The column that's wizard on Oz

Destination of the week: the office, c/o Australia

"It is a rare gap year traveller who comes home from Australia disappointed," writes Susan Griffith in the new third edition of Taking a Gap Year. "Many student visitors are struck by what a good standard of living can be enjoyed for not very much money." Ms Griffith has contacted hundreds of travellers for her book, published next Monday by Vacation Work, price £11.95 (or less if you order it on line at www.vacationwork.co.uk).

The author concludes: "There is a marvellous range of jobs, even if you are unlikely to repeat Sandra Grey's coup of being paid $50 for three hours' 'work' testing a sunscreen on her lily-white back, or Jane Thomas's bizarre jobs: one in a sex-change clinic, the other in a morgue typing up the labels for dismembered parts of the body."

Warning of the week: Aussie mozzies

"Because malaria isn't a major problem in Australia, we think of mosquitoes as a nuisance rather than a serious health threat," says NSW Health. The medical authorities in Australia's most populous states are concerned about cases of Ross River Fever and Barmah Forest Virus, with hundreds of cases reported earlier this year, mainly around the Byron Bay and Tweed Heads area. Symptoms of these illnesses include muscle pain, stiffness and swollen joints, often combined with lethargy. "The unusual thing about these illnesses is that although the symptoms can go away, some of them may continue for weeks or months," says NSW Health. The authority recommends wearing light-covered clothing that covers as much of the body as possible, with insect repellent on exposed skin.

Bargain of the week: Qantas business class

Australia's leading airline this week unveiled its new business class, which includes a seat that converts to a 6ft 6in bed (pictured above) and many other enhancements. This will place it on a par with British Airways. The first Boeing 747 with the new cabin is likely to arrive in London this week, and the enhanced product should be fully installed on planes used for UK flights by the end of February.

Yet for the next six months, business-class fares are lower and less restricted on Qantas than on BA. Typically, you would pay around £3,000 for a business return on Qantas through a discount agent, with no advance booking. On BA, the prevailing fare is around £3,500, which requires reservations six weeks ahead. When booking, ask the agent to check the seating plan; this will reveal the flights which benefit from the enhanced product.

Polls of the week: Australia vs New Zealand

Antipodean rivalry is evident in the latest round of travel awards. Among readers of the independent travel magazine, Wanderlust, New Zealand won the overall "Top Country" award; Australia came joint ninth with Bolivia and Peru. But in the parallel category in the upmarket magazine Condé Nast Traveller, Australia was only narrowly beaten into second place by Italy (New Zealand came sixth).

Australia made the Top 10 in several Wanderlust categories, including Country and Airport (Perth). Brisbane-based Virgin Blue was voted the Top Low-Cost Airline, while Melbourne-based Lonely Planet won the award for Top Guidebook Series. In the Wanderlust Top City list, Sydney drops from first place to joint seventh (with Seattle), but Perth moves up from 11th to ninth. Dubrovnik came top.

Sydney fares better with Condé Nast Traveller readers, a close third in the City award to Rome and Paris, and ahead of New York and Venice.

Australia was voted the Second Safest Country in the world by Wanderlust readers coming in ahead of the UK, but behind New Zealand.

All of these results appear in the new October editions of each magazine. Condé Nast and Wanderlust are available from news-stands for £3.40 and £3.60 respectively. For Wanderlust subscriptions, call 01753 620426 or visit www.wanderlust.co.uk; for Condé Nast Traveller, call 01858 438815 or you can visit the website, www.subscription.co.uk/cntraveller.

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