Heating Up the Leftovers
In last month's issue there were some things we overlooked in our stories on ground transport and booking hotels via the Internet.
• We failed to mention the regional rail passes that are available in Germany. At the website for the Deutsche Bahn you will find a listing of 11 "Länder-tickets." The Bayern-Ticket, for example, is valid for second class travel on one day of your choice in the Monday-Friday period. It can be used on all local trains throughout Bavaria and on the public transport systems of Munich and Nürnberg. The cost of the ticket is €21 ($19) and covers up to five persons traveling together. For an additional charge of €13 ($11) travel is also permitted on IR and D-trains. Costs and restrictions are the same for the other 10 regions. Visit: www.bahn.de
• Czech Rail has a website with an English version (http://idos.datis.cdrail.cz/ConnForm.asp). It is similar to the German and Swiss rail sites in that there is an easy-to-use timetable search that delivers detailed itineraries with information about on-board services.
• Austria's rail system has a Website—oebb.at/en/—but its timetables are in German only. Most users, however, will be able to at least determine point-to-point train schedules.
• A hotel Website we missed last month is lastminute.com/. It finds eleventh-hour deals on hotels, flights, and holiday packages, but since it is London-based, only the hotel part of lastminute.com would seem to be of use to North Americans. We found rooms at Munich's five-star Kempinski Vier Jahreszeiten for from €175 to 216 ($154-$190), numbers that substantially undercut the hotel's own Website. The best www.kempinski-vierjahreszeiten.de/en could do for the same dates in late April was €285 ($251). Unfortunately, lastminute.com seems only to offer chain hotels in major cities. Our searches in towns such as Lausanne, Lucerne, Graz, Würzburg, and Nürnberg drew blanks.
London to the Continent by Air
Lately we've heard from subscribers seeking a convenient, inexpensive way to get from London to the continent. Low-fare, no-frills Ryanair has achieved big publicity of late for some extremely low cost flights. In late April, for example, its Website ryanair.com/gb/en/ quoted 10.99 GBP ($16) for a London to Frankfurt one-way trip in May. Adding tax brought the total to about $26. A flight to Salzburg was about $91, with tax. Still a good deal.
But how about Ryan's very best bargain? Try .01 GBP (1.5 cents)—that's right, less than two cents for a London-Brussels one-way. With tax the cost is a little over $10.
Though Ryan would seem to solve the inexpensive side of the equation, when the convenient side is addressed the picture is not so rosy. All Ryan flights to the continent are from Stansted Airport, more than an hour from the center of London and even farther than that from Heathrow or Gatwick. In addition, Frankfurt passengers will discover that Ryan flies not to Frankfurt/Main but to Frankfurt/Hahn, about 90-minutes east of the city, which offers very limited ground transport options, including no rail. Lufthansa contends Hahn is so far out it isn't really a Frankfurt airport and is seeking to prevent Ryan from advertising Frankfurt as a destination.
The nearly-free flight to Brussels lands at Charleroi Airport, about 55 kilometers south of the city.
Still, for the traveler who wants an "open jaw" trip—land in London, return to the U.S. from someplace on the continent—Ryanair is tempting.
The next best London to Frankfurt price found for the same date in May was $122 on British Midland from London City Airport. Check www.europebyair.com and individual airline Websites.
Of course there's always the Eurostar from the center of London via the Chunnel to Paris and Brussels. One-way fares range from $75 to $399, depending on a variety of factors including class of service, age, how far in advance tickets are purchased and whether or not the traveler has a valid rail pass.
Setting the Record Straight
In the February issue of Gemütlichkeit, I blamed Rail Europe's owners, the French and Swiss railway systems, for the latest price increases in European rail passes. Apparently that is incorrect. According to Lazarus Communications, Rail Europe's New York-based public relations agency, the actual decision to raise prices for 2002 was made by the European Rail Commission, whose membership includes representatives from the rail systems of the 17 countries that comprise the Eurail system including France and Switzerland. Lazarus says Rail Europe, opposed the increases. RHB