The Foreign Office (FCO) is launching a new campaign encouraging young British travellers to “stick with your mates” while on holiday.The advice follows research from the FCO that found 16 to 30-year-olds made up the majority of victims of crime and the largest proportion of arrests and detentions abroad in 2018. Although most young holidaymakers now say they are more interested in relaxing with friends and experiencing different cultures than partying while abroad, intentions do not always match up to reality.Surveying more than 3,000 16 to 24-year-olds from all across the UK, the FCO found that 72 per cent would walk home alone, 71 per cent admit to drinking to excess and 43 per cent would leave friends to go off with someone they don’t know.Respondents named personal safety, getting split up from friends and the safety of their belongings as their biggest worries when travelling (41 per cent, 21 per cent and 21 per cent respectively).“Moving from holidaying with family members to going abroad with friends, girlfriends or boyfriends, is a big change, especially if it’s for the first time,” says Julia Longbottom, director of Consular Services at the FCO. “It’s a watershed moment that can leave some young people vulnerable to accidents or crime. “It’s also a good time to start practising holiday habits that will set them up for a lifetime of trouble-free trips.“Simple actions like sticking with friends during a trip, looking out for each other and checking Travel Advice ahead of going abroad can make all the difference when it comes to avoiding trouble.” FCO checklist for young travellersStick together: keep an eye out to make sure no one in your group gets separated from people they know and ends up alone as this can put them at risk.Use tech: set up a WhatsApp or messenger group so you can easily keep track of where everyone is and let your friends know you’re OK.Check in: “checking in” to your accommodation within a private group chat with your fellow holiday friends, for example on WhatsApp or a Facebook group, can help you find where you’re staying if you get lost or separated from your group.Agree a meeting point: agree where you’ll gather if you get split up and head straight there if you can’t find your friends.Look after each other’s drinks: keep track of how much you’re drinking and avoid drink spiking by not leaving drinks unattended.
The good news: Sin City notoriously has a lot of hotel rooms, which keeps prices low – and they’re usually subsidised by the casinos, which pushes them even lower. The bad: every hotel has a daily, non-negotiable resort fee (usually including things like wifi and gym access) which can sometimes equal or be more than the cost of your room.Back to the good. There’s no high season in Vegas, as such, although summer prices tend to be low because of the blistering heat. Weekends are when the city fills up, meaning astonishingly low prices can be found between Sunday and Thursday. Major conferences also push prices up, so always shop around with dates.Vegas hotels used to be cheap(ish) but grim, but the past 10 years have seen them do a 180 and you’ll no longer find a bad room here. Here are 10 of the best. Best for luxury: BellagioVegas wouldn’t be Vegas without the dancing fountains of Bellagio. Inside, things are just as swanky – there’s a grand conservatory in the marble-and-gold lobby, which houses spectacular seasonal displays, the in-house entertainment is provided by Cirque du Soleil (the show here, O, is considered one of the best), and one of the restaurants is called Picasso because it has real Picassos on the wall. There’s also an art gallery with old masters in it just off the classical statue-flanked pool.The rooms live up to the rest of it, with a silvery-blue palette, neat floral bathrooms and great views. The Strip View rooms have side views of the fountains, but it’s worth upgrading to a Fountain View room, where you’re directly in front of the show. Doubles from $152 (£120) plus $44 (£35) resort fee, room only bellagio.mgmresorts.com Best for exclusivity: Nobu Hotel at Caesars PalaceOne of the hotels-within-hotels that Vegas does very well is the Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace, where the rooms are a cut above the generic Caesars Palace ones. Nobu Matsuhisa worked with David Rockwell on the Japanese-inspired design – think calligraphy-like swatches behind the bed and towels hung on wooden ladders propped up against the black-tiled bathroom walls. The separate entrance to the hotel – round the back of the Caesars casino – gives an air of exclusivity, as does the in-room check in. Everything in the rooms, from the art to the contents of the minibar, has been chosen by Nobu himself, and the 24-hour room service is provided by the largest Nobu restaurant in the world downstairs. Doubles from $186 (£146) plus $35 (£28) resort fee, room only caesars.com/nobu-caesars-palace Best for grown-ups: Park MGMWhat was once the Montecarlo was reborn as this huge development, including an Eataly food mall and the T Mobile arena out the back. There’s a boutique feel to the rooms, with their mismatched art behind the bed, dabs of bottle green and claret on the walls, and tiled bathrooms – this is confident, not over the top. With Eataly’s food stalls, this is an excellent bet if you’re not wanting to go all-out on dining, and it’s in a decent location, on the southern side of CityCenter, about a 15-minute walk from the Bellagio. Stay Well rooms include memory foam mattresses, air purifiers and window seats – they’re worth a punt.Doubles from $71 (£56) plus $37 (£29) resort fee, room only parkmgm.com Best for a budget experience: SLSWhat was the old Ratpack favourite, the Sahara, was redone as the SLS in 2014. While it has struggled to find its feet, largely because of its north Strip location (you’ll need to get a taxi to the action), it’s a superb hotel, especially for non-natural Vegas lovers. Rooms were designed by Philippe Starck – the entry-level Story tower has a boutique feel, while the World tower bleeds candy pinks, whites and black walls down into the carpet. The Grand tower, however, is the one to go for, with a Versailles feel to the deliciously outré rooms – chandeliers, white chaise longues and Marie Antoinette-inspired wall hangings.The casino has been downsized to accommodate restaurants, several of which are outposts of LA favourites, including Bazaar Meat by José Andrés and Umami Burger. Plus there’s a retro feel with photos of its golden age printed into the casino carpet. A thoroughly different offering, and all the better for it. Doubles from $82 (£64) plus $38 (£30) resort fee, room only slslasvegas.com Best for a boutique experience: The CromwellWhat used to be the divey Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall was reborn in 2014 as The Cromwell, a relatively tiny hotel with "just" 188 rooms. It claims to be UK-themed, although the Italian-style damask walls and chandeliers aren’t quite as English as the Chesterfield sofas and coffee tables styled as backgammon boards. This is proudly not your average casino hotel.Drai’s, the famous late-night bar at Bill’s, has now doubled in size with a rooftop day-and-nightclub and a basement late night lounge, while the restaurant (unusually, there’s only one) is GIADA, run by US TV chef Giada de Laurentiis. Doubles from $94 (£74) plus $37 (£29) resort fee, room only thecromwell.com Most iconic: ParisBook a Strip-view room at Paris and you’ll be looking past the Eiffel Tower to the Bellagio fountains. This is one of the most ridiculous casinos on the Strip, and all the better for it – the toilets croon to you in French, the faux-cobbled public areas look more Les Mis than Las Vegas, and the Eiffel Tower erupts from the middle of the casino floor. Rooms are newly renovated with burgundy-patterned curtains and contrasting carpets. Spring for an Eiffel Tower view for superb views.Doubles from $50 (£39), plus $37 (£29) resort fee, room only caesars.com/paris-las-vegas Best for size: Red RockTwenty minutes from the Strip in suburb Summerlin, this hotel is where locals come for a staycation. Red Rock – which takes its name from Red Rock Canyon, a former national park, which it overlooks – swaggers over 70 acres of land. The location means you’ll get more bang for your buck – some of the largest rooms in Vegas (which can overlook the Strip or Red Rock’s sandstone cliffs), a vast pool area and excellent spa.The casino has natural light – unheard of in Vegas – plus onyx walls. If you’re less