Something To Declare: Cuba/Kosovo/US rail network/48 Hours


Warning of the week: Crime in Cuba

Most visits to the Caribbean's largest island "are trouble-free", advises the Foreign Office. If the Complete Guide to Cuba (pages 16-18) entices you to the island, however, be aware that the official advice also says also crime is increasing: "Beware of pickpockets and bag-snatchers, especially in Old Havana."

I had my camera snatched from my wrist in broad daylight in Havana last month. I gave chase, in flip flops – not the brightest move – but fell flat on my face and wound up with no camera and two bloody knees.

Shaken, I took a taxi to the police station. The well-armed officers drove me first to the scene of the crime so that they could take a look around, then the hospital. With my armed escort standing by, I had my knees cleaned out.

At the police station, I filled in a lengthy report, and was asked to flick through mugshots of possible suspects – in the company of a Korean girl who had also had her camera stolen that afternoon. Eventually, they insisted on driving us both home to our separate hotels. Despite all the personal attention, at no stage did I feel confident that there was much chance of recovering my property.

The Foreign Office also warns of a crime wave at Havana airport: "Theft from luggage during baggage handling, both on arrival and departure, is common."

Before check-in, you are advised to remove all valuables, lock suitcases and have them shrink-wrapped.

By Lucy Gillmore

Destination of the week: KOSOVO

If you want to be the first to join the celebrations in Europe's newest nation, the obvious way in is on British Airways' flights, four times a week, from Gatwick to Pristina. (BA's website insists that the Kosovan capital is still in Serbia and Montenegro.) At the time of going to press, a flight next Saturday, 1 March, for a week, was £215 return.

Before you join the party, note the Foreign Office warns "There is a tradition in the Balkans to celebrate major events with fireworks and sometimes gunfire into the air. During these periods we recommend you stay indoors."

Bargain of the week: riding the rails in America

Given the stress of travelling by air within the US, you may prefer to take advantage of the heavily subsidised rail network operated by Amtrak (001 800 872 7245; www. amtrak.com). Unlimited travel can cost as little as £8 a day.

Go in the next three months to keep costs down: a National Rail pass costs $389 (£205) for 15 days, or $469 (£247) for 30 days, until 22 May (or after 2 September). From 23 May to 1 September, the peak-season prices are $499 (£263) and $599 (£315) respectively.

Individual regions have their own passes. For example, an East Rail 15-day pass costs $329 (£173) off-peak, and $369 (£192) peak, or a little more for 30 days. It covers the zone from the Atlantic coast as far west as Denver and Albuquerque, and includes all of Texas. It even allows an excursion to Montreal. A West Rail pass, for the same prices, covers everything from the Pacific coast to Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans, and includes an optional extension to Vancouver.

For trips to the New England, New York and mid-Atlantic states, the Northeast Rail pass will do. It covers the best-served part of the nation's network, from Boston via New York and Philadelphia to Washington, DC. It extends as far south as Newport News on the Virginia coast, and also covers trips to Montreal and Niagara Falls. A 15-day pass costs $299 (£157) at any time of year.

To cover Canada as well, the North America Rail Pass allows 30 days of unlimited travel on both Amtrak and Via Rail Canada for $709 (£373) until 22 May; from 23 May to 15 October, the price rises to $999 (£526). One condition: you must take at least one cross-border train.

Passes are available online at www.amtrak.com or through specialist agents.

Download of the week: 48 Hours

When planning your next weekend break, bear in mind that The Independent offers the widest range of destination-based audio podcasts, from Athens to Tenerife, of any UK national newspaper, all available to download free at independent.co.uk/travel.

By Simon Calder

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent