Something to Declare: petrol station scams in Italy; America's Ryanair; Neanderthal Man, from Crawley
Saturday 20 June 2009
Warning of the week: Italy
At many petrol stations in Europe it is customary to pay upfront, and this has led to an intriguing scam. On the US online forum, ricksteves.com, a Californian traveller named Candyce Roberts says she stopped at a petrol station on the road between Siena and Florence. A fellow motorist said that he had pre-paid too much, and offered her the remainder of his fuel for €10. He quickly drove off, leaving her only €1 worth.
The current Foreign Office advice for Italy picks out rest stops and service stations on the autostrada between Naples to Salerno as locations where crooks prey on visiting motorists. "Treat with caution offers of help if you find yourself with a flat tyre, as sometimes the tyre will have been punctured deliberately." In addition: "Always lock your vehicle and never leave valuables in the vehicle even if you will only be away for a short time."
Bargain of the week: America's Ryanair?
As the big US airlines count their losses, they are watching with concern a new carrier that resembles the closest American approximation yet to Europe's biggest low-cost airline.
Like Ryanair, JetAmerica (001 727 451 3970; jetamerica.com) uses Boeing 737-800 aircraft, and specialises in "secondary" airports that attract subsidies. The new airline is set to start flying on 13 July. Initially it will connect Newark (New York) with Lansing in Michigan, Toledo in Ohio and the Florida airport of Melbourne – promoted as "Orlando", even though the theme-park capital (above) is 60 miles away.
JetAmerica's chief executive is a former air-traffic controller, John Weikle. He is promising fares 40 per cent less than competitors, and intends "to fill the gap left by big, high-cost legacy airlines" that have cut back services. He is offering headline one-way fares of $9, though this excludes surcharges; from Newark to Melbourne a typical one-way fare is $84 (£56), with extra charges for bags ($20) and pre-assigned seating ($10).
Newark is served from a wide range of UK airports by Continental, and from Heathrow by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
Destination of the week: Neanderthal Man, from Crawley
The latest new link from Gatwick airport in Crawley is Dusseldorf in Germany. From Monday, Flybe starts flying the route three times daily (twice on Sundays and once on Saturdays). Lowest fares are about £70 return. It will compete against existing flights from Heathrow on British Airways and Lufthansa, from Stansted on Air Berlin, and from London City on Lufthansa.
Just 10km west of Dusseldorf, in a limestone gorge carved by the Dussel river, is the village of Mettmann – and the location where a strange, 40,000-year-old skeleton was discovered in a cave in 1856. The Neanderthal Museum (00 49 2104 97970; neanderthal.de) opens 10am-6pm daily except Monday, admission €7. You can reach it in 13 minutes from Dusseldorf's main station on suburban line S28.
The new flight also provides an excellent gateway for the fine city of Cologne, which is accessible in just 38 minutes by direct train from Dusseldorf airport. Cologne will be the featured city in 48 Hours, next Saturday in The Independent Traveller.
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