Do you know of a Dead Albatross?

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The Independent Travel
WHICH is London's worst national tourist office? Last year's long-running series of complaints about the French Government Tourist Office suggested that we need look no further.

Fiona Barltrop of West Sussex suggests another candidate for my newly instituted Dead Albatross Award (for conspicuous lack of service in the travel business). 'I phoned the Zimbabwe tourist office in the Strand two weeks ago and requested travel/ tourist literature to be sent.

'Before they could send me anything they asked me to send them a large (A4) stamped, addressed envelope. I sent my sae with a first-class stamp on it and posted it first class . . . to date I have received nothing in return.'

Miss Barltrop rang the tourist office again several days later to inquire about the delay but was swiftly dismissed with further assurances that the information would be on its way.

'My father volunteered to pay a personal visit (two visits, it turned out). On the first he found the office closed for lunch and no one reappeared by the due opening hour of 2pm. On the second occasion his efforts were rewarded with one four-page leaflet providing the scantiest of information.'

Miss Barltrop justifiably wonders why they needed an A4 envelope to mail out this modest leaflet. But since she was never mailed anything at all, the question remains academic.

Any more nominees for our Dead Albatross award?

GOING CHEAPEST

Who has the world's cheapest public transport system? The war of claim and counter-claim continues with renewed vigour.

Mrs E M Tomlinson, of Ludlow, writes: 'Christopher Mabley (Independent Traveller, 24 April) may be a good traveller but is a poor mathematician when he claims that 'bus tickets in Warsaw are about 3p each'.

'I taught in Poland until this February and my rough guide to currency exchange was pounds 1 equals 25,000 zlotys, making 1,000 zlotys about 4p, and the Warsaw bus tickets, at 4,000 zlotys, about 16p each.

'Warsaw still offers a good bargain in bus fares, but not as good as Krakow (3,600 zlotys) or Wroclaw (2,000 zlotys). I lived in Ostroleka, where a bus ticket costs 1,500 zlotys, about 6p. Concessionary fares for children, pensioners, etc, were 750 zlotys, bringing us back to the 3p of Mr Mabley's imagining]'

Peter Mathers of York says that last October he visited St Petersburg in Russia and made two visits to the Hermitage museum. 'There was a trolleybus route that stopped outside our hotel, which went to the Hermitage. The tickets, which allowed you to travel as far as you wanted, could be bought for 50 copecks each.

'At the then rate of exchange of roughly 500 roubles to the pound, that meant the journey cost the equivalent of a tenth of a penny. As they say, beat that]'

Mr Mathers points out that the local travelling public was very disgruntled, as a few days before he had arrived the local transport authority increased the fare on the Metro from one rouble to two (which works out at two-fifths of a penny). 'Think about that the next time you pay 90p for a short hop

on the London Underground,' he says.

Beat St Petersburg? No problem, writes David Pickles, of Stafford: 'The cheapest public transport fare has to be the new tram system in the old town of Istanbul. At the moment this is free.'

TOURIST TRAP

MY recent comments about how getting up the Eiffel Tower in Paris is more trouble than it is worth prompted a note from

David Pollard of London N1. 'Your remarks reminded me of a reply made by Dr Johnson. When asked, 'Is not the Giant's Causeway worth seeing?' the great doctor answered: 'Yes, but not worth going to see.' '

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