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The guide below was drawn up in the heat of the draw - I will be adding to this over the coming months with pertinent links and more detailed travel suggestions.

Definite NATA travel plans will continue to appear on the NATA Travel Details page.

Germany 2006

Moldova - Wed 13th October 2004

Another destination well off the beaten track - Moldova is sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. Chisnau (pronounced "Kishinow" in Moldovan, or "Kishinev" in Russian), the capital, can be reached by train (9 hours) or bus (12 hours) from Bucharest, or by air via a couple of western airports and Kiev and Russia. Not the easiest, then! Don't expect a great choice of hotels either.

The game is likely to be the capital - the Republican Stadium holds around 9,000 (900 SFA tickets should be plenty to go around for this one!). There is a bigger ground in Tiraspol, but as this is in the unstable and disputed territory of Transdniestr, it's unlikely to be played here.

Ease to get to: 2/10 (Visa, no direct flights)
Ease to get a ticket: 8/10 (as not many are likely to travel)

Update post-draw

Getting there

The cheapest option looks to be flight to Bucharest (capital of Romania), then train or coach to Chisinau. However, bear in mind that the train journey will need a pre-arranged visa, and this can be done either in Bucharest, or at the embassy in Brussels. Foreigners arriving by air in Chisinau can purchase visas at the airport – it is possible to fly from Bucharest with prices starting around £130 return – try Tarom and Air Moldova.

When looking for flights to Bucharest, remember that the airport code is OTP (for Otopeni), and try not to confuse it with Budapest (Hungary’s capital). If the cheap direct flights (£130 plus return, usually needing a Sat night stayover) with Tarom and BA have gone, consider flying with Alitalia or SwissAir – check Opodo and Expedia for prices.

Air Moldova do have flights direct to Chisinau from Amsterdam, and there are also more expensive options via Vienna (with Austrian Airlines) and Budapest with BA and Moldavian Airlines.

The other way to approach Moldova is from the east – there are frequent flights from Moscow and Kiev, as well as train and bus connections from the Ukraine. Do bear in mind the additional visa requirements – for example, a multiple-entry Ukrainian visa would be required, as well as an invitation.

If all of this sounds like too much trouble, then you could try a package deal – several Tartan Army Clubs are looking into deals for their members, and charters will be advertised on the TAMB. Passport Travel will no doubt offer a package. If you still want a modicum of independence, yet would like someone else to do the legwork, try Just Romania. This is a Travel Agency based in Kent run by a helpful Scotsman who should be able to assist with flights, trains and hotels, both in Bucharest and Chisinau.


Some of these may be of some assistance:

  • Tarom - Romania's national airline
  • Moldavian Airlines - Small Moldovan airline with regular flights eastbound and to Budapest
  • Austrian Airlines - Flights to Chisinau via Vienna
  • BA - Daily flights between Heathrow and Bucharest
  • Alitalia - Regular connections to Bucharest via Italy
  • SwissAir - Regular connections to Bucharest via Switzerland
  • Just Romania - Romanian (and Moldovan) specialist travel agency run by fellow Scot James Grieg
  • Visa Information - the expensive option for pre-arranging visas
  • Moldovan FA - an English-language version of the FMF site
  • In Your Pocket - Guides to Bucharest and Chisinau
  • NATA Guide to Bucharest - Tried and tested by NATA in October 2003
  • - Handy online tourist resource for Moldova
  • - Hub site with some useful links and info.

Staying there

The Romania & Moldova Lonely Planet Guide is recommended, as are several web resources – the best of which being In Your Pocket. The Tony Hawks book “Playing the Moldovans at tennis” gives a slightly naïve and cynical view of life in Chisinau, but I was left swearing at the belittling attitude Hawks displays.

One thing worth knowing about is there’s not always hot water available, even in otherwise posh hotels.

For a list of hotels, check out Best

And if you’re stopping over in Bucharest, Just Romania should be able to help you out with hotel arrangements there.

