Destination of the week: On the rails in Australia
After a shaky start, the Southern Spirit train from Adelaide via Melbourne to Brisbane is launching a regular service, with departures from November onwards. The five-day trip crosses the Great Dividing Range and travels along the east coast. Prices include a number of excursions – but this is not a journey for bargain-hunters. In the most basic class, Gold, the price per person for the first departure from Adelaide, on 5 November, is A$4,400 (£2,900). More details: gsr.com.au, or a specialist rail agent in the UK such as Trains Europe (0871 700 7722; trainseurope.co.uk).
Bargain of the week: Off-peak Caribbean
The lastest British Airways sale has some excellent Caribbean deals. Star performer is Gatwick-San Juan (right) for £469 return, though the flight stops en route in Antigua. Travel dates are 31 October to 31 March next year, but not 9 December to 8 January.
Expect Virgin Atlantic to respond to the £499 deal for flights from Gatwick to Antigua and Barbados, which applies from now until the end of June next year – but not over Christmas/New Year or 26 March-8 April. Given the high cost of living in the Caribbean, and the parlous state of sterling, the best deals are from the BA Holidays side of the operation (based on two travelling together).
A week at Rooms on the Beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica is £599, including breakfast (£86 per day, including flights), for travel between 12 and 30 September; the price increases by £10 in October and by £20 in November. A week room-only in hard-to-reach Tobago costs only £629 (£90 per day), if you can travel between 1 September and 21 October (the start of half-term).
Warning of the week: Thai laws
According to the latest Foreign Office figures (fco.gov.uk), in the average week four British travellers are arrested in Thailand. To avoid being one of them, carry your passport with you at all times; do not make critical or defamatory comments about the king or other members of the royal family; and: "Never become involved with drugs of any kind in Thailand. Possession of even very small quantities can lead to imprisonment. If you are found guilty of being in possession of 20 grams of a Class A drug at a point of exit from Thailand you will most likely be sentenced to death."
Tip of the week: First class rail fares cut
East Coast Trains, the state-run franchise connecting London King's Cross with Yorkshire, north-east England and Scotland, is hoping to lure more "walk-up" travellers into first class: selling what amounts to off-peak Saver tickets in first. Initially it is running a trial, from 4 September to New Year's Day, on trains linking Leeds, Wakefield and Doncaster with London. A £239 return ticket from Leeds or Wakefield (saving £102 on the Anytime fare) is valid on the 8.15am from Leeds and subsequent southbound trains. Northbound, some early-morning departures are excluded, along with trains from 4-5.45pm.