Something to Declare: Holland in bloom; Dengue fever in Malaysia; Vietnam Airlines; airline charges
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Wednesday 08 February 2012
Destination of the week: Holland in bloom
Tourism to the Netherlands will blossom two months from now when a once-in-a-decade event, the Floriade, opens on 5 April. The World Horticultural Expo (00 31 77 399 8130; floriade.nl) is being held near Venlo, close to the German border, until 7 October 2012. Visitors can wander through gardens and pavilions, and learn about green living. A day ticket, including a one-way ride on the biggest cable car in Holland, costs €30.
Before then, the annual Keukenhof festivities begin on 22 March at the former kitchen garden near Leiden, which claims to be the biggest bulb flower park in the world – and the most photographed place on the planet. The kaleidoscopic array of 4.5 million tulips opens 8am-7.30pm daily until 20 May. The website's "visitor expectation calendar" shows the busiest days will be 21/22 and 28/29 April.
The park is easy to reach on bus 58 (every 15 minutes) from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport . A combined bus/ admission ticket costs €21 if you buy at keukenhof.nl.
Warning of of the week: Dengue fever in Malaysia
In the past two months in Kuala Lumpur, the number of cases of this unpleasant mosquito-borne disease has risen to around 400 per week. "The recent increase is thought to be related to a change in the weather," says the Fit For Travel travel-medicine team at the Scottish NHS. The only way to avoid falling victim to it is to avoid mosquito bites, particularly during daylight. "Wear clothing that covers as much of the body as possible, long sleeves and trousers ... mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spray an insecticide or repellent on them. Insect repellents should also be used on exposed skin."
The official advice warns: "Garlic, Vitamin B and ultrasound devices do not prevent bites."
Bargain of the week: Eastward Ho!
Vietnam Airlines, which has just started non-stop flights from Gatwick to the capital, Hanoi, and the even bigger Ho Chi Minh City, is offering competitive fares to other Asian destinations via its hubs. Through online agencies, such as Opodo. co.uk and Expedia.co.uk, fares from London to Bangkok are around £550 return for some dates in the spring.
Fares to Japan and Australia are also attractively priced. Some connection schedules allow for a day to be spent in the city – though you would need to arrange your visa in advance.
Tip of the week: Airline charges
The startlingly high fees for paying for flights with a debit card are now collated online by the CAA. Visit bit.ly/Airfees and you discover that both Aer Lingus and Ryanair levy a £6 per flight per person surcharge. On Flybe and Bmibaby, this drops to £4.50 and £3.50 respectively. Jet2 levies a 3.6 per cent booking fee (minimum £4.99). Two airlines charge a flat fee per booking: Thomson Airways (£3.95) and easyJet (£9).
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