Something To Declare: Russia/Rabies/New York/BA

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The Independent Travel

Destination of the week: Back in the USSR?

Not quite, but almost. A small Russian airline, KDAvia (0871 423 5741; www.kdavia.co.uk) is to increase its flights to daily from Gatwick to its home base of Kaliningrad on the Baltic coast from summer. This is a Russian exclave pinched between Poland and Lithuania, formerly part of Eastern Prussia. The economy-class meal service on the two-hour flight is remarkable: a choice of three hot dishes, plus salad, cheese, roll, yogurt and chocolate. Beer, soft drinks, tea and coffee are also free of charge. On arrival, though, you quickly conclude that this is probably the European city with least concern about the non-local traveller: the inflight magazine, and nearly all tourism brochures and websites, are only in Russian.

Kaliningrad's airport concourse on arrival is redolent of Chinese airports 20 years ago: it's hard to tell whether it is being built or falling down. The fragment of the federation is obviously selling itself successfully within Russia – there is a building boom on the coast – so the authorities probably see no need to bother with Westerners, even if the official line is that it should be a link between Russia and the West.

Expect no concessions to Western tourism. Don't be shocked that your hotel offers a telex service rather than internet access, nor that it has the traditional Soviet-era attendant on every floor. Equally, enjoy the surprise of paying the equivalent of 70p for the airport bus, a coffee or a large vodka. If buses do not appeal, your guide can still park his or her car for free throughout the town centre. This was formerly known as Königsberg where the old German cathedral and the recently built Russian one compete for visitors and funds. Visit the Art Gallery, and you'll see how contemporary artists and photographers blend Königsberg and Kaliningrad.

Visas for a 72-hour stay can be issued on arrival, but make sure your travel agent sorts out the preliminary paperwork impeccably, and does not book you to be there on a Monday when every worthwhile attraction is closed. Neil Taylor

Warning of the week: Rabies in France

Rabies was eliminated from land animals in western Europe after a cunning programme immunising wild carnivores with meat baits. In late October, however, a mixed breed Border collie was illegally imported into the French town of Gers, near Toulouse. That dog had rabies. It died in November but not before infecting at least one other dog, which in turn infected a third.

Health authorities warn that there could be a risk of rabies if anyone was bitten, licked or scratched by a dog in the Hautes-Pyrénées after October 2007; in Gers from November 2007; and in Seine-et-Marne or Calvados from mid-December 2007. The post-bite injections offer absolute protection as long as they are given before any symptoms of rabies start. It is crucial that anyone who has had even a nip from a dog in France seeks treatment promptly via their GP. The same precaution applies, too, for anyone bitten or scratched by a bat – even in Britain. Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth

Bargain of the week: cheaper bites of the Big Apple

At the end of this month, the number of available seats to and from New York will increase when the "Open Skies" deregulation of UK-US aviation comes into effect. New services from Heathrow on Continental and Delta will increase capacity by around 10 per cent, and fares are likely to fall modestly as a result. But if you need to get there before then, consider the current deals via Montreal on Air Canada between Heathrow and Newark. The fare for departures before Easter is £254 through www.opodo.co.uk. The journey is naturally longer than the non-stop one, but westbound you clear US border formalities in Montreal, speeding up your journey.

Number of the week: 0844 493 0787

British Airways made getting in touch cheaper this week when it changed its telephone number. The airline has introduced this new local-rate number to replace its old 0870 line. Calls are charged from land lines at 5p a minute. Simon Calder

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