Something to declare: Eurostar; crime in Brussels; through Austria by rail
Saturday 26 November 2011
Bargain of the week: Winter with Eurostar
At last, a promotion on the cross-Channel train operator that offers a real discount on every ticket from London to Paris, Lille and Brussels (except flexible fares) until 9 February 2012.
Book by midnight next Friday, 2 December for a 10 per cent discount on any Standard and Standard Premier adult single or return journey . Go to bit.ly/eurocheap and book using the appropriate discount code: LONPARIS, LONLILLE or LONBRUSSELS.
There are also deals from Ebbsfleet and Ashford.
Warning of the week: Crime in Brussels
Take care at railway stations and on the metro in the Belgian capital.
The US State Department warns that "pocket picking, purse snatching, and theft of light luggage and laptops are common at the three major train stations", ie Central, Nord and Midi – where Eurostar trains arrive from London. "One common trick is for the thief to ask you for directions while an accomplice steals your luggage. Thieves also watch for people who put their luggage down and are inattentive for even a moment."
In addition, the US advice warns that "Small groups of young men sometimes prey on unwary tourists, usually at night and often in metro stations in Brussels. These thieves typically seek small, high-value items such as mobile phones and MP3 players."
The Foreign Office reports "a couple of serious muggings" at Schuman station (the EU quarter).
It also warns rail travellers of "Luggage being stolen from the racks at the end of carriages in high-speed trains (eg TGV and Thalys), usually just before the doors close in readiness for the train to depart." Keep an eye on your bags until the train is on the move.
Destination of the week: Through Austria by rail
Whatever your views on rail privatisation in the UK, as a traveller you could benefit from competition on Austria's prime rail route – from Vienna via Linz (right) to Salzburg. A new operator, Westbahn, is bringing in double-deck trains that will compete with Austrian Railways – and offer grand views on the beautiful 200-mile journey.
The standard one-way fare is €23.80, exactly half the standard ticket on the national rail operator – which is likely to respond by offering more competitive prices. Services start on 11 December. See Thomas Cook's new European Rail Timetable for more details.
Tip of the week: Brand new quay
Just ahead of St Andrew's Day on Wednesday, a new Stena Line port for south-west Scotland opened this week at Cairnryan – offering smoother connections to the fast ferry links to and from Belfast. It is on the A77 north of Stranraer, the former terminal.
In the absence of a rail link, buses run to Ayr station, taking 70 minutes. Ayr has links to Glasgow, where you can connect to stations across Scotland.
More information: 08447 70 70 70; stenaline.co.uk.
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