The column that gives the global picture

Bargain of the week: across America by train for less

Amtrak, the US passenger railroad corporation, is on the verge of extinction. Accordingly, it has come up with some going-out-of-business fares for travel next month, available to anyone who books online at and clicks on the Rail Sale button.

By combining the Philadelphia-Chicago fare of $16.30 with the Chicago-Los Angeles deal of $58.20, you can cross from coast to coast for the princely sum (at yesterday's rates) of £53.

From Los Angeles, rail to Seattle is a giveaway at $52.80 (£37). From here, you could fly back to New York for $124 (£87) on JetBlue (book on, giving a trip around the US for under £200 – plus the cost of food on the rail trip.

Other Amtrak bargains include Kansas City to St Louis for $5.30 (£3.80) and Chicago-Detroit for $11 (£8).

Destination of the week: Palma de Mallorca

In 64 days, a new tourist tax comes into effect on Spain's Balearic islands, adding €1 per person per night to holidays – almost £40 for a family of four's fortnight.

Get there quick, taking advantage of the increased competition on flights to Europe's leading holiday airport, Palma de Mallorca. This week easyJet (0870 600 0000, started flying from its third UK airport, Gatwick, to the island. Other carriers are hitting back – Air Europa has a deal of £99 return from Gatwick, available through travel agents.

Warning of the week: stay off the buses in Brazil

A Valentine's Day warning from the Foreign Office urged travellers to shun buses and trams within Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Salvador and Sao Paulo.