bothered about your Instagram feed and more keen on value for money, this is a great choice. Doubles from $189 (£149), plus $44 (£35) resort fee), room only redrock.sclv.com Best for kitsch: FlamingoBugsy Siegel single-handedly kicked off Vegas as we know it when he opened the Flamingo in 1946. Before that, the action was in Downtown Las Vegas; but the action quickly moved to the desert-set Flamingo and the Strip came into being. Today, it’s been eclipsed by its newer, more luxury neighbours – which is why its rooms are some of the best value in town. All have been renovated within the last 10 years and have a fun, tropical feel, with a hot pink palette and plenty of candy stripes (get a Strip view room for brilliant views of the action). The 15-acre tropical pool area is another high point – especially since there are real flamingos wandering around.Doubles from $28 (£22) plus $35 (£28) resort fee, room only caesars.com/flamingo-las-vegas Best for reluctant Las Vegans: VdaraIf you want to be in Vegas without being overwhelmed by Vegas, this all-suite, non-gambling hotel is the one for you. It’s in the centre of the action – in MGM’s swanky CityCenter development – but is set back from the Strip.Not just physically, either – the apartment-style suites are non-smoking, huge in size and filled with high tech accoutrements, deep bathtubs and pillow-top mattresses. All have great views of the Strip or the desert, and some have kitchenettes. Doubles from $99 (£78) plus $39 (£31) resort fee, room only vdara.com Best for sophistication: NoMadThis hotel-within-a-hotel sits inside the already sophisticated Park MGM. A sibling to the seriously chic New York and Los Angeles NoMads, its rooms are designed by Jacques Garcia, with features including in-room bathtubs and chic French-style artwork. The restaurant and bar – dark and sexy, with scarlet Chesterfield sofas under low lighting – are overseen by award-winners Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, and there’s a Moroccan-inspired pool.Doubles from $152 (£120) plus $37 (£29) resort fee, room only thenomadhotel.com
Compared with beautiful decaying Havana, 500 years old this year, the skyscrapers and freeways of Miami, the capital of the Cuban diaspora, seem ever more upstart and Dubai-like. But the common history of Cuba and Miami is a lot older, though you have to search for evidence of it through the vast grid of the Florida metropolis. And constantly evolving Latin Miami is about more than just Cubans. A good symbolic starting point for exploration is the Freedom Tower on Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard. This 1920s Mediterranean Revival tower block, modelled on Seville’s Giralda, was originally built as offices for the Miami News but is now a museum. Dominating the mezzanine is a magnificent mural depicting the arrival on the Florida coast of the Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon in 1513 on his way to conquests in the Caribbean, of which Cuba became the jewel. The Freedom tower got its nickname in the 1960s when it became a reception centre for the flood of refugees from the Cuban revolution. And it’s still functioning as a beacon for refugees today: the black and white tiled forecourt is the scene of demonstrations in support of Venezuelans fleeing the penury created by the late president Hugo Chavez, the Castro of Caracas. But Cubans, who make up more than half the city’s population, are still the leaders of Miami’s rich mix; and 10 miles of straight, flat bitumen of Calle Ocho, their funky, dishevelled version of Oxford Street, is constantly evolving. New generations take over weather-beaten old classics like the Yissell Bakery or the Palacio de Frutas, and new cafes continue to pop up, most recently La Colada Gourmet, run by an ex lawyer from Havana and his wife, a flight attendant for Cubana airlines.Halfway up 8th Street, the Versailles restaurant, a riot of mock 18th-century masonry, 1960s Louis 14th formica, chandeliers and mirrors, is untouchable as a Cuban icon – it’s the place TV crews go for vox pops on events in Havana. Felipe Valls, son of the founder, reckons Cubans introduced fine dining to Miami though his empire, which includes the Cuban country café chain La Carreta. The latest addition will shortly be a new 125-room hotel adjoining Versailles, a smart bit of gentrification for an area whose accommodation still consists mainly of dowdy single storey motels. The other big Latino hotel news comes from the glitter and hedonism out on Miami’s South Beach. Last month hailed the reopening of the Cardozo Hotel, a 1940s late-Deco building on Ocean Drive, the property of another major dynasty: the Estefans. Singer Gloria and husband and producer Emilio also own a string of restaurants, notably Lario’s, just down the beachfront promenade from the Cardozo, and two years ago pushed the boundaries of upmarket Cuban catering into the smart new Miami Design District. Their gleaming white Estefan Kitchen rubs shoulders with equally gleaming white marble Dior and Valentino shops in a palm-filled mall atrium.Lario’s on the Beach is more atmospheric and, with age, has even taken on some of the local canteen patina of the older generation Cuban outposts, like the venerable Puerto Sagua, which still caters to the last of the impecunious old Jewish pensioners who once dominated Miami Beach. Last time I was in Lario’s, a couple of patrolling policemen popped in for a shot of strong Cuban cafecito at the bar, while a recently arrived barman from Havana made me a textbook chocolate daiquiri – essentially a rejig of the great old mulata cocktail almost extinct in Cuba itself.The Lario’s story has added a new chapter recently. The original Larios, a now octogenarian couple named Quintin and Maria Teresa from Camaguey, can be found back manning the stoves of a little family restaurant called La Fragua where they first started out before the Estafan partnership. They’re still serving their textbook ropa vieja and vaca frita. South east, the smart district of Coral Gables has its own special Cuban flavour. The flagship restaurant here is Havana Harry’s, where big family groups queue throughout the weekends, while a handful of 1920s hotels still survive on Miracle Mile. Above all there’s the Biltmore, a vast, towered and turreted colossus with mock baronial lobbies and terraces overlooking manicured tropical golf links, which is strongly reminiscent of Havana’s Hotel Nacional. And though originally created by the Wasp plutocracy, the Biltmore is now thoroughly Latinised, with gaudily clad wedding parties quaffing daiquiris and dancing to salsa and reggaeton. When it comes to Latin music, nowadays the whole of Greater Miami is your oyster, from the smart jazz and classical collaborations featuring visiting Cuban artists like Danay Suarez and Dayramir Gonzalez at the Goldman Warehouse, to semi-underground dissident rap gigs out in the suburbs featuring performers like El Sexto and Silvito el Libre. Calle Ocho is still pretty good for old school salsa in clubs like Hoy Como Ayer, and the annual Calle Ocho Festival, a ribald, three-mile jumble of food, commerce and music, is a terrific tutorial in the changing relations between Miami and Havana. A couple of years ago I saw on one stage the grizzled salsa veteran Willie Chirino, whose song about Fidel Castro, "Requiem for a Tyrant", is still a hymn to hardline anti-Castrists; 50 yards further down the street were Kola Loka, the dynamic young reggaeton stars from Santiago de Cuba. Cuban Miami isn’t only eating, drinking and dancing. At the southern end of Coral Gables, the two-year-old Museum of the Cuban Diaspora stages excellent exhibitions on all aspects of Cuban life, ranging from the searing politically charged canvasses of dissident painter Luis Azaceta, to the life and costumes of Celia Cruz, the equally dissident late queen of salsa. From the roof terrace of the Diaspora Museum you can almost see another historical link with Cuba. Overlooking the sparkling waters of Biscayne Bay, Miami City Hall occupies a low, white, Art Deco building on Dinner Quay harbour, once the Pan Am Clipper seaplane base. From here, propeller driven Sikorsky flying boats would drone off laden with wealthy pleasure seekers bound for the casinos and cabarets of Havana in the 1940s. Although scheduled air links with Cuba recently resumed after a 50-year hiatus, it’s uncertain what the future holds for the countries’ stormy relationship; on 5 June, President Trump’s officials announced that cruises from the US to Cuba had been banned as part of new travel restrictions. The move was an attack on Cuba’s communist regime and will “keep US dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services“, according to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The most popular category of trip, known as “people-to-people” – whereby any American can legally travel to Cuba, provided they engage in a full-time schedule of activities as part of an organised group trip – is also now prohibited.But whatever the outcome, one thing’s for sure – Miami’s Cuban influence is here to stay. Travel essentials Getting thereAmerican Airlines flies daily from London Heathrow to Miami from £315. Staying thereThe Marriott group has almost 40 hotels from economy to luxury throughout Miami. The Biltmore Hotel offers doubles from £163, room only. More informationmiamiandbeaches.com
