Something to Declare: The Column That Saves You Money

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Bargain of the week:

Single or return, the lowest fares to Paris and Brussels

From this morning until 16 January, Eurostar's most generous deal ever on Eurostar takes effect. On any day you like, with no advance booking, you can get a day return from London or Ashford to Paris or Brussels for pounds 45.

Even if you are travelling only one way, you will save a fortune compared with the normal single fare of exactly pounds 100 more.

To Calais and Lille, the corresponding day-trip fare is pounds 39. To all destinations, the upgrade to first class costs pounds 30, single or return.

Warning of the week:

Security in Kenya

This week the US State Department strengthened its warning on safety to visitors: "There is a high rate of street crime in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and at coastal beach resorts.

"Reports of attacks against tourists by groups of two or more armed assailants have increased significantly throughout the country. Pickpockets and thieves carry out `snatch and run' crimes on city streets and near crowds. Visitors have found it safer not to carry valuables, but rather to store them in hotel safety deposit boxes or safe rooms. Walking alone or at night, especially in public parks, along footpaths, on beaches, and in poorly lit areas, is dangerous.

"Thieves routinely snatch jewellery and other objects from open vehicle windows while motorists are either stopped at traffic lights or in heavy traffic. Armed vehicle hijackings are common in Nairobi, but can occur anywhere in the country. Some nine or 10 vehicles are stolen by armed robbers in the capital every day. Although these attacks are often violent, victims are generally injured only if they resist. There is also a high incidence of residential break-ins.

"Thieves and con artists have been known to impersonate hotel employees, police officers or government officials. Thieves on buses and trains may steal valuables from inattentive passengers. Passengers on inter-city buses should not accept food or drink from a new acquaintance, even a child, because such food or drink may contain narcotics used to incapacitate a victim to facilitate a robbery."

Currency of the week:

The Venezuelan bolivar

Simon Bolivar, the great liberator of South America, would not be pleased about the performance of the only currency to bear his name.

"The government maintains a controlled devaluation against the US dollar", says Travellers' Survival Kit: South America. "The hour-by-hour deterioration of the bolivar is shown in the following day's El Diario de Caracas".

At a time when many of Latin America's currencies are cleaning up their fiscal act, poor old Venezuela is unable to shake off the bad habits of the Seventies when the country became oil-rich. In the past decade, the currency has lost nine-tenths of its value, and there are now more than 1,000 bolivars to the pound.

One effect is to make Venezuela a cheap destination for those few British visitors who go there. But don't change more than you need in the hope of making a killing.

Gesture of the week:

Superseded books to a super cause

Footprint Handbooks has donated the last 500 copies of its India 1999 handbook to Oxfam. Oxfam is distributing the books to its shops nationwide. They go on sale next week and all proceeds go directly to the appeal for the victims of the cyclone in India.

Destination of the week:

Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight

Next August bank holiday, there could be a lively cultural clash in the lovely southwestern corner of the island. As thousands of old hippies turn up to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1970 Isle of Wight Pop Festival (see picture) - when Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison visited the island - at the adjacent Freshwater Bay House, a "Learn to Play Croquet" week is taking place.

The course is being organised by HF Holidays (0181-905 9558), as one of the many activities available at the House.

There are also more exotic pursuits, such as belly dancing (June and September) and Feng Shui (October). Anyone looking for evidence of rock dinosaurs might be interested in the "Fossil Hunting" week in May.

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