5 Tips for Flying to Central Europe from New Zealand or Australia
For many Kiwis and Aussies wanting to travel around 20,000km to Europe for a holiday, their trip will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for both financial reasons and anxiety at the prospect of spending over a day sitting on a plane and in airport lounges. Hence they’ll be looking to ensure they get the best value for money from their flight tickets. Here we’ve listed a few tips for flying to Central Europe from New Zealand and Australia to help facilitate the decision-making process.
1/ Choosing a flight from New Zealand to Central Europe
We’ll focus here on flight connections that involve one layover only since they’re almost always the fastest and the cheapest. There are so many options available for making the trip by stopping in two cities on the way that we simply wouldn’t have space here to cover them all. The fastest connections from Auckland to Prague or Budapest or Vienna are via Dubai flying with Emirates and via Doha with Qatar Airways. The layovers with Emirates are short – around only three to three-and-a-half hours – which is good if you want to get the long-haul flight to Europe over and done with as soon as possible. The drawback is that the Auckland-Dubai leg of the connection is on an A380 Airbus flying city that takes more than 17 hours. That’s thrombosis-inducing seated torture and it’s even worse if you’re positioned close to the lavatories since the queue on an A380 and the incessant banging of the lavatory door almost never abate. Then again, as one of the longest non-stop flights in the world, it gets you from A to B in extra quick fashion. The connecting flights from Dubai to Prague/Budapest/Vienna are often also on an A380 but are much shorter at fewer than 7 hours.
Another fast connection to Prague is with Qatar Airways via Doha where the length of the stopover is exactly the same as in Dubai. The first leg of the flight is in a Boeing 777, which is a bit more comfortable than an Airbus A380, although the second leg of the journey is on board an Airbus A320 with fractionally less leg room. The 17.5-hour flight from Auckland to Doha – the world’s longest - is non-stop. Watch you don’t book yourself onto the longer connection with a stopover of more than 8 hours in Doha.
If you prefer a slower connection that gives you a bit of time to acclimatize to the changing time zones, as well as see another city very briefly, then flying with Korean Air via Seoul is an excellent choice. The stopover in the Korean capital is 20 hours, which is great for two reasons: you will be provided with hotel accommodation as part of the ticket, and you can take the time to pop into the heart of the city for a few hours. And unlike some airlines that will put you up in a low-grade hotel specializing in transit passengers (watch out for Dubai!), Korean Air will book you into somewhere a bit more upmarket like the Regent Hyatt. The connecting flight to Prague is with Czech Airlines on an Airbus A330 with extra legroom.
A couple more possibilities include flying with China Eastern using A330s via a 19-hour layover in Shanghai, or with Sichuan that includes a 20-hour stopover in Chengdu, but the huge drawback with these options is the necessity for Kiwis and Aussies to acquire a tourist visa if they want to step outside the terminal to see the cities. Otherwise, you have to stay in a transit hotel at the airport and risk a serious bout of cabin fever.
2/ Choosing a Flight from Australia to Central Europe
It’s a similar story when flying from Australia to Prague, Budapest or Vienna, although it’s naturally a bit quicker than flying from across the Ditch, especially since a Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner completed the 9,226-mile journey from Oz to the UK non-stop in March 2018. This new link between Heathrow and Perth is around three hours quicker than routes that involve stopping in the Middle East to change planes or refuel. It also enables faster journeys to Sydney and Melbourne than flying via Dubai.
But London isn’t Central Europe, so what are the most convenient options? Like flying from Aotearoa, flights with one stopover usually travel only via Doha and Dubai - Sydney to Prague takes around 24h – but these flights with Emirates or Qatar Airways aren’t always the cheapest; Malaysia Airlines and British Airways combine to fly you to Prague via Kuala Lumpur and Heathrow with an additional five hours or so, but at relatively less cost. The same is also true, depending on the time of year, of Etihad flights in combination with Brussels Airlines via Abu Dhabi and Brussels, or in combination with Lufthansa via Abu Dhabi and Frankfurt.
Winging your way from Brisbane to Prague is more limited in terms of one-stop flights, as they often tend to be swingeingly expensive. Apart from the usual Emirates one-stop flights, Korean Air flies via Seoul (the layover is long), and occasionally China Eastern flies via Shanghai. All in all, you might be better off looking for cheaper flights with two layovers for a just a few hours extra. The same generally applies to flights out of Melbourne as well. And despite the novelty of that non-stop experiment from Australia to the UK, the same general rule also applies to flights from Perth, although Qatar Airways connections become more cost competitive outside the northern hemisphere summer months.
3/ How to survive long layovers
Sometimes you might find yourself having to endure a layover of several hours that’s too long to comfortably hang around an airport lounge and window shop at all the duty-free shops, but too short to book into yourself into a hotel. If you need to kill 7 or 8 hours transiting through a city like Hong Kong or Singapore where you don’t need a tourist visa then it’s just long enough to get out of the airport and jump into a taxi or onto a sightseeing bus to see a bit of the surrounding. That’s if you don’t mind going in and out of immigration control. Of course, you can’t do that in cities where the airport is a long way from the city center or where you run a high risk of getting caught in a traffic jam and missing your connecting flight – never try this, for example, in Bangkok or Jakarta.
