Something to Declare

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The Independent Travel

Warning of the week:

Warning of the week:

Italian hazards

The American government has stepped up its warning about crimes against tourists in Italy. The latest State Department bulletin says, "Petty crimes such as pickpocketing, theft from parked cars, and purse snatching, are serious problems." Main railway stations - notably those in Rome, Milan, Florence and Naples - are particularly popular with villains.

"Thieves in Italy often work in groups or pairs," says the State Department. "In most cases, one thief distracts a victim while an accomplice performs the robbery. Groups of street urchins are known to poke tourists with newspapers or pieces of cardboard to divert their attention so that another street urchin can pickpocket them." More seriously, "Elderly tourists who have tried to resist petty thieves on motor scooters have suffered broken armsand collarbones."

You should also beware while driving: "Theft of small items such as radios, luggage, cameras, briefcases, and even cigarettes from parked cars is a major problem. Robbers in southern Italy take items from cars at gas stations (often by smashing car windows). In the Naples area, thefts have also been reported from occupied vehicles waiting in traffic or stopped at traffic lights. Drivers should keep their car doors locked, windows rolled up, and valuables out of sight."

Motorists hoping to reach Italy through the Mont Blanc tunnel will have to choose another route: repairs following the catastrophic fire in the tunnel are taking much longer than anticipated. The re-opening scheduled for this autumn has been postponed to March 2001. More information: www.equipement.; click on Bison Futé for details in English, although yesterday this facility was not working.

Bargain of the week: Britain to Bangkok

British Airways and Qantas yesterday launched a new joint fare to Bangkok from five UK airports . The fare to the Thai capital, through discount agents such as Quest Travel (020-8547 3322), is just £360 - but to qualify for this you have to travel to Thailand (above) via Frankfurt. The deal is intended to fill empty seats on the Qantas flight from Frankfurt to the Thai capital. The price includes a connection on BA from Birmingham, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester. It is valid for travel up to 28 October. One condition of the ticket is that you must also buy a minimum of four nights accommodation.

A cheaper and less restrictive ticket to Bangkok is offered from Heathrow on SriLankan Airlines, for £327 through discount agents, but the connections are not ideal and you might have to stay overnight in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.

Destination of the week: Dunkerque

After Thursday's blockade of Calais, and yesterday's temporary closure of the Channel Tunnel, the Foreign Office's assertion that "most visits to France are problem-free" looks questionable, at least for travellers who use thetunnel or sail to France's main Channel port.

A cut-price alternative to blockage-prone Calais has just emerged: a new entrant has revived the old Sealink route between Dover and Dunkerque. The ferry used, Northern Merchant, is claimed to be the most modern on the Channel.

The operator, Norfolkline (01304 225151, is offering an introductory fare of £99 return for a car and five passengers, until 27 September, on off-peak sailings from Mondays to Thursday. A second ferry is due to enter service in October. Norfolkline is predominantly a freight carrier, and neither coaches nor foot passengers are allowed.