The best deals, the latest hot spots and what's new in travel

Bargain of the week: Gatwick giveaway

Fares on British Airways from Gatwick of £29 each way are not new - but this week BA announced there will be five times as many of them, to more places.

The airline says a minimum of 10 per cent of seats on each of its 27 routes from Gatwick will be available at the very lowest fares. Cities on sale at £29 include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Geneva and the Latvian capital, Riga - 1,000 miles away.

The 10 per cent promise does not apply to every flight; on popular weekend or holiday departures there may be none at all. But the airline's higher fare levels have also been reduced. The move is aimed squarely at easyJet. The no-frills airline started flying from Gatwick only five years ago; the Sussex airport is now its main gateway. BA is also offering Club Europe upgrades for £50 each, which is something easyJet cannot match.

The promise of lower fares does not apply on BA-numbered flights that are operated by its franchise partner, GB Airways - but this airline has just announced a late-summer sale with fares of £39 from Gatwick to Seville, Innsbruck and the main Balearic islands.

Destination of the week: Edinburgh

Throughout August, travel to and from the Scottish capital becomes crowded and expensive because of the festivals taking place in the city, but there are still some cheap deals.

Virgin Trains from Birmingham to Edinburgh are widely available at £17 each way, so long as you avoid weekends. Flights on British Airways (0870 850 9 850; www.ba.com) from Heathrow or Gatwick to Edinburgh can be found for £62 return for some dates in August - usually on the last flights of the day. From Bristol, easyJet (0905 821 0905; www.easyjet.com) has seats to Edinburgh and back for £40.

Hotel beds in the area are always difficult to find in festival time in Edinburgh, but the specialist operator Theatre Breaks (01727 834422; www.theatrebreaks.com/edinburgh) says it has allocations of beds throughout the festival, as well as seats for all performances in the official Festival.

Warning of the week: cashless Holland

Travellers to the Netherlands will encounter problems because of the Dutch drive to move to a cashless economy for many routine transactions. Cash is being replaced by the "Pin pas", a rechargeable debit card available only to holders of a Dutch bank account.

At Amsterdam Centraal Station, virtually all ticket machines take only Pin pas and Maestro debit cards (held only by a small number of UK travellers). The result: huge queues at the scaled-down ticket office. On a quiet Friday morning, it can take half an hour to buy a ticket from a human being; the fine for travelling without a ticket is €35 (£25). Left-luggage lockers at all main stations are being converted to Pin pas-only.

The problem is not limited to public transport - try parking in Arnhem. Virtually all parking meters, and all but one car park, are Pin pas-only. According to the tourist office, Pin pas is becoming the norm across the Netherlands.

Mike Abbotts

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