It’s also a bit pointless if your layover is at night-time, in which case you might be tempted into booking yourself into a hotel. If your layover is long enough, free accommodation might be included in your flight ticket, but this can be a double-edged sword. If it’s somewhere like Dubai and you’ve been flying Cattle Class you could find yourself bussed to a transit hotel that’s located far from the airport with dozens of other passengers. Believe us when we say that this is definitely not an ideal situation if you’re traveling with a young family. Hotels specializing in transit passengers are processing incoming and outgoing clients 24 hours a day with a concomitant decibel level that is not conducive to a restful night’s kip. Your kids may be oblivious to the constant slamming of doors and crashing of linen trolleys into elevator cabins, but you won’t be.
Transit hotels located within an airport terminal are a possible alternative option, although they’re often prohibitively expensive. Therefore, even if you’re on a low budget it can make a lot of sense to consider purchasing time in a first-class airport lounge where you can keep your mental equilibrium intact by resting up in a comfortable armchair, help yourself to the hot drinks and free nosh included in the price of admission, and maybe ease the cabin cramp with a warm shower. Large international airports usually have at least one or two first-class lounges that you can pay to enter if you’ve been flying Economy, but you should almost always book online in advance of your layover.
If you prefer to rough it by waiting out your layover in the public terminal building then there are still sometimes places where you’ll find a bit of peace and quiet, and maybe even some chairs or loungers where you can stretch out without being prodded awake by airport staff – some airports very perversely frown upon sleeping transit passengers. We can very warmly recommend the website www.sleepinginairports.net where you can find extremely useful information from almost any airport in the world on how to make your layover as comfortable and stress-free as possible.
4/ Don’t buy return tickets from the same city if it’s not necessary
Traditionally, when you fly from home to a distant destination on the other side of the world your natural inclination is to purchase a direct return ticket. Twenty or thirty years ago, a Kiwi or Aussie would get a return ticket to London and use that city as a base for making forays onto the continent. You don’t need to do that these days with the advent of multi-city or ‘open jaw’ or round-robin tickets. Australasians know all about round-the-world tickets provided by ticketing and travel agents that will take you to various cities on multiple continents and terminate back in your original point of departure. But it’s easy to do this yourself these days and the cost is no more than that of a direct return ticket.
Open jaw tickets are extremely worthwhile as long as you are aware that multicity itineraries may become complicated with multiple city airports, luggage issues or tricky connections if all you’re doing is visiting destinations for one day to tick them off your bucket list. If you’re taking your time to really get to know a country or city, then this is a great option.
If you’re unfamiliar with online airline ticket booking, multicity flights might be a bit out of your comfort zone, but the latest flight ticketing search engines make it easy and fun to play around with the various possibilities. Try websites like Kayak , Google Flights, Momondo or Sky Scanner. Even scary-sounding sites like CheapoAir make it dead simple for you. Start on any of these online booking sites (there are many more) by clicking the button that says "multi-city" or "multi-city itinerary" and away you go.
One caveat: some sites might provide your flight tickets but then request additional payment for seat reservations and in-flight meals etc – don’t be fooled as you can very easily make these selections yourself by going to the individual airline websites, entering the code provided on your electronic flight tickets and making the selections yourself for free.
5/ Once you get to Central Europe you’ll find a profusion of budget airlines
You can’t beat the excellent rail services available between all large cities in Europe – something Kiwis, in particular, have almost forgotten existed. And purchasing individual rail tickets, particularly in Western European countries has become more user-friendly than ever. Both Deutsche Bahn and the Austrian national rail operator, ÖBB, have wonderful timetable search engines that you can use to find train schedules in other countries as well, particularly ÖBB’s Route Planner called Scotty. Both have very handy mobile apps, too.
That said, you may find yourself some distance from the next city you need to be in without a convenient train connection to facilitate your move. In such circumstances, you’ll find numerous low-cost airlines that can get you from A to B for much less than one of the big flight companies. You’re probably already familiar with Ireland-based RyanAir and the British company EasyJet, which offer cheap-as-chips flights to multiple destinations. On the other hand, you have to watch yourself with these options as the first price displayed is almost never the final one; by the time you’ve added check-in luggage, a seat reservation, and possibly an in-flight meal, drink or snack, the final price will be much higher.
Many continental European countries also have budget airlines operating out of them. Apart from RyanAir and EasyJet, you’ll find the likes of Hungary’s Wizz Air, Czech Airlines’ discount airline Smart Wings, German-based Eurowings, Spain’s Vueling and Volotea, or Italy’s Air Dolomiti for flights between Munich and Italy, among others.
Selecting and buying your own flight tickets to Central Europe from Australasia has never been simpler. Go Real Europe doesn’t sell tickets, but our consultants will be more than happy to give you tips on flying to Central Europe from New Zealand or Australia and advice on the best routes for your European travel itinerary if you wish, so feel free to contact one of them today.
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