Getting to Leipzig
These days there are a number of low-cost options.
- Ryanair to Altenburg - this flight connects with a dedicated bus to Leipzig, which takes about 90 minutes. You will need cash for the fare (12 euro at present) as there is no cash machine at Altenburg airport.
- EasyJet or Air Berlin to Berlin Schönefeld - with train connections to Leipzig from Berlin Schönefeld Flughafen. The train journey from Berlin makes this a less cost-effective solution in some ways. In particular, it's not a good idea to buy an advance purchase ticket, in case your plane is delayed: such tickets are never accepted on later trains.
- Air Berlin to Leipzig Halle. As of January 2008, Air Berlin no longer flies to Leipzig Halle from the UK. From Leipzig Halle Flughafen there is a train to Leipzig, although you may have a fairly long wait if you arrive on the late-evening flight. Sometimes the weekend flights are earlier in the day (and more expensive). At the airport, buy a 3-zone ticket from the ticket machine - valid on local (not IC/ICE) trains to Leipzig and also valid on your tram to wherever you are going in town. (Remember to stamp the ticket on the platform before boarding the train.) You could get a taxi from the airport to Leipzig but this would be very expensive as it's quite a long way. Or you might persuade someone you know to come and get you.
- Air Berlin to Dresden via Düsseldorf. We are not aware of anyone having made this journey, but would be pleased to hear of your experiences and any tips.
Mike reports that Air Berlin is more reliable than Ryanair to Altenburg.
Remember that luggage allowances vary per airline. Air Berlin's is the most generous: if you book a return ticket spanning more than a month, you get 30kg luggage allowance. Make sure to check the small print of the airlines before you book.
The environmental choice is to come by train, and these days total prices and total journey times, combined with low stress levels and greater luggage allowance flexibility mean that the train compares well to flying. Use German Rail's offices in the UK to book well in advance (020 8339 4701 is their non-premium rate number).
Some good ticket combinations from London to Leipzig include:
- London–Cologne (via Brussels) on a London/Köln-Spezial ticket, then Cologne–Leipzig on a Dauerspezial ("Germany Special"). This can get you the best possible price for a return (two-way) ticket at about £112.
- London–Frankfurt (via Brussels) on a London/Frankfurt-Spezial ticket, then Frankfurt–Leipzig on a Dauerspezial. If the cheapest Dauerspezials from Cologne are sold out, this could be the second best fare.
- London–Frankfurt on a London/Frankfurt-Spezial and then Frankfurt-Leipzig on a Sparpreis50. This is the cheapest combination when all the cheapest Dauerspezials are sold out, and adds up to around £153 return.
Journey times from about 10h15 including check-in.
If you are starting further away from London, Eurostar offers integrated tickets to Brussels from many other UK stations, bookable at eurostar.com from December 2007. Then contact German Rail UK and try to get:
Sparpreis50 Europa Brussels–Frankfurt or Cologne for €42 return
Dauerspezials from €58 return for Frankfurt to your destination.
For example, from Newcastle to Leipzig, this could work out at a best price total of about £150 return, with a total journey time of 13h45, including check-in etc.
Or do it in 16h50, including a bed in the night train from Brussels to Hannover, from £175 return.
All of these tickets are on a limited availability basis, however, so you would need to book ahead to get these prices. They are rarely available on Fridays or other peak times.
Thanks to the new Railteam alliance of European high-speed train operators, including Eurostar, you no longer need to plan extra time for connections to allow for late trains - these operators will guarantee connections with each other's services, and honour your ticket on a later service if your inbound train is delayed.
See Getting around for more information on using the German rail network.
Coming by car allows you to bring more of your favourite stuff with you, and you might manage to persuade someone to bring you and make a holiday out of it (and hence perhaps even pay for it). Coming from Britain, you would need to take a ferry. Don't just think of the cross-channel ferries to France: from Newcastle you can get an overnight ferry with DFDS to Amsterdam and save over half the driving. Previously there was also a Harwich to Hamburg or Cuxhaven connection, but this now seems to have been withdrawn.
The Etap Hotel at Leipzig Nord-Ost (near to the motorways) offers practical and low-cost accommodation with (non-secured) parking for whoever drives you.
See "Getting around" for information on driving in Germany and the different rules of the road.