Something To Declare: Ecuador; sporting Victoria; Gatwick and the South
Saturday 10 October 2009
Warning of the week: Ecuador
Ecuador's capital, Quito, as well as Guayaquil and Manta, are experiencing a surge in crime. "Backpackers are seen as an easy target," according to the Foreign Office. "We recommend that you wear your rucksack on the front of your body. Keep a close watch on your bags and belongings when in restaurants or cafes as thieves are constantly on the lookout to make a 'grab and run'."
Bank robberies with a twist are on the rise: gang members inside a bank keep watch for people withdrawing cash, and pass on a description to their accomplices outside, who then rob the victim.
The crime wave has led the Ecuadorian government to impose a state of emergency. "This will enable Ecuadorian military forces to be used in conjunction with police units, with an increase in vehicle checkpoints," says the Foreign Office. "Foreigners are advised to carry their identity documents at all times."
Destination of the week: Sporting Victoria
Australia's smallest mainland state gets busy with sporting events between now and the end of the year. Next weekend the Australian Motorcycling Grand Prix takes place on Phillip Island, a normally tranquil isle 135km south-east of Melbourne, where the world's smallest penguins come ashore at sunset to roost on the beaches; bikes.grandprix.com.au.
The Melbourne Cup is held on the first Tuesday in November. It is "the race that stops a nation", when Australia downs tools for a flutter on the horses, this year on 3 November; melbournecup. com.
Flights to Melbourne this month are available for around £915 on Emirates from Gatwick via Dubai.
Bargain of the week: Gatwick and the South
Southern Railway has just started a new franchise on its services from London to Gatwick and England's South Coast, and is selling tickets very cheaply on southernrailway.com – starting at £3 regardless of distance – so long as you book in advance.
Air travellers can save a small fortune to Gatwick airport, for which the normal, walk-up one-way fare is £11.90. The £3 fare will also take you twice as far on the main line from London to Brighton, with a journey time of only 51 minutes, or much further: to Hastings, Chichester and even Southampton, a journey that takes twice as long as the South West Trains link from Waterloo (for which the standard one-way fare is £31.70). Southern's route is more aesthetically pleasing – taking in the South Downs and the Arun Valley of Sussex, and a swathe of rural Hampshire.
Availability of £3 tickets is greatest at weekends, and predictably lowest on weekdays at rush-hour. But even at the higher level of £7.50, savings are still possible to all destinations.
Southern also offers a "Daysave" ticket, which costs £10 for unlimited off-peak travel on the network; four people can travel for £20.
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