Something To Declare: a new way to Newfoundland; Australia's new Costa del Crime?; cheap trains around north-west Europe

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The Independent Travel

Destination of the week: a new way to Newfoundland

Not all the airlines in Canada are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. WestJet (001 800 538 5696; www.westjet.com), the country's most successful no-frills airline, is still expanding fast.

From this week, WestJet starts flying between mainland Canada and Newfoundland, opening up a province that has hitherto been expensive to reach.

Both the provincial capital, St John's, and the largest airport, Gander, are linked with Moncton in New Brunswick, Hamilton in Ontario (for Toronto) and Edmonton in Alberta. A typical return fare from Hamilton to Gander is C$588 (£260); a transcontinental journey all the way from St John's to Victoria on Vancouver Island works out at C$610 (£270). Note that this involves stops in Moncton and Hamilton, and requires changes of plane in both Edmonton and Calgary.

Before booking, you should compare fares with ailing Air Canada, which has just removed many of its restrictions on cheap tickets in a bid to boost sales. The airline is currently under protection from creditors while it restructures. Its new "fun" fares, bookable online at www.aircanada.com, often undercut WestJet; transcontinental trips cost as little as C$543 (£240).

Warning of the week: Australia's new Costa del Crime?

The Foreign Office this week stepped up its alert to travellers to Australia's east coast:

"Be particularly careful with personal possessions and travel documents in popular tourist destinations such as Cairns and the Gold Coast. Robberies of safe- deposit facilities at cheaper hotels and hostels are not uncommon.

Particular care should also be taken when walking in areas such as the King's Cross district of Sydney. Take care when withdrawing cash from cash machines."

Bargain of the week: cheap trains around north-west Europe

Starting today, the Continental complement to Eurostar begins selling off tickets cheap. Thalys is the name given to the high-speed rail network that links Paris with Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne. As with Eurostar, it is run as an entirely separate operation from ordinary trains in the countries it serves, and has its own price policy.

From this morning, Thalys has brought in a new fare structure that rewards early bookers and allows cheap one-way trips to be made for those who book a fortnight ahead.

The "Smilys" fare, bookable through agents or online at www.thalys.com, allows you to go from Brussels to Amsterdam for €39.50 (£28), or from the Belgian capital to Cologne for €36 (£25); combining this with cheap flights to or from Amsterdam, Brussels or Cologne opens up all kinds of possibilities for two- or three-centre city breaks in Europe.

Airlines flying to Amsterdam are shown in Beam Down (in 48 Hours in Leiden) on page 4 of this issue; for Brussels, you could fly Virgin Express from London City, or from Stansted or Liverpool on Ryanair; and Germanwings and Hapag-Lloyd Express compete from London, Manchester and Edinburgh to reach Cologne.

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