Something To Declare: Mexico; board with your mobile; Flanders in bloom; East Coast Trains
Saturday 27 February 2010
Warning of the week: Mexico
Popular day-trip border-hopping destinations from the US could take you to some of the most dangerous places in Mexico. A new Travel Alert issued this week by the US Department of State is aimed at American travellers, but contains plenty of advice for British tourists in Mexico.
"Mexican drug cartels are engaged in violent conflict – both among themselves and with Mexican security services – for control of narcotics trafficking routes along the US-Mexico border," it says. "Some recent Mexican army and police confrontations with drug cartels have resembled small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and grenades."
Even if you avoid these battles, you could still be caught up in a shoot-out at a shopping centre in Tijuana (just across the border from San Diego, California) or Ciudad Juarez (facing El Paso in Texas). Ciudad Juarez had an average of eight murders and 50 car thefts a day last year.
"Robberies, homicides, petty thefts, and carjackings have all increased over the last year across Mexico, with notable spikes in Chihuahua, Sinaloa, and northern Baja California."
Tip of the week: Board with your mobile
Almost every passenger flying the Atlantic has a mobile phone, which makes the latest development from Continental Airlines especially welcome: the option to have a boarding pass – in the form of a two-dimensional bar code – sent to your mobile phone. Westbound, this applies only for flights from Heathrow Terminal 4 to Houston and New York Newark.
Destination of the week: Flanders in bloom
The Ghent Floralies takes place only once every five years – and the next celebration of floral perfection takes place this spring.
The work begins on 29 March, when the first of 5,000 trucks filled with soil arrives. The Belgian royal family pays a visit to the site on 15 April, and it opens to the public on on 17 April, ending eight days later on 25 April.
The Flemish medieval city is at its finest during this time, and you can join the throng following a 2km trail past a spectacular array of floral displays and landscaped designs. The theme this year is "green" – a reflection of a new emphasis on the environment
"Not only is green the primary colour of various plants and flowers, the Floralies's philosophy also has a green touch," say the organisers. Visitors will be able to find out how to compost and how to make their own recycling garden.
The event is open 8am until 6.30pm daily, admission €20; see floralien.be for more details. You can reach Ghent via Brussels on Eurostar (08705 186 186; eurostar.com ) via Brussels from £59 return. VFB Holidays has a four-day/three-night trip from £196, including ferry or train travel, accommodation and one day's entrance to the event; vfbholidays.co.uk .
Bargain of the week: East Coast Trains
Even if you would never be seen on Megabus, National Express or easyJet, you could be grateful to them for forcing East Coast Trains to cut advance fares to their lowest-ever levels in real terms. The state-owned train operator, serving Yorkshire, North-east England and Scotland from London King's Cross, has cut the cheapest fare from the capital to Edinburgh or Glasgow to £13. A tenner gets you from York to Edinburgh or from Leeds to London. Only key destinations are covered; services beyond Scotland's capital to Aberdeen and Inverness are not included.
These fares apply only on core routes to bookings made online at eastcoast.co.uk ; bookings made by phone to 08457 225 225 or at stations cost 10 per cent more.
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