Something to declare: Australia via the Indian Ocean; crime on the Kiev Metro; boat rates in London
Where to go, how to save, what to avoid
Saturday 04 April 2009
Destination of the week: Australia via the Indian Ocean
Air Austral is not, despite the name, an Australian airline; it is, in fact, the carrier of the French Indian Ocean possession of Réunion. But from next weekend it will be offering travellers a fascinating new route to Sydney. The airline (air-austral.com) is launching services on 12 April from its base at Roland Garros airport in St-Denis to Australia's largest city, with onward service to Noumea – the capital of New Caledonia.
British passengers can join the flights in Paris, which use the main Charles de Gaulle airport. Fares from Paris are currently around €1,100 return. Stopovers en route are possible in Réunion – which will be featured in The Independent Traveller next Saturday, 11 April.
Another Indian Ocean stopover option is Mauritius. Fares as low as £825 return are currently available from Heathrow to Perth via the home turf of Air Mauritius (020-7434 4375; airmauritius.com).
Warning of the week: Crime on the Kiev Metro
Bill Williamson, who spends a lot of time in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, says gangs are targeting vulnerable passengers – particularly tourists – on the metro system in the city. Mr Williamson was himself attacked, and concludes that the operation follows this pattern: "Two men enter before the target; two enter after; and as the doors close they push violently into the carriage. They combine to immobilise the victim, while a fifth man goes through his or her pockets. There is nothing you can do because you are surroundedwhile the thief gets away."
Mr Williamson says he told the police "but they are not interested". He believes "the economic crisis has made things much worse and there are many gangs working near Vokzalna – the metro station for the train station".
The Foreign Office adds extra dimensions: "There has been an increase in the number of murders, muggings and other violent attacks on foreign nationals both in central Kiev and other major regional centres." Some of these crimes involve spiking drinks:
"Beware of accepting drinks in bars from casual acquaintances," says the official travel advice. It also warns that, in some cases, attacks have been racially motivated. "Travellers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent and individuals belonging to religious minorities should take extra care."
Bargain of the week: boat rates in London
The boats are back in town for the summer: the Westminster Passenger Service Association (020-7930 2062; wpsa.co.uk) today launches its services from Westminster Pier to Kew (£16.50) to Richmond (£18) and to Hampton Court (£19.50). But it is not difficult to get a discount. Holders of the Freedom Pass travel at half price; anyone with a Travelcard (or Oyster card loaded with a Travelcard) gets a third off.
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