Travel: Something to Declare; News from the Travel World

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Trouble spots: responses in the travel industry to the Anglo-American air strikes against Iraq.

After the first air strike, the Foreign Office issued the following advice: "We advise against travel to Israel and the Occupied Territories. British nationals already there should await further advice".

For other countries in the region except Iraq, the FO says: "Following the allied military strike against Iraq on 16 December, British nationals contemplating travelling to Middle East and Gulf countries should stay in touch with developments and take sensible precautions. They are strongly advised to register with the British Embassy and to follow local advice issued by the Embassy and its Consular Wardens."

For Iraq, the FO says simply that: "British nationals should not attempt to visit Iraq. We strongly advise any British nationals currently in Iraq to leave as soon as possible."

British Airways Holidays is not taking any bookings for travel before 31 January to the following countries: Cyprus, Egypt, Israel and the UAE. Its parent company, British Airways, is changing its schedules on flights to Tel Aviv and Kuwait for "operational reasons" - in order that aircraft crews do not have to make the normal stopover at these airports. Passengers booked to either destination who decide not to travel may get a full refund, in the form of a voucher for future travel on BA.

One of the airlines most involved in the Gulf region is Emirates, based in Dubai, which says: "Flights are continuing to operate normally, and we do not anticipate any disruption to services". The airline told The Independent that passengers who preferred not to travel because of the conflict can cancel without penalty.

For the latest Foreign Office travel advice, call 0171-238 4503, or BBC2 Ceefax page 470, or on the Internet at www.fco.gov.uk

Bargain of the week: festive flyers can get from central London to Heathrow more cheaply and easily.

The Heathrow Express is, as has been noted in these pages before, by far the most expensive train in Britain. But the pounds 10 flat fare becomes a bargain on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, when almost all other public transport closes down completely.

The last time I made the journey from central London to Britain's busiest airport at Christmas the cab cost pounds 50, including a festive tip. This year, though, travellers to Heathrow can take advantage of a full service on the train from Paddington station, not far from the centre of London. Families are set to benefit the most; each fare-paying adult can take up to four under-16s free.

True or false: drunks are not allowed on Sydney Harbour Bridge

True. Motorists on the landmark bridge are subject to the New South Wales blood-alcohol limit of 0.05 per cent. But pedestrians? Yes: anyone signing up for the new and extremely popular walk/climb over the beautiful arc is breathalysed, and those over the limit are refused permission to take part in the three-hour adventure. So don't swig a stiffener before you soar.

BridgeClimb, the company that runs the operation, imposes other safety standards. Participants must wear special "Bridgesuits", grey tracksuits designed to avoid distracting motorists' attention. Harnesses must be worn, and fastened to static lines on the structure of the 70-year-old bridge. And even though Kodak is a sponsor of BridgeClimb, cameras are not allowed - to avoid the risk that users could fall from the top of the 400ft structure while taking pictures of Sydney Harbour.

To sign up for the climb, call 00 61 2 9252 0077 or consult www.bridgeclimb.com, the company's website.

Simon Calder

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