Something To Declare: Lourdes, Greece, Thailand
Where to go, how to save, what to avoid
Saturday 18 April 2009
Destination of the Week: Lourdes direct
For just two weeks this summer, UK travellers will be able to fly non-stop from Stansted to the airport of Tarbes-Lourdes in the foothills of the High Pyrenees.
At present, the airport serving the pilgrimage city of Lourdes has links only from Paris Orly. But from 27 July to 9 August, the nearby airport of Pau will be closed for maintenance. Therefore the daily Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) flight from Stansted will land instead at Tarbes-Lourdes. This will offer easier access to Lourdes itself (claimed to have the largest number of hotel beds of any French city outside Paris) and the great Pyrenean destinations of Cauterets, Luz-St-Saveur and Gavarnie. The flights will also give easy access to some of the finest stretches of the GR10 long-distance footpath
This being Ryanair, you have to pretend to book flights to Pau, but - on those dates - you land in Tarbes-Lourdes.
For a more spiritual journey, Trainseurope (0871 700 7722; trainseurope.co.uk) offers return rail tickest from London St Pancras via Paris to Lourdes for £109 return.
Bargain of the Week: Greece, in May
The main summer package holiday season begins in two weeks. While average package prices have risen this summer, there are some excellent deals for travellers in May to Greece: Thomson (0871 231 4691; thomson.co. uk) is quoting £175 per person flying from Gatwick on 4 May to Thessaloniki, with transfers to Halkidiki and a week's self-catering at the Royal Kostas Apartments. Departures on other Mondays in May are available at slightly higher prices.
Thomas Cook (0871 895 0055; thomascook.com) has deals at under £200 for a week based on its flights from Gatwick to Kalamata.
Warning of the Week: Thailand
The chaos on the streets of Bangkok earlier this week prompted the Foreign Office repeatedly to revise its travel advice for the Thai capital. It currently says "Although law and order appears to have been restored, the situation remains volatile and unpredictable". The Foreign Office urges "great caution", but also notes that "Foreigners have not been targeted by the protestors and there are no reports of British nationals being caught up directly in the violence".
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs is warning its citizens going to Thailand that "terrorists may be planning attacks against a range of targets, including tourist areas and other places frequented by foreigners."
At tourist locations outside the capital, life is proceeding normally. But given the temporary closure last year by demonstrators of Bangkok's main airport – the hub for the whole country – it is wise to have continency plans, or at least good insurance, in place.
You might also want to avoid wearing a red or yellow shirt, since these are the colours adopted by rival demonstrators.
Before you rent a motorbike to tour an island, bear in mind the alarming statistic from the Foreign Office that "On average 38 people a day die in motorcycle accidents in Thailand".
More mundane – but much more likely to befall visitors – is the problem of crime.
"We receive regular reports of credit card fraud after shop employees have copied card details," says the Foreign Office. The solution: don't lose sight of your credit card for one moment during transactions.
The US State Department highlights the dangers of theft at Bangkok's Chatuchak Weekend Market, "usually by thieves who cut into purses or bags with a razor."
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