US DEPARTURES

The Land of the Free frequently lives up to its name for travellers. Almost all of the tourist attractions in Washington DC are free, including two of the most popular: the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian, and the tour of the White House (where the most gawped-at exhibit is the portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis).

Once a year, America's National Parks throw open their gates for free. On 25 August, all entrance fees will be waived at National Parks throughout the US, saving a small fortune for visitors at some of the country's more expensive attractions.

Mixed fortunes for America's musical heartland, the state of Tennessee. American Airlines' daily service from Gatwick to the state capital, Nashville, is being scrapped three months from today because of substantial losses during the year it has been operating. But at the western end of Tennessee, Memphis this week acquired its first transatlantic service - a combined KLM/Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam. Connections are available from numerous UK airports.

Five weeks from today, British Airways will halve its Concorde service to New York. The evening flight is being ended for the summer and will be reintroduced later in the year. From New York, the inbound afternoon flight is also being cut.

Unlimited travel on the railways of America is available using Amtrak's rail passes, from Long Haul Leisurail (01733 335599). A nationwide pass costs pounds 224 for 15 days or pounds 280 for a month. Eastern and Western passes are also available, with the dividing line running between Chicago and New Orleans. A 15-day Eastern pass costs pounds 132, while the more extensive Western counterpart is pounds 168. A fee of pounds 10 applies to each booking.

Greyhound International (01342 317317) has a range of unlimited-travel bus passes. Four days on the road (which would be enough to get you from coast to coast) costs pounds 55, but this pass cannot be used at weekends. A seven-day pass goes for pounds 90, 15 days for pounds 135 and 30 days for pounds 180.

Since Delta and Northwest ended their standby air pass schemes earlier this year, the best-value pass is on Air Ontario (01737 555300), which covers the northeastern United States and also southern Canada; a week of going-as-you-please costs pounds 99.

The high cost of medical care in North America means that some so-called "worldwide" travel insurance policies exclude the US and Canada. The Independent's annual travel insurance policy has no such exclusion, but note that it does not cover business trips.

Details of the policy (pounds 78.50 for individuals, pounds 145 for families) are available from General Accident on 0800 551 881; please quote reference INT557.

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