A new website, TravelLocal.com, lets you design and book your trip using local guides and tour operators on the ground throughout Asia. Its founder, Huw Owen, claims this allows them to cut costs. An example, the 10-day "Taste of Kerala" tour of southern India which visits Cochin, the Western Ghats, the Periyar wildlife sanctuary, the backwaters and ends with time on the beach in Varkala is available for £599 per person. Flights are not included.
Bolivia fast track
Reaching Bolivia is currently tricky, with most one-stop journeys involving a transit at Miami with all the bureaucratic trauma that that involves. But, from 29 November, Air Europa is planning non-stop flights from Madrid to Santa Cruz in the east of Bolivia. Flights are overnight in both directions, with good connections with the UK from Gatwick (aireuropa.com).
The US State Department has taken the dramatic step of warning staff at the American embassy in Athens to avoid the Omonia and Exharchia areas of the city between 9pm and dawn, because of the risk of "crime and politically motivated violence". The latest travel advice also states: "If you plan to rent a car, ask your rental agent about possible interruptions to fuel supplies."
Railfest, a nine-day celebration of Britain's railways, starts tomorrow at the National Railway Museum in York. More than 50 locomotives are on show, including record breakers such as the Flying Scotsman, along with food and drinks stalls and live music. Tickets: £13 adults, £8 children (nrm.org. uk/railfest2012).
Raise a glass
English Wine Week starts today and continues until next Sunday. Vineyards across the country will open their doors for tours, tastings and special events. Those taking part include the family-run Harbourne Vineyard in Kent, where they have used traditional methods since1979, and the award-winning Camel Valley vineyard in North Cornwall (englishwineweek.co.uk).
The terminal which hosts the latest upgrade in eating options at Europe's busiest airport, Heathrow. This week, a branch of Leon opens landside. This chain offers fresh Mediterranean-based fast food all day – from "Porridge of the Gods" (£2.45) to aioli chicken (£3.85). And, because it is not sited beyond airport security, Terminal 1 passengers can also use it (leon restaurants.co.uk).
Corsica in style
Manchester gets connected with Calvi in Corsica from this week, thanks to a new charter series from the specialist tour operator, Corsican Places. Departures are on Sunday mornings, and continue to 23 September. The plane is a brand-new Flybe Embraer 175, carrying only 88 passengers. Fares start at £199 return, with plenty of availability for next weekend. The baggage allowance is a healthy 23kg, and you can select your seat at no extra charge when booking online (corsica.co.uk).
Bulgari Hotels & Residences opened its newest address in London's Knightsbridge this week with 85 rooms and suites near Hyde Park. As befits an Italian luxury goods retailer, the finish throughout is highly polished. There's wallpaper made of silk, chandeliers cut from Murano glass and bathrooms crafted from Marquina marble.
The restaurant is headed up by chef Robbie Pepin, formerly of Alain Ducasse's Italian restaurant, La Trattoria, in Monaco. It also offers one of the largest luxury spas in central London, with 11 treatment rooms spread over two floors. Doubles start from £500 per night, excluding breakfast (bulgarihotels.com).
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