THE COLUMN THAT GIVES THE GLOBAL PICTURE
British bargain of the week:

London-Newcastle for

pounds 15 return

"Ageing swingers are more than welcome," said a spokesman for GNER about the Track One deal that offers a round-trip between the capital and Tyneside for about one-tenth of the full standard fare. The deal is designed for clubbers, but there is no necessity to be one - the only condition is that you travel out after 3pm and get on an inbound train the next day by 9am. It applies also to Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow. More details: 0345 225225 or at: www.gner.co.uk.

European bargain of

the week: Cheap snow

The ascendance of no-frills airlines gives travellers a much wider range of options for reaching ski resorts by air. This winter easyJet (0870 600 0000) will fly to Geneva from Luton, Gatwick, Stansted and Liverpool. From Stansted, Ryanair (0541 569 569) has flights to Carcassonne and Turin, for those heading for the Pyrenees and Italian Alps. Buzz (0870 240 7070) serves Vienna for pounds 100 return from 4 January, with connections for the Slovakian Tatras - these can be reached even more economically using the Eurolines (01582 4045111) bus from London to the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, for pounds 89 return. For the Polish side of the Tatras, Polorbis (0171-637 4971) has the same bus fare to Krakow, near Zakopane.

Long-haul bargain of the week: New Orleans for pounds 329, hotel included

With air fares so low this winter, New York is now officially passe as a weekend break. The "Big Easy" is much more exclusive, but becoming more affordable. Finway (0181-466 0222 or funwayholidays.co.uk) has a three- night deal in Louisiana's largest city for pounds 329. One drawback is that, since British Airways cancelled its direct flights from Gatwick, you have to change planes en route; another is that the crime rate is much higher than that of New York.

Warning of the week:

It's not the Ritz, you know

The new British Airways Holidays' "Cities and Short Breaks" brochure cannot be accused of raising expectations too high about the hotels used. These are some examples of what awaits the unwary traveller: "Photographs of rooms in this brochure are for general guidance only. The room you get may look nothing like the picture. This is because city hotels are often old buildings, and bedrooms come in all shapes, sizes and decoration. Tea and coffee facilities are not a standard feature in most of our hotels, and you should not expect these facilities unless we say otherwise in the hotel description.

"If satellite or cable TV are featured, we cannot guarantee how many stations will be available, or that they will be in English. Because of where our hotels are, you will experience traffic and street noise in your bedroom, even when the windows are closed." You have been warned.

Competition of the week: The Independent/ Wanderlust travel photography competition.

For the fourth year running, we are pleased to be linking up with Wanderlust - the magazine for the independent traveller - to encourage excellence in travel photography. If you are an amateur photographer, and believe your picture could be worth a thousand words, it could earn you, and a companion, a fortnight's safari in Namibia for completing a photographic commission.

The top 30 entries will be displayed at Destinations 2000, to be held in London Olympia from 10 to 13 February next year. The award will be made at the event, and the winning picture will appear in the following edition of Wanderlust magazine.

All entries must be accompanied by an official entry form, which explains the full rules and conditions. Send a stamped addressed envelope to: Independent/ Wanderlust (Photo Comp), PO Box 1832, Windsor, Berks SL4 1YT. Only people with UK addresses may apply. The competition is not open to professional photographers. The closing date for entries is 31 December 1999.

Incentive of the week:

"Push our cars and we'll give you pounds 10"

The car rental giant, Hertz, is reminding travel agents of the incentives it offers for each booking of a rental car. "The more bookings you make, the more vouchers you get. And when Hertz Capital Vouchers can be used in 90 high street shops including Boots, Oasis, HMV, Habitat and Homebase, it makes sense for you to push our cars.".

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