Something To Declare: Rio; Salamanca; Scottish adventure
Saturday 30 August 2008
Warning of the week: Rio
The new edition of Lonely Planet's city guide to Brazil's most alluring city is out this month, and warns: "The crime rate is high, and tourists are sometimes targeted".
To avoid becoming yet another victim, you should dress down and leave expensive (or expensive-looking) jewellery, watches and sunglasses at home. When you are heading for the beach, "don't ever take anything of value with you".
Elsewhere, "cameras and backpacks attract a lot of attention" and the guide suggests you should consider using disposable cameras. If, despite precautions, you do get robbed, "slowly hand over the goods. Thieves in the city are only too willing to use their weapons". Just hope you do not lose your entry/exit card: "You could miss your flight dealing with immigration hassles."
The Foreign Office adds that cash machines are often shut down at night. This is to try to counter the fashion for victims of carjacking to be forced to withdraw money from their accounts at cash machines – often just before, and again just after, midnight.
Destination of the week: Salamanca
Next Sunday, 7 September, this beautiful city in north-central Spain comes alive. A floral procession of traditional charro peasant costumes, followed by a dazzling display of fireworks centred on the old Roman bridge, launches the festival of the Virgen de la Vega.
The Virgin is Salamanca's patron, and her saint's day is 8 September. The festivities continue for nine days, during which the old city is bursting with music, drinking and eating. The latter is mainly covered by tapas, and stalls are set up on every conceivable bit of free space on the mainly pedestrianised streets. Higher-brow cultural events are also on offer, such as exhibitions, dance and theatre.
Salamanca is also a centre of excellence for learning Spanish; the Don Quijote school (020-8786 8081; www.donquijote.org) is especially recommended, not least because of its location in a beautifully restored 16th-century monastery close to the magnificent Plaza Mayor.
You can reach Salamanca via Valladolid (served by Ryanair from Stansted) or via Madrid, which has a wide range of flights from the UK.
Bargain of the week: Scottish adventure
From September until May, Scotland has a problem attracting visitors. This autumn, winter and spring, VisitScotland has launched an "Adventure Pass" that is intended to draw tourists with aggressive discounting on a wide range of activities – from "World of Wings", a bird of prey centre near Cumbernauld, to organised hikes and bike rides on the Isle of Lewis. You have to download a pass at www.visitscotland.com/adventurepass, which is also where you find full details of the offers.
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