Something To Declare: Sydney, via Singapore; Kazakhstan; Fez
Saturday 15 September 2007
Destination of the week: Sydney, via Singapore
Much fuss has been made of the impending launch of the Airbus A380 "superjumbo", due to enter commercial service on 25 October on a flight from Singapore to Sydney. The seats for the maiden commercial flight, on Singapore Airlines, have been auctioned, with the proceeds going to charity. But British travellers heading for Sydney early this winter can be among the first passengers to travel on this new aircraft, without having to bid for the privilege. The plane will be flying daily on the premier link between South-east Asia and Australia's largest city.
Flying from London Heathrow or Manchester on 5 November, for example, you can connect in Singapore for a flight on the new aircraft to Sydney – and repeat the experience on the way back from Australia. A return ticket for a fortnight's stay in Sydney costs £782 from Manchester, £809 from Heathrow.
Stopovers in Singapore are available in either direction. For advice on how to spend time in the city-state, see the video version of 48 Hours in Singapore at www.independent.co.uk/singapore.
The A380 is an aircraft designed for Heathrow, but the UK's leading airport is unlikely to host the aircraft regularly until next March, which is when Singapore Airlines hopes to introduce the new Airbus on one of the daily flights currently being operated by Boeing 747s.
Warning of the week: Kazakhstan
Travelling in the homeland of the fictional TV reporter, Borat, is, according to the new Lonely Planet guide to Central Asia (£17.99), "a delight", and "crime is minimal by Western urban standards". You should not, however, expect anything to go smoothly, and are warned that "Central Asian officials and police generally create more problems than they solve". In the biggest city, Almaty, you are warned about the wallet-full-of-dollars scam: "Someone finds a wallet lying on the ground as you pass, opens it and finds hundreds of dollars inside. They draw your attention to it and, if you stop, it becomes clear there's nothing in the wallet to identify its owner. The person offers to share the loot with you, and if you start to get involved, another person appears, claiming the wallet is theirs and that it originally contained much more money. They demand compensation or threaten to take you to the police."
While Kazakh hospitality is renowned, you should be wary of accepting offers of free accommodation. The new book warns: "One traveller's 'hosts' demanded a large amount of money to let her leave with her luggage."
If you are flying within Kazakhstan, be wary about "meeters and greeters". The Foreign Office says that passenger lists may fall into the hands of villains: "There have been instances of people being met from an aircraft by someone using their name and subsequently being robbed."
Bargain of the week: Fez
The best-preserved medieval city in the Arab world is easier to reach than ever this winter. From 30 October, GB Airways launches flights from Gatwick to Fez on behalf of British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com). Fares are available on a wide range of dates for the remarkably low fare of £77 return. More than half of this goes direct to the government as Air Passenger Duty.
Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com) currently flies from Luton to Fez, but the service is being withdrawn for the winter from 27 October; the airline blames the high rate of tax for the cancellation. Fares as low as £70 return are available on some dates in the next six weeks.
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