Something To Declare: Mexican drug cartels; Auckland and Sydney for £499; Stockholm
Where to go, how to save, what to avoid
Saturday 14 March 2009
Warning of the week: Mexico
The beaches, ancient sites and colonial cities of this vast country have become more accessible thanks to the new link from Gatwick to Mexico City on Mexicana (020-8492 0000; mexicana. com). But the US State Department has issued a warning that "Mexican drug cartels are engaged in an increasingly violent conflict – both among themselves and with Mexican security services – for control of narcotics trafficking routes along the US-Mexico border."
The latest travel advice from Washington, DC, says that recent confrontations by the Mexican army and police against drug cartels "have resembled small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and grenades". These "large firefights", as the State Department calls them, are especially prevalent in Tijuana (just across the border from San Diego in California), Ciudad Juarez (opposite El Paso in Texas, and where 1,500 Mexican troops have been deployed to fight drug gangs) and Chihuahua.
Crime against tourists is increasing, too: the State Department warns "Robberies, homicides, petty thefts and carjackings have increased over the last year, with notable spikes in Tijuana and Northern Baja California".
The Foreign Office warns: "Armed robberies of entire busloads of passengers" occur, despite security checks as passengers board buses.
"All bus travel should be during daylight hours and on first-class buses if possible. Although there have been several reports of bus hijackings and robberies on toll roads (de cuota), buses on toll roads have a markedly lower rate of incidents than buses (second and third class) that travel the less secure 'free' (libre) roads."
Bargain of the week: Auckland and Sydney for £499
"We haven't seen fares this low to Australia and New Zealand for a long time," says Trailfinders (0845 050 5892; trailfinders.com) about its short-notice sale on British Airways and Qantas from Heathrow to either Sydney or Auckland for £499 return. You can use a combination of either airline. En route to Sydney, stopovers are possible in Hong Kong, Singapore and/or Bangkok.
Neither airline offers direct flights from the UK to New Zealand, but they connect in Los Angeles for the flight to Auckland; a stopover is allowed in LA.
Trailfinders is also offering return flights on the same airlines to Bangkok or Singapore for £399 return, or to Hong Kong for only £335 return.
The seat sale was announced on Thursday afternoon, and applies for departures from 16 April to 15 June. You must book by next Tuesday, 17 March.
Destination of the week: Stockholm
The deal currently on offer from SAS Scandinavian Airlines (0845 607 2772; flysas.com) is a classic: book a return flight to Stockholm from Manchester (minimum £116), Heathrow (£118) or London City (£132) return, travelling before the end of April, and you'll get a free Stockholm Card (which normally costs £30). You claim it at Stockholm Arlanda airport, Terminal 5; present SAS ticket/ itinerary at the Visitor Centre. The card is valid for 24 hours and offers unlimited public transport and admission to 75 museums and sights. You also get a guidebook in English and maps.
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