Newsstand

It's scarcely surprising that a global medium such as the Web should carry a lot about travel. But travel does not seem to have inspired many magazine-style enterprises - and one of the best has until recently been accessible only to CompuServe account holders. Happily, it's now open to all.

Travel Insight (http://www.compuserve.co.uk/ ukinsight/) is produced by two of Britain's most experienced travel journalists - Roger Bray (ex- London Evening Standard) and Jeff Mills (ex-Travel Weekly) - and offers a solid mix of news, reference material and features. There's a useful section on health and related risks around the world, which is enough to put you off leaving these shores at all, a few interesting features by Bray and Mills and a compilation of holiday bargains (intriguingly symbolised by a shiny dustbin). Whether your definition of a bargain will include a seven-night holiday in Norway costing pounds 790, I'm not sure.

The design is clean and clear but makes little use of the power of the Web. There are few pictures, no tricky stuff and no reader feedback; I found only a couple of external links - one of them to the Foreign Office site, where you can read even more dire warnings about disease and terrorists. Signposting and structure are slightly weird in places; only by clicking on "skiing" in the features section did I discover an excellent little ski news department.

The editors have hit on the spicy idea of commenting with statesmanlike authority on news items. Carrying this through sensibly looks likely to be a bit of a burden, though. At the foot of a piece about booking ski holidays in advance, we get this nugget: "Some commentators believe the pound will have to fall again before too long, so this could be a good year to pay up front." Well, call me old-fashioned, but there must be an equal weight of commentators who take a different view, or the value of the pound would not be sustained at its present level for a moment longer.

Travelmag (http://www.rednet.co.uk/travelmag/) is in its 20th edition, and claims to have won all sorts of awards from the usual arbiters of Web status. I'm at a loss to know quite why. The features cover tantalisingly exotic experiences and some are competently written, but others appear to be written by holiday-makers with no sense of structure or style. The "Regulars" section is composed with an eye more to amusing than to informing the reader.

What Travelmag does have is a fat links section, which is a great place in which to stumble around for an hour or two, perhaps dipping into some travellers' diaries as well as gathering information from the sites of tour operators, publishers, governments and so on. If you want to use the Web to explore the world without leaving your PC, this is a good place to start.

Chris Gill

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