually international buses are equipped with luxuries such as reclining seats, air-conditioning, and even television. Buses tend to be the best for reaching smaller towns and remote sites, and sometimes they are the only option for reaching mountainous villages and tiny hamlets. You rarely have to reserve a seat in advance, but you can buy a ticket in advance at a main bus station or from the driver when you board. Buses work well for travel between cities in a single country and for access to areas trains can't access. Every major city in Eastern Europe has a well-developed commuter system that involves buses, trams, and sometimes sophisticated metro systems.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.