I’m Going to Belarus, Ellen Skewers United, Half Off Lonely Planet & More


25 Euro Flight Sale

Air Baltic has a sale for flights booked by February 14, 2017 and flown March 9 to April 10 with fares starting at 25 euros. Example fares:

Most deals are to or from Riga, Vilnius, or Tallinn. I highly recommend the Baltics because they are small countries with interesting histories that are accessible and cheap.

Within the Baltics, though, I wouldn’t fly. I’d use buses and ferries. Here’s my guide to buses and ferries for Baltic travel.

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I’m Going to Belarus

I love Eastern Europe. To me, Western Europe feels basically like being in a more historic USA–hardly traveling at all. Eastern Europe is like a different world from the Stalinist architecture to the less familiar food and languages to the totally different historical influences.

I’ve been to most of the countries in Eastern Europe.

Where I’ve Been

I’m missing Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Bulgaria, which I might swing through this summer; Moldova which I’m sure I’ll get to at some point; Russia where I plan to go visa free during the 2018 World Cup; and Belarus.

In many ways, Belarus is the Eastern European country I’d most like to visit. While most of Eastern Europe is rapidly westernizing, Belarus is not. It’s a country that is mostly closed from the rest of Europe and the rest of the world except Russia.

Until this year, getting a visa for Belarus was prohibitively expensive for Americans. I don’t see the old price, but I remember it being $500. Now, however, Americans can get a visa for $67 or, even better, visit Minsk for five days without one starting February 12, 2017.

I’m planning to travel visa-free to Minsk in March. Here are the requirements:

  1. Passport
  2. 25 euros per day of the stay
  3. Medical insurance valid in Belarus (can be purchased at the Minsk airport for under 10 euros)
  4. International flight to Minsk not from Russia, international flight from Minsk not to Russia.

Although I’ll be flying Belarusian national carrier Belavia from Nice, France to Minsk, there’s a 100% chance I’ll be singing “Well, you made a long journey from Milan to Minsk, Rochelle, Rochelle” upon arrival. Four days later, I’ll fly from Minsk to Prague, Czechia.

I will report back more information on arrival formalities and my stay.

Ellen DeGeneres Takes on United Basic Economy

United has been getting bad press for introducing basic economy fares that won’t allow purchasers to use the overhead bins. (Delta and American also have similar, though different Basic Economy fares that we compared here.)

Ellen DeGeneres skewers the new offering in a hilarious, absurd satire.

The video definitely didn’t go the direction I expected.

Half Off Lonely Planet Books and EBooks

Lonely Planet is my favorite guide book company. I find the writing to be consistently good across the brand, the guide books well laid out, and the special recommendations to be spot on.

Even in 2017 when lodging reviews are better found online, restaurant reviews are better found online, attraction info is easily found online, etc, I still find use for guide books to give a quick overview of a place.

Lonely Planet is offering a buy-one-get-one-free until February 14 with promo code “LOVETRAVEL.”

If purchasing four or more items, make sure to purchase them two at a time to get your second, fourth, sixth, etc most-expensive items for free instead of the cheapest half of your items for free.

If “Turkey” and “Paris” were purchased and then “Eastern Europe – Belarus” and “Best in Travel 2017” as two purchases, you’d save an extra $7 by getting “Paris” for free instead of “Best in Travel 2017.”

Hat Tip Secret Flying

Award Space to Europe Still Wide Open with AA or Delta Miles

This article from a week ago is still relevant if you missed it: All Year! 4+ Transatlantic Flat Bed Seats per Flight.

Perhaps the most interesting thing is that the award space to Europe is on a partner of both American Airlines and Delta, so you can use either type of miles to book the space.

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  1. You are missing Bulgaria and Ireland? Make sure you check them out this summer.

    Bulgaria, best time to go May through September. Summer is good as you can check out the coast and check out the beaches too. It can get crowded in late July and August.

    Suggested itinerary:

    Sofia->Plovdiv->Veliko Tarnovo->Burgas (Nesebar/Sunny Beach and Sozopol) ->Varna

    Sofia (cheap and fun, similar to Belgrade);
    Plovdiv (second largest town, 130 miles south-east of Sofia, a smaller and ancient Roman town, very walkable and worth the visit);
    Veliko Tarnovo (the medieval Bulgarian capital; a small and picturesque university town, definitely worth the visit);
    Then there’s the coast — Nesebar and Sozopol are small and picturesque towns on the coast. If you have to pick one, go for Nesebar. Burgas is the biggest town in the southern coast area and a rather industrialized place but still worth checking out for a day or two.
    Varna (largest costal city), easy access to Sofia with cheap flights to Sofia and other European cities with Wizz Air. Good place to end your Bulgarian tour and fly back to Sofia or elsewhere.

    Macedonia and Kosovo are not worth it IMHO. Go only if you have time.

    Albania’s coast is supposed to be nice.

    • Thanks for the info. I assume I’d fly to Albania and go overland through Kosovo, Macedonia, and Bulgaria.

      • Only place worth visiting in Macedonia is Ohrid. Skopje is a dump but you’d have to go though there since it’s the capital and largest city and on your way to Kosovo – -I presume you are going to Pristina.

  2. Cool. I didn’t know about the visa free entry for 2018. I might just have to see some soccer. I used to live in Moscow and have never been back due to the dumb visa process.

    • It depends on where I am. I’ll probably be in Europe and will pay cash, but I can’t say since it’s 16 months out still.


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