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Last year, I went to a foreign ski resort with my friends during the New Year’s holidays. Tourist agencies helped us with accommodation and visas at the last minute. We traveled by car. For an entire week we had the feeling we were in a winter fairy tale. We went skiing, tasted local delicacies and walked along the local streets. We greeted the New Year in front of a fireplace of a small, cozy hotel. We met people from different countries and keep in touch with them to this day. On the last days of our vacation we went on hiking tours on the outskirts of the town,” Manager of the Ital Plus company Kateryna Tarasova recounted
What’s for sale
One way or another, there is no avoiding using the services of travel agencies during peak time. Vacationing is the job in the hands of wholesalers that pay for accommodation and plane tickets in advance and then put together a package deal for clients that includes commissions for their services.
Processing a visa for a single person traveling to Europe during the busy New Year is not that straightforward for a consulate because the flow of applicants doubles during this period. Moreover, only charter flights are available to certain countries with famous ski resorts, for example, Finland.
Director of Sales at the SAM Travel Agency Natalia Bukarova says the demand is still high. Ukrainians recall polar exoticism when Christmas trees are lit up on the grey streets of cities. So, if you manage to get a visa you can easily buy an airline ticket and reserve accommodation in a cozy cottage. By the way, with the opening of visa centers (in October, for travel to Finland and France) approximately a fee of EUR 35 for intermediary services was tacked on to the standard fee of EUR 35 for a visa.
Around 10 charter races for an 8-day vacation fly out of different cities in Ukraine to resorts in Finland and Kittila (Lapland). “Finnish resorts have hotels with swimming pools and cottages with a fireplace and sauna. As for entertainment, there is skiing and rides on sleds harnessed with reindeer or huskies. If you’re lucky, you might catch the northern lights of Aurora polaris,” says Assistant Director of the Delpha Tour travel agency Yulia Shakhnazarova.
“A survey of travel agencies showed that the best packages for ski resorts in Europe according to the “price-quality” criteria are sold out. Last minute tourists will have a hard time choosing a comfortable hotel in Austria,” says Manager of the Pan Ukraine Travel Agency Tatyana Kukuruza.
The Turkish ski resorts of Ulu Dag and Palandoken are suitable for those who want to go skiing abroad, but fail to get a visa on time. There are charter flights to resorts in Bursa and Erzrum for novice skiers from Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk. These resorts do not charge extra for ski lifts, swimming pools and all kinds of services – everything is included in a travel package that costs US $900.
If you plan to hail in the New Year in the center of Prague, one the most important tourist cities of Europe, keep in mind that from the middle of December to January 2 the city is so packed with tourists celebrating Catholic Christmas that the Karlov Bridge recently reopened after reconstruction cannot handle human traffic across the Vltava River.
Vienna, Berlin and Paris are also overcrowded with tourists during the New Year. The wave of tourists hits on January 2, when all Europeans go back to work.
“European cities are all lit up and the streets are decorated, but it is tourists that create the holiday atmosphere. Local residents bring in the New Year in small company at home, in restaurants or nightclubs. In short, one should greet the New Year in a European capital from the soul,” says Oksana Lebedenko, an avid fan of travelling abroad.
By the way, carousing in the international whirlpool is fun. You can easily meet new people, shoot the breeze and make friends over a mug of beer. Skating rinks, comfy illumination, a glass of mulled wine and hot chestnuts – this is the charm draws romantics from all over the world to celebrate Christmas.
If you to go on vacation to discover Europe, you are better off traveling by bus. They depart from Kyiv, Lviv and Uzhorod, the range of tours is vast and the price corresponds to the quality: from EUR 90 (Budapest-Vienna) to EUR 645 (Vienna-Genoa and 3 days in Barcelona). Mind you, excursions and meals costing EUR 200-300 tours are tacked on to the cheap fares of certain bus tours.
Taking a boat cruise down the Rhone in France for EUR 1,700 and thoroughly getting to know the provincial castles and wine cellars has become quite popular. Or you can go on a cruise on the Rhine through three countries (The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland) and visit 10 cities along the river.
Tours of the cities along cruises down European rivers are conducted in Russian. This is a perfect opportunity to see the monotony of life in European cities, where the main form of entertainment on New Year’s is a short fireworks show outside the family home.
Far, far away
In the Middle and Far East people do not celebrate New Year’s in the same Slavic manner accompanied by enthusiasm and drunken frenzy. Of course, Christmas trees are put up in the hotels for guests from Slavic countries and even arrange banquets for them.
Travel agents informed that New Year’s tours to Egypt up until January 5 have been sold out. Other agencies say some tickets are still available, but the best ones have already been sold.
There is still a chance to bring in the New Year on the beaches of Antalia or Kemer. Though it may be slightly cold in the mornings, tourists can still try to get a tan on the hotel balconies in the afternoon.
A 5-star hotel with unlimited meals and free access to swimming pools, saunas and workout gyms for 8 days costs US $1,000. During regular season such a package is 1.5 times cheaper.
With the appearance of the low cost air transporters, flights on Air Arabia to Sri Lanka are considered the most economical in terms of expenses for vacationing in faraway tropical islands.
