Something to Declare
THE COLUMN THAT SAVES YOU MONEY
Saturday 26 June 1999
Summer in Canada for a song
Competition between charter airlines and scheduled carriers is so intense this summer that fares for peak season flights are staying low. The main charter players are all Canadian airlines: Canada 3000, Royal Airlines and Air Transat.
My flight yesterday from Gatwick to Toronto cost just pounds 217 return, which works out at four pence a mile. If you are prepared to wait until the very last minute, the fare may fall still further: this month, tickets have been on sale for as little as pounds 137 return. Most travel agents should have access to these fares; to go direct, Canadian Affair (0171-616 9999) and Globespan (0990 561522) are two leading operators.
Warning of the week
The US State Department has urged against travel to Colombia, saying there is a greater risk of being kidnapped there than in any other country in the world
"Violence by narcotraffickers, guerrillas, paramilitary groups and other criminal elements affects all parts of the country. Citizens of the United States and other countries have been the victims of recent threats, kidnappings, domestic airline hijackings and murders. More than a dozen US citizens were kidnapped in Colombia in the first five months of 1999, twice as many as in all of 1998. In some cases, the victims have been murdered."
Read of the week
`Railway World', July 1999 edition
Your attention may not be seized by a magazine whose lead story begins: "As one whose youth was mis-spent hunting narrow gauge light railways on the Continent...", but it is worth persevering with the new edition of this magazine.
You discover that old London Underground carriages are in service on the Channel Islands' only railway, a two-mile stretch on Alderney; that the railway station in Singapore is technically Malaysian territory on Singaporean soil; and that not all is well in the state of Cuba, one of the last remaining repositories of steam locomotion:
"Reports of the 1999 zafra (sugar-cane cutting season) in Cuba indicate considerable friction between three very different styles of gricer [trainspotter]: true railway enthusiasts, seeking photos of `natural' steam hard at work hauling cane, were regularly frustrated by small parties who offered financial incentives (US$) to train crews and demanded huge volumes of oily smoke from stationary locos to obtain their `master shot'; everyone suffered throughout the season from car-gricers whose hire perhaps included a beautiful, but icy-eyed Cuban lady of the night for each occupant."
Railway World is published monthly by Ian Allan (01932 266600), price pounds 2.60.
Currency of the week
The Cuban peso
The symbol used to represent a peso is $, the same as for the US dollar. And, according to the official line, they are worth the same, too.
As in many less developed countries, Cuba maintains an artificially high official value for its currency. But in the past decade, the black market value - a much more reliable indication of worth - has veered between five and 120 pesos to $1. Lately the market rate has settled at a value of 22 pesos to $1.
The authorities say the average foreign holidaymaker will have no need for Cuban pesos at all. The theory is that every enterprise that the Westerner is likely to encounter demands hard currency. But the independent traveller in Cuba will find plenty of opportunities for spending pesos: for stamps, a shave, ice cream, coffee, books and newspapers, records, a trip to the cinema, pizzas from street vendors, or a local bus fare.
You will lose out if you have only dollars to offer. A good example is postcard stamps, which will cost the equivalent of either 40p or 2p, depending on whether you pay in dollars or pesos. And the drivers or conductors of some local buses will not allow you on board unless you have necessary 20 centavos (less than a penny).
Happily, more and more venues are ready to accept either dollars or pesos at a conversion rate of around 1:20. In particular, the Dona Yulla chain of restaurants - which the Food Ministry set up to counteract the number of private eating places - takes either currency.
You can obtain pesos for dollars at any of the dozens of Cadeca bureaux de change around the country, including one at Havana airport's flashy new terminal 3.
The black-marketeers who thrived in the years when it was illegal to hold dollars have virtually disappeared; if anyone offers you a rate better than Cadeca gives, they definitely intend to defraud you.
Some entrepreneurs in Havana sell three-peso notes or coins for a dollar each - only one-seventh of the market rate - yet find plenty of buyers. The reason is not that three is an unusual denomination in any currency; the coins and notes show the smiling visage of Ernesto Guevara, better known as Che.
Life & Style blogs
Who is Teresa Fidalgo? Debunking the fake ghost story that's got Instagram spooked
Bio-engineering vaginas not about peach smell, company says, but making them healthier
Regin: Newly uncovered malicious software snooping since 2008 'was developed by a nation state'
Henri de Toulouse Lautrec: Google celebrates 150th anniversary of French artist's birth
Tinder dating app being used more and more by middle-aged mums and dads
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Green Party Caroline Lucas interview: 'We could be on the edge of something very big'
- 1 Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by police in Ohio park
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Naked free runner captured in breathtaking photographs above London's streets
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Manchester United named Premier League's loudest fans despite late push by Chelsea according to 'Smart Meter' app
£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...
Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Hi All, I'm currently recruiting for t...
Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...
£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...