Something To Declare: Mediterranean bargain; Hungary's motorway charges - News & Advice - Travel - The Independent

Something To Declare: Mediterranean bargain; Hungary's motorway charges

Today marks the start of the main charter flight season to the Mediterranean.

Bargain of the week: the Mediterranean

Today marks the start of the main charter flight season to the Mediterranean. Besides the usual intensive charter programme from airports across Britain, more scheduled flights than ever - both no-frills and full service - are linking the UK and the Med, with foreign airlines increasing choice.

Air Berlin (0870 738 8880, www.airberlin.com) is selling with-frills flights from Stansted airport to a wide range of destinations in mainland Spain, via its hub in Palma de Mallorca. Tomorrow, Air Malta (0845 345 6045, www.airmalta.com) introduces its first non-stop flight from Britain to Italy. It will fly three times a week from Gatwick to Catania in Sicily, which until now has had no direct scheduled flights from the UK. The one-way fare starts at £60. With Ryanair (0871 246 0000, www.ryanair.com) flying from Palermo to Stansted, travellers can put together a low-cost "open jaw" itinerary to Sicily.

Coincidentally, British Airways (0870 850 9 850, www.ba.com) starts flying the very same route as Air Malta, also tomorrow. Its lowest return fare from Gatwick to Catania is £99. But BA charges much higher fares for passengers taking one-way flights.

Warning of the week: motorway "congestion charge" in Hungary

The open road in one of the EU's new members is not necessarily free. Hungary has introduced a system of "vignettes" on three of its main motorways: the M1, M3 and M7. It works rather like the congestion charge zone in London. Drivers must pre-pay for a vignette, or permit. For a car, this costs 1,900 forint (£5) for 10 days, 3,200 forint (£8) for a month or 29,000 forint (£70) for a year. A system of mobile patrols and electronic number-plate readers enforce the scheme, and fines are a minimum of 9,500 forint (£23). More information at www.motorway.hu.

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