Something to declare: Santorini; free museums in France; train trouble
Where to go, how to save, what to avoid
Saturday 02 May 2009
Destination of the week : Santorini
Tomorrow, easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.com) starts flying from Gatwick to the Greek island of Santorini. The location, fancifully reputed to be the lost city of Atlantis (that's Santorini, not Gatwick), is the ideal May getaway. Its main town, Fira, embraces all the values of an idyllic Cycladic settlement: a mix of delicate white cottages on the crest of the caldera, laced with narrow lanes that resonate with church bells. In high summer, torrents of tourists swirl through the town, but in May the crowds have yet to arrive. The rest of the island is a place where history meets hydrodynamics, vulcanology meets archaeology, and science meets fiction. A test booking for flights later in May showed availability at around £150 return.
Bargain of the week: Sunday's best
With the pound so poorly, it's worth timing your visit to France to coincide with a day when leading attractions allow visits for free.
Tomorrow, and on the first Sunday of each subsquent month, all national museums in France suspend their admission fees; these include the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and the Musée National Marc Chagall in Nice. The latter also opens free on the third Sunday of each month. In addition, any EU citizen aged 25 or under now gets in free to all national museums in France at all times; take your passport as proof, and to do everyone else a favour avoid the "free" day.
Within the past year, Nice has taken the enlightened step of removing admission fees from all civic museums, whatever your age.
Warning of the week: Train trouble
Good manners on Chinese trains in "hard" class; why you should travel only first class in Burkina Faso; and, in Cambodia, this is the age of the pick-up truck: the latest edition of the excellent Thomas Cook Overseas Timetable (£15.99) is full of travel essentials.
In China, you are warned that, "There are no return tickets, and generally tickets cannot be purchased more than five days in advance". Furthermore, on long-distance trains in the cheaper "hard" class, "Upper-berth passengers may use lower berths as seating during the day only with the permission of lower-berth passengers".
A correspondent in Burkina Faso has warned the compilers that "Foreigners should only travel in first class", because only these carriages are provided with security guards.
In Cuba, however, first-class travel is no longer an option: rail services "keep deteriorating", and "only second-class accommodation is available".
Rail travel is currently not an option in Cambodia: "Due to track renovation of the entire network all passenger rail services have been suspended". You may have to make do with "pick-up trucks and taxis with high-density seating".
In Botswana, too, all passenger rail services have been cancelled. Across in neighbouring Namibia, passenger train travel has been "decimated". The only surviving services are from Windhoek to Walvis Bay and Keetmanshoop, and from Keetmanshoop to Francistown.
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