Something To Declare: Asia and Africa via Istanbul; better trains in Russia; Montenegro; Car-rental delays
Saturday 26 September 2009
Bargain of the week: Asia and Africa via Istanbul
India for under £300, the Far East for under £400, and South Africa for under £450: those are the offers for travellers via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines (0844 800 6666; turkishairlines.com). Specific lowest prices from London (Stansted and Heathrow) are £295 to Mumbai, £380 to Shanghai, £388 to Jakarta, £391 to Bangkok and £449 to either Johannesburg or Cape Town. Fares from Birmingham and Manchester can be even lower. Stopovers in Istanbul (pictured) are not included, but the timings of flights – combined with relatively easy access between Ataturk airport and the centre – means that you can often spend a good part of a day in Turkey's biggest city.
Tip of the week: Better trains in Russia
The rail link to and from Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport has been extended to Byelorusskaya railway station, on the circular Metro line 5 of the Russian capital, making it far more accessible. And from 18 December, the new Sapsan train between Moscow and St Petersburg will reduce the time between Russia's two biggest cities to just 3 hours 45 minutes.
Destination of the week: Montenegro
One small flight for Thomson could possibly constitute a giant leap for the former Yugoslav republic.
At 6am on 5 May next year, a Thomson Airways plane departs from Gatwick for Tivat, the coastal airport for Montenegro. Thomson says it will be the first direct flight with a UK carrier. The tour operator (0871 231 5595; thomson.co.uk) is currently selling holidays on the first departure for £327 for a week'shalf-board at the Montenegro Hotel in Becici. This price almost doubles for departures on 4 August. Top of the heap is a week half-board at the Splendid Spa Resort in Becici for £970.
The low-cost airlines have done extremely well on summer flights to Croatia this year, and are likely to add capacity to the former Yugoslavia next summer. If you want to go to Montenegro before then, British Airways, Croatia Airlines and easyJet compete from Gatwick to Dubrovnik – whose airport is very close to the frontier.
Warning of the week: Car-rental delays
Passengers on easyJet are offered deals with the airline's car-rental partner – not, as you might have imagined, easyCar, but Europcar. Reasonable rates – but potentially unreasonable waits, according to Adrian Hamilton of 'The Independent'. The good part of his journey to south-west France earlier this month was the easyJet flight to the fine city of Montpellier.
Once on the ground, he had to queue for the Europcar desk for nearly two hours – longer than the flight itself.
"Only one girl was on the desk," reports Adrian. "She was nearly in tears with the strain, and the queue was getting restless. Admittedly it was a Saturday, but that, after all, is when most travellers take these flights. It's not what you want to start your holiday."
The trouble appears to be staff reductions because of the recession. "The same thing happened in Toulouse earlier this year with an hour's wait," he says, and recommends "Book a car direct with Holiday Autos or whomever. You'll get just as good prices and a much shorter wait."
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