Rarely has a city captured the imagination quite like Charleston, a port town set on a peninsula in the low-lying South Carolina flatlands. There’s plenty to love about this idyll in the American South (it’s regularly described as America’s favourite city). From wandering through the birthday cake-coloured historic downtown streets; to swaying gently on a rocking chair on a porch of an old clapboard house; to exploring layers of history and its pencil-thin church spires: this is a place that encourages a second look. Uniquely for America, the heart of the historic downtown core is entirely walkable... if you don’t want to clop about on a traditional horse and carriage ride, that is. And the beach is just a 20-minute drive.In spring 2019, British Airways launched twice-weekly direct flights to the South Carolinan city, departing on Thursday afternoon and returning Monday morning, offering the intoxicating opportunity for a weekend break. What to do See the pineapple fountainA sweet, if rather odd, icon of Charleston is the pineapple fountain frothing in the Waterfront Park. In the hot summer months, it’s also a good place to cool off, and local kids enjoying splashing about in it. The pineapple is the defacto icon of Charleston: it’s believed that on one of his voyages to America, Christopher Columbus discovered the fruit and brought it back to Europe. Wander Rainbow RowGround zero of Charleston’s cutesy Historic District, which stretches down to oak tree-shaded White Point Park, is the pastel row of houses that make up Rainbow Row on East Bay Street. A stretch of 13 fondant fancy-coloured townhouses, the longest stretch of Georgian houses in America, line up prettily with white shutters and historic plaques. Just follow the gaggle of Instagrammers taking selfies. Visit the Old Slave Mart MuseumThis city, like many in the American South, has a complicated relationship with slavery. This history is examined to some degree at the Old Slave Mart Museum on Chalmers Street in the Historic District. It’s built on the site of the former slave mart, believed to be the last slave auction facility in the state. Open Monday to Saturday, 9am-5pm; entry US$8. Snoop around a historic houseThe Historic Charleston Foundation maintains a number of historic houses in downtown Charleston. There are plenty to choose from, but perhaps the grandest are the Nathaniel Russell house, the Georgian double-style Heywood-Washington house and the buttermilk yellow Aikens Rhett mansion, where governor of South Carolina William Aitken Jr once lived. Explore the LowcountryThe Lowcountry – the coastal, marshy lands that stretch from South Carolina into Georgia further south – is picture-perfect with dripping Spanish moss, forests of oak trees and heat like an electric blanket.Palmetto Bluff, two hours’ drive south from Charleston towards Savannah, Georgia, is set in the midst of this marshland and home to the upscale resort of Montage Palmetto Bluff, where alligators prowl the waters and “porching” is a local sport. Rooms from $405 a night, B&B. Trot around town in a horse-drawn carriageThe quintessential Charleston thing to do is to be pulled around the shaded historic streets in a traditional horse-drawn carriage. In an hour-long narrated tour, carriages set off from Anson Street and go on a random route chosen by a bingo ball. Tours cost $25pp. Where to stayThe Dewberry, a dowdy former federal building from the outside, is a whirr of mid-century flair inside: think burgundy leather banquettes and armchairs, period features and a giant metal-worked map of South Carolina on the wall. There’s a boutique outpost of beloved Southern magazine Garden & Gun on the ground floor and Henrietta’s brasserie serves reimagined Lowcountry cuisine. Rooms from $246, room-only.Hotel Bennett, which calls itself the South’s “grandest hotel”, has a far more luxe vibe with a grand lobby and bowls of tightly packed flowers. If you’re not staying, come for a coupe at the baby-pink champagne bar. Rooms from $314, room only. Where to eatSlightly North of Broad (or Snob for short) does a decent line in fun Southern cuisine on the well-trodden East Bay Street in the Historic District. The shrimp and grits, a quintessential Southern dish, comes with giant prawns and creamy local grits (a sort of minced corn) packed with plenty of flavour. Brunch is popular, so book ahead.Henrietta’s, on the ground floor of the Dewberry, is an upscale French-American brasserie ideal for a smart-casual dinner or weekend brunch. Belly-busting options include cheddar biscuits or buttermilk fried chicken and waffles.Be prepared to queue for the fresh-fresh-fresh seafood at 167 Raw, which is first come, first served. Oysters, clams, shrimps and lobster rolls are very much the order of the day here. Where to drinkEight floors above the Dewberry is playful cocktail lounge Citrus Club, serving look-at-me concoctions such as the frozen pina colada and the Polynesian pearl diver. You can only get up here either by being a guest of the hotel or by booking in advance. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 2-10pm.In a secret space just off East Bay Street is the dark speakeasy Gin Joint, which sorts its cocktails into categories such as “strong and stirred” and “not for the faint at heart”. Bar snacks include a cheese selection and roasted bone marrow. Between 5-7pm daily, cocktails are just $5. Open Monday to Wednesday 5pm-12am; Thursday 3pm-12am; Friday to Saturday 3pm-2am; Sunday 3pm-12am. Blue clapboard-fronted Second State Coffee is the place to sit among Charleston’s movers and shakers while propping up a heart pine wood table sipping a cold brew. Open Monday to Friday, 7am-7pm; Saturday to Sunday, 8am-6pm. Where to shopCrossing four blocks in the Historic Quarter is the fan-cooled Charleston City Market, which first opened in 1804. Today it sells trinkets such as local art, ceramics, coffee and clothing – if you need a souvenir, this place is the first place to look.Every Saturday morning, Marion Square hosts a farmers’ market selling food and local art.King Street is one of Charleston’s main spines and home to big American brands including Madewell, Sephora and Anthropologie. Architectural highlightThere’s a riot of architectural styles in Charleston, ranging from Art Deco and Queen Anne to Italianate and Gothic Revival, but the one defining style is the “single house”, which are all over the Historic Quarter, usually hiding under a the shade of an oak tree. They are narrow, single-room houses that date back to the 1800s. Nuts and bolts What currency do I need?US dollars. What language do they speak?English. Should I tip?There is a strong tipping culture, where 20 per cent on top of any restaurant or bar bill is expected. It might occasionally be added on already, in which case you only need to add extra if you were particularly impressed with the service. What’s the time difference?Four hours behind GMT. What’s the average flight time from the UK?British Airways runs a twice-weekly direct service from London Heathrow to Charleston, which takes nine hours. Fares start from £500 return. Public transportRide-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are your best bet. Best viewCharleston isn’t a tall city (if you discount the church spires, of which there are hundreds) so from Citrus Club atop the Dewberry Hotel, there are 360 degree views across the city and the impressive Arthur Ravenel Jr cable-stayed bridge to the beaches beyond. Insider tipDolphins ply the waters just outside Charleston. Regular boat tours depart from the harbour, and while you’re not guaranteed to see them, there’s a high chance you will.
