Euro-bargain of the week

A high-speed day in France for under pounds 40

Eurostar (0990 186186) is offering is lowest-ever return fare through the Channel Tunnel: pounds 39 for a day return from London to Calais or Lille. The deal is available from 15 July to 3 September, and you have to book at least a week in advance; a day in Paris or Brussels (or Disneyland Paris) costs only pounds 10 more.

Luxury bargain of the week

Cuddle up to Kuala Lumpur

To counter the seasonal drop, airlines lower fares to try to entice leisure travellers to upgrade. For the crafty business traveller, this provides the opportunity for a cut-price premium ticket.

Competition is particularly intense to Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur (the city about which the Australian "cultural attache", Sir Les Patterson, famously says, "I didn't see a single flaming koala there").

Through discount agents such as Quest Worldwide (0181-547 3322), Lufthansa is selling return tickets from various UK airports via Frankfurt to KL for pounds 1,595. Trailfinders (0171-938 3444) has a deal from Heathrow on Royal Brunei for pounds 1,533, or if you prefer a non-stop flight, around pounds 2,000 on the Malaysia Airlines/Virgin Atlantic code-share flight. Cheapest of all, through IMS Travel (0171-224 4678), is a business class flight with Aeroflot via Moscow for just pounds 1,007 return.

Trouble spots

The latest obstacles for rail travellers

Middle East: "We received an e-mail about half the rail service now in force in Iran, and there can be no doubt that the half we didn't get has altered as well. But you almost certainly won't be casually travelling about in Iran by yourself (the authorities don't encourage such excursions)."

South America: "We now include the dates of Peru's monthly (and only) main-line train out of Lima. Don't miss it, as the wait for the next one is not worth the effort."

Asia: "The railway in Bangladesh doesn't issue a timetable, and relies on handwritten notices. They do, however, occasionally advertise schedules in the daily papers, and we have received some very sketchy timings from that source... Do check locally if you can, but unless you can read hand- written Bengali, you may have problems."

From the new edition of the Thomas Cook Overseas Timetable (pounds 8.99)

Currency of the week

The Greek drachma

The real answer to the old chestnut "What's a Grecian urn?" is "A lot less in Sterling terms than he did three years ago". The Greek currency is not yet a paid-up member of the euro team. But yesterday the Greek finance minister re-iterated plans to join in 2001. Preparation for the change, plus the relentless rise in the value of the pound, means tourists to Greece this summer are enjoying prices around one-third lower than in 1996.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary makes a rare foray into exchange rates when it declares: "Ancient Greek silver coin, drachma, (9 3/4d)". In post- decimalisation terms, this values each unit of the currency at four pence, or 25 to the pound. As the drachma continues to slide, its value is rapidly dwindling to 500 to the pound.

The dictionary makes clear that there is no etymological connection with the word draconian, which derives from the Athenian legislator Drakon. But the definition "rigorous, harsh, cruel" could refer to the Greek exchange control regulations that have now, thankfully, been relaxed.

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