Something To Declare: Puerto Rico; Qatar for football fans; cheap trains in Scotland; Wall fall in London
Saturday 07 November 2009
Destination of the week: Puerto Rico
These days it is rare for Virgin Atlantic (08705 747 747; virgin-atlantic.com) to contemplate a new route, since it shares some of the problems that led to British Airways' record peak-season losses announced yesterday. But today Virgin puts Puerto Rico back on the route map from Gatwick, some years after BA abandoned the link.
Many of the passengers on board the weekly flight will be heading straight for the cruise port in the handsome capital, San Juan. But Puerto Rico, about the same size as Cyprus, is an excellent destination for independent travellers. El Yunque National Forest, right, full of tropical wildlife, is very close to the capital, while drivers with a taste for adventure can follow the Ruta Panorámica a journey that straddles the highest ridges of the Central Cordillera.
Puerto Rico is also the key Caribbean hub for American Airlines, making it an easy gateway for a more extended island-hopping tour of the region by air.
Warning of the week: Qatar for football fans
Next Saturday, England play Brazil in a warm-up friendly before the 2010 World Cup. Unusually, the match will take place in the Gulf state of Qatar. The Foreign Office urges fans to "respect the culture, religion and law at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend"; see fco.gov.uk/football.
The Qatar authorities require British passport holders to have at least six months validity and one blank page available on their passport before arrival. A three-week visa is granted on arrival, but the QR110 (18) fee can be paid only by credit card. All baggage is screened on arrival, with alcohol, drugs and pornography of particular concern to the authorities.
While alcohol is available at licensed hotel restaurants and bars, "It is a punishable offence to drink alcohol or be drunk in public."
Drink-driving is a serious offence in Qatar; there is zero tolerance for driving with any alcohol in the bloodstream. "Offenders will be detained and fined," says the Foreign Office, with the possibility of a jail term of between one month and three years.
You are allowed to drive for up to two weeks in Qatar using your UK driving licence, but "road discipline is very poor, speeds are high and minor accidents common".
Finally, "intimacy in public between men and women can lead to arrest".
Bargain of the week: Cheap trains in Scotland for the over-55s
Born on or before 7 November 1954? If so, you qualify for discounts on trains in Scotland, and you don't even need a rail card. Anyone aged 55 or over can benefit from the Club 55 deal, offering a flat 15 return trip between any two stations in Scotland, plus Carlisle and Berwick-upon-Tweed. The deal is available until 13 December, and no advance booking is required. You can return the same day or any time within a month. Note that some commuter services before 9.15am on weekdays, and early evening departures from Edinburgh and Glasgow are excluded.
To travel in style, Club 55 Premier costs 19 return from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Aberdeen or Inverness (left), but for this fare you must book in advance.
Tip of the week: Wall fall in London
On Monday, 9 November, the Goethe Institut in west London, is staging a range of events to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago: see www.bit.ly/wallfall.
A photo exhibition on the subject runs to 18 December.
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