Something To Declare: Value-added Stockholm; Rotterdam highlights; trousers with no pockets; Greece clamps down on smoking
Where to go, how to save, what to avoid
Saturday 04 July 2009
Bargain of the week: Stockholm plus
Faced with intense competition from low-cost airlines, Scandinavian airline SAS (0845 607 2772; flysas.co.uk ) is seeking to add value to its flights between Heathrow and the Nordic region.
In August and September, travellers to the Swedish capital will receive a five-day Båtluffarkort, or Island Hopper Card, for use on the ferries (see waxholmsbolaget.se ) in the Stockholm archipelago – the remarkable scattering of 30,000 fragments of terrain that extend 50 miles east of the city. The price of the pass is normally 420kr (£33).
To qualify for a free card, buy a return Heathrow to Stockholm ticket on SAS for travel between 1 August and 30 September; fares starting at £119 return are reasonably accessible on these travel dates.
When you arrive at Arlanda airport, take your itinerary to the Visitor Centre in the arrival hall of Terminal 5 (it opens 6am-midnight daily).
Curiously, you have to pay a deposit of 40kr (£3.15), which is refunded when the card is returned to any boat company or to the Visitor Centre at the airport.
Destination of the week: Rotterdam
Holland's second city is the location for some of Europe's most impressive modern architecture – indeed, Rotterdam was the City of Architecture two years ago.
Among the highlights: the amazing 1980s cube houses, which look like a series of giant dice each resting on one corner. And a new city hostel has just opened inside them. Stayokay Rotterdam at Overblaak 85-87 (00 31 10 436 57 63; stayokay.com ) has 138 beds (costing around €30 a night, including breakfast), a bar and restaurant.
Rotterdam is best enjoyed during one of its many summer festivals. The North Sea Jazz Festival ( northseajazz.com ) is on now (until 12 July, and the Summer Carnival ( zomercarnaval.com ) takes place in three weeks.
And on the day that the Tour de France starts in Monaco, it is worth remembering that Europe's leading bike event in 2010 will start with a time-trial in Rotterdam.
Garment of the week: Trousers with no pockets
Visitors to Nepal face all sorts of demands for cash; for example, the Foreign Office warns "Maoist extortion of money from trekkers and climbers have been reported. Trekkers and other individuals who resist extortion demands are threatened and have in the past been physically assaulted."
Corruption is also a problem among some officials in Nepal. There has been plenty of adverse publicity about what the BBC calls "rampant bribe-taking" at the nation's main airport, Tribhuvan in the Kathmandu Valley. To try to combat the problem, the government has brought in new uniforms for airport staff: trousers with no pockets. The idea is that errant officials will find it more difficult to extort money from passengers.
A common pitfall for foreign tourists, for which they may be officially fined or be asked for a bribe, is transgressing Nepal's complicated currency regulations. In particular, possessing Indian 500- or 1,000-rupee notes in Nepal is an offence.
Warning of the week: Smoke signals
Greece is the latest European country to clamp down on smoking. From this week, warns the Foreign Office, "It is illegal to smoke in hospitals, schools, vehicles and all public places. The penalty for violating this law is a fine of up to €500." Smoking is also prohibited on inter-island ferries.
In May this year, Croatia banned smoking in enclosed public areas, with fines of 1,000 kuna (£120) for offenders. Coincidentally, the spot fines that Hong Kong plans to introduce to penalise smokers from September also equate to £120: HK$1,500.
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