A new breed of quiet supersonic jets could substantially cut flight times, enabling travellers to go from London-Tokyo in just over seven hours instead of 11 and a half.The Quiet Supersonic Technology Airliner, designed by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, would travel at speeds of Mach 1.8 (2,223kph) but without the loud “sonic boom” that’s usually created when an aircraft outstrips the speed of sound.This means that, unlike its supersonic predecessors, the jet would be able to operate overland routes – Concorde was prevented from doing so due to the sonic boom.While the aircraft is still at the concept stage, it is building on the design of the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane, created in conjunction with Nasa. When this model reaches the speed of sound, the design results in a noise that is, at ground-level, similar to the slamming of a car door.The QSTA would be a commercial jet capable of carrying 40 passengers in a single aisle formation and flying up to 5,200 nautical miles. This means New York-London, Tokyo-Los Angeles, London-Beijing and Tokyo-Sydney routes would all be possible.Flying London-Tokyo, the QSTA could trim four hours and 30 minutes off the current flight time of 11 hours and 35 minutes, taking just over seven hours.The new design was unveiled at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conference in Dallas, where Mike Buonanno, an LM aerospace engineer, told CNN Travel: “Right now, we’ve only done early conceptual design studies to establish that the design is feasible, do sizing for the concept, how big it should be, how much it should weigh... Those early sensitivity studies to make sure it all makes sense.”The twin-engine jet design features an extended sharp nose that helps send the shockwaves along the aircraft minus the deafening bang that characterised Concorde’s breaking of the sound barrier.
Despite the slump in sterling relative to the dollar, America is way ahead of other long-haul destinations in terms of bookings for summer 2019.Data from Travelport shows that an average of almost 4,400 people a day will fly between the UK and the US from 28 June to 8 September.The travel commerce platform analysed return trip bookings made through global distribution systems for destinations six hours or more from the UK. Only direct flights were counted.The US will see more visitors from the UK that the next four long-haul destinations combined.The next highest destination, India, will see a daily average of 1,220.The UAE, predominantly Dubai, gets 1,080 daily passengers.Given that the aviation capacity between the UK and the UAE, which is roughly 10,000 per day, this shows that most travellers are planning to transfer immediately to destinations beyond the extreme heat of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The only other country to break the thousand-travellers-a-day barrier is Canada, with 1,060.Additional bookings will have been made directly with airlines.Further down the list are Pakistan (870 passengers a day), which is principally British travellers with Pakistani heritage.Thailand (670) is ahead of China and South Africa, which are effectively tied on 410 per day.China has seen 13 per cent growth year-on-year. Paul Broughton, Travelport’s managing director for Northern Europe, said: “It was interesting to see China become a top ten long-haul summer destination for UK travellers this year, having sat just outside in 11th place last year.”Seven per cent more bookings have been made for South Africa.Australia, like South Africa, is principally a winter destination, but still features as the destination for 380 daily departures.In 10th place is Bangladesh with 340 bookings a day.
Eight of the 10 most expensive cities to live in are in Asia, according to a new report.For the second consecutive year, Hong Kong is the world’s priciest city for expats, followed by Toyko, Singapore and Seoul.The Mercer 2019 Cost of Living Survey ranked more than 500 cities across the world on the cost of more than 200 items including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.Zurich was the only European entrant in the top 10, coming in in fifth place, while Shanghai came sixth and Ashgabat in Turkmenistan came seventh.Beijing, New York and Shenzhen, just across the border into China from Hong Kong, were ranked the eighth, ninth and 10th priciest cities to live in respectively.At the other end of the spectrum were Tunis, Tunisia; Tashkent in Uzbekistan; and Pakistan’s capital Karachi at places 209, 208 and 207 respectively.According to the 2019 ranking, UK cities have got slightly more affordable since last year. London dropped four places to 23, Birmingham fell seven places to 135 and Aberdeen, in at 137th, fell three places.The only exception was Glasgow, where increases in the cost of living pushed it up three places to 145.“UK cities’ fall in this year’s ranking is mainly due to a strengthening of the US dollar against the pound,” said Kate Fitzpatrick, global mobility practice leader for UK & Ireland at Mercer.“Price inflation remains low, keeping any increases in the cost of living to a minimum for expatriates and locals alike.“When considered alongside consistently high positions in our affiliated Quality of Living ranking, these findings indicate that the UK remains an attractive destination for organisations looking to relocate personnel to international business and financial centres, in spite of well-publicised macro headwinds, including Brexit.” World’s most expensive cities to live in1\. Hong Kong SAR, China2\. Tokyo, Japan3\. Singapore, Singapore4\. Seoul, South Korea5\. Zurich, Switzerland6\. Shanghai, China7\. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan8\. Beijing, China9\. New York, US10\. Shenzhen, China
Airbnb has announced the launch of Airbnb Luxe, a new luxury platform with more than 2,000 hand-picked properties around the world, including a $1m private island.The accommodation platform selected homes that meet strict criteria, including superior design, high-quality fixtures and furnishings and chef-level kitchen appliances.Guests will also get a dedicated “trip designer”, who will be on hand to ensure an effortless check-in, coordinate local bespoke experiences and activities and arrange services from childcare and private chefs to in-house massage therapists and personal trainers.Stand-out homes include The Fleming Villa in Jamaica, where Ian Fleming wrote the Bond novels; and Nukutepipi, a private island in French Polynesia with its own self-declared time zone that’s curated by Guy Laliberte, founder of Cirque du Soleil and Lune Rouge.Mind you, they don’t come cheap: the five-bedroom Jamaican property starts from £3,500 a night, while staying on your own private atoll costs a minimum of £115,000 a night, or £805,000 for a week (although it does house a whopping 52 guests).The move has been prompted by the huge growth in luxury travel – according to the brand, the number of Airbnb bookings for listings worth at least $1,000 per night increased by more than 60 per cent last year.“Today’s luxury traveller is craving more than just high-end accommodations; they seek transformation and experiences that leave them feeling more connected to each other and to their destination,” said Brian Chesky, Airbnb co-founder. “With Airbnb Luxe we are applying the same approach we’ve used since we launched Airbnb more than 11 years ago – creating local, authentic and magical travel moments now in amazing places to stay – to reimagine the way people think and experience luxury travel.”The launch builds on Airbnb Plus, which launched in 2018 as a booking platform for “everyday Airbnb guests looking for beautiful homes, exceptional hosts and added peace of mind knowing homes are quality inspected and verified in person for cleanliness, comfort and design”.The brand says the two new products bring world domination within its grasp: “We are closer to meeting the needs of every traveller at every price point,” Airbnb said in a statement.
