Travelers planning visits to Eastern Europe this year will have to deal with fast-rising costs, warns David Stanley, author of the Lonely Planet guidebook, "Eastern Europe on a Shoestring." In addition, for those who lean toward tour travel, there will be opportunities packaged specifically for 18- to 35-year-olds.
Stanley has become frustrated trying to accurately update material on an area that is changing daily.
"I revisited almost everyplace in the book," he said. "But everyone in Hungary and Czechoslovakia tells me that prices in those countries are going to skyrocket next year. The summer of 1990 was the last really cheap summer to visit Eastern Europe, with all the subsidized prices of Communism still in place but few of the former restrictions."
During his recent six-month research trip, Stanley discovered that Pannonia Intourist in Budapest (at Jozsef Korut 45) was selling train tickets from Budapest to China for $280 one way (second-class, with sleeper reservations). "But on Jan. 1, the agency says the price will jump to more than $1,000," he said. The cheap Trans-Siberian trip may become "part of budget travel history," Stanley added.
Stanley will continue his research and expects an updated edition of "Eastern Europe on a Shoestring" to be available late this year.
Contiki Holidays, a firm that specializes in tours for the 18- to 35-year-old group, is introducing a new 24-day "Best of Eastern Europe" this year. The tours will circle out from London, and departures are set for today through Aug. 25.
Contiki, which has more than 500 employees worldwide, has been in the youth-tour business for 30 years, and is now operating programs in Europe, Egypt, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
Contiki operates three different types of tours in Europe: "Camping," "Concept" (staying in cabins at campsites) and "Time Out" (stay in your choice of single, twin or triple accommodations in tourist-class hotels). The new "Best of Eastern Europe" program is a "Time Out" tour.
On this tour you would travel by motor coach, beginning in London and visiting Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. The route goes to such famous sites as the remains of the Berlin Wall, the Kremlin and St. Basil's Domed Cathedral in Moscow, and includes Warsaw, Minsk, Kiev, Krakow, Prague and Cologne.
Rates begin at $1,700 twin-share, $1,665 triple-share. Single rooms are available for the twin-share rate plus $465. Prices include a continental breakfast daily, and three-course dinners most nights.
Contiki will also continue to offer Camping and Concept tours that reach into Eastern Europe.
For example, youths who want to stretch their dollars and who don't mind the idea of setting up their own tent at each new campground, can sign up for a 25-day Russia/Scandinavia tour that leaves London and visits Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Soviet Union, Poland and Germany.
Tours begin May 12 and continue until Sept. 13. Rates begin at $1,330. That covers breakfasts and most dinners. Three nights are spent on ferries. All equipment, except sleeping bags, is provided.
Contiki is also introducing "Time Out" tours (accommodations in tourist-class hotels) in Egypt, Italy and the Greek Islands this summer. For more details and brochures, contact a travel agent.