Something to declare: festive Eurostar; Mexican air waves; when in Russia...

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The Independent Travel

Destination of the week: book now for festive Eurostar

While many airlines allow you to book seats almost a year in advance, the "time horizon" for train operators is much shorter. Eurostar (08705 186 186; www.eurostar.com), which runs from London to Paris, Brussels, Disneyland Paris and (starting 28 December), Bourg St Maurice in the French Alps, has one of the most generous: 120 days, which means that you can now book for the whole Christmas/New Year holiday.

Note, though, that connecting services on UK or French trains are not yet open for booking. The one bright spot for people who need onward travel is Belgium: every Eurostar ticket to Brussels is automatically valid to any Belgian station on "classic" (non-Thalys) trains, and no reservations are necessary.

In the week in which Eurostar made the first test run with passengers on the high-speed line all the way from Paris to London, the latest edition of the Thomas Cook European Timetable (£12.50) contains a special feature on high-speed trains in Europe, and in particular what you can look forward to in the future.

France is pressing ahead with new lines and plans for 230mph trains, which will eventually allow travellers to get from Paris to Madrid in six hours flat. Eastern European nations are catching up fast, with the Czech Republic and Russia both accelerating journeys between their two biggest cities. And two much-delayed high-speed links are finally likely to materialise next year: Madrid to Barcelona and Brussels to Amsterdam.



Bargain of the week: Mexican air waves

Cancú*, on Mexico's Yucatá* Peninsula, can provide an excellent gateway to the country, thanks to the new breed of low-cost airlines. Far more flights from the UK go to Cancú* than to any other destination in Mexico, and from a wide range of airports, including Cardiff and Doncaster – though, as usual, Gatwick and Manchester have the most departures.

The main operators are Thomsonfly, First Choice Airways, MyTravel Airways and Thomas Cook Airlines; they sell seats mainly as part of packages, but also offer "flight-only" deals which you can combine with no-frills flights.

Volaris (00 52 11 02 80 00; www.volaris.com.mx) is based at Toluca, which is the second airport for Mexico City. A return flight from Cancú* to Toluca, booked a month or so in advance, is often available for around 1,800 pesos (£90). Click, the no-frills subsidiary of Mexicana (00 52 80 01 12 54 25; www.clickmx. com) flies to Mexico City's main airport; a return from Cancun typically costs 2,500 pesos (£125).



Warning of the week: How to avoid faux pas in Russia

The latest edition of Bryn Thomas's guide to the world's longest train ride, the Trans-Siberian Handbook (Trailblazer, £13.99), contains useful advice on how to avoid causing offence in Russia, or transgressing national superstitions.

These are the seven essentials:

Shaking hands or kissing across the threshold of a doorstep will bring bad luck.

When in the metro or on a bus, don't let your feet come close to a seat or another passenger.

Be prepared to accept all alcohol and food offered when visiting friends.

Refusing a drink or a toast is a serious breach of etiquette.

An open bottle must be finished.

Never light a cigarette from a candle.

Do not whistle indoors.

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