Caribbean cheapie

A CONTENDER for cheapest Caribbean holiday ever, a week in Antigua for pounds 269, is on sale from Kuoni (0306 742222) during October. Travel is on Thursdays on a Caledonian Airways charter from Gatwick, and the price includes seven nights' room-only accommodation. For pounds 100 more you can go on a British Airways scheduled flight.

If you just want a cheap flight to the Caribbean and can travel before 11 December and stay a minimum of seven days, a BA flight from Gatwick costs pounds 425 (plus pounds 10 air passenger duty from 1 November). The destinations are Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Montego Bay (Jamaica) or St Lucia. Tickets must be bought through Trailfinders (071-937 5400).

Bookings to Cuba are sluggish, in the light of recent political developments; Airtours (0706 260000) is offering seven or 14 days at the resort of Varadero for pounds 299 in October.

Take a Liberte

THE WORLD'S busiest international air route becomes yet more competitive from Monday, when Air Liberte (0345 228899) begins its new service between London and Paris. The French carrier is operating three flights a day between Gatwick and Orly. and is offering an introductory fare of pounds 69 return until 29 October. Business-class return is pounds 192 and includes a Gatwick Express ticket to London.

Virgin Down Under

VIRGIN Atlantic has at last started selling flights to Australia: but you have to change airlines en route. Virgin has teamed up with the Australian carrier Ansett to offer flights to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane via Hong Kong. Agencies such as Travelbag (0420 88724) are offering tickets at pounds 852 - and, if you book today, you save pounds 54 on that price. You can stop over in Hong Kong if you wish, but if not your baggage is checked straight through to Australia.

Early skiing

AS you can see on page 35, the avant-ski season has begun. Ski 3000 (0223 302747) has one of the earliest special offers to two high-altitude French resorts: three-day breaks at Meribel or Val d'Isere for pounds 189, departing from 1 December onwards. The weekend includes flights from Gatwick to Geneva or Lyons and half-board chalet accommodation. A lift pass costs pounds 60, equipment hire is pounds 40, and private lessons are available for pounds 80 for three hours for two skiers.

Free connections

BRITISH Airways is offering free flights within the UK - but you have to book a holiday in America to get one. The new British Airways Holidays brochure promises free flights from 10 regional airports to connect with transatlantic holidays, typically priced at pounds 600 for a week in Washington DC.

Cut-price Malta

MEON Villas (0730 268411) has cut prices for October holidays in Malta and Gozo. A week in a villa with a private pool in Mellieha Bay, Malta, costs pounds 199 including flights from Gatwick. Two weeks in a converted farmhouse in Ghasri, Gozo, is available for pounds 250 per person.

Cottage discounts

BOOK a week or less in advance and save 15 per cent on the price of a cottage. Rural Retreats (0386 701177) is offering this stand-by discount for its cottages around the UK: three nights in the Cotswold town of Broadway costs pounds 293 compared with the usual price of pounds 345.

Coded warning

The Independent Traveller still awaits a new guide book using the updated UK dialling codes. Like the books reviewed last week, the latest batch of Cadogan Guides will be out of date by April, when the old codes are discontinued.

That aside, the new books are a good blend of description, advice and anecdote. On St Kitts, says The Caribbean and the Bahamas ( pounds 14.99), you can tell when the green vervet monkey is angry because it wiggles the white line above its eyebrows furiously. The new Cyprus ( pounds 9.99) recommends beaches on both sides of the Green Line separating the Republic of Cyprus from the self- styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Travel bookshelf

The top 10 best-selling travel guides in August

1 India: a Travel Survival Kit (Lonely Planet, pounds 14.95)

2 The Good Retreat Guide (Random Century, pounds 11.95)

3 South America on a Shoestring (Lonely Planet, pounds 16.95)

4 Morocco: the Rough Guide (Penguin, pounds 9.99)

5 Spain: the Rough Guide (Penguin, pounds 9.99)

6 Indonesia: a Travel Survival Kit (Lonely Planet, pounds 14.95)

7 Paris (Time Out, pounds 8.99)

8 London Market Guide (Metro Publications, pounds 3.99)

9 Tuscany, Umbria and the Marches (Cadogan, pounds 14.99)

10 Travellers Survival Kit: Cuba (Vacation Work, pounds 9.95)

Information supplied by the Travel Bookshop, 13 Blenheim Crescent, London W11 2EE (071-221 5260).