Blackpool and the Fylde peninsula will be better connected by rail from spring 2020 as the number of direct trains each day will more than double.The “open-access” operator Grand Central will run five trains a day each way between London Euston and Lancashire’s premier resort.The services will use the West Coast main line, calling at Milton Keynes Central and Nuneaton en route to Preston.The train will then serve Kirkham & Wesham and Poulton-le-Fylde before terminating at Blackpool North. The full journey will take just over three hours.At present there are four direct Virgin Trains between London and Blackpool North, taking as little as 2h 44m.As with its services on the East Coast main line, Grand Central aims to bring lower fares – especially at peak times, when a one-way Anytime ticket costs £180 between London and Blackpool.The stop in Preston will also appeal to budget-minded travellers who are prepared to take 20 or 30 minutes longer than the current journey. The Anytime fare from London is just 50p cheaper than to Blackpool.Grand Central is part of Arriva, itself a subsidiary of the German rail giant, Deutsche Bahn.The original application from Arriva envisaged a new operator, Great North Western Railway. But the service have been transferred to the established operator, and sister Arriva company, Grand Central.Richard McClean, managing director of Grand Central, said: “We will bring our operational expertise and industry-leading customer service to this new route, offering more choice for existing rail users and new opportunities for people to travel by train.“For more than a decade, we have been dedicated to making travel affordable and enjoyable for people in the North East and across Yorkshire. This new chapter opens up these opportunities to the other side of the Pennines.”The incumbent operator, Virgin Trains, has been disqualified from continuing its West Coast franchise beyond early 2020.The Department for Transport (DfT) said the train operator “decided to repeatedly ignore established rules by rejecting the commercial terms on offer”.But Patrick McCall, senior partner at Virgin Group, said:“The DfT has ignored this track record and instead focused on which bidder is reckless enough to take on various unquantifiable risks, such as pensions.”Virgin Trains is taking legal action against the decision. Meanwhile it has applied for permission to run open-access services between London and Liverpool.
A three-year-old girl from Chester was selected for involuntary offloading from an easyJet flight after the airline overbooked it.Chloe Meacock had been with her family on a Thomas Cook package holiday to Mallorca. Chloe and her 18-month-old sister Charlotte had been on holiday with their parents, Claire Quick and Chris Meacock. The trip included flights on easyJet.Thomas Cook advised them to check in ahead of reaching the Palma airport before the flight home to Liverpool, but the family were unable to do so.Ms Quick said: “When we got to the airport they told us that because we hadn’t checked in online they had re-sold Chloe’s seat and that she might not fly.“Then the check-in manager rejigged things so that it was my husband who was overbooked.”Once everyone else had been boarded there was a seat empty and Mr Meacock was finally allowed on the plane.But before the flight could depart, another check-in problem had to be solved.While Ms Quick and her baby were allocated seats at the rear of the plane, three-year-old Chloe was assigned a seat on her own at the front. As Civil Aviation Authority rules require, easyJet cabin crew had to move other passengers so the family could sit together.The holiday paperwork seen by The Independent makes it clear that three-year-old Chloe is a child.As a scheduled airline, easyJet is free to sell more tickets than there are seats available on the plane. Many airlines practise overbooking, but European air passengers’ rights rules require them to seek volunteers before selecting people to offload against their will.The Independent has asked easyJet for a response.When tour operators such as Thomas Cook sell packages with “third-party” airlines doing the flying, there is usually an understanding that their customers will not be involuntarily denied boarding due to overbooking.A spokesperson for Thomas Cook said: “We are very sorry that Mrs Quick and her family experienced this issue on their return flight and have asked easyJet to look into what happened.”
A plane hit a jet bridge at Nice Airport, resulting in a number of delays.A Kuwait Airways Boeing 777 hit a boarding bridge at the South of France airport at around 6pm last night.All passengers and crew were reported to have been safely evacuated from the aircraft and there were no injuries.Video footage shows the left wing of the aircraft crunched into the structure.According to the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), the incident occurred when a member of ground personnel “committed a mistake in guiding the plane to its parking slot".It's understood that the airline cancelled the return leg of the service and alternative arrangements were made for affected passengers.The national carrier said that wing repairs were underway in order for the aircraft to return to Kuwait as soon as possible.The Independent has approached Kuwait Airways for comment.
Boeing has been storing some of its undelivered 737 Max jets in an employee car park.The beleaguered planemaker said the move was part of its “inventory-management plan”, according to Business Insider.Footage taken by Seattle news station KING-TV shows a number of Tui aircraft parked alongside cars at the company’s Renton facility in Washington, US.“We are using resources across the Boeing enterprise during the pause in 737 Max deliveries, including our facilities in Puget Sound, Boeing San Antonio and at Moses Lake,” said a Boeing spokesperson.All Boeing 737 Max planes have been grounded since March 2019, after a software glitch was implicated in two fatal crashes.In October 2018, Lion Air flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea 12 minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 passengers and crew.Just four months later, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed near the town of Bishoftu six minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 people aboard.It is thought that both crashes were partly caused by the same software problem: the 737 Max’s new Manoeuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), an anti-stall system.Boeing is currently waiting for approval on the software upgrade to stop the problem happening again. As a result, airlines are not taking delivery of their 737 Max orders until the problem has been unequivocally rectified, leading to storage issues for Boeing.Boeing said in April that the 737 Max crisis had already cost it $1bn.
Aberdeen International airport recently became the first UK airport to employ a team of therapy dogs to work their animal magic on nervous passengers. And whether it’s indoor waterfalls or microbreweries, airport amenities have never been more diverse. Here are nine unexpected (but very cool) things to look out for on your next layover.... A pig (San Francisco International airport, US)Not a dog person? How about a tutu-wearing pig? Lilou is a member of San Francisco airport’s Wag Brigade – an army of trained therapy animals tasked with sniffing out and reassuring stressed travellers. Lilou, who became the world’s first airport therapy pig in 2016, isn’t just partial to a tutu: her wardrobe includes a pilot’s hat and a rather fetching vest adorned with the words “pet me!” If you insist..... A vegetable garden (Chicago O’Hare International airport, US)This isn’t your average vegetable garden – it’s the world’s first airport-based aeroponic (soil-free) garden. Plants are grown in 1,100 nooks on the sides of 26 towers, and are fed via a nutrient-rich mist. Produce – including Swiss chard, purple basil, peppers, edible flowers and beans – is used by the airport’s restaurants, and dedicated viewing areas allow travellers to learn more about the garden. Another perk of long layovers at this particular airport? The art collection. Thanks to a collaboration with Chicago’s Public Art Program, the terminals have a huge collection of sculptures, murals and light installations, such as Michael Hayden’s The Sky’s the Limit, which consists of 466 neon tubes. Find it airside in Terminal 1. A 114,000-litre aquarium (Vancouver International airport, Canada)You’ll find 20,000 marine plants and animals inside the aquarium at this airport’s international terminal. Some of the weirdest species to look out for include wolf eels, China rockfish, armoured sea cucumbers and giant green anemones, and there’s also a dedicated jellyfish aquarium on the terminal’s third floor. Equally impressive is the hub’s collection of art, which includes several pieces by British Columbia’s First Nations artists. The world’s tallest indoor waterfall (Changi airport, Singapore)The 40-metre-Rain Vortex waterfall is the latest addition to Changi’s staggering list of amenities, which includes a cactus garden, butterfly garden, rooftop pool and (our favourite) a tube slide connecting the first floor of Terminal 3 with the basement level. The aforementioned Singaporean waterfall can be found inside the recently-unveiled Jewel complex, which is connected to terminals 1, 2 and 3. Highlights of Jewel include 280 retail and food outlets, the world’s first standalone Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts restaurant, a cinema and a four-storey rainforest. Art (Nashville International airport, US)A growing number of airports now have huge art collections, and Nashville International airport has one of the best. There are regular exhibitions, and many of the permanent exhibits are designed by local artists. