Something To Declare: Copacabana; luggage on the Stansted Express; Dubai; North Korea


Destination of the week: Copacabana

Destination of the week: Copacabana

"Beaches in Brazil and New South Wales, a nightclub in New York, a small town in Bolivia and a song by Barry Manilow (pictured below)" - these are some of the uses of the name Copacabana documented in the new Footprint Guide to Rio de Janeiro by Alex Robinson (£7.99). The author says that the original Copacabana was a port on Lake Titicaca, the high-altitude lake between Bolivia and Peru.

In 1576, some fishermen at the port commissioned a descendant of the Inca emperors to carve a statue of the Virgin Mary. Copies of this statue became popular as talismans with transatlantic sailors, and after one vessel narrowly escaped disaster on a voyage to Brazil, her captain built a chapel to Nossa Senhora de Copacabana upon reaching Rio. The district, and the beach, adopted the name.

Now that the carnival is over in Rio, you can reach the city for less than £600 return on flights booked through discount agents. The deals on Air France via Paris and Lufthansa via Frankfurt are particularly good, and since British Airways and Varig (Brazil's national carrier) no longer fly non-stop from the UK to Rio, there is little advantage in taking a "direct" flight via Sao Paulo. To get to the original Copacabana, fly to La Paz; on this occasion, Varig's service from Heathrow via Sao Paulo to the Bolivian capital is good value at below £600. From La Paz, you can catch a bus to Copacabana; the journey takes four or five hours.

Warning of the week: luggage on the Stansted Express

Anti-social travellers on the rail link between London Liverpool Street and Stansted airport are being targeted by train staff. Those who place baggage on seats rather than in the racks are charged the standard single fare of £14.50.

Bargain of the week: Dubai

The most appealing of the cities of the United Arab Emirates is at the centre of a price war, with "sixth-freedom" carriers chasing customers by forcing fares lower. ("Sixth-freedom" is jargon for flying from A to B via C, where C is the airline's home base.)

The return fare from the UK for travel between now and Easter has traditionally been around £300. But the Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad is selling flights from Heathrow for £240 through discount agents. Good prices are available from other UK airports. From Manchester, you could pay as little as £287 return on Qatar Airways via Doha.

Programme of the week: North Korea

The Great Leader, the Dear Leader and the Tour Leader will be broadcast on Radio 4 on Monday at 11am. Tony Pletts visits Pyongyang with Nicholas Bonner, a landscape architect who has become North Korea's leading tour operator.

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