Something To Declare: Tokyo; India's railways; Olympic Canada


Bargain of the week: Tokyo

Courier flights were, like T'Pau and state communism, big in the Eighties. While the appeal of the "China in your hands" band and applied Marxism-Leninism has never been adequately explained, the attraction of courier flights was obvious. At the time, air fares were, in real terms, far higher than today. Luckily, there was an alternative to paying astronomical prices: carrying "time-sensitive documents" on behalf of a courier firm.

Complex customs rules meant urgent deliveries had to be despatched as checked-in luggage – for which an accompanying passenger was required. Fares as low as £150 were available on Concorde to New York for travellers prepared to surrender their checked baggage allowance and perform some rudimentary bureaucracy at either end of the flight.

Air fares have fallen, and document delivery networks become more sophisticated. Accordingly, demand for, and availability of, courier flights has shrunk. But between next month and March 2010, British Airways is offering cheap flights to Tokyo.

Call BA World Cargo on 0870 320 0301 and you may be able to secure a round-trip to the Japanese capital for as little as £320. The fare allows for a two-week stay in Tokyo, but couriers may stay as long as they like at a fee of £55 per extra week.

Destination of the week: India's railways

"Electrification has done a lot to reduce the numbers travelling on the roof": this line could come only from the Thomas Cook Overseas Timetable. The latest edition (£13.99) celebrates the railways of South and South East Asia – most notably India.

Indian Railways is by a wide margin the biggest transport provider in the world, with the annual passenger-kilometres score moving steadily towards the one trillion mark.

While true high-speed trains have yet to arrive, travelling by rail in India is usually a joy in terms of exterior scenery and interior humanity. Several of India's Hill Railways are also Unesco World Heritage Sites.

Train travel is also very cheap. The guide points out that a 500-mile journey between two cities can cost anything from £1 to £28. Usefully for the visitor, the compilers say that reservations for foreigners open 360 days in advance. But if you are unable to plan almost a year ahead, a class of seats on some trains known as the "Tatkal" scheme allows you to book nearer the departure.

The timetable also highlights rules on passenger baggage. In India, a clause specifically excludes motorcycles, while in neighbouring Pakistan deep-freezes are banned.

Warning of the week: Olympic Canada

Vancouver is an alluring destination in any season, but travel patterns will be disrupted when the 21st Winter Olympics take place from 12-28 February next year. The Games are based in the resort of Whistler, north of Vancouver. Anyone hoping to take in both the opening and closing ceremonies could face high fares if they travel on the national carrier, Air Canada; flying out from Heathrow on 10 February, and back on 1 March, for example, the lowest price on non-stop flights in economy are currently £1,317. However, Air Canada fares are lower if you are flexible with dates, and many other options are available. Canadian Affair (020-7616 9184; canadianaffair.com) is quoting fares of £428 return from Gatwick on many dates.

An alternative is to fly to Seattle, just south of the border in Washington State and with good road and rail links to Vancouver. Fares on BA – the only non-stop airline from London – are available at under £400 return on some dates in February.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice