Something to Declare: British Airways sale; Norwegian krone; Sri Lanka
Saturday 03 January 2009
Bargain of the week: Sub-Club
The latest British Airways sale, which lasts until midnight GMT on 27 January, has plenty of good deals - notably Heathrow to Mumbai for £329 return, a reflection of both the terrorist attacks in November and the increase in competition: Kingfisher Airlines starts flying tomorrow from Heathrow to India's greatest city. But the real novelty is the low extra cost for upgrading to BA's World Traveller Plus - the carrier's premium economy cabin, or "Sub Club", as The Independent Traveller has christened it. While not in the same league as BA's Club World, it offers more leg- and elbow-room, plus enhanced catering and power points for laptops. Previously the premium tended to be at least £150 in each direction.
On the Mumbai service, for travel in early February, the extra cost is £130 each way - or £1 for every four minutes of flight time for the privilege of more comfort. This rate is mirrored on the slightly shorter New York run, where an upgrade costs £110 each way, pushing the basic £259 return up to £479 return.
Virgin Atlantic's Premium Economy on the same route comes in £2 cheaper. For Virgin's longest route, from Heathrow to Sydney, the lowest fare for February appears to be £1,626 return in Premium Economy, compared with £985 in the most basic class. The premium of £320 each way works out at £1 for every five minutes spent in the air.
Warning of the week: Sri Lanka
Just before Christmas, the US State Department stepped up its warnings for Sri Lanka, citing the string of suicide bombings, anti-personnel bomb blasts and grenade attacks that have taken place in the Indian Ocean island over the past year.
The American authorities strongly advise against "using public transportation in Sri Lanka, as civilian buses and trains have increasingly been the targets of terrorist bomb attacks in recent months". US government personnel working in Sri Lanka are banned from using these forms of transport. To see the complete warning, visit travel.state.gov.
"Fatal attacks have become more frequent, in Colombo and throughout Sri Lanka," says the Foreign Office, "including places frequented by expatriate and foreign travellers. Further attacks may occur at any time. There is an increasing risk of British nationals being caught up in an attack."
The UK government also warns "You should avoid wearing or carrying clothing or goods which are military or camouflaged in appearance". You can view the full advice at fco.gov.uk/travel.
Destination of the week: Linz
Prospective visitors to Austria's new European Capital of Culture may be deterred by its being the home town - and favourite city - of Adolf Hitler. Yet it is one of Austria's hidden gems, not least because of the magnificent Hauptplatz (formerly known as Franz-Josephs-Platz and, later, Adolf-Hitler-Platz), flanked by pastel-painted Baroque buildings.
The city is also hoping to emerge from the long cultural shadows cast by Salzburg and Vienna, playing on Linz's position between them and astride the Danube - and its most notable musical son: Anton Bruckner. He played the organ at the Altes Dom, the old cathedral, and at the Stadtspfarrkirche.
Linz no longer has direct flights from the UK - these were abandoned some years ago by Ryanair - but remains easy to reach, thanks to the wide range of links to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart airport in Salzburg. Trolleybuses run direct from here to Salzburg's main station, from where trains take around 80 minutes to reach Linz.
For more information on this culture capital, visit linz09.at; for the other European Capital of Culture, Vilnius, see our 48 Hours report, at independent.co.uk/travel.
Currency of the week: Norwegian krone
As the pound plumbed new depths this week against the euro, it also reached commensurately low rates against several other European currencies - such as the Polish zloty and Czech koruna, which tend to shadow the euro assiduously. But Scandinavian currencies behave differently; their dependence on commodities, and on earnings in dollars, means they are relatively weak.
The Norwegian krone has paralleled the pound remarkably closely over the past year; in January 2008, you would have got just over 10 kroner for £1, and the same still applies.
Given that the pound has weakened by more than one third against the euro, and by even more against the Swiss franc, Norway looks relatively good value - especially for skiing holidays this winter, given the excellent range of flights to Oslo (pictured) that provide access to the resorts of Lillehammer and Geilo.
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