The best deals, the latest hot spots and what's new in travel

Is this the most expensive train ticket in the world? In April, Captain's Choice (020-8878 7710; www.captainschoice.co.uk) is running the ultimate rail journey. You fly from London to Moscow (right) and board a private train to Beijing. But this does not take you on the standard Trans-Siberian route to the Chinese capital; instead, it meanders south-east to the historic cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand, then roughly follows the Silk Route through Kazakhstan and over the mountains into China, taking in Xian en route to Beijing. The fare for the 25-day trip, including flights to Moscow and from Beijing, all meals and "regional entertainment", is £7,445.

If you plan a more economy-minded visit to the world's biggest country, you should know that Russia's railway network is set to become more foreigner-friendly. At present, the trip on the line from Helsinki to St Petersburg takes nearly seven hours to cover 280 miles, with a lot of time consumed at border crossings. One tour operator to the former USSR comments: "It appears that Russian Railways is about the only national enterprise to recognise the potential value of tourism, and is steadily adding services for Western travellers."

Warning of the week: taxi drivers in Hungary

"He refused to release our luggage from the boot until we paid and threatened to call the police if we did not pay in full." Clients of the tour operator Our Hungary (020-8230 7162; www.ourhungary.co.uk) are usually complimentary about their visits to Budapest and beyond. But the feedback section of the company's website suggests a malaise in the cab-driving profession.

"In Debrecen we picked up a taxi in the official rank outside the railway station to take us to our hotel. He drove round in a circle of the city on the ring road then came back to within one block of the station and drove through the centre of the city to the hotel. It was not until the next day when we picked up a map of Debrecen that we realised the journey was three times as long as it should have been."

One client says: "These bandits really do dent Hungary's tourist reputation. I wish there was a 'taxi abuse' hotline run by the tourist authority so that complaints could be made very rapidly."

Bargain of the week: Spain in comfort

Are you, or do you know anyone, between 20 and 30 years of age? If so, they and you qualify for a cut-price room in a Spanish parador (an example, below). As the summer rush subsides, the deal is much more widely available at these excellent government-run hotels - most of which are in historic properties.

As long as one occupant is aged 20 to 30, the price for a double room is a flat €88 (£63) a night, including breakfast. For up-to-date availability of the Escapada Joven scheme, see www.paradores.es. If you do not qualify for this offer, there are also deals for over 60s, five-night breaks staying in a range of properties and a 20 per cent discount for two-night stays with half board.

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