Travel: From Amsterdam to Zambia: travel 1998

With high culture in Stockholm, low fares across America and a new, tourist-friendly Tripoli, 1998 will see a range of fresh options opening up in the world of travel. Jeremy Atiyah and Simon Calder offer their own A to Z of what's happening, when - and where

A is for Amsterdam... particularly on the weekend of 18 and 19 April when you can tiptoe through Holland's museums for free (or almost free). Over 800 Dutch museums throw their doors open to the public.

B is for Blue Sky... British Airways' new cut-price offshoot, which should start flying in the spring from Stansted. BA picked up the name when it bought British Caledonian (remember them - they never forgot you had a choice); Blue Sky was the name of that airline's tour operating subsidiary.

C is for Culture... when you hear the word you should reach for your credit card and book a flight to Sweden where Stockholm will be the 1998 European Capital of Culture. Until this summer, flying from Britain to Sweden for a low fare was tricky. Then Ryanair solved both problems at once. For pounds 99 plus tax you can fly from the Essex airport to what is euphemistically described as "Stockholm South". A connecting bus covers the 60 miles into town in about 80 minutes, for pounds 11 return.

D is for Duty Free... Another triumph for European federalism; 1998 will be the last full year before the final phasing out of duty free shopping for journeys within the European Union in 1999. For cheap wine and beer you will then have to get off the boat and go into the nearest French hypermarche.

E is for England... a cultural entity that looks set to reappear in the collective hearts and minds of the English as power begins to devolve to Scotland and Wales and the British Tourist Authority starts talking about how to brand the Real England.

F is for Free-wheeling... According to Richard Trillo of the Rough Guides, seeing regions in microcosm - crossing 20 miles a day instead of 200 - will be the hippest way to go in 1998. In other words, bicycling will be big.

G is for Gold Rush... an example of which occurred in California exactly 150 years ago. It was 24 January 1848 that gold was first discovered in Oakland California, a discovery which doomed the entire area to rapid development. 1998 is liable to produce another rush as tourism leaps in to capitalise on the anniversary.

H is for Havana... where there will be celebrations in the Cuban capital on 8 January, commemorating the entrance into Havana of Fidel Castro in 1959 - the event depicted on the one-peso note. As the Revolution moves towards middle age, Dr Castro approaches old age with his economy in tatters (the aforementioned note is officially worth one US dollar, but in practice you get 20 to the dollar).

I is for the Internet... which is going to play an ever larger role in the way we book our holidays. Keep an eye out for sites such as: travel.yahoo.com/destinations (an index through which you can book hotel rooms, flights, rental cars or check on flight times around the world) and www.stratpub.com (one of the proliferating number of travel magazines; this one specialises in getting about cheaply).

J is for Jet Kerosene... the standard aviation fuel (which is remarkably similar to domestic paraffin and for which British Airways won't tell us how much it pays). International agreements mean that it has so far escaped tax but with finance ministers around the world trying to work out how to milk travellers more assiduously, you may encounter fare rises in the year ahead.

K is for Kandy... the hill-top station on the Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka, a country which is celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence on 4 February. For all the efforts of the Tamil Tigers, interest in the island is booming: The travel guidebook publishers Lonely Planet says its book on Sri Lanka is the surprise top seller this winter.

L is for Libya... which is going to be 1998's coolest destination for the Real Traveller. Hard on the heels of Gaddafi's decision to promote tourism, a series of British tour operators are beating a path to the Roman ruins, sand dunes and palm trees that lie between Cairo and Tunis.

M was for Mackinaw City, Michigan... until it abandoned its annual Soap Opera Fanfare, which will now not take place in 1998. Instead, forsake this dowdy Midwest town for nearby Motown; chartbusting Detroit will have you dancing in the streets (so long as the muggers don't get to you first).

N is for Nagano... where the Winter Olympic Games are due to take place in Japan in February. Not only is Japan one of the world's major skiing countries, but it is also one of the few places where you can watch macaque monkeys with frosted faces bathing in hot springs as you ski.

O is for Oporto... in English at least. Top billing goes to Lisbon this year, venue for Expo 98, but Portugal has much more to offer beyond its capital. Enjoy the country's second city, Oporto, a good-natured conurbation devoted to port. All the famous names blend wines and brandies to create a crisp white aperitif for the locals and a rich red digestif for the British.

P is for partying like it's 1999... After next Wednesday, there is only one more opportunity to get your New Year's Eve technique ready for 31 December 1999 (as long as you don't live in Dubai, whose hotels deemed yesterday, 27 December, to be New Year's Eve in order to avoid a clash with Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting).

Q is for, inevitably, Quebec... Avoid the 1998 World Cup in France in June and July by going to the most French place in North America. Quebec City is a charming and confusing entity, quite as quixotic as the most atmospheric French city. Many Americans visit as a cut-price alternative to a trip to Europe. Cottages tumble down the hillside in random ragged ribbons, a street plan thoroughly at odds with the rest of North America. The atmosphere is faux Parisian and the food is divine.

R is for Recycling Destinations... That may sound like industry jargon, but it is also the phrase that Jennifer Cox of Lonely Planet employs to describe the post-modern phenomenon of trendy travellers reclaiming the holiday destinations of their ancestors. Watch out for floods of discerning travellers in the Costa del Sol next year.

S is for Southwest Airlines... the US cut-price carrier that inspired EasyJet and its competitors. An pounds 83 airpass will get you from coast to coast - and the airline gives you four vouchers for free inflight drinks, too.

T is for Thailand... Since the collapse of the Thai currency there is even less reason for anyone not to visit the land of King Prawns and lemon grass, especially given that the locals need tourist revenues more badly than ever. If you still need motivation, read Alex Garland's novel The Beach, dealing with dissipated youth on Thai beaches (due to be made into a film next year as well).

U is for the Underground in London... whose fares rise yet again next Sunday. The capital has the most expensive public transport of any major city. A journey within the central area will cost a minimum of pounds 1.30, which means that for the journey from Covent Garden to Leicester Square the mileage rate will be more than pounds 8 - nine times the rate on Concorde.

V is for vertical integration... whereby Britain's biggest tour operators own chains of High Street travel agencies, as reported on last week by the Monopolies and Merger Commission. Next year - thanks to the report - you will not be forced to buy overpriced travel insurance to qualify for holiday discounts.

W is for the World Cup... which could turn the British middle classes' favourite discreet holiday destination into a maelstrom next June and July. A million or two football supporters (not all of them, thankfully, English) will descend on France in the summer of 1998, causing hotel prices to rise and public transport to jam. Englishmen who dislike their compatriots should particularly avoid La Baule, near Nantes, where the team will prepare, and Toulouse, Marseilles and Lens in mid June.

X is for Xinjiang... the largest place in the world whose name begins with the letter X (shame on you if you cannot place this autonomous region of China which is twice as large as Germany and France combined). Xinjiang may enter the news in 1998 if simmering discontent in the local populations boils over causing the closure of tourist destinations such as Kashgar and Turpan.

Y is for the Yangtze River... another part of China that won't be out of the news next year. As construction work on the monumental Three Gorges Dam project continues, tourists will need to be quick if they want to catch a glimpse of the historic gorges before they are submerged forever.

Z is for Zambia... Last year it was Zimbabwe that featured strongly in predictions of where would be big for the forthcoming year, not least because southern Africa is fast leaving war and political chaos behind it (and not because there are so few places beginning with Z, honest).

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