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Still Up in the Air

After EU entry, there was a large increase in low cost airlines offering flights from within Bulgaria to a wide range of destinations. Previously, the country had prohibited access to low cost airlines in an effort to strengthen the national flag carrier, Bulgaria Air. However, eight low cost carriers now offer flights from Bulgaria, but sadly only two, easyJet and Wizz Air offer cheap flights to the UK .

Capital Transfers - Links to and from the UK (outside London-Sofia) can be costly, requiring long drives down South, which incur parking and petrol fees and often even overnight hotel charges.

Connecting flights from Northern England and Scotland don't always "connect" with the low cost flights and they can be a costly option which can increase your travel expenses substantially.

Train travel suffers from the same connection issues and is extraordinarily expensive with a 'saver return' ticket for two between Newcastle and Gatwick costing over 200 GBP, with no guarantees that it will link up with one of the low cost flights.

In the UK bus travel is by far the cheaper alternative, with companies likie National Express offering journeys between Edinburgh and Gatwick for 130 GBP for two people. Charter airlines offer good value flights from a wide range of UK destinations for most of the year and at the moment, this is one of the most economical ways to get to and from Bulgaria.

The good news is that more low cost airlines are looking to expand their networks.

From July 2008, Wizz Air are operating four flights a week between the Bulgarian capital Sofia and the coastal city of Varna. One way flights start from 9.99 euros including taxes! Wizz Air is also expanding its operations from Bulgaria by adding new aircraft and personnel and by opening up its international routes from the country. It is the first international carrier to offer domestic flights within Bulgaria.

 

Alternative Routes - Both easyJet and Wizzs Air offer flights from Liverpool to Bucharest in Roimanie and many travellers are taking advantage of this more accessible Northern route. It's ideal for those people with property just over the border in Bulgaria, such as Rousse, but even those with Bulgarian homes further afield are making the best of this route.

The Bucharest-Istanbul train service travels via Rousse, Gorna Oryahovitsa, Veliko Turnovo, Tryavna and Stara Zagora. However, the downside to this mode of travel is the timing and long waits in Bucharest.

 

Taxis from Bucharest to Rousse cost around 100 leva each way regardless of the number of people in the car and on arrival in Rousse, there are a variety of bus services, with comfortable travel including trolley and video service.

 

Both train and bus are extremely cheap and will not add greatly to your travel costs.

 

Expat Adventures - Imagine relaxing on a Greek beach, or touring the Turkish capital (below), or visiting the Spanish riding school in Vienna.

 

For expats living in Bulgaria with an inspiration to travel and see some more of nearby countries, low cost airlines offer many exciting European destinations at extremely low prices.

 

Many promotional offers even start at 0 zeros (ex airport taxes of course!) and are available mainly from Varna, Bourgas and Sofia.

 

 

Future Fares - Bulgaria is opening up new destinations for travel but it is not the UK low cost carriers that lead the way. Flights between the two capitals have improved tremendously in terms of cost and choice. Flights to link regions out of the capitals remains very limited with few direct flights and pretty much no low cost carriers.

However, hope looms on the horizon!

Earlier this year Ryan Air was researching licences to fly from Bulgaria and there are a number of other low cost carriers who in the future may consider flying to Bulgaria.

For regular updates on carriers flying to Bulgaria check out www.news.cheapflights.co.uk