Warning of the week: Customs limits

If the story on pages 4-6 inspires you to shop outside the EU, be warned that there are strict limits on gifts brought back: no more than 340-worth. The value of any goods bought duty- or tax-free on the outbound journey must be added to those acquired abroad. And "pooling" individual allowances to bring in a single item worth more than the limit is not allowed.

If you breach the limit, Customs will charge VAT and duty in line with some complicated rules. Duty is usually charged at somewhere between nil and 20 per cent: digital still cameras are duty-free, while camcorders are taxed at up to 14 per cent. VAT is charged on the the duty as well as the original price. So a 500 camcorder could cost you 70 in duty, and VAT on that takes the total to 650 increasing the cost by nearly one third. If you fail to declare dutiable goods, "You are breaking the law and we may prosecute you," says HM Revenue and Customs. Officials routinely target inbound flights from popular shopping destinations, such as New York, Dubai and Hong Kong, and may demand to see receipts for goods bought abroad.

Bargain of the week: Channel Crossings

The next six weeks are the lowest of seasons for ferry companies between England and France. Brittany Ferries (08705 360 360; brittanyferries.co.uk) is selling return crossings between Portsmouth and St Malo (pictured) for 192, covering a standard car, two people and a cabin on the overnight outbound voyage.

Between Dover and Calais, SeaFrance (0871 222 7118; seafrance.com ), return trips for a car and up to nine people at civilised times on Fridays and Sundays are available at 78 return. And on Eurotunnel (08705 353535; eurotunnel.com ) from Folkestone to Calais, a five-day return costs 88 on daytime shuttles for a car and all its occupants.

Tip of the week: Ireland's Atlantic crossing

In previous years, this is the day when the shortest "Atlantic crossing" is taken out of commission for the winter. It is the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, a National Trust treasure that reaches from the coast of Antrim to an island just offshore. This winter, however, the bridge will remain open. To see Simon Calder's attempt to cross it, visit bit.ly/wobblybridge .

Destination of the week: Salvador, Brazil

In the olden days, you could fly direct from Gatwick to Salvador, the beautiful capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia. Those flights ended three decades ago, but from December a suitable replacement will arrive: Air Europa (0871 423 0717; aireuropa.com), which is Spain's most ambitious rival to Iberia, is starting flights from Gatwick via its hub in Madrid to Salvador. This saves the long journey via Rio or Sao Paulo. Once you get through the very unwieldy website, you should be able to find a return fare of 558 for travel in January.