Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Something To Declare: Maldives; Montenegro; Thistle; South Coast railway line


Warning of the week: Maldives

Forty years after the first tourist facility opened in the Maldives – the Kurumba Island Resort – the government, judiciary and people of the Indian Ocean archipelago are debating whether to proceed with a ban on spa operations, and the sale of alcohol and pork, in resorts.

The Supreme Court is expected to support President Mohammed Nasheed, who reversed the ban. But the controversy has highlighted the tensions between the conservative Islamic community and the demands of Western tourists. The Foreign Office warns you should "Respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times". You must not import pork or alcohol. "Same sex relations are illegal and convicted offenders could face lengthy prison sentence," says the FCO.

Starting this week, reports the US State Department, travellers leaving the Maldives must pay an Airport Development Charge of US$25 (£17) by cash or credit card at check-in.

Destination of the week: Montenegro

The small Adriatic nation is about to get a new connection from Britain. On 25 March, Montenegro Airlines (020-7864 4031; montenegroairlines.com) starts a scheduled link from Gatwick to the coastal airport of Tivat. It will operate on Sundays and Wednesdays. At present, the main approach is via Dubrovnik airport in the far south of Croatia. Test bookings suggests that the standard lowest fare is €245 (about £210), but Explore Montenegro (020-7118 1002; exploremontenegro.com) is offering a fare of £189 return for bookings as part of a package by 31 January.

Bargain of the week: Thistle tempt you to stay

A night in an upmarket city-centre hotel in London for £78: that is the short-term deal being offered by Thistle for winter stays booked at thistle.com by next Saturday, 14 January, for stays up until the end of February. The rate of £78 applies for the Kingsley, well-located in Bloomsbury, and the Grosvenor, part of Victoria railway station.

Outside the capital, rates are even lower. The Grand in Bristol is on offer for £43, while the Portland in Manchester is selling for £38. In Scotland, the Caledonian in Aberdeen and the King James in Edinburgh are both available at £38.

Better still, the firm says "Children under 16 stay free when sharing an appropriate room with two adults."

The deal does not include breakfast, but this is available at a flat rate of £10 per person per night.

Tip of the week: Romney Marsh cut off

From Monday, 9 January, a major section of the South Coast railway line, between Ashford and Hastings will be closed for two months while Network Rail carries out repairs to track and tunnels, writes Richard Madge. The 26-mile line serves Romney Marsh and the historic town of Rye. During the work, buses will replace trains, doubling journey times. Passengers travelling on this route to and from the Eurostar terminal at Ashford should allow extra time. On the plus side, fares will be reduced during the work – and for an extra month, to 9 April.