David Orkin surfs his way around a web of intrigue

Before the e-boom, there was no shortage of guide books, some more useful than others. However, the internet has given voice to an even wider array of advice and information for the traveller. Sites come and go - www.amigoingdown.com, for example, on which you could get a "personalised mortality statistic" for your chances of being involved in a fatal crash on a specific flight on a particular airline - failed to avoid its own downfall. There are plenty of other travel websites that are less depressing (and in better taste) - enough to make you think that "www" might stand for "weird wide web"...


Official website of an independent sovereign state in Western Australia (above) which recently celebrated its 36th anniversary. Incidentally, I met one of its ambassadors in Corfu in the late Seventies. Pop in, get your passport stamped and meet the Royal Family if you're passing (Western Australia, not Corfu).


Almost credible spoof travel guides to almost real destinations (top right). First in the series are Molvania, and Phaic Tan. Look out for guides to Gastronesia, Sherpastan or Costa del Porn where "most hotels feature 180 degree views of the hotel in front of them". They're said to be coming soon.


Website of a project the aim of which is "to visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world, and to take pictures at each location". The pictures and stories about the visits will, of course, then appear on the website (below). Three recent intersections visited were 39 degrees N, 118 degrees W (near Gabbs, USA); 39 degrees N, 114 degrees W (in Garrisson, USA); and 50 degrees N, 14 degrees E (near Nizbor, Czech Republic).


Amongst the many highlights of a visit to the Canadian province of Newfoundland & Labrador is iceberg-spotting. On my first visit there, I drove up along the north east coasts in search of these natural wonders: had I only known about this website, I could have devoted more time to moose-spotting. I finally saw both icebergs and whales close up on a boat trip out of Bay Bulls, Newfoundland. Moose too, (but not on that boat trip).Had the website been available when a certain ship sailed from Southampton in 1912, would 1,500 or so lives have been saved?


Of relatively limited use (unless you're likely to be waiting for a bus on Unst). Is this the world's only bus shelter with its own website? Even Waiting for the Interurban, a wonderful life-size sculpture in Fremont, Washington State, of six people waiting for a tram at a shelter (see www.whatrain.com/seattle/publicArt/interurban.htm) doesn't have its own site. The Unst shelter wasn't built when Robert Louis Stevenson visited the island, the most northerly in Britain, in 1869. If you want to visit, first get to Shetland. If you're driving, then take two short ferry rides: better still, take the bus (8am daily except Sunday) from Lerwick (on Shetland) to Unst and you'll pass the bus shelter en route.


Have a blast with this site (above) "dedicated to the promotion of tourist locations around the world that have either been the site of atomic explosions, display exhibits on the development of atomic devices, or contain vehicles that were designed to deliver atomic weapons". Not wishing to be a killjoy, I hope that nothing gets added to the list of "sites of atomic explosions" in the forseeable future.


Many governments advise their citizens on which countries and regions they consider too dangerous to visit: one Robert Young Pelton gives his version (top right). At the time of writing, 31 countries are listed (with reasons) including Brazil, Mexico and the USA.


One sees stories from time to time about tickets being sold for space flights. If you buy one, will a spacesuit be warm enough or should you pack an extra vest or two in ? This site claims to provide daily weather reports from Mars (but sadly, it was last updated in March 2001: still, it might give you an idea...)


As you may have guessed, this is the site (below) to come to if you want to see photos of cheeses in famous places around the world. You are encouraged to take some cheese and a camera on your travels and submit your own additions. Most recent pics at time of writing are of Red Leicester in Stuttgart, Austrian Smoked at the Pentrich Rock & Blues Festival (Derbyshire), and Mitchelstown cheddar at the Cliffs of Moher (County Clare, Eire).


Never mind the weird, wacky and wonderful - with so much going on in the world, today's travellers need the practical too. Before setting off, see whether your government thinks you're being wise with your choice of destination, see www.fco.gov.uk/travel for the latest official travel advice from the Foreign Office. Another official body, the Department of Health, provides information for travellers at www.dh.gov.uk/PolicyAndGuidance/Health AdviceForTravellers/fs/en, and you could also try www.masta.org or www.travelhealth.co.uk. It pays to check that no obvious trouble is brewing where you're heading - keep an eye on the foreign news at www.bbc.co.uk (or, of course, www.independent.co.uk).

Statistics show that flying is one of the safest ways to travel, but are some carriers safer than others? Have a look at www.airsafe.com. So should you pack that fleece or not? Sandals or snowboots? Is a hurricane en route? Checking http://uk.weather.com/index.html or www.wunderground.com should give you an idea of what to expect in the next week or so at least.

And where exactly is that cheap hotel or hostel? Locate it at www.multimap.com or www.mappy.com (for Europe only). For some, graphic maps aren't enough, they want photos: such people should click on www.googleearth.com: the free download will allow you to "fly" anywhere in the world and hover above a satellite photo of your destination. Happy landings!