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, photography and mixed media pieces, and current highlights include Jack Hastings’ aluminium mobiles (suspended from the roof of the main terminal) and Sherri Warner Hunter’s mosaic-adorned seating areas, which you’ll find in the airport’s ground transportation hub. This arts scheme covers music too, and there are over 700 live performances every year. An Imax theatre (Hong Kong International airport, Hong Kong)Let’s face it: no matter how good the airport, long layovers can quickly become mind-numbingly boring – unless you’re at Hong Kong International airport, which has its very own 350-person Imax cinema. Head to this hi-tech terminal 2 cinema to watch the latest blockbusters brought to life with an arsenal of special effects including water jets, bubbles, fog or various scents. If a long-haul flight has left you craving some exercise, ditch Hollywood for hole-in-ones at Terminal 2’s golf simulator, where you can tackle a (virtual) nine-hole or 18-hole course. A rainforest (Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia)Kuala Lumpur’s huge international airport sits on a plot of land that was once a chunk of rainforest, and a section of it – complete with waterfall and boardwalk – can now be found inside the imaginatively named Main Terminal. Other amenities which make long layovers feel like a breeze at this Malaysian masterpiece? The shops – the transport hub describes itself as a “shopping mall with an airport attached”, and with good reason. There are hundreds of outlets ranging from Billabong, Bvlgari and Rolex, to Godiva, Mont Blanc and Hamleys. An honesty library (Tallinn Airport, Estonia)Tallinn airport might not have cinemas or record-breaking waterfalls, but it lays claim to one of the quirkiest amenities – an honesty library stocked with books in various languages, including Estonian, English and Russian. Travellers are invited to help themselves to books and return them when they’re next passing through, and they can donate reading material, too. The library is one of the cosiest spots we’ve come across at an airport – an armchair and plant-filled haven tucked away from the busiest areas. Europe’s largest covered beer garden (Munich International airport, Germany)You’ll find Europe’s largest covered beer garden at Munich International airport, and it’s got everything a beer garden should have – a maypole, chestnut trees and traditional German grub (we recommend the beer goulash). There’s space for 600 people, although don’t panic if you can’t find a seat; another hotspot for beer fans is the Airbrau bar – Europe’s only airport brewery – where you can even sign up for guided tours led by Airbrau’s brewmaster.
As I pull back my curtain to watch the sun set over the Kandalama reservoir, I suddenly find myself inches from a beady-eyed grey langur monkey peering at me from the other side of the glass. He’s perched nonchalantly on the rail that runs round my window, while a handful of others swing through the trees behind him. The forest almost engulfs the two low, lateral wings of the camouflage green, concrete Kandalama Hotel, which is exactly what was envisioned by the designer – the late Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa.The hotel is in the cultural triangle, a short drive from the ancient Dambulla cave temple and Sigiriya, a Unesco rock fortress with over 1,000 steps that I tackle one morning before breakfast (the stunning forest view from the top is worth the sweaty climb). Sri Lanka has had a difficult six months. The country suffered horrendous terrorist bombings on Easter Sunday, which targeted three luxury hotels and three places of worship, killing 258 people. Some 48 of these were foreign nationals, and the blatant attack on international tourism prompted the Foreign Office to declare the country off-limits to UK nationals – at least, if they expected their travel insurance to be valid or needed any help from the British government during their stay. The country was only removed from the banned list on 6 June, but the six weeks of isolation took their toll. Which is why now is the time to put our tourist pounds to good use and return to this richly diverse island nation.I'm showing solidarity while on the hunt for Geoffrey Bawa’s buildings. The influential architect (who studied law at Cambridge before switching professions) is known as the father of tropical modernism because he took the design ideas of the movement and made them his own, using local materials that suited the Asian environment. This year is the centenary of his birth and the Geoffrey Bawa Trust is organising a series of exhibitions and events to mark the occasion. The first, being held this month, is a decorative arts installation at Lunuganga, the 25-acre country estate near Bentota on the west coast which he called home. The most anticipated event is the installation series here at the end of the year, which will feature works by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and American artist Lee Mingwei, among others. I join a dozen other Bawa fans on a tour of Lunuganga, waiting patiently at the end of an unmarked lane for the metal gates to swing open, eager to see inside what was essentially Bawa’s creative laboratory for 50 years. This is where he tested out new design ideas, modifying the original house, building four bungalows and transforming the former rubber plantation into a dreamy landscape featuring ponds and pavilions, sculptures and lake views, all framed by his favourite frangipani trees. I peek into the garden room, with its buttermilk yellow walls, antique furniture and black and white chequered floor; then I stand under the berry fruit tree in the sprawling grounds where he took afternoon tea, its trunk swooping low from the weights he hung on the branches to shape it; and walk up the hill to Cinnamon Bungalow, the final building he added, which has an almost otherworldly tumbledown feel. From here I head north up the coast to the Anantara Kalutara hotel, one of Bawa’s final projects, which is set on the beach where the Kalu Ganga river meets the Indian ocean. Although he began designing the hotel in 1995, it lay dormant for almost 20 years until it was completed to his original vision by one of his proteges, architect Channa Daswatte. Bawa’s big idea was to divide the layout of the hotel into quarters with both upper and ground-level corridors connecting different parts of the property. “Choreography of movement is a concept that runs through almost all of Geoffrey’s work,” explains Daswatte, when we meet that afternoon. He points out the furniture inspired by Bawa’s own collection in the airy lobby space and the three paintings by artist Laki Senanayake hanging in the library alongside Bawa’s architectural drawings. He also draws our attention to the batik banners hanging from the roof, made by his late friend, artist Ena de Silva. She lived at 5 Alfred Place in Colombo, also designed by Bawa, which was named a National Heritage building and reconstructed by the Geoffrey Bawa Trust at Lunuganga after huge public outcry at the news it was to be demolished. In May, the hotel launched an afternoon tea dedicated to the architect, as well as an app to talk guests through the design ideas behind various spaces. There is also a spa, two pools (the quietest is next to Italian lunch spot Acquolina) and an Asian restaurant, Spice Traders, where I tuck into the most delicious fried cuttlefish and butter chicken for dinner. On the final day of my whistle-stop trip, I join a group of architecture students on a tour of No 11, a row of modernist houses in Colombo that were Bawa’s city base and office (he previously worked around the corner on Paradise Road at what is now the popular Gallery Cafe). The whole space – which houses a third of his artefacts and art – feels incredibly zen, with water features and lots of natural light streaming through inner open courtyards. Visiting all of these buildings (and there are plenty more too, dotted around the island) is a fascinating insight into Bawa’s architectural thinking – key to which was the notion that they continue to evolve long after the final bricks are laid. “Once he told me Kandalama would finally be complete only when the leopards are roaming the corridors and the bears are scaling the rooms,” recalls Daswatte. I can almost picture it now. Travel essentials Getting thereSriLankan flies direct from London Heathrow to Colombo from £518 return. Staying thereDoubles at Anantara Kalutara resort from around £292, B&B. Doubles at Kandalama Hotel from around £169, room only. More informationFor more information on the Geoffrey Bawa centenary programme, visit geoffreybawa.com.Sebastian Posingis’ latest book, ‘Bawa Staircases’, is out now (Laurence King, £24.95)
