The Column that gives the Global Picture

Destination of the week: Australia and New Zealand on the cheap

"A seat sale at last," says Peter Grimes of Quest Travel (0870 444 5552,, on the announcement of a Malaysia Airlines special that goes on sale this morning for five days only. For the first six months of next year, you can fly via Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth or Darwin for £575 return; Cairns is £583, Sydney £589 and Auckland £615. The bad news is that several destinations will be axed from 4 February (namely Manchester, Darwin, Cairns and Auckland). You can "open-jaw" these fares, flying out to one and home from another, but bear in mind the closure dates for some destinations.

For those who refuse to pay more than £500 to get to Australia and back, a real bargain return is available to Perth in March for £499.

Bargain of the week: Brighton to Barnsley, Wakefield to Wimbledon, or Sheffield to Gatwick for under £13

The train operator Midland Mainline (08457 125 678, is owned by the same company as Thameslink. They have combined to offer a flat fare of £49 for two, three or four people travelling together, between any station served by Midland Mainline in Yorkshire or the East Midlands to anywhere south of London served by Thameslink. You have to book at least three days in advance, and travel off-peak. For travel between London St Pancras or Luton Airport and points north to Nottingham, Burton-on-Trent or York, the fare is £39 for up to four people.

Warning of the week: women in Wien

"The Austrians are a law-abiding lot. Few people drop litter, and no-one jaywalks. That said, crime does, of course, exist and is on the rise. In Vienna, large sections of the Gürtel ring road double as a red-light district. Big-city train stations, particularly the Südbahnhof in Vienna, can be unsavoury after dark.

"Austrian Railways have introduced Damenabteilen (women-only sections) on some InterCity and EuroCity expresses, especially those that involve travel late at night."

The Rough Guide to Austria, second edition, published this month, £10.99.