EUROPEAN DEPARTURES

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The Independent Travel
"To ensure our clients' comfort and peace of mind, all international air travel is on scheduled flights and Western aircraft." Intourist Travel Ltd (0171-538 8600) seeks to emphasise how times have changed since holi- daymakers were packed into chartered Tupolevs for flights behind the Iron Curtain.

A basic one-week package from London taking in both Moscow and St Petersburg (with overnight rail travel between the two) costs pounds 399 in January 1996, rising to pounds 565 in summer.

The company also offers a 12-day cruise of Ukranian waterways from Kiev south to Odessa. Highlights include a day with the Cossacks in Zaporozhye and a visit to Mikhail Gorbachev's former dacha in the Black Sea resort of Foros - where the president was held during the August 1991 coup. The price is pounds 935, and includes flights with Austrian Airlines via Vienna.

Eastern Europe will become more accessible by air from 29 October, when the new winter schedules bring more flights from Gatwick to Bucharest and Moscow with British Airways (0345 222111), as well as a new daily service from London's Heathrow to Prague by British Midland (0345 554554).

Fares to Prague are relatively high at present: discounts are hard to find - the lowest published fare on British Airways or CSA Czech Airlines (0171-255 1898) is pounds 214, Major Travel offers about the best at pounds 207. If you are prepared to travel on selected CSA flights - notably the Sunday morning departure from London - the fare falls to around pounds 160.

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