Something to Declare: Calais; Australia's Northern Territory; Budapest metro
Saturday 27 June 2009
Bargain of the Week: Calais, more often, for less
Anyone seeking a cheap Channel crossing for the school summer holidays has left it late: typical return fares of £200-plus apply for a car and its passengers on Eurotunnel (0870 535 3535; eurotunnel.com) between Folkestone and Calais. But an excellent way to get a cheaper deal, if you intend to make several more trips to France in the year ahead, is to buy a "carnet" valid for five return trips for £390. You can travel on departures from 4pm to 6am outbound, or inbound from midnight to 2pm. Other departures attract a surcharge of £20 – or, at weekends between 24 July and 30 August, £30.
Buying a carnet and paying the top surcharge will therefore cost £450. But if the corresponding "normal" fare is, say, £210 return, you effectively get four additional off-peak return trips for £60 each, so you can see more of the Pas de Calais (above).
Destination of the Week: Northern territory
July is an excellent month to visit northern Australia: the climate at the "Top End", north of the Tropic of Capricorn, is comfortable; in the past five years, no rain at all has fallen in July. Further south, the "Red Centre" around Alice Springs is relatively cool, with the temperature rarely exceeding 30C. And there are plenty of events to enliven a trip.
The Imparja Camel Cup takes place in Alice Springs on 11 July, involving camels competing at a special course in Blatherskite Park. If the nine scheduled races are not exciting enough, there is also the chance to watch camel polo; see camelcup.com.au.
Eight days later in the Territory's capital, Darwin, the Beer Can Regatta takes place. On 19 July the crowds gather to cheer on boats built entirely out of beer cans; visit beercanregatta.org.au.
Darwin is most easily reached via Singapore. Air France/KLM (0870 142 4343; airfrance. com/uk) has fares to Singapore of under £400 return from a range of UK airports for selected dates in July.
From Singapore, fares of S$240 return (£100) to Darwin are not too difficult to find on JetStar (jetstar.com). That gives a total fare of just £500 return.
Warning of the Week: Budapest metro
Ticket inspectors on the underground railway in the Hungarian capital are now working with translators to help with targeting tourists.
The city's Metro system is cheap and efficient, but buying tickets can pose problems. At a number of stations on the historic Line 1 (the first underground in continental Europe) the booking offices are located on the platform. But they appear to be permanently closed, and ticket machines are either non-existent or out of order.
The inspectors normally work in pairs, but some now operate with a translator. The modus operandum appears to be as follows: they watch tourists struggling to get a ticket. The hapless or inept foreigner (pictured) eventually gives up, opting instead to go one station down the line to try again.
The inspectors emerge from the shadows to follow the tourist on to the train; as soon as the doors close, they reveal their identity and demand to see a valid ticket. When the visitor is unable to produce one they escort them off the train at the next station and impose an on-the-spot fine of 6,000ft (£20).
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