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
Ease to get a ticket: 8/10 (as not many are likely to travel)
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
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
Turism.md - Handy online
tourist resource for Moldova
Molodva.com - Hub site
with some useful links and info.
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
One thing worth knowing about is there’s not always hot water
available, even in otherwise posh hotels.
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)
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,
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
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.
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
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
Ease to get to: 3/10 (Visa needed, few
Ease to get a ticket: 10/10 (if you're going, that is!)
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
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
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
Ease to get a ticket: 7/10 (Expense will put people off)
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
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
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
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).