WORLD DEPARTURES

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The Independent Travel
Bookings for hotels along the track of October's total eclipse are heavy, but Explorers Tours (01753 681999) still has availability near Fatehpur Sikri in northern India. The basic 10-day tour costs pounds 795, and includes flights from London and stays in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Other countries that lie on the path of the eclipse include Iran, Pakistan, Vietnam and the Malaysian portion of Borneo.

Subsequent total eclipses will take place in March 1997 (Mongolia and Siberia), February 1998 (northern South America, notably Cartagena in Colombia) and August 1999 (Cornwall, then tracking across Europe to the Black Sea). In the new millennium, southern Africa will see total eclipses in 2001 and 2002, and Antarctica is the venue in November 2003.

UA1 (westbound) and UA2 (eastbound) are the flight numbers of the first round-the-world air route since the demise of Pan Am's globe-girdling service. United Airlines (0181-990 9900) is launching the service on 14 December, taking travellers on a 360-degree journey from London via Delhi, Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Newark. As with the previous service, you cannot accomplish this in a single aircraft - you have to change three times.

As a means of reaching Hong Kong or Los Angeles, this service is not as fast as rival airlines, but the good news for travellers is that heavily discounted fares are likely to be available from Heathrow to India.

Starting this month, Air India is giving away train tickets. Passengers flying to any of the airline's 10 destinations in its home country can obtain a free first-class or "2AC class" ticket to anywhere within 12 hours of the arrival city. Air India can be contacted on 01753 684828, but an excellent source of discounted tickets on the airline is Welcome Travel (0171-439 3627).

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