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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Flying High at a Low Price

Itar-Tass
As summer sets in, the desire for a weekend break far from the smoggy discomfort of a Moscow heat wave hits nearly every expat.

Yet beyond the annual escapism of a stress-filled visa run, many expats often find the thought of a short European getaway on the banks of the Tiber or the Thames prohibitively expensive.

Now, however, as the budget airline revolution led by Ryanair and easyJet sweeps eastwards, it is becoming an increasingly feasible option to hop home or holidayward on a series of carefully planned and relatively cheap flights.

For those with some spare time, thin wallets and a reasonable Internet connection, there is a wide range of budget airlines flying to most destinations around Europe.

Keeping an eye open for special deals or seasonal reductions on the airline web sites and in newspaper advertisements can help lower costs. Certain days and times usually prove more expensive, including the peak Friday and Sunday evening slots.

Britain and Germany are both well serviced, with several budget airlines flying in and out of numerous cities, and direct flights on budget airlines can be found to Spain, Italy, Austria and the Baltics.

To get to and from London, the cheapest and perhaps easiest budget option is to head through Riga, leaving Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on Latvian carrier airBaltic and then switching to a Ryanair flight from Riga to London's Stansted Airport. EasyJet also services Riga but is often more expensive.

"I flew between London and Moscow via Riga on Ryanair and then airBaltic," said Steffan Knutson, a 25-year-old British employee at a Moscow-based law firm. "I thought it was the most economic way at around $150 in total one-way and I had no real hitches.

"On the way out [to Moscow] I didn't have to wait around much in Riga, but on the same trip back to London I spent a lonely four hours in [Riga] airport," Knutson said.

Ryanair also operates services between Riga and Frankfurt, Stockholm and Dublin.

Apart from Riga, the closest that Ryanair gets to Russia is Helsinki -- so if you take a train or quick flight to Finland, then that is yet another possibility.


Grigory Sysoyev / Itar-Tass
One drawback of budget airlines is that they tend to be stricter on excess baggage than some of the more established carriers.
Low-cost airline Germanwings flies to Berlin from Vnukovo Airport for an average summer fare of $200 to $300 roundtrip. From there, you can hop on a connecting Germanwings flight to numerous holiday hotspots, from the beaches of Split to Ibiza for as little as $150 return.

Combining the low cost flights offered by European-based carriers Ryanair and easyJet can open the entire continent to Moscow-based expats, who for now are otherwise limited to the services offered by smaller carriers like Germanwings and airBaltic.

"It was really easy to travel on Ryanair because I was going to Dublin, and Ryanair flies out of the same airport in Berlin where Germanwings flights land from Moscow, in Sch?nefeld Airport," said one Irishwoman studying in Moscow, who asked that she not be identified.

"My trip from Moscow to Berlin cost $200 roundtrip and from Berlin to Dublin about 40 euros," she said.

Also running flights from Domodedovo to Germany and other destinations in Central and Southern Europe, including Barcelona, Paris and Rome, is budget option AirBerlin. Special deals from Moscow to Berlin start at around $130.

Airline Germania Express offers a range of slightly more expensive options out of Domodedovo, including flights to Austria, Germany, France and Italy. A mid-August direct flight to Paris costs just over $200 one-way.

For those seeking a little glimpse of Mediterranean sun, several carriers deal solely in direct budget flights between Moscow and both Spain and Italy.

Small Spanish operator Clickair flies to Barcelona from Domodedovo for around 200 euros roundtrip.

Carrier Evolavia offers direct flights from Moscow to Ancona in Central Italy for around $180 one-way.

As yet, Russia's first budget airline, SkyExpress, does not fly outside the country and spokesman Vitaly Konegin said it has no immediate plans to start servicing cities beyond Russia. For those thinking of staying inside Russia, however, it does offer flights for a promotional price of as little as 990 rubles ($38) one-way down to Sochi on the Black Sea.

This system, however, is not for the faint-hearted or toddler-encumbered. The roulette of flight delays, check-ins, bad weather and lost baggage means that if you are combining flights on a series of different carriers a single act of God or baggage handler can leave you stranded mid-continent.

In addition, some of the major gripes that passengers have about budget airlines, including inconvenient airports and a lack of legroom and onboard meals, apply.

One major drawback for those with a lot of luggage is that budget airlines tend to be stricter on excess baggage than some of the more established carriers.

With the rise in do-it-yourself Internet vacationers, traditional travel agents may be set to suffer but can also be found to offer some cheap options.

Tamara Prokofiyeva, a travel agent at Moscow's AeroClub travel agency recommended Estonian Air as an economy possibility for getting to London. A one-way London-to-Moscow flight via Tallinn in mid-August cost as little as 4,000 rubles ($154), she said.

"The only drawback is that you have to wait 14 hours overnight at Tallinn Airport," Prokofiyeva said.