Something to Declare

Destination of the week: Sydney
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The Independent Travel

Even though the Olympics are only halfway through, Britain's discount agents are anticipating a sharp increase in bookings to the host city over the northern winter/Australian summer. But in the short term, there is plenty of spare capacity.

Even though the Olympics are only halfway through, Britain's discount agents are anticipating a sharp increase in bookings to the host city over the northern winter/Australian summer. But in the short term, there is plenty of spare capacity.

Anyone wanting to catch the last few days of the Games should have no difficulty in finding a flight and a bed in Sydney (pictured, right).

Most discount agents can still find seats on Japan Airlines to Sydney for departures in the next week costing less than £500 return; this includes a night in a hotel in Japan on the return leg.

An alternative good deal is available from Austravel (0870 055 0210, www.austravel.com). The company is selling Airtours charters to Sydney, which begin in November. People prepared to fly out before then qualify for a fare of just £449 return. You fly out on British Airways to Hong Kong, and change planes there to Cathay Pacific for the onward journey to Sydney (sadly, no stopovers are allowed in the Chinese city). The homeward flight must be taken on an Airtours charter departing before 24 November - the deal is designed to fill up empty seats on the inbound legs of the charter flights.

Once you reach Sydney, there is plenty of accommodation at the lower end of the market. A succession of centrally located hostels contacted by The Independent confirmed that they had availability ranging from dormitory beds for £8 to double rooms for £40.

For travel next month, and during November, Singapore Airlines is selling flights to the leading Australian cities for under £600 through discount agents, providing you book by next Tuesday, 26 September. The same cut-off date applies for a Qantas special offer; the fare is also below £600 return, but it is valid for departures outbound only in November.

Two Asian airlines that have traditionally offered low fares to Australia - Malaysia Airlines and Air China - are about make long-haul flights smoke-free. The Chinese carrier bans smoking on flights that are over six hours long from 1 October, while the Malaysian airline stubs it out across its network from 29 October.

Warning of the week: Foreign Office minister says 'Don't go to Burma'

This week the FO's travel advice to Burma was strengthened, to warn prospective travellers that "foreign nationals criticising the regime in public are liable to arrest and imprisonment". It also revealed that "A member of the Embassy staff was recently subject to a violent attack in her home". In addition, Peter Hain, a Foreign Office minister, has stepped up the diplomatic pressure by urging travellers to shun Burma.

Mr Hain told The Independent: "I personally would not touch Burma with a bargepole in terms of holidays and that would be my advice to everybody concerned." He said that anyone taking a holiday there is pumping money into a "brutal, repressive regime".

Bargain of the week: the freedom of Northern Ireland, on Sundays, for £3

As listeners to Radio 4's You and Yours programme learned this week, the threat of closure hangs over the Northern Ireland rail network. So take advantage of the best train bargain in the UK while it lasts.

Every Sunday, the Day Tracker deal will take you anywhere on the rail network, from Belfast to Bangor, Newry, Larne, Londonderry and Portrush for £3, so long as you buy the ticket before 3pm.

On other days of the week, the next best deal is unlimited travel for £10; this also includes buses in Northern Ireland operated by Citybus and Ulsterbus. For details and schedules, call 028 9089 9411 or visit www.translink.co.uk

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