Destination of the week: Belize, not via the US
The only British fragment of Central America boasts everything from beautiful offshore cays and reef diving to Mayan ruins. The climate from now until Easter is ideal. Yet Belize is frustratingly difficult to reach. The normal route is via Miami or Houston in the US, which involves awkward bureaucracy, heavy security, and often an overnight stay outbound before the connecting flight.
Cancun, served non-stop from Gatwick by British Airways (and, from June, by Virgin Atlantic), makes an excellent alternative gateway – especially with a new direct express bus service from Cancun airport to Belize City, with stops at the northern Belize towns of Corozal and Orange Walk.
In theory, the service can be booked direct with the Mexican bus company ADO (ado.com.mx), but test bookings this week have proved unsuccessful, so you might have to buy through an agent or locally.
Bargain of the week: Gatwick Express
If you plan to use the non-stop link from London Victoria to Gatwick between now and 15 May, you can save almost £7 on the standard return fare by booking online at gatwickexpress.com. Purchases made by 21 February qualify for an online discount of 20 per cent instead of the usual 10 per cent, so a round trip costs £26.25. The normal fare is £33.20. Because the offer is valid up to 12 weeks ahead, shrewd travellers can book trips up to mid-May.
Warning of the week: Brazil during Carnival
A month before the crowds build in Rio and Salvador for the 2012 carnival (18-21 February), the Foreign Office has issued specific advice to British travellers warning of "a seasonal upsurge in robberies", often involving firearms. "Dress down, avoid wearing jewellery and expensive watches, and carry only small sums of money. Conceal mobile phones and cameras," says the official advice.
If threatened, "Hand over your valuables; do not attempt to resist attackers as they will often use their weapons, particularly if under the influence of drugs" (the villains, not you).
Following a spate of thefts of entire ATM machines in Sao Paulo, the Foreign Office is also warning about an anti-theft device that turns the notes pink if an ATM has been tampered with. "Any pink-coloured note automatically loses its value. If you withdraw cash at an ATM and it has any sort of pink marks you should speak to the bank manager straight away to get it changed."
Outside bank hours, you have to take the receipt from the ATM along with the marked note to a police station, then take the police report back to the bank to get the note changed.
Tip of the week: Air Asia X to exit UK
After three years, AirAsia X is abandoning its route from London to Kuala Lumpur. The last flight will depart Gatwick on 31 March. Affected passengers will be refunded or moved "to an alternative carrier where available".
The airline blames high fuel prices, weak demand and "exorbitant government taxes".