I'm a British national who is aiming to explore a bit of Eastern Europe early next year hopefully catching a bit of winter weather. This will probably be done over a series of 3-4 day weekend trips in order to adapt around my work schedule. Does anyone have any advice on where I might find cheap flights or of any places which will be considerably cheaper to visit than cities such as Prague, Budapest etc. I am open to any suggestions including the Balkans and any of the former Soviet states. Thanks.
I have travelled in some countries of Eastern Europe last summer and I can give you some advice on places you should not miss:
It is definitely one of the most beautiful countries in Europe.
My favourite place in the mainland is the Plitvice Lakes National Park, you'll feel completely overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the lagoons and waterfalls. From Split or Dubrovnik you can check one of the many islands of the Adriatic Sea. I would suggest Mljet or Hvar, the first one remains almost a virgin island and the second one is more touristic. The ferry prices are 5-15€, the accomodation can be quite expensive during high season but the food is generally cheap.
Easyjet flies from London to Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik
Ryanair flies from London to Pula and Zadar
Ljubljana is one of the most charming capital cities of Europe. Quite small and extremely clean, you'll find a lot of things to see and do as well as an interesting nightlife to explore. If you're staying 3-4 days, I think you'll have enough time to visit the Lake Bled region which offers some breathtaking landscapes. Another destination easily to get to from Ljubljana is Trieste.
Because the currency in Slovenia is the Euro, some things are not as cheap as in other countries of the Balkans. An exemple is accomodation, the cheapest hostel I could find in high season was 15€/night when in Hungary, Bosnia i Herzegovina or Serbia you can easily book a hostel for 7-10€/night.
Easyjet flies from London to Ljubljana
It is probably the cheapest place I've been in Europe. Kraków, Torún, Wroclaw and Poznan are all beautiful towns. Travelling by train in the country is extremely cheap, the food and beer are cheap as well. If you avoid the touristic bars/restaurants you can travel really cheap. The most beautiful place in my opinion is Kraków. From there you can easily take a day-trip to the former nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz/Birkenau.
Ryanair flies from London to Gdansk, Lodz, Kraków, Wroclaw, Poznan, etc
I personally wouldn't define Bratislava as a must-see, considering the only interesting place I found there was the Old Town. The nightlife is also quite diverse. Ryanair flies from London to Bratislava.
Budapest and Prague are both served by Easyjet, I think you can find cheap tickets if you book far in advance. I found Prague much more beautiful, although Budapest is cheaper. Both are worth a visit. Food and accomodation are affordable.
Romania and Bulgaria are known for being the cheapest countries in Eastern Europe. I haven't been in any of the two so unfortunately I can't tell you more.
Ryanair flies from London to Plovdiv in Bulgaria
Easyjet flies from London to Sofia in Bulgaria
If you really want to go even more to the East, i would recommend Istanbul. It's a wonderful place to explore with many similarities with some European cities but with so many differences as well (religion, architecture, lifestyle...).
Easyjet flies from London.
Be sure to have a valid passport while travelling to most of these countries.
The low-cost companies you should check besides Ryanair and Easyjet are probably Wizzair and Blue Air. I know they have a lot of destinations in Eastern Europe but i'm not sure if there are flights from the UK.
that was really helpful and thorough advice. Krakow was among the places I had looked at and now I'm definitely swayed towards a trip to Poland.
Also you mentioned that you've traveled to Bosnia. Did you visit Sarajevo? This is another place I had contemplated a visit to in 2012. If so what did you think of the city? Would you recommend spending a weekend there? I'm aware there are a fair amount of museums but remain unsure of how many worthwhile sights are in the city.
I was in Tbilisi, Georgia in October, and what a beautiful and interesting place it was. Not only was the food great, but the warmth of the people was also very welcoming. I thought I might have a problem reading the unusual script, but that never happened. Just wish I could have stayed longer. My guesthouse was only $43. for a comfortable ensuite room. I flew Pegasus Airlines to and from Istanbul - only problem being that these flights operate in the middle of the night!
I'm glad to help!
I totally forgot to mention Sarajevo! It is a wonderful city full of contrasts (you can find at least 4 differents religions and cultures there), and it surely deserves a visit, one or two days would be perfectly enough cause it is a small city.
I don't think there are direct flights with low cost companies though, but you should check anyway with normal companies cause it's a place that is worth to discover
Thanks to you both for your advice
i will recommend you only sarajevo. A beautiful place.
Another vote for Croatia. Well worth going and enjoying. You can get direct flights to Zagreb in the winter and although the coastline is nicer, we heard it is pretty dead out of season