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News & Advice

Something To Declare: Virgin Trains/Sri Lanka/Rajasthan Express/GoLearnTo

Bargain of the week: Virgin makes good TO Manchester and beyond

Britain, as you know, has the most expensive trains in Europe; the standard open single from London to Manchester on Virgin Trains costs £115. Yet we also have the cheapest tickets. If the open fare is too high, how about £1?

The train operator has started selling such tickets, on a trial basis, on www.virgintrains.com, and only for the London Euston-Manchester Piccadilly route. Book in advance, print out your own ticket, and you can travel for between £1 and £9 each way on selected trains. You can book between one day and five weeks in advance for this so-called P@H (Print At Home) option.

Virgin Trains is also being benevolent towards people who were caught up in the overrunning engineering works on the West Coast Main Line, which disrupted Virgin services to and from London from New Year's Eve to 3 January. If you have proof that you booked a ticket to or from Euston on one of these dates, you could be in line for a free first class return ticket to anywhere on the network. "This one's on us," says the company; see www.thisonesonus.com for more details. You must mail in with your ticket/proof of purchase by 10 March; you'll then get a PIN that will enable you to book the luxury round trip. You can take the free trip up to 16 March and between 28 March and 30 April.

Warning of the week: Sri Lanka

"There is a high threat from terrorism," says the Foreign Office in the third bulletin of travel advice released to cover the Indian Ocean island this week. "Recent attacks have specifically targeted civilians, including on public transport."

Over last weekend, there were four bomb attacks in three days in areas where travellers might find themselves.

On Saturday, a bomb on a Kandy-to-Anuradhapura bus killed more than 20 people. On Sunday, the main station in the capital, Colombo, was targeted: 10 people were killed, and more than 100 injured. On the same day, an explosion at Dehiwella Zoo in Colombo injured four people. And on Monday, a bomb killed 12 people at Welioya, 120km north-east of Anuradhapura.

Destination of the week: Rajasthan Express

The Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad is soon to launch a one-stop link from Heathrow or Manchester to the "pink city", Jaipur – the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan (pictured, above left). Etihad (0870 241 7121; www.etihadairways.com) has yet to announce a launch date, but it will offer connections in Abu Dhabi from its frequent Heathrow and Manchester services. Etihad will also fly to Kozhikode (formerly known as Calicut), its third destination in the southern state of Kerala.

Innovation of the week: sun, sea and skills

"Get more from your holiday" is the slogan of a new enterprise, GoLearnTo. This London-based company (0845 625 0465; www.golearnto.com) offers trips that combine travel with acquiring a new skill.

"A course can enhance your holiday," says the managing director, Vanessa Lenssen.

"It can kick-start you into beginning a new hobby, pursuing an existing interest or learning something that ignites a passion that will stay with you forever."

In Spain, for example, you could learn how to kitesurf, how to do flamenco dancing or guitar-playing, or simply study the language in situ.