Something to declare: The Hermitage in Amsterdam; Asia and Africa for less; Croatia
Where to go, how to save, what to avoid
Saturday 06 June 2009
Destination of the week: The Hermitage in Amsterdam
The Dutch outpost of Russia's leading museum opens two weeks from today, and is set to transform an overlooked quarter of the city.
A 17th-century former home for the elderly on the River Amstel in south-east Amsterdam has received a €40m makeover to become a world-class western annexe to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
Hermitage Amsterdam, as it is known, is located close to Waterlooplein at Amstel 51 (00 31 20 530 87 51; hermitage.nl ); you can reach it on tram 4 or 9 from Centraal Station. The venue will open 10am-5pm daily, admission €15 (free for under 16s and holders of the "I Amsterdam" card).
The opening exhibition is "At the Russian Court: Palace and Protocol in the 19th Century", which comprises more than 1,800 treasures including Fabergé jewellery and the last Tsarina's of Russia's grand piano. The show will run until the end of January next year.
Bargain of the week: Asia and Africa for less
The latest Gulf-based airline to launch a short-term seat sale to try to stimulate demand is Qatar Airways (020-7896 3636; qatarairways.com ). The Doha-based carrier is offering flights from London to Johannesburg for £294 return and Hong Kong for £307. But Independent reader Richard Madge says some fares are even cheaper than the headline prices on the website, including Dubai for £209 return, Cape Town or Johannesburg for £291 return, and Hong Kong for £298 return. Test bookings revealed this to be the case for other destinations, including the Seychelles, on offer on a range of dates in September for just £431 return. At these prices, availability is understandably scarce. Deals must be booked by 15 June for travel before 15 December (some "blackout" dates apply, and summer departures are thin on the ground at the lowest fares). You must stay at least one Sunday night at your final destination.
Warning of the week: Croatia
Can you prove how much you are worth to frontier officials? That is one of the concerns highlighted by the newly updated Foreign Office travel advice for Croatia. It warns that immigration officials may demand "evidence of the financial means necessary to cover subsistence during your stay".
For hotel guests, the "daily subsistence rate" is fixed at €100. Credit cards and bank statements should be accepted as sufficient proof that you will not become a burden on the state.
The Foreign Office also warns of a rise in the number of forged banknotes in circulation, especially denominations of 200 and 500 Croatian kuna (worth about £24 and £60 respectively). To avoid being landed with fakes, you should obtain local currency only "at reliable outlets, such as banks and cashpoints".
Croatia has now adopted a zero-tolerance law governing alcohol consumption by people in charge of yachts. "The penalties for being caught drunk in charge of a boat are likely to be heavy," adds the Foreign Office.
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