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Italy - Saturday 26th March 2005

Top seeds at the draw, and obvious favourites for the group. From a travel perspective, Italy offers plenty of cheap flight options, and has no shortage of hotel beds. We could do without playing this one in the height of summer, given how many tourists flock there.

The game could be anywhere, but Milan and Rome are favoured stadiums for the "big" games - and as they weight in at 85,000 each, tickets should not be too much of a problem (we are guaranteed 10% of the capacity). Whether we qualify as a "big" game remains to be seen!

Ease to get to: 8/10 (Western Europe - almost as easy as it gets)
Ease to get a ticket: 8/10 (Big ground should accommodate most)

Update post-draw

Away to Italy on Easter Saturday – oh joy! I’d be surprised if it’s in Rome, given how busy the city will be at this time, however you never can tell. The Italian FA have to give final notification of the venue 60 days before the game, although it’s likely it will known up front. At least the surrounding bank holidays will enable many of us to do the trip without taking too much time off work.

The most obvious alternatives to the Olimpico is the San Siro – both can accommodate over 80,000. However, Italy usually save the big venues for the big games – whether we qualify as a big team is anyone’s guess. As a result, don’t rule out places like Bari, Bologna and Genoa.

We’re planning on a quick trip – fly in Friday morning and back home on the Monday. There are many travel options from all over the UK, including Ryanair, Easyjet, Alitalia and BA, as well as Eurostar and fast trains through France. Getting there is the easy part – finding somewhere to stay will be the problem - make sure you book your hotel sharpish once the venue is known!

Previous Travel Details (now updated)

We've booked cancellable hotel rooms in Rome and Milan, just in case, however the harsh reality is that given our lowly position in the group, we are a shoe-in for a medium-sized, provincial ground.

The Italian FA love to make things difficult by playing "Charlie Big Potatoes" and not announcing game venues until the required 60 days before the game, so this really could be anywhere. We've opted not to take a chance and book for Milan or Rome (as several hundred have) and will simply hang on and join the bunfight for flights when the venue is announced (on or before 25th Jan 2005). One option worth considering is a package deal with an operator like Passport Travel who have the wherewithal and means to sort out a reliable charter flight.

Last Travel Details (prior to trip)

Well, after all the uncertainty and speculation, prompting some unfortunate travellers to book as far away as Brindisi (Lecce or Genoa being the strong favourites), the Italian FA declared 10 days ahead of the 60-day limit that the game is in Milan.

This unexpected move at least means many more Tartan Army should be able to get hold of a ticket (we should get at least 8,000 allocated, although I'd be surprised if the Italian public are that excited about playing against us! One thing to bear in mind is that the San Siro was the scene of some unsavoury behaviour from above when Wales visited in the last campaign - the Italian FA were censured by FIFA for that, so it remains to be seen if they heed the warning.

Anyway, we're booked on Easyjet flights direct to Milan Linate from Gatwick. As the game is on Easter weekend, and Italy's not my favourite destination, this is a very quick trip for us - out on the Friday morning and back on the Monday lunchtime. Our hotel (Le Meridien - posh, eh?) is near the railway stations, in an area not renowned as the nicest.

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Belarus - Wednesday 8th June 2005

We played Belarus on the way to the 1998 World Cup finals, so a fair few Tartan Army travellers have first-hand experience of Minsk (I don't). A tricky country to get into - a visa (around £30-£50) is required in advance, and you need to be invited (this was done en masse through the SFA last time, so you better make sure your STC membership is fully paid up!).

Belavia (the notorious national airline) do offer infrequent direct flights (charters were arranged last time), but there are plenty of options available by changing in Germany or Eastern Europe. It's also possible to go overland relatively easily from Poland or Lithuania (as well as Ukraine and Russia, although this will incur extra visa costs).

Don't expect a choice of western-style hotels - Minsk isn't really on the tourist circuit, and any "decent" hotels will almost certainly be aimed at business travellers (on expenses).

Taking all of the above into consideration, at least there should be plenty of tickets to go around! But then, with the ground holding 42,000, there wouldn't have been too many problems in the first place!

