Something to declare: Oyster cards; Vancouver; Australia; pet travel to Europe

 

Bargain of the week: The Oyster is your world

Fares on London Underground, buses and trams rise on Monday by an average of 7 per cent. The cash fare from Heathrow airport into the centre of the capital rises to £5.40. Within zone 1, covering the central area, the cash fare is £4.30 – an astonishing £30 per mile for some journeys.

A pay-as-you-go Oyster card cuts these rates dramatically: zone 1 fares are a flat £2. The journey from Heathrow is £4.80 at peak times (the three hours from 6.30am and 4pm, Monday to Friday), £2.90 at other times. An excellent feature is that multiple journeys in a single day are capped at the one-day Travelcard level – meaning that, at weekends, you pay no more than £8.60 regardless of the number of journeys you make. See bit.ly/OysterInfo for more details.

* The London Eye closes for maintenance next Saturday (7 Jan) until 20 Jan.

Destination of the week: Vancouver

Tickets finally went on sale before Christmas for the new Virgin Atlantic service from Heathrow to the largest city in British Columbia. The link will operate four times a week from 24 May to 25 October. It is designed to cash in on the strong demand to the Canadian West: at present the route is served only by Air Canada and British Airways, which have near-identical fares. However, Virgin may pitch its fares lower, in order to establish itself on the route and because it has little connecting traffic.

The new link will also provide another option for Washington State, where BA has a monopoly with its Heathrow to Seattle flights; the Cascades train connects Vancouver with Seattle.

Warning of the week: Australia

From early this afternoon, television viewers can expect to see images of the fireworks over Sydney Harbour marking the start of 2012. But despite the sunshine, the joie de vivre and the rock-solid currency, life in Sydney and the rest of Australia is not entirely perfect.

"Robberies, burglaries, and auto theft are common in Australia's larger cities," warns the US State Department. "Weapons are increasingly used in such crimes." The Foreign Office urges caution at night in "the busy tourist areas of Sydney".

Outside the cities, the State Department says: "Australian fauna can be dangerous. From jellyfish off the Great Barrier Reef to crocodiles, sharks, poisonous insects, and snakes, the continent and its waters host wildlife that merit awe and respect in equal doses."

Tip of the week: Pet travel to Europe

Ferries may fill with ferrets, and dog and cat owners will be able to venture more easily beyond Barking and Catford from tomorrow, thanks to the relaxation of the rules on pet travel.

The present insistence that pets have a blood test before returning to the UK will be removed, and pets will no longer need to be treated for ticks.

Up to now, dogs have required tapeworm treatment by a vet to take place between 24 and 48 hours before entry, creating problems for weekend travellers. The treatment can now take place up to five days before arrival.

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