“The flight time from Kyiv to Colombo with a transfer in Sharja is 11.5 hours. A 12-day New Year tour costs US $2,250 depending on the hotel’s star category,” says Representive of Jetwing in Ukraine Tatyana Hrybova.
Flights from Kyiv to Goa on Ukrainian International Airlines or Air Arabia made the trendy Indian resort more affordable for Ukrainians. But airlines do not welcome “savages”: during the New Year vacation period there are practically no tickets available for sale to Goa at UIA ticket offices, but travel agencies still have open seats. The cost of the flight is US $1,000. If to add accommodation, a vacation in Goa will cost between US $2,000-3,000.
Ukrainian vacationers can enjoy the combination of glamour, shopping and hi-tech in the world tourism capital of Dubai (United Arab Emirates). The shopping malls in Dubai offer everything to skiing at artificial mini resorts.
For tourists from the far abroad a comfortable flight is important, namely flight time and cost. There will be plenty of charter flights on Ukrainian carriers in the high season to exotic places such as Tenerife on the Canary Islands or the Israeli resort city of Eilat on the Red Sea. Ukrainians travelers can relish a simplified system of visas, which will be cancelled outright in February.
Aerosvit will fly once every 10 days to the Dominican Republic. All a tourist will need to do is choose a hotel and then can hop on a plane to the kingdom of rum and salsa. This country does not require a visa.
Home is best
In order to celebrate New Year’s Eve properly there should be snow, entertainment, good company, a festive spread and a comfortable hotel room to get a good rest after partying all night long. There is plenty of this to be found in the Carpathians and Crimea, though snow is not guaranteed on the southern peninsula of Ukraine.
Lviv will gladly host guests from other cities and offer them tours of the city and outlying towns and castles.
The local nightclubs Misto, Metro, Millenium, Zanzibar, the lounge bar Casanova and the caf? Prince’s Mug inside a castle are preparing New Year’s banquets for guests. The doors of the hotels Kupava, Vatra, Irena, Stariy Krakow and Venskiy are open to accommodate tourists and the Poltava show Nights at the Hamlet near Dykanka for many years has gathered admirers of local folklore, who are offered accommodation in green tourism estates.
The most unexpected places could become the center for New Year’s walkabouts. For example, there are the Shatski Lakes. The holiday tour “New Year’s on the Shatski Lakes” for three days with a banquet will cost UAH 1,465. Tourists are promised an excursion through the local forest, a ride in a light carriage and a picnic in nature.
Director of the travel agency Unique Ukraine Yaroslav Kozak said a winter vacation in the Carpathians is relaxing and will bring out positive emotions regardless of the weather conditions. There the simplicity of attitudes, the magic of folk holidays, the taste Carpathian dishes, plenty of tours and active entertainment.
Though accommodation prices are average, 3-4 holiday days are estimated to be considerably more expensive. In one of the hotels at the Slavske resort Perlyna Karpat a two-room suite from December 30-January 2 can be as high as UAH 910 a night, breakfast and dinner included. The hotel management also offers banquets for an additional cost.
There are several such hotels in Slavske, but the resort also has relatively inexpensive cottages for skiers, who are more interested in the slopes of Mt. Trostyan (1,232 m) than the interior design of the suites, the swimming pool and the sauna. Trostyan has seven ski lifts and trails of different levels of difficulty that are suitable for beginners and masters.
The town of Migovo in the Vyzhnitskiy County (Chernivtsi Oblast) is a ski resort with ideal slopes for medium-level skiers and is excellent for tourists into “landscape therapy”.
The resort has more than 3,300 meters of trails, a skiing school with 20 instructors, a swimming pool, a large skating rink, a rock climbing area, a park with jungle ropes, horses and much more. If you want to save money, you can stay in green tourism estates.
Recently, the unusual hotel Stizhok opened in the village of Berehomet (Chernivtsi Oblast). It combines Hutsul authenticity and modern-day European standards (electronic keys, sauna cabins with a hydro-massage system and shower slippers). The hotel features a large restaurant offering delicious cuisine and the excellent Jungli nightclub.
Crimea: stellar and wild
People will travel to Crimea on the New Year to breath in the scent of pine trees, go on seaside promenades, take tours and get some healthy rest and relaxation in a hotel room.
VIP-SPA hotels in Crimea attract agencies that organize events to create scenarios for cheerful and fun parties.
Last year world renowned pop stars Afrique Simon and Boney M lit up the local hotels with their live shows. They were an added bonus to the expensive New Year’s Eve party tickets priced at US $500. People off the street can get into the banquet for US $300.
The list of stars that will perform on New Year’s Eve include ABBA Gold, Antin Mukharskiy, Ruslana Pysanka, Volodymyr Horyanskiy, Natalia Varley, fire tamers, ventriloquists and sword swallowers.
The former trade union health spa Yalta Intourist is preparing the Yalta-Vegas show and promises submerge banquet guests in the world of luxury, zeal and adventure: gangsters, intrigue at the card playing table and martinis (US $400 a night).
Not everybody can afford the comfort and SPA charm of 4- and 5-star hotels. After all, the resort peninsula never turned down “wild” tourists from satisfaction.