Something to Declare

The Column That Saves You Money
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Bargain of the week: Aberdeen via Africa or Asia to Australia and America for pounds 888

The silliest round-the-world fare in history goes on sale this morning. For pounds 888 you can string together almost any itinerary you wish. Starting in Aberdeen, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Jersey, Newcastle, you begin with a flight to Heathrow. From here, you can start with a short-hop to Paris, Frankfurt or Rome, or a long-haul flight to Harare or Johannesburg, Bombay or Bangkok. If there are two people travelling together, the airline will throw in your first night's accommodation in a three-star hotel. If the route networks of BA and Qantas allow, two more stopovers are permitted, say in Singapore, Hong Kong or Bali.

You can travel back via Asia if you wish (and, if your final destination in Australia is Perth, this will save you pounds 100). But a much more intriguing set of possibilities is for travel back across the Pacific. Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires are legal stopovers, as are Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Washington, New York and Boston. Some may be reached by American Airlines, an alliance partner of BA and Qantas in the oneworld consortium. Finally, home across the Atlantic in time for that connecting flight at Heathrow back to your point of origin.

The deal, which is available for departures from November, costs the same whether you buy direct through British Airways (0345 222111), Qantas (0345 747 300) or through a travel agent. Discount agents are not being allowed to undercut the official fare, but some are throwing in bonuses such as vouchers for ground arrangements in Australia.

Warning of the week: Prague

This week, Go (0845 60 54321) announced new routes from Stansted to Prague and Barcelona, starting 23 September. Barcelona is already served by no- frills operators easyJet and Debonair from Luton, so expect a response to the special deal of pounds 80 return if you book in August and travel before 30 October.

Prague is more interesting. It is the first former Eastern Bloc city to get a no-frills flight, and the lead-in fare of pounds 100 is bound to stimulate weekend visits. But the Foreign Office has updated its travel advice for Prague: "Petty theft is a growing problem. Pickpocketing is extremely common at the main tourist attractions, the main railway station, on trains and on trams, particularly the No22 route to and from Prague Castle. Thefts from hotels have also risen.

"Beware of bogus plainclothes policemen who may ask to see your foreign currency and passport. If approached, decline to show your money but offer instead to go with them to the nearest police station.

"Ensure your passport is valid and in a presentable state. British nationals with passports in a poor condition have been refused entry to the Czech Republic. Children aged 15 and over must be in possession of their own passports. Those travelling on their parent's passport will be refused entry to the Czech Republic. Carry ID at all times and keep a photocopy of your passport."

Travellers are also advised to use only recognised taxi companies.

Book of the week: the last hardback `South American Handbook' for one-third off Next month, Footprint Handbooks changes the format of its flagship guide. For the first time in three-quarters of a century, the South American Handbook will be a paperback. The price of the 2000 edition will be pounds 19.99, a saving of pounds 3 on the cost of the current hardback. But Stanford's, the map and travel bookshop, is selling the 1999 edition at only pounds 14.99. You can buy it at Stanford's Covent Garden store, or branches in Regent Street and Victoria in London, or in Bristol.

Currency of the week: The Irish punt

Cash can have an aesthetic side, and prize for the most beautiful banknotes in Europe must go to the Central Bank of Ireland (or, if you prefer, Banc Ceannaid na hEireann, as it says on the reverse. The pounds 5 note is devoted to the Irish language, depicting a schoolroom studying the vernacular. The pounds 20 is a celebration of the Independence fighter Daniel O'Connell, bearing his portrait and pledge never to "desist from seeking the Repeal of the Legislative Union".

The real classic is the pounds 10. On the front, James Joyce smiles down on an aerial view of Dublin Bay. On the reverse, a handy street map of the Irish capital (including O'Connell Street) is splashed with a quote from Joyce's Dubliners: " ... river run, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious view of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs."

Make the most of it; the currency will be replaced by the euro in 2001.

Prediction of the week: cheap fares to Jakarta

This week British Airways announced it is to close the twice-weekly link between Heathrow and the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. The last time it cut such a route to Asia, to Seoul in Korea, for the final month of life tickets were sold at a ridiculously low pounds 199 return, about half the previous fare.

Look out for similar bargains to Jakarta next month and October. There may also be good deals to Pittsburgh, another long-haul victim of BA.

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