FAR EAST: SURVIVAL GUIDE

Getting there

Air: All fares quoted include tax and are for travel in September.

Direct flights are available to many Far East cities, but the price advantage of a connecting flight can be considerable. From Heathrow or Manchester to Hong Kong, for example, the lowest fare quoted by Airline Network (01772 727272) is pounds 881 direct on Cathay Pacific but only pounds 455 on Swissair via Zurich - nearly 50 per cent less.

Specimen fares to other places: Bangkok: pounds 365 on Aeroflot through Quest Worldwide (0181-547 3322). Kuala Lumpur: pounds 405 on Bangladesh Biman through Jetline (0171-360 1111); KL or any other city in Peninsular Malaysia: pounds 549 on Malaysia Airlines through Trailfinders (0171-938 3939). Manila: pounds 486 on Alitalia via Rome through STA Travel (0171-361 6262). Peking (Beijing): pounds 422 on KLM through Asia Plus (0171-470 0708). Taipei: Only British Asia Airways flies direct from the UK. A lower fare of pounds 605 is available on Swissair via Zurich, through Worldwide Journeys (0171-388 6000). It may be cheaper to fly to Hong Kong or Bangkok and get a connecting flight.

Rail: the trans-Mongolian and trans-Manchurian trains take about a week to get from Moscow to Beijing. It is worth booking through a specialist such as the China Travel Service (0171-836 9911). This agency has a set package which includes a night in a Moscow hotel and a sightseeing tour of the Russian capital. In second class, it costs pounds 365 one way. The one- way flight on British Airways from London to Moscow is an additional pounds 260.

Red tape

British passport holders do not need visas for short visits to Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. All visitors to China require a visa. Probably the easiest way to obtain one in the UK in advance is through the China Travel Service, 7 Upper St Martin's Lane, London WC2H 9DL (0171-836 9911). You need a photo and a passport with at least six months' validity. The visa allows one month in China. The cost is pounds 35 (plus pounds 5 "postage and packing"), but the company says it may be cheaper and easier to obtain a visa in Hong Kong if you are going there first. The CTS Hong Kong office is at 78-83 Connaught Road, Central (tel 00 852 853 3533; fax 00 852 541 9777).

Money

Sterling is readily converted, at a good rate, in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. In Thailand and the Philippines, the US dollar is preferable. Within China, Hong Kong dollars are often accepted in lieu of the local Yuan.

Alexandra Cockburn

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