Something to declare: Santorini; Southern savings; Cyprus scams; price-fixing refunds
Friday 20 April 2012
Destination of the week: Santorini
Besides the dramatic terrain of this Greek island, the main attraction is the Minoan Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri – which provides an insight into life in the second millennium BC, at the moment the island was shattered by a volcanic eruption. Up to 5,000 people lived in Akrotiri before the eruption. They were accomplished mariners, which provided them with both wealth from trade, and ideas from ancient Egypt. Their two- and three-storey buildings bear witness to advanced engineering, while vibrant wall paintings and elaborate pottery denote a sophisticated society.
The site closed seven years ago after part of a new roof collapsed killing a visitor. It has now reopened (10am to 5pm daily). You can reach Santorini on easyJet from Gatwick. The site is about 20 minutes from the main town, Thira, on one of the irregular buses, or 10 minutes in a taxi (€10).
Bargain of the week: Southern savings
Southern Railway, which runs trains south from London to Ashford in the east and down to Southampton, is cutting one-third from its Advance fares for travel up to three months ahead. The offer extends to sales made by 13 May, which means you can book trips up to mid-August. The two key routes are from London Victoria to Gatwick and Brighton, with one-way Advance fares widely available at southernrailway.com at £6.60.
Warning of the week: Cyprus scams
"Fake euro banknotes are currently in circulation in Cyprus," warns the Foreign Office. "Anyone found to be in possession of fake euros will be prosecuted." The official advice suggests consulting the European Central Bank website (www.ecb.europa.eu) for details on how to identify fakes. But an easier solution for the British holidaymaker is as follows: buy currency in the UK, in advance, which is likely to be genuine. Ask for low denomination notes (nothing bigger than €20) to minimise the occasions on which you will be given notes in change.
Another problem could arise with the island's nightlife. "Check prices prior to ordering drinks at certain bars and 'cabarets'," warns Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs. "Some establishments charge exorbitant prices. Discussions about overcharging have been known to lead to threats of violence. Security guards may compel you to pay."
Tip of the week: Price-fixing refunds
The OFT has announced a settlement of its case against British Airways over alleged price-fixing with Virgin Atlantic; BA will pay a fine of £58.5m. But that is not quite the end of the matter: anyone who flew long-haul with BA or Virgin between August 2004 and March 2006 could have money waiting for them. The two airlines set up a £73m fund from which passengers can claim back a portion of the fuel surcharge: see airpassengerrefund.co.uk. Claims can be made until the end of this year. It only amounts to a few pounds per person, but the money is sitting there. Any unclaimed cash goes back to the airlines; in the corresponding US scheme, the surplus goes to charity.
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