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; 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

voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
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
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

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

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn