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

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz