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Go East, Young Man (Eastern Europe That Is)

September 24, 2003 -- It's just more expensive to fly to Eastern Europe than to Britain or France, but you generally make your money back in lower prices once you're on the ground in Prague, Budapest, Bratislava or Warsaw. Ancient castles, untouched villages, great opera, café society -- if that's the Europe you seek, you'll find it in the East.

Fares to Eastern Europe are strikingly low this winter, with some flights costing as little as $300 before taxes. If you're considering hitting two or more eastern European cities, remember that the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria and Slovakia are all pretty close together. Prague and Vienna are about four and a half hours apart by train; Vienna and Budapest are a bit under three hours apart. Poland, however, is a vast expanse which can take many hours to cross.

Prague is one of Eastern Europe's best-loved destinations, and CSA Czech Airlines has an unbeatable fare from New York to Prague of $300 plus tax for flights in November and December. Book online at http://secure.booking.csa.cz/en/index.htm?specoff=111&sid=3f706591990723.55973728; this fare is sure to be gone by the end of the week, but it may recur later in the season.

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Austrian Airlines' Prague package is pretty compelling, with a flight plus three nights hotel starting at $399 plus tax, double occupancy, from New York or Washington. That airline is also offering identically-priced packages to Budapest and Vienna on their Web site, www.austrianair.com.

Packager E-Vacations will take your three nights and raise you one, with a four-night Prague package starting at $399 plus tax from New York, Boston or Philadelphia. Check out the details at www.e-vacations.com/cgi-bin/evacation/search/vp_summary.jsp?VPID=940 and book by calling 877/471-3876.

See www.frommers.com/destinations/prague for our full online coverage of Prague; don't forget to click on our previously published deals to the City of A Thousand Spires under the "Deal Finder" headline.

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The capital of Hungary gives you two cities in one: Budapest used to be Buda and Pest, on opposite sides of the Danube. British Airways is flying the cheapest flights to Hungary at the moment, as part of an all-Europe fare sale ending tomorrow (Sept. 25). They're offering $348 (plus tax) fares from New York, $456 from Detroit and $496 from LA -- those are great deals.

Austrian Airlines' Budapest packages start at $399 plus tax for three nights; if you want to do six nights, you can get a Go-Today package starting at $499 plus tax from New York. Check them out at www.go-today.com/HU_FGBF.ASP.

To learn more about Budapest, please visit www.frommers.com/destinations/budapest.

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Is Vienna really in Eastern Europe? Sure, "Osterreich" means "eastern country," but Austria never had to deal with Communist overlords, and it's part of the Euro. Hometown favorites Austrian Airlines have the lowest winter fares to Vienna right now, with flights from New York starting at $297 plus the usual $100 or so in taxes. Book online at www.austrianair.com.

Austrian's US partner is United Airlines, so they offer low fares from many other US destinations: $487 including tax from Chicago and $493 including tax from Dallas, for instance. Book online at www.united.com or with your favorite online travel agency.

Go-Today's six-night Vienna packages start at $479 from New York; they're $150-180 more from the Midwest, and $180-260 more from the West. To find the exact price from your city, check out the Vienna package page at www.go-today.com/AT_FGUZ.ASP.

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For our full guide to Vienna, see www.frommers.com/destinations/vienna.

Poland is somewhat less traveled than Hungary or the Czech Republic, meaning you'll run into fewer Americans (and, probably, more Germans) as you tour civilized cities and crumbling castles. American Airlines, Swiss, and Austrian Airlines are all slugging it out for the lowest fares right now, with prices starting at $364 plus tax (it turns into $470 or so) from New York. The Swiss flights generally stop in Zurich, and the Austrian flights stop in Vienna. Manageable fares are also available from most American Airlines destinations across the US (via code-shares with Swiss.)

If you'd prefer non-stop flights, go with LOT Polish Airlines from New York or Chicago. They're currently charging $447 plus tax from New York to Warsaw; $467 from New York to Krakow; $507 from Chicago to Warsaw, and $547 from Chicago to Cracow for departures between Nov. 1 and Dec. 10. Book online at www.lot.com; that way you'll get a 5% discount on the fares.

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