Sunday, July 21, 2024

Here’s how England fans can get to the capital in time, says Simon Calder

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After England’s dramatic last-minute victory over the Netherlands on Wednesday, many fans are desperate to be in Berlin for Sunday’s final.

From the moment Ollie Watkins’ 90th-minute winner went in, supporters started booking and prices soared.

Direct flights from London to the German capital appear completely sold out on Saturday, and returning on Monday, and some hotel rooms are extremely expensive.

Simon Calder, travel correspondent of The Independent, has been travelling in Germany this week.

Getting there: what are you seeing in terms of flights?

Starting in London, which normally has the biggest range of flights to Berlin, the cheapest route out there that’s been on sale today involved a precarious self-connect journey: £275 going out from Luton to Antalya in Turkey, where you must stay overnight on Saturday before an early flight back to Berlin for an 11.20am arrival. Coming back on Monday, you would fly from Berlin to Palma de Mallorca – a surprising option given the number of Spanish fans who will be supporting their team – with a connection back to Luton.

But that disappeared late morning on Thursday. If you’re prepared to accept a long overnight stay in Zurich and not reach Berlin until 6pm on Sunday, returning on Monday with a stopover until Tuesday on Vienna, then a £300 deal from London Heathrow is still on offer.

What about flights from elsewhere in England to Berlin?

Manchester is the main airport outside the capital, and the prospects look worse. A similar overnight trip via Zurich, and coming back on Monday via Frankfurt – with a 24-hour layover – is the only trip I can see for below £400. And from Bristol – well, a £600 adventure will take you to Split in Croatia, with time for a decent lunch by the Adriatic before an onward flight to Berlin – returning via Izmir in Turkey.

Those fares and routes look absurd – so what else can you propose?

Fly to somewhere else with good train links to Berlin. The most obvious candidates are actually outside Germany – Szczecin in Poland would be best, but links from Liverpool and London Stansted are all sold out before the match. If you can stick around until next Wednesday in Germany, you’ll be able to fly back to Liverpool from Szczecin for £26 one way.

Heading out on Saturday, Wroclaw and Poznan look best – but fares are soaring. Wizz Air will take you from Luton to Wroclaw and Ryanair back to Stansted for a total of £461.

Poznan is a better prospect, on Wizz Air from Luton for £432, with regular trains direct to Berlin.

In Germany itself, Hamburg is the nearest big alternative – but all direct flights are sold out.

My final suggestion for flying: Prague, which has a beautiful rail link to Berlin, and is accessible for £315 return from Luton on Wizz Air. That’s probably the deal I would take.

Why don’t airlines add more flights direct from the UK to Berlin?

Unfortunately they are at full stretch on weekends in July, so they don’t have planes, pilots and cabin crew available, and anyway getting slots at Berlin airport is probably impossible at this stage.

What about travelling overland?

That’s what many England fans will be doing. A car ferry from Dover to Dunkirk and back is available on Friday/returning Monday for £205, sailing out at 10am and back at 6pm, for a car, driver and four passengers. It’s a 10-hour, 550-mile drive from there to Berlin.

We will need somewhere to stay …

Berlin has loads of hotels – it’s an important business and convention city – and even on the night of the final, you can find a budget hotel in the suburbs for under £100 for a double. Personally I recommend Frankfurt an der Oder on the Polish border, where rooms are going for £40 a night and from which there’s a £20 day ticket to take you to Berlin by train in an hour.

What about fan zones?

The ideal place to be is the Fan Zone Reichstag in the very heart of the city, with giant screens. But it could fill quickly. Uefa says: “The maximum capacity of the Fan Zone Reichstag is 10,000 people. In case of overcrowding, the ‘one in, one out’ principle is used, whereby one person is allowed to enter for each fan who leaves the Fan Zone.”

But very close by is the Brandenburg Gate fan zone, which has a capacity of 30,000 and can be increased.

For more travel news and advice, listen to Simon Calder’s podcast.

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