Cheap (and pretty) ways to Africa
Cut-price flights to southern Europe can take you further, says Sam Dunham
Saturday 26 April 2003
Not a single no-frills airline yet flies between the UK and Northern Africa. However, to access souks and the Sahara, combine a flight to Italy, Spain or Greece with a ferry or even a helicopter ride. You can have a two-centre holiday linked by a Mediterranean cruise, and also save cash.
Fly from Stansted to Jerez in Spain on Ryanair (0871 246 0000, www.ryanair.com), typically for £110 return. Tour one of the many sherry houses, or sample a free flamenco display at the Andalucian Flamenco Centre on Plaza de San Juan. Stay overnight in Jerez and take the bus in the morning to Tarifa, windsurfing capital of Europe.
The early evening ferry run by Ferry Rapido del Sur (00 34 956 68 18 30, www.frs.es) will whisk you across the Straits of Gibraltar in 35 minutes to the cosmopolitan city of Tangier for €48 (£32) return.
Fly to Malaga from one of many UK airports. Take a 30-minute helicopter ride to Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco, for €202 (£144) return on Helicope de sureste (00 34 95 204 8700; www.helisureste.com).
Both options involve flights from Stansted to Italy on Ryanair (0871 246 0000, www.ryanair.com). The quickest is to fly from Stansted to Palermo in Sicily, for around £116 return. Go to Trapani at the westernmost tip of the island. Each Tuesday at 9pm, Tierra Navigazione (00 39 09 1602 1111, www.gruppotirrenia.it) sails for the eight-hour voyage to to Tunis. The fare of €97 (£67) includes a second-class cabin on the way back.
For a shorter land transfer but a much longer voyage, fly from Stansted to Genoa for as little as £40 return. The bus from the airport can drop you close to the shipping terminal. At 5pm, Wednesday & Saturday, the ferry departs from Genoa for a 24-hour voyage across the Med on the Traghetti line (00 39 010 58 93 31, www.traghettionline.net).
Target: Port Said
In a perfect world, you could simply fly on easyJet (0870 600 0000, www.easyjet.com) from Luton or Gatwick to Athens; catch the E96 bus from the airport (departures every 20 minutes) to Greece's principal port, Piraeus. Until recently a ferry departed each Wednesday operated by Salamis ( 00 30 2810 346185, www.ferries.gr/salamis), calling at a series of beautiful Greek islands, and Cyprus, before arriving at Egypt's Port Said, the Mediterranean end of the Suez Canal on Saturday. When services resume, expect to pay around £200 return.
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