Travel: Something to Declare

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The Independent Culture
A likely story: free travel from Heathrow

Possible, but not by air. If you are under 16, and travelling with an adult, then from next Friday and through the Christmas holidays, you can ride the Heathrow Express train to Paddington station for nothing.

Even if you are either over 16, or you wish to travel at other times, a free ride on the new train is still feasible. BAA, which invested pounds 450m in the line, is now promoting it as the main link between Terminal Four and the other three Terminals in the central area. At five minutes, it is much faster than the courtesy bus, and cheaper than the Tube.

It is possible to go further for free, thanks to the new British Airways- sponsored bus service, which began this month. Linking Hatton Cross underground station and Terminal Four with British Airways' new Waterside business centre, the Compass Centre and the airport's Central Terminal Area, bus route H30 - called "Airport Connect" - will run every day of the week and offer free travel to everyone.

Bob Preston, who worked on the scheme for British Airways, said: "This will be the only London Transport service which is entirely free to everyone over its entire route."

For times of the new service, call London Transport enquiries on 0171- 222 1234.

Trouble spots

The fifth anniversary edition of Wanderlust magazine (01753 620426) was published yesterday. In her regular health feature, Dr Jane Wilson Howarth addresses a critical question:

"What kills travellers? It may be comforting to know that, of travellers who die abroad, few (less than 1 per cent) succumb to infectious disease. What gets us, in roughly equal proportions, are (a) accidents and (b) diseases that would have struck anyway (especially heart disease).

"There are lots of deaths on the roads, for example, and more risks are taken, it seems, when we are away from home. People are able to get away with drink driving, so they do. Where there are no seat-belt or motorcycle- helmet laws people don't bother to use them. Then there are recreational drugs of the legal (eg alcohol) and illegal varieties to enjoy, but these reduce inhibitions and lead to accidents such as drowning. And there are sexual risks: of HIV infections acquired heterosexually, about half are caught abroad; sexual adventures are an enticing extra to a trip away, but play safe."

Bargain of the week

You can take a break in Amsterdam by air for less than pounds 100 - if you drink enough lager. A Dutch airline and brewery have teamed up to offer the short-break deal of the year. Send in the special ring-pulls from 12 half-litre cans of Grolsch lager, pay pounds 99 per person based on two sharing, and you can get flights from your local airport, a one-night stay in a three-star hotel, and a day's bike rental.

Only 5,000 packages are on offer, and the dates are specific: the first two weeks of December, then from 4-11 and 14-28 February. The lager will cost you around pounds 15 (a four-pack at Tesco is currently pounds 4.99). For comparison, Magic Cities (0181-741 4442) has one-night packages in Amsterdam for pounds 107, so even if you pour the lager away you'll still save money.

True or false?

Airlines in the United States are friendlier. This is debatable, as anyone who has flown across the Atlantic on a crammed 767 in the week before Christmas will testify.

Many travellers regard the service aboard British Airways and Virgin Atlantic as a class above most US rivals. So is a new regulation for US airlines, whereby passengers are asked for their first names, a move to become more customer-friendly?

"No," says one transatlantic travel agent emphatically. "It's a security precaution."

From next March the US authorities will be increasing the precision of information about travellers, by insisting on having full first names on air tickets. The move is being sold as an enhancement of passenger safety, but there is a downside.

The addition of a full first name enhances the potential for error (having once travelled from Miami to Atlanta using a boarding card which described me as "Sandra Calderon", I can confirm this). It could also add to airport delays. "When you're checking in 400 people, the last thing you need is a dispute about how a first name is spelt," says the travel agent.