Something To Declare: Gulf-based airlines offer cheap fares; Nova Scotia; curiosities in Cuba; save money to Gatwick
Saturday 16 January 2010
Bargain of the week : Gulf-based airlines offer cheap fares worldwide
From New York to New Delhi, carriers from the Gulf are offering fares at levels that you might have thought had gone forever.
Kuwait Airways has three flights a week from Heathrow to New York JFK. Through STA Travel (0871 230 8545; statravel.co.uk), seats are available for as little as £225 return (or £219 for students and young people).
Heading east, Opodo.co.uk is selling returns from Heathrow via Muscat to Delhi in February with Oman Air for £336. Mumbai is £1 cheaper (though for only £344 you can get a non-stop return on the well-regarded Indian airline, Jet Airways.)
Emirates has the best network from UK regional airports. Through e-bookers it offers a one-stop hop from Birmingham to Melbourne in April for £865 return.
Its rival, Qatar Airways, will get you from Manchester to Kathmandu in March via Doha for £619 return, booked via Expedia.co.uk. The same airline is offering business-class seats from Heathrow to Male in the Maldives for £1,721, with Kuala Lumpur on sale for £1,729. You need to book by 26 January.
Destination of the week: Nova Scotia
Whale-watching from Digby Neck, sea-kayaking off Tangier and driving the Cabot Trail: three of the thrills waiting in one of Canada's most accessible and fascinating provinces. The new radt Guide to Nova Scotia (£14.99) comprehensively covers the "Kingdom of New Scotland" – where some road signs are still in Gaelic.
The author is David Orkin, a contributor to The Independent Traveller. His inspirational guide ranges from the capital, Halifax, to St Paul Island and the "Graveyard of the Gulf" (of St Lawrence), where 350 ships have been wrecked: "When fishermen came to St Paul in spring, they would find the frozen bodies of shipwreck survivors who had managed to scale the island's cliffs only to perish from exposure and starvation". The book also covers Nova Scotia's variation on white-water rafting, "Riding the Tide", where boats harness the highest tides on the planet. .........
Warning of the week: Curiosities in Cuba
Next week, The Independent Traveller will celebrate the Caribbean's largest island: Ben Ross, our man with the mojito, is there right now. But just as he flew to Havana, the Foreign Office updated its travel warning to Cuba. The new bulletin includes some perils that are frankly bizarre – such as, does your domestic flight have enough fuel?
"The Cuban authorities are known to restrict the amount of fuel on aircraft on internal flights to prevent hijacks," says the advice (available at www.bit.ly/WellINever). "We recommend against internal air travel unless on flights recommended by or operated on behalf of recognised international tour operators."
The usual customs rules apply forbidding the import of drugs, weapons and pornography, but officials are also looking out for household appliances – apparently because of concern about "heavy power consumption" by items such as travel irons and kettles. Note that toasters, cookers and freezers are also also on the "banned" list. And don't be tempted to bring in a GPS device unless you have obtained permission in advance from the Hidrographical and Geodesical National Office. On the way out, you will need a permit to take home either lobster or pre-revolutionary literature.
Change money only at the airport "Cadecas" (official bureaux), hotels or banks, "due to the prevalence of forged currency". Insist upon small denomination bills, and avoid transactions with dealers in the street.
On the roads, it is customary for foreign visitors to offer lifts to the many hitch-hikers, but the Foreign Office advises that such generosity can backfire. "Car-related crime and mugging incidents are increasing," it says, including attacks on foreigners "by bogus hitch-hikers".
Should you be involved in a road accident where someone is injured or killed, the police investigation may take several months, during which "The driver will normally not be allowed to leave Cuba," warns the Foreign Office.
Cuba is enduring is coolest winter for 15 years, with temperatures falling as low as 3C.
"In the event of extreme weather conditions, flights to and from Cuba could be delayed or cancelled," says the Foreign Office. This proved true for hundreds of passengers whose holiday flights out to Cuba or back home were delayed by 24 hours or more this week – but that was entirely because Gatwick airport was closed as a result of heavy snow.
Tip of the week: Save cash to Gatwick
The £16.90 one-way fare on the Gatwick Express from London Victoria to the Sussex airport is easily avoided. Southern takes only a few minutes longer and is £5 cheaper, while Thameslink from London Bridge costs just £8.90.
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