Travel: Something to Declare: THE COLUMN THAT GIVES THE GLOBAL PICTURE

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Bargain of the week:

America on sale

From next Friday, 1 October, air fares across the Atlantic will plummet. With more competition than ever between the UK and US - at least for economy passengers - you can expect fares of below pounds 200 to East Coast and Midwest destinations. Even destinations with no direct services from Britain are up for sale: if you book a ticket with Flightbookers (0171-757 2000) before close of business on Thursday, you can fly with Continental via various US gateways to Las Vegas, Nashville or Memphis for pounds 320.

Destination of the week:

At the Readers' Awards ceremony staged this week by `Wanderlust' magazine and The Body Shop, the former Inca capital, Cuzco in Peru, was voted top city worldwide

By coincidence, the South American Handbook 2000 was published this week.

It contains the following alert: "More police patrol the streets, trains and stations than in the past, which has led to an improvement in security, but one should still be vigilant. On no account walk back to your hotel after dark from a bar or club, muggings are frequent. For safety's sake, pay the $1.05 taxi fare. Places in which to take care are: when changing money on the streets; in the railway and bus stations; the bus from the airport; the Santa Ana market; the San Cristobal area; and at out-of-the- way ruins."

The choice of Cuzco is also a surprise because it is now so tricky to reach. The latest edition of Papagaio, the Journey Latin America magazine, warns: "Aeroperu went bust in the spring, leaving a gap in the market which has been filled by airlines with little or no representation in the UK. Aerocontinente is the leader of the pack at present, but bookings have to be made by e-mail relay. Newcomer Lan Peru, operating a limited number of routes, is the only directly bookable carrier."

Subscriptions for Wanderlust magazine are available by calling 01753 620426. The South American Handbook 2000, now a paperback after 75 years as a hardback, is published by Footprint, price pounds 19.99. You can get a free copy of Papagaio by calling Journey Latin America on 0181-747 3108.

Currency of the week:

The Japanese yen

In recent weeks the Japanese currency has surged once more against sterling and the US dollar, but travellers can content themselves that the yen rate was even less favourable five years ago.

The 5,000 yen note celebrates the symbol of the nation: the sublime, snow-covered cone of Mount Fuji. To acquire this handsome document five years ago would have cost you pounds 32; a year ago, pounds 22; this week, around pounds 26. The pound has fluctuated widely against the yen, but even in the worst days when there were barely 160 yen to the pound, the cost of living for careful travellers was manageable.

Transport around this long, scattered archipelago is best achieved with one of the world's all-time travel bargains, the one-week Japan Rail pass. You can save the pounds 110 cost of the pass in a single bullet-train trip from Tokyo to Kyoto.

Once there, a room in a ryokan (private home, akin to a B&B) costs as little as pounds 20 double. Cheap, delicious and filling bowls of noodles are widely available for pounds 2 or less. And there is never any need to tip; if you attempt to leave a few coins after a meal, the waiter will probably chase you down the road with it.

The traveller who blithely turns up with credit card in hand expecting to pay for everything on tick is in for a shock; paying with plastic is by no means common. Instead, everyone wanders around with wads of notes, perfectly safely given the tiny crime rate in Japan.

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