Something to declare: Travel overland to ski; cash and cigars in Cuba; Dominican Republic; Gatwick to Hong Kong
Saturday 12 November 2011
Bargain of the week: Travel overland to ski
You could halve the cost of transport to the Alps by driving, rather than flying, according to calculations by Patrick Thorne, founder of the Snowhunter website.
He took an example of a family of four heading from Scotland to the Portes du Soleil area (on the Franco-Swiss border, south of Lake Geneva), flying from Edinburgh to Geneva on easyJet's noon flight on 18 February and returning on the same plane a week later. Assuming they pay by credit card, take their own skis and a 20kg suitcase each, air fares would total £1,287.
They would also need to arrange travel to (and possibly parking at) Edinburgh airport.
Transfers from Geneva airport to Portes du Soleil could cost even more: the website morznet.com, for the leading resort of Morzine warns: "Your flight may cost you only £50 but your transfer to resort could set you back €300-€400." The total is likely to be about £1,700, says Mr Thorne.
"Driving from Edinburgh to Portes du Soleil is 1,079 miles each way and should take 18 hours. Assuming a return crossing on Eurotunnel for £106, an overnight stop in each direction (£100 each way), £324 for fuel and £110 in motorway tolls, the total driving cost is likely to be approximately £740".
Before you settle on driving, bear in mind other direct costs, including en-route meals and tyre-chain rental, plus two other factors: wear and tear on the car, and the much higher risks of driving compared with flying.
Warning of the week: Cash and cigars in Cuba
"Havana is a relatively safe city," says the new sixth edition of Lonely Planet's Cuba, "but scams do exist, particularly in the more touristy areas."
If someone approaches you in the street offering "convertible" pesos at favourable rates, ignore them: "The money that you will be given is moneda nacional or Cuban pesos," worth a tiny fraction of the promised value.
If you want to take home some cigars, stick to the official Casas del Habano: "Cigars sold on the streets are almost always substandard – akin to substituting an expensive French wine with cheap white vinegar."
Destination of the week: Dominican Republic
La Romana, in the pretty south-eastern corner of the "Dom Rep", will become more accessible from Wednesday this week, when JetBlue starts a non-stop link from New York JFK airport. Typical prices during the winter are about $570 (£380) return, with flights from London and Manchester to JFK costing about the same again. BA flies from Gatwick to Punta Cana on the north coast, with fares from as low as £533 return this winter.
Tip of the week: Gatwick to Hong Kong
After attracting flights to Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Gatwick airport's latest Asian coup is Hong Kong. From 8 March next year, Hong Kong Airlines will offer a daily non-stop link aimed at premium passengers. The Airbus A330 will be fitted with only 82 cradle seats (resembling the old-style business class) in "Club Classic" and 34 lie-flat beds in "Club Premier". Flights are overnight in each direction.
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