Something To Declare: France; Florence; New York

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The Independent Travel

Competition on the short sea-crossings from Dover is getting silly.

Bargain of the week: France, next summer

Competition on the short sea-crossings from Dover is getting silly. The smallest company operating on the English Channel has come up with an extraordinarily good deal for next year. SpeedFerries (0871 222 7456; www.speedferries.com) is selling tickets at a flat £50 return, covering a car and up to six people. The price applies even for convenient middle-of-the-day sailings on peak summer Saturdays, when fares normally are in the hundreds. The company runs a catamaran service from Dover to Boulogne.

Even if you do not know exact dates, it is worth booking now because sailings can be changed for just £10. You must book this deal by the end of October.

One word of warning: travellers booking ferry crossings do not benefit from the kind of financial protection that many airline passengers enjoy.

Warning of the week: don't get fleeced in Florence

Beware when travelling by bus in Florence (below). A reader writes to warn visitors that gangs are targeting tourists on crowded buses - such as the number seven from the centre to Fiosole.

"The pattern seems to be that the otherwise inconspicuous gang (not, in my experience, children) obstruct the exits from the bus and pick bags and wallets undetected in the scuffle to get off. All very irritating and expensive."

Destination of the week: New York

Despite the final commercial flight of Concorde one year ago today, the number of seats on transatlantic services continues relentlessly to exceed the number of people prepared to travel.

Even with fuel surcharges being ratcheted up, fares for travel early in 2005 are currently below the £200 level on the benchmark London to New York route.

If you book in the next few days, for travel between New Year and the end of February, you should be able to lock into one of the following deals. Opodo (0870 241 7051; www.opodo.co.uk) has seats from London to New York on American Airlines for £179 return.

Expedia (0870 050 0808; www.expedia.co.uk) is offering flights on the same route with United for £191 return.

Travelocity (0870 111 7057; www.travelocity.co.uk) has deals on two leading airlines. The cheapest is £193 return on Continental from Gatwick to Newark; availability appears patchy at this fare. For only £6 more, though, you can fly on BA from Heathrow to JFK, and get better entertainment and your drinks free.

All these fares are subject to a weekend surcharge of £15 each way for travel on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

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