Cancelled trains, bus replacements and almost no availability: passengers on the Caledonian Sleeper link between Scotland and London have expressed fury about the performance of the overnight train since its £150m makeover.Passengers due to arrive in London from Glasgow on Tuesday morning were told on Monday that their train had been cancelled because of a technical problem.They were offered an overnight trip by bus or the chance to use their ticket on Virgin Trains on Tuesday morning – but crucially not on the early train that arrives in London at the start of the working day, at 9.06am.The latest problem involved a door interlock. Friday’s southbound service from Glasgow and Edinburgh ended its journey at Acton Bridge in Cheshire in the early hours of Saturday morning.The same issue led to further disruption on Sunday and Monday night.In addition, travellers on Sunday complained that they had been “turfed out” of the lounge area on another train because of a power failure.As a result of the sporadic cancellations, fares for late-evening and early-morning flights between Scotland and London soared as business travellers shift to airlines.On Monday evening, after the train was cancelled, British Airways departures from Glasgow to Heathrow and London City airports were priced at £389 one-way, a fare of over £1 per mile. On easyJet, seats to Gatwick were selling at £235 one-way.Earlier this month “wheel flats” on the new £150m rolling stock were responsible for a series of train cancellations. The damage was caused when the emergency brakes were inadvertently deployed.One contributor to Twitter suggested: “Surely a empty train should follow the sleeper train for the transfer of passengers. It’s better than waiting for a bus.”The Spanish-built trains that were bought to replace sleeper carriages from the 1980s have encountered a series of problems since they were announced by the franchise holder, Serco.The new rolling stock was due to enter service in spring 2018, but was a year late. In late April 2019, the inaugural overnight trips from Edinburgh and Glasgow to London Euston arrived over three hours late because of Network Rail problems. The introduction of new rolling stock on the “Highlander” service from London to Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William was due on 2 June, but has been further delayed by five weeks because of problems with the rolling stock.Violet Bessy tweeted: “New premium stock, new premium prices, but no premium service or communication. Old customers being lost, new ones have no trust and won’t return.”Yet prospective customers are finding it very difficult to book berths at reasonably short notice. Between Glasgow and London up to the end of this week, the only availability is for a £335 cabin on Friday evening travelling south. All other berths are sold out.Ryan Flaherty, Serco’s managing director for the rail operation, said: “We apologise to guests for the disruption to Caledonian Sleeper services."Repairs have successfully been carried out on carriages which sustained wheel flats during a recent service. However, a door interlock fault on Friday’s southbound Lowlander service led to further disruption on Sunday and Monday night. We can confirm services will return to normal from tonight."We’re doing everything we can to reduce the likelihood of further disruption and hope to shortly take ownership of an additional unit which will allow us to take carriages in and out of service as required."In terms of availability, the summer period is the busiest time of year for Caledonian Sleeper with our services routinely sold out. We’d encourage anyone looking to travel with us to book as early as possible to avoid disappointment.”
A pilot who fell asleep and missed the airport by 78km had been awake for 24 hours, an investigation has found.The pilot, who was flying from Tasmania to King Island in Australia, was experiencing “acute levels of fatigue” when he passed out during an early morning freight flight.He was the only person onboard the Piper PA-31-350 aircraft when he fell asleep during the descent into King Island.Air traffic controllers and other pilots in the area attempted to contact him, to no avail. When he woke up, he realised he had overflown his destination by around 78km before turning back to King Island and landing safely.An Australian Transport Security Board (ATSB) investigation into the incident found that the pilot was unable to sleep a scheduled rest period before the flight.The investigation also found that the pilot’s tiredness was at a level that would affect performance – adding that even if he had managed to sleep during his rest period, he still would have been too tired to fly.“This investigation highlights the need for pilots to assess their level of fatigue before and during their flight,” said ATSB executive director of transport safety Nat Nagy.“Before commencing night operations pilots are encouraged to modify their usual sleep routines to ensure they are adequately rested.”Nagy added: “Just as it is the pilot’s responsibility to use rest periods to get adequate sleep and to remove themselves from duty if they feel fatigued, it is also incumbent on operators to implement policies and create an organisational culture where flight crew can report fatigue and remove themselves from duty in a supportive environment.”
The Greek authorities are cracking down on so-called “rip-off” restaurants following numerous complaints from tourists.The finance ministry has confirmed that around 50,500 raids will be conducted by undercover tax inspectors over the next few weeks, reports The Times.Many visitors to the Greek islands, which are popular with British tourists, have accused restaurants of failing to offer menus or be transparent with pricing.Other tourists have complained of being lured in with a “fake” deal to get free access to a sun lounger, only to find it comes with an exorbitant drinks bill.Undercover officers have already targeted a number of businesses and suspended operations: various Mykonos hotels were closed over the weekend after they were found to have €17,000-worth of undeclared internet bookings.A steakhouse owned by the “Salt Bae” chef Nusret Gokce was also shut down for 48 hours for failing to issue receipts, which amounted to €25,800 in undeclared profits in just one evening.Several examples of overcharging on the Greek islands have hit headlines over the last few months.In May, an American tourist was left shocked after being presented with an €836 (£738) bill for some calamari and beers at a restaurant in Mykonos.The visitor from Brooklyn shared a picture of the bill from DK Oyster restaurant on TripAdvisor. “This place is a rip off,” he wrote. “The staff is not honest and refuse to provide a menu and prices. AVOID THIS PLACE AT ALL COSTS! No pun intended.”The bill shows the group were charged €591 for six plates of calamari, working out at €98.50 per serving.The restaurant owner responded to the accusations: “I want to tell you from my heart that we value our customers, and we have carefully accounted for the cost in order to produce a product which we consider to be value for money.“If you can’t afford them, in order to avoid any bitterness, just opt for the special combo menu – which may not be the most satisfying option, but allows a small glimpse for those who cannot afford the experience.”The following month, a British holidaymaker’s post about a restaurant in Rhodes that charged £14 for a milkshake went viral.Vikki Scott was charged €82 for eight soft drinks at The Gate restaurant in Rhodes old town.She uploaded a snap of the hand-written bill on Facebook, along with a caption warning other tourists to stay away.
