Something To Declare: North Korea; Bali; Los Angeles; Tenerife
Saturday 12 January 2008
Destination of the week: North Korea
Access to the communist republic is getting easier by the week. Passenger rail services across the "DMZ" (Demilitarised Zone) are expected to begin shortly, though initially it seems unlikely that foreign visitors will be permitted to use the line to reach North Korea from Seoul, capital of South Korea.
A safer approach by air to the capital Pyongyang will soon become available, however. From the end of March, Air China is reinstating its link from Beijing to the North Korean capital. At present, only Air Koryo flies the route, and the Foreign Office currently warns tourists that "international aircraft safety procedures are not observed on all flights". Given the airline's poor safety record, British diplomats are urged "to use alternative means of transport if possible".
Neil Taylor, who, as a director of Regent Holidays (0845 277 3317; www.regent-holidays.co.uk), pioneered travel to North Korea in 1985, welcomes the move. "It must now make commercial sense for Air China to return to Pyongyang. They had been in before, but I imagine withdrew when they realised that the aircraft could be used more lucratively elsewhere – perhaps to Seoul."
But Taylor says that Kim Jong-Il, the North Korean dictator, is unlikely to be a passenger on the new link: "The 'Dear Leader', following in the footsteps of his father and Stalin, does not fly, even though it is thought that he learnt how to fly in the old East Germany."
Warning of the week: Bali
The advice from some Commonwealth governments against visiting this troubled isle is getting increasingly strident. This is how the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs addresses prospective travellers: "Ask yourself whether, given your own personal circumstances, you're comfortable travelling to Indonesia, including Bali, knowing that there is a very high threat from terrorism and you may be caught up in a terrorist attack.
"Ask yourself whether travel could be deferred or an alternative destination chosen. If, having considered these issues, you do decide to travel to Indonesia, including Bali, you should exercise extreme caution. If you are already in Indonesia, including Bali, and concerned for your safety, consider departing."
The Australian government highlights Jakarta, Bali and Batam (south of Singapore) as likely targets for terrorist attacks. And it urges particular vigilance "during holiday periods such as Easter".
The official advice also points out that "on 4 July 2007, all Indonesian airlines were banned from operating in the EU".
Finally, there are a number of substances that are best avoided. "Avoid temporary 'black henna' tattoos as they often contain a dye that can cause serious skin reactions," is the advice of the Australian government.
Meanwhile, the British travel advice warns: "Even the possession of small amounts of drugs such as marijuana or ecstasy can lead to prison sentences longer than four years."
In August 2005, the Indonesian police launched a campaign against illegal drug use. "This included raids of popular nightclubs across Indonesia, including Bali and Jakarta, and urine tests of suspected drug-users. A number of foreigners were arrested in these raids."
Bargain of the week: Los Angeles
Connect the capital of the world with the capital of America's West Coast this spring aboard the new Air France flight from Heathrow to Los Angeles.
In previous years, the French airline (0870 142 4343; www.airfrance.com/uk) has offered connecting flights via Paris, but from March 2008 it will take advantage of the "open skies" agreement between the EU and US to launch non-stop services. Fares of £335 return are available for the daily flight for travel in April.
Air France is also selling Heathrow to New York JFK flights, operated by its alliance partner Delta. Fares start at £275 return in April.
British Airways this week announced a subsidiary, OpenSkies, which, from June, will fly from New York to Brussels or Paris CDG.
Island of the week: Tenerife
You can enjoy even more travel than usual today: look out for the special supplement on Tenerife with today's Independent. It includes the five best day-trip escapes from the beach, an exploration of the wild and unspoilt north-west of Tenerife, and the insider's guide to the island's capital, Santa Cruz. You can also discover the way to the top of Spain's highest mountain, Mount Teide, "3,718 magical metres above the Atlantic Ocean".
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