Something to declare: Indian summer of red tape; bus around Germany; anywhere, for free


Warning of the week: Indian summer of red tape

For years, rumours have circulated that India is about to become more welcoming to tourists – cutting out some of the red tape by making visa-free travel possible for short-term visitors from countries such as Britain. But instead, the Indian High Commission in London has just made life more difficult for holidaymakers – by removing the option to apply for a visa to India by mail. An "Urgent Notice to Visa Applicants using Postal Service ", posted on the mission's website (www. hcilondon.net), states: " As part of our ongoing review of Consular Services, it has been felt necessary to discontinue the existing practice of receiving Indian Visa applications by post."

Prospective travellers to India can apply in person at the High Commission in London, or at Consulates in Birmingham or Edinburgh; this could mean taking a day off work and meeting substantial travel expenses. The alternative is to pay a specialist visa agency a fee of £20-£30, on top of the applicable fee required by the Indian mission – for organising the red tape.

The move has dismayed many travellers. Joan Hughes of South Wales says " I can't win: it will be expensive whichever way I choose. Considering that India relies on tourism, they are making it extremely difficult for tourists. "

Potential visitors have a third choice, of course: to holiday somewhere other than India.

Bargain of the week: by bus around Germany

Trains in Germany are good but expensive. The 600km trip from Hamburg to Heidelberg, for example, costs €101 (£70) one way. Travel by overnight bus, though, and the fare falls as low as €9 (£6.50). The 9E Linienbusse (www.ab9euro.de) is a bus line subsidiary of the Frankfurt-based company, Deutsche Touring. Each night, at 10pm, a bus leaves Hamburg to travel south via Hanover, Frankfurt and Heidelberg to Mannheim; at the same time, another bus departs in the opposite direction. A new service, at weekends only, links Mannheim and Heidelberg with the Bavarian city of Nuremberg, with the same low fares.

Destination of the week: anywhere, for free

This impressive offer is available to members of the British Airways Executive Club who have amassed enough BA Miles, the airline's frequent-flyer currency. "Anywhere" means BA destinations; " for free" means BA Miles, subject to a payment of £25-£145 to cover "taxes, fees and charges". Even so, BA Miles are worth collecting if you fly reasonably often on the airline. Now, through the airline's main website (www.ba.com), you can "spend" BA Miles up to one working day before departure, which is when cash fares are often at their highest. A test booking for a Gatwick-Barcelona flight next Tuesday offered a " price" of 7,500 BA Miles plus £28 in fees. The same flight bought for cash cost £193. This values each Mile at 2.2 pence, about seven times higher than the usual value, making late bookings very worthwhile. You can change or cancel a "reward flight" online – and, for the first two months of the upgraded website, cancelling a reward flight will incur no charges.

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