Ease to get to: 3/10 (Visa needed, few direct flights)
Ease to get a ticket: 10/10 (if you're going, that is!)

Update post-draw

June in Belarus – mosquito paradise! Seriously, this is a great time to go to this part of the world, although coming on the Wednesday after a Saturday home match may prove logistically challenging. There are weekly direct flights to Minsk from London (on Belavia), although the frequency may well increase. In addition, Belavia have erratic connections through Europe, but daily direct flights to Prague. Failing that, there are connections through Latvia, Russia and the Ukraine, and overland travel is possible from Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania (Vilnius is only a few hours bus ride from Minsk).

Remember you will need a visa for Belarus (which needs an invitation – either from a Belorussian company/individual, or from a hotel), and may need visas for transit countries – if travelling via Kiev, you will need a multiple-entry Ukrainian visa.

As I’m unlikely to spend much annual leave on the Norway and Italy trips, and as I have to take a two-week break from my work each year, Belarus may be the answer. Minsk is supposed to be one of the cleanest cities in Europe (one of the fringe “benefits” of being Europe’s last dictatorship), meanwhile Brest (on the Polish border) has one of the biggest war memorials in Europe. Kiev’s not too far away, but any travel to the Ukraine needs an extra visa (and if flying via Kiev, a multiple-entry Ukrainian visa is needed).

Visa Information (attending the embassy in person) - taken verbatim from the TAMB

After a successful sortie to the Big Smoke, I got my visa for Belarus today in person. All sorted in the same day for a little extra - £34 per tourist visa as opposed to £19. I was happy to pay the extra for the 2, as a day of my time (to go to The Smoke and collect them next week) is worth more, but I suppose London residents don't have the same issues.

Obviously, you don't need to attend in person and can do it by post, but personally I don't like the idea of posting my passport (knowing how much gets lost in the post), or of being without for any period of time (I don't drive and have no other decent photo ID) if there's a way to avoid it.

The visa section is open 9am-12.30pm Mon-Fri (although I would say it's worth ringing, just in case it turns out to be a Belarussian public holiday!), and if you want same day (I imagine it depends on what else they've got on) you need to go back between 4pm-5.30pm. I got there at 12pm, had my forms (and invite/voucher - he did want these, and I'm not sure they do same day without them?) glanced at quickly by the consul (friendly, but about 20 years old!), paid my cash and was given a receipt. When I came back at 4pm, I was buzzed in again, and dodged the paint pots and planks (they had the decorators in) and handed the passports in return for my receipt. 4 hours, and around a total of 10 minutes in the embassy, and Helen and I are now the proud owners of Belarussian visas.

To kill time, and to avoid spending the duration in the pub, I headed down to Stamford Bridge and did the Stadium Tour (£10), then back by tube to Notting Hill Gate and a quick beer in two Good Beer Guide pubs (Uxbridge Arms in Uxbridge Street - very quiet and old man-ish, and The Churchill Arms on Kensington Church Street - much busier with a thai restaurant out the back knocking out cheap baguettes and thai curries). Another possibility is the museums (Science, V&A etc) around the corner. Or, of course, more pubs.

Hope this helps anyone in a similar predicament.

Travel Plans (was on Travel Details page)

Every year, I have to take a two-week period off work in one block, and for 2005, this is the lucky trip!

Following the Moldova home game, we fly back to Heathrow very ealry on the Sunday to connect with a BA flight to Riga. A one-night stopover (no doubt involving A La) and then a one-way Air Baltic flight (was £42, but now all gone from what I hear) to Minsk. Five nights in the towering Hotel Belarus (complete with the 22nd storey nightclub) and one in Brest await . We'll catch a Warsaw-bound train from Minsk on the Saturday and spend a night in Brest, seeing the WWII memorial fortress and the town. On the Sunday, we head off to Warsaw proper, and stay there until Tuesday, when we fly back to Luton. We'd originally planned on going to Krakow to round off the fortnight, but opted to come home early to save Helen's holiday. Fear not though - on the Wednesday I fly back to Germany to take in three Confederations Cup matches!

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Norway - Wednesday 7th September 2005

Fourth seeds, surprisingly (but this is based on the last two qualifying campaigns), Norway represents by far the most expensive trip for us on this campaign. The game will almost certainly be played in the 25,000 capacity Ulleval Stadium in Oslo, so there should be just enough tickets to go round.

Oslo is one of the most expensive places in the world - hotels (of which there are several), food, and especially beer (£6.50 a pint is not uncommon!) are outside the reach of all but the "expense account Tartan Army", so expect a short trip (which will still cost a small fortune!). At least the flights are reasonable - BA offer several daily options from Heathrow, but far cheaper are the Ryanair flights to Torp (a 90 minute bus trip from Oslo).

Ease to get to: 7/10 (Ryanair and BA for starters)
Ease to get a ticket: 7/10 (Expense will put people off)

Update post-draw

A midweek away trip to Oslo could prove very tricky for the team, and for the rest of us in trying to find some cheap beer and decent nightlife!

Another quick trip beckons here – in on the Tuesday and back home Thursday, almost certainly with BA (as part of the “TA BA elite”). Ryanair is the cheaper option – they fly to Torp, a 90 minute bus ride from the City Centre.

Hotels are pretty plentiful in Oslo, however many are on the pricey side.

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Slovenia - Wednesday 12th October 2005

A lot of Tartan Army passed through the capital Ljubljana between San Marino and Zagreb a couple of years ago, and it comes highly recommended (if a little on the small side). The game is likely to be in Ljubljana, although could be played in Maribor, closer to the Austrian border. The biggest ground only holds 12,000, and given the attractiveness of the destination - tickets could prove to be a real problem for this one.

Flight options include straight to Ljubljana from Gatwick, or more affordably, via Trieste, Klagenfurt or Graz (all Ryanair destinations). A more exotic option is via Croatia - Zagreb and Rijeka airports are within easy reach. If the game is in a warm month, a package holiday in Rijeka travelling up for the game may be just the ticket.

Ease to get to: 7/10 (Ryanair to neighbouring countries)
Ease to get a ticket: 2/10 (Ballot Alert!)

Update Post Draw

Another Wednesday trip following a home game. Ljubljana is a small city with limited hotel accommodation, so rooms will be at a premium here. If the game is in provincial Maribor (which has a slightly bigger ground), then expect even more problems. One option may be for tour companies to use Adriatic coastal resorts (or even hotels around the Alpine Lake Bled) to house the troops, and bus them in for the game.

Ryanair serves several nearby destinations, most notably Trieste (in Italy) and Klagenfurt in Austria, but you’d better be sharp when booking these routes to get the best fares. Pricier, and less convenient, alternatives include Bologna and Venice in Italy, Graz in Austria, and Zagreb and Rijeka in Croatia. The more adventurous might consider going via Dubrovnik in southern Croatia – apparently it’s going to be the “new Ibiza”! There are also some direct flights to Ljubljana with Adria Airways, as well as other connections through European hubs.

Travel Plans (from the Travel Details page)

In a show of blind faith, I actually sorted out a hotel booking before I set off for Moldova, assuming everyone would return bouyed by optimism and get on to booking hotels in one of Europe's smallest capitals.

Anyway, the hotel's sorted for Monday-Thursday nights - we plan to stay in Llubjana on the night of the game, and sort out transport back from Celje nearer the time. We had planned to travel via Zagreb, however the (already expensive) flights doubled in price over Christmas, so we looked at the alternatives. There are several direct trains to Ljubljana from Munich (running through Salzburg), and with me still trying to practice my German (just in case, just in case...) we thought we'd give it a go, probably stopping off in Salzburg for 2 nights on the way home (depending on the two Austrian venues still to be announced, below).

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Why not check out the NATA Interactive Guide to qualifying for the World Cup.  


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