Something To Declare: India; Vietnam; Christmas in Brighton; bypass to the Baltics
Saturday 16 July 2011
Warning of the week: India
"A high threat from terrorism" prevails throughout India, the Foreign Office announced this week after the latest bomb attacks in Mumbai.
The latest advice urges visitors to be vigilant near government buildings, at tourist locations, hotels and airports, and on public transport. "Take particular care in the lead up to and on days of national significance," says the FCO, citing Ramadan; this year the Islamic month of fasting runs through August.
Destination of the week: Vietnam
The first flight from the UK to the People's Republic of China took off from Gatwick, as did the first Thomson charter flight to the Soviet Union; and the only British airport with scheduled links to Cuba is Gatwick. The suspicion that the Sussex airport is gateway of choice for communist regimes has intensified with Vietnam Airlines (020-3263 2062; vietnamair.com.vn) launching its first UK services, starting in December, from Gatwick.
The flight plan reflects the long, thin nature of the nation: two non-stop flights each week to both the capital, Hanoi, and the largest metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). This will facilitate "open jaw" trips: fly into one city and out from the other, and explore the fascinating nation that lies between the two.
The new Vietnam flights also open up an extra route to Australia just in time for the Christmas/New Year rush. You change planes in Ho Chi Minh City to reach Sydney. On the outbound flight, the schedules mean you get a day in the former Saigon on your way out, and the airline will even organise a transit visa and a day room in a hotel for you at no extra charge.
At present you cannot book online at the Vietnam Airlines website, and the carrier's London office does not appear to be up to speed. The solution: book through a long-haul specialist agent.
Bargain of the week: Christmas in Brighton
The price of almost every travel product increases at Christmas – but city hotel rates can actually fall. At the Hotel du Vin in Brighton, for example (01273 718588; hotelduvin.com), a double room next weekend is currently selling for £190 including breakfast; for the last Sunday in December, i.e. Christmas night, you can stay for £15 less. The annual 25 December swim starts on Brighton Beach at 11am.
Tip of the week: Bypass to the Baltics
Lithuania and its sister republics, Latvia and Estonia, have always been difficult targets for holidaying motorists, not least because the road quality deteriorates the further east you go, and there's an impasse in the shape of Russia's enclave of Kaliningrad. But DFDS Baltic ferries (0871 522 9978; dfds.co.uk/Baltic) between Kiel in northern Germany and Klaipeda in Lithuania offer a fast track that also provides a 21-hour cruise. Typical return fares for a car and four people, and accommodation, is £800 in August.
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