Bargain of the week

A 10-day holiday in Penang for pounds 599 - with a free side-trip to Australasia and back

Or, from another perspective, a cheap return flight to Australia or New Zealand with a free 10-day stopover on Malaysia's loveliest island. Either way, this is quite the most intriguing of long-haul flight offers in a year where fares have hit new lows.

The deal is available for travel on Malaysia Airlines from mid-April to the end of June. You can fly from Heathrow or Manchester to Perth or Auckland. En route, you get a side-trip from Kuala Lumpur to Penang, where you can stay for up to 10 days at the Ferringhi Beach Hotel.

As with increasingly many of these deals, the bargain is available for "instant" sale - you must book by close of business on Monday through discount agents including Travelbag (0870 737 7796), which closes at 7pm on Monday.

You can also travel from mid-January to the end of March on the same basis, but the fare is pounds 100 higher.

Disease of the week

St Louis encephalitis

An outbreak of this mosquito-borne disease, which affects the brain and spinal cord, has killed three people in New York City, with dozens more falling ill. Mayor Giuliani has ordered insecticide spraying. Meanwhile, Dr Peter Barrett - senior medical adviser to the travel health organisation MASTA - says "the only prevention is to avoid being bitten and to sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms".

For more information, call MASTA on 09068 224 100; calls cost 60p a minute.

Warning of the week

Official advice on the English-speaking Caribbean

Montserrat: "Although the volcanic eruption has abated, the volcano is still dangerous. All areas below a line from the Belham River Valley in the west to the airport in the east remain in the Exclusion Zone. However, following the most recent scientific assessment, the authorities are allowing unrestricted access to Isles Bay and access during daylight hours to Cork Hill, Foxes Bay and Richmond Hill. Other areas in the south and east of Montserrat, including Plymouth, are considered to be at high risk from residual volcanic activity. Access is forbidden until the threat of a volcanic eruption subsides."

Trinidad: "Theft can be a problem at night in parts of downtown Port of Spain and other urban areas. Take local advice on specific areas to avoid. Do not resist armed robbers. Country areas are best visited in groups. Avoid isolated beaches and forest trails."

Jamaica: "Sporadic gang violence and shootings are usually concentrated in inner-city and poor neighbourhoods, including West Kingston, Grant's Pen, August Town and Harbour View, but can occur in other areas. These areas have been subject to curfew and should be avoided. Visitors should exercise caution when travelling to and from Kingston airport, especially after dark, due to the crime threat in the neighbourhoods they traverse."

For Foreign Office advice on destinations, call 0171-270 4129, see BBC2 Ceefax page 564 on, or consult http:// www.

Currency of the week

Eastern Caribbean dollar

A fine thing for island-hoppers to the Caribbean, perhaps tempted by our coverage on pages six and seven of today's Traveller: a currency valid everywhere in the Leeward and Windward Islands. Well, almost everywhere; the two blanks above and below Dominica on the back of the EC$5 note are the French territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique, where only the franc will do.

Those exceptions apart, it is a relief for the traveller that a single currency is valid in eight different territories: Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, St Christopher & Nevis, Montserrat, Dominica, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, and Grenada.

And because it is nailed to the American dollar at a rate of EC$2.75 to US$1, the Eastern Caribbean currency has a more stable existence than some others in the region; the Haitian gourd, Dominican peso and Jamaican dollar may not be ideal repositories for your life savings.

Most other currencies also have fixed rates relative to the US dollar: the Aruban florin, Barbados dollar, Netherlands Antillean guilder and Caymans Islands dollar, plus islands where the American dollar is the de facto currency. These consist of the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Turks & Caicos, Virgin Islands. But the EC dollar is much prettier.