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The Independent Travel
Study the sums behind this week's bargain, and you begin to wonder where the catch is. For pounds 99, Air France will take you from Heathrow to Paris, provide a transfer into the centre, put you up for two nights in the three-star Mercure Hotel (breakfast included) and give you a transport pass and museum card.

We calculate that if you tried to put the same trip together yourself, it would cost at least pounds 50 more.

Travel from Birmingham and you have to pay just pounds 10 more; from Manchester pounds 15; and from Edinburgh, pounds 40. And if you have always wanted to stay at a four-star Meridien hotel, it will cost only pounds 20 extra.

It turns out that there is, indeed, a catch. The number Air France advertises, 0181-742 3443, is so busy that you can never get through. So the airline has briefed staff in its main reservations centre to take bookings on 0181-742 6600. The offer is open for any weekend until the end of March.

True or False

There are quite a few potential hazards lurking in the waters of the Barrier Reef - Queensland Travel Survival Kit

Too true. In February, the Sunshine Coast in southern Queensland is bloody hot. On any given day, you have to contend with rips, runaway surfboards and possibly sharks and box jellyfish.

When I was there a week ago, the beach I went to was closed due to an earlier sighting of these lethal jellyfish. Yet there were a few die-hard surfers out there. Lifeguards wandered along the shore, warning people not to go in the water. But the temptation to join the surfers was almost too much to bear.

I hadn't been near a decent beach since I last visited my home state two years ago. So what were the options? Could I go in, take a risk and hope that the earlier sighting was merely a lone stinger? Should I remain on the beach in the baking heat, or should I just go home? The last was not an option since I'd flown 12,000 miles for this holiday.

So I waited and watched. After half an hour, when no surfers had come screaming in to shore covered in red weals, I bravely (or is it stupidly?) ventured forth. The water was warm, clean and apparently free of jellyfish. They had probably been eaten by the sharks.

Lisa Clark

Trouble spots

Warnings from The World's Most Dangerous Places by Robert Young Pelton and Coskun Aral (Fielding Worldwide, pounds 11.95).

Most dangerous countries for domestic flights: China, North Korea, Colombia, the nations of Central Africa and former Soviet Union.

The highest crime figure at leading US airports is at JFK, New York, where you have one chance in 4,000 of being a victim.

Most dangerous place to be a pedestrian is Lima, Peru, where on average one person dies under the wheels of a bus every day.

Most dangerous month for US road accidents is August (least dangerous is January).

Most dangerous road in Poland (one of Europe's most dangerous countries for road accidents) is the E-30, with more than 100 deaths per year.

Further advice and information from the Foreign Office travel advice service on 0171-270 4129; on BBC2 Ceefax page 564; and on Internet at http://www.fco.gov.uk/

Visitors' Book

Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls

"A brilliant start to our honeymoon" - Mr & Mrs J W Tebay, St Albans.

"Everyone could learn a lot from the staff about manners" - B Jones and J Taylor, Elstree.

"The sandwiches were excellent" - Evelyn Dangua, Victoria Falls.

"Outstanding. Please do not put TVs and radios in the rooms" - Simon and Sharon Ridley, Bulawayo.

"The bats and lizards are scary. Please remove them" - Veronica Contibaly, Washington DC.

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