Visibility from the helicopter cockpit is zero. Omnipresent cloud obscures all the windows, but I don’t need to look at the careening artificial horizon on the chopper’s instrument panel to tell me which way is up – the lurching in my stomach and my reeling inner ear both assure me that we are indeed flying sideways. Nevertheless, a break in the clouds briefly confirms what I already know as it reveals the pine-clad depths of the Khumbu Valley, disconcertingly hovering past my right shoulder.“I’m just slowing us down,” explains the pilot, who has braved dense fog and thin air to come and rescue me from the foot of Mount Everest. “We’re coming in too fast,” he adds as the chopper drops onto a grassy, makeshift helipad with the speed and grace of a falling breeze block. Remarkably the landing is gentle.I’ve spent the past nine days hiking the trail from Lukla – home of the world’s most dangerous airport – to Everest base camp where I finally arrived yesterday, exhausted and breathless, after more than a week’s worth of hiking along acrophobia-inducing cliff edges and vertiginous swinging bridges.Unlike the mountaineers who attempt to conquer the summit of the world’s highest mountain each season, myself and my tour group never had any intention of travelling any further than Nepal’s south base camp – and yet we’ve still endured altitude sickness, sunburn and snow blizzards – along with freezing-cold showers, icebox accommodation, eye-watering loo roll prices, and toilet facilities that would test the gag reflexes of the sewer-dwelling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.Then, on the way back down, as I crag-hopped over boulders piled high by the glacial movement of the awesome Khumbu Icefall – the first real hazard the hundreds of climbers holed-up at base camp will have to negotiate when they finally set out to summit the world’s highest peak – I twisted my ankle. Then, at this point suffering with the beginnings of acute mountain sickness (AMS) brought on by lack of oxygen, I twisted it twice more for good measure.A badly sprained ankle coupled with AMS in the remote Khumbu Valley – 100 miles of unpaved mountainous terrain away from Kathmandu, at an altitude of 5,300m where oxygen is just half of that at sea level – would have been borderline disastrous back in 1953, when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, members of the ninth British expedition to Everest, first summitted the mountain. Today I have merely to hobble a further three hours to the remote village of Lobuche, where I cosy up in the world’s highest bakery, pay $6 to connect to their wifi, and call for an emergency evacuation by helicopter. By nightfall I’m in a private hospital in the country’s capital.Technology isn’t just making the world smaller, as the old saying claims, it’s also making mountains shorter. The digital safety net of a connected planet, where you can get signal even when hiking up to the world’s highest mountain, means that even Everest seems manageable to those who wouldn’t have dreamt of attempting it back in Hillary’s day.Perhaps because of my romantic notions about the golden age of exploration, this was the first time in my whole trip through the remote Everest base camp trail – a winding path through glades of juniper and rhododendron and up far above the treeline to barren, bleakly beautiful landscapes, encircled by the razor teeth of the Himalayas – that I connected to the internet. But that’s not true for most of my hiking group.While I may want to appreciate the wild isolation of the Himalayas through the sepia-tinted filter of nostalgia from a bygone age, my new trekking companions prefer to use Instagram presets like Clarendon and Gingham, snapping selfies along the route and uploading them to their social media accounts within hours. Practically all of the teahouses, cafes, bakeries and lodgings – no matter how basic their bathroom and bedroom facilities – offer paid wifi.> Technology isn’t just making the world smaller, it’s also making mountains shorter“After the devastating 2015 earthquakes,” says Shanker Bhattrai, our veteran G Adventures guide who is leading us on his 99th trek to Everest base camp, “the internet was one of the first things that got fixed. It’s very important to tourists.”I have 12 hiking companions on my trip to base camp, who range in age and ability from an 18-year-old fitness instructor to a 54-year-old Glaswegian football fanatic whose sole training regimen has been 10-hour shifts in a shipping warehouse, and whose nutrient intake consists of burgers, chips and cola. His hiking apparel: a pair of trainers and a Liverpool FC scarf. Excited about his team’s progress in the Champions League, he’s often heard singing his club’s anthem, the Rodgers and Hammerstein hit (via Gerry and the Pacemakers), “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. It’s strangely appropriate.Today, trekking to Mount Everest’s base camps isn’t the preserve of adventurers and explorers but a well-trodden tourist trail. While it’s certainly a far cry from a sun lounger on the Costa del Sol, organised tours, lodging options, restaurants and gift shops en route mean it’s certainly manageable for anyone with a moderate degree of physical fitness, and I frequently find myself having to wait in line to allow groups of returning hikers to pass. Queues stack up behind slower, heavier hikers, and tourists cling to the inside edges of narrow mountain trails to allow Sherpas laden with obscenely large loads to squeeze by.In the two weeks following my arrival at Everest base camp, however, 11 people died trying to make the summit, the first of which – 39-year-old Irish professor, Séamus Lawless – was announced on the same day I was released from hospital in Kathmandu. After an image taken on 22 May went viral, showing a line of hundreds of climbers queueing up to reach the summit of Mount Everest, overcrowding on the mountain was blamed for the tragedies, along with the rise of adventure tour operators taking inexperienced climbers into Everest’s notorious “death zone”. While 2019’s season has been particularly deadly though, this isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact it was exactly the story that Jon Krakauer (author of his personal account of the 1996 Everest disaster, Into Thin Air) was sent to report on for Outside magazine over two decades ago. Deaths in 2019 on Mount Everest 20 April: Chris Daly, 25, United States 16 May: Seamus Lawless, 39, Ireland 17 May: Ravi Thakar, 28, India 22 May: Donald Cash, 55, USA 23 May: Nihal Bagwan, 27, India 23 May: Ernst Landgraf, 64, Austria 23 May: Anjali Kulkarni, 55, India 23 May: Kalpana Das, 49, India 24 May: Kevin Hynes, 56, Ireland 24 May: Dhurba Bista, unknown age, Nepal 25 May: Robin Haynes Fisher, 44, United Kingdom 27 May: Christopher John Kulish, 62, United States“Two hikers died on the base camp trail last week,” Shanker tells me as I battle a debilitating fear of heights while negotiating a two-foot-wide mountain path overlooking a sheer drop. He’s not talking about those attempting the summit, but two tourists just like me, hiking to EBC. I have no idea about the accuracy of his facts, but the conversation is doing nothing for my vertigo. “One guy died when he was knocked off the trail by a yak, and another died of altitude sickness because he didn’t want to pay $4,000 for a helicopter to get him down.”In contrast to this, the north base camp – located in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China – can be reached by car. There’s an asphalt road that goes right up to it.It’s therefore much more accessible to non-hikers and much easier for tourists to visit, but – unless you have one of the 300 permits available each year to climb to the 8,848m summit of Mount Everest itself – it’s closed. Visitors are now banned from entering north base camp for the foreseeable future because of the huge piles of rubbish at the site – tons of waste left by tourists.300The number of permits allowed for tourists to scale Mount EverestThe Nepal side has always been popular with travellers because of its mix of challenge, adventure, rich culture, stunning scenery, and the bragging rights associated with making it to base camp on foot, but China’s side has seen steady growth with those who can’t or don’t want to make the two-week trek. But with visitors to the Chinese side no longer allowed to travel beyond Rongbuk Monastery, I was interested to see what impact the north base camp closure has had on Nepal’s side of the mountain, both in terms of footfall and waste management.“I don’t think they’ll ever reopen base camp on the Chinese side. I think that’s it now,” says Julie Fitzgerald, Asia general manager for Canadian tour operator G Adventures. We’ve met in Kathmandu a few days after my return from the Khumbu region. “But it’s not affected the Nepal side of Everest as much as you might assume. Most of the people who visited from the north were those particularly keen to see Tibet. The Nepalese side was always for people who wanted simply to do the classic hike to Everest base camp.”The EBC trail exists purely in the name of tourism nowadays though, with the Sherpa communities along the way clearly there specifically to cater to the international visitors lured by the call of the world’s most famous mountain but, while this is clearly a thriving industry, the route doesn’t feel overrun.“The trek hasn’t got much busier on this side since the Chinese side closed,” confirms Shanker when I quiz him en route (partially as an opportunity to stop and catch my breath). “There are a few more Chinese hikers than there used to be, but not a lot more.”A blizzard has blown in by the time I reach the frosty heights of Dughla Pass, an eerie high-altitude memorial ground remembering those who have died on Everest. The whiteout utterly obliterates perspective and the views, giving this widest of spaces a creeping air of claustrophobia and unwanted intimacy. Spectral tombstones and shrines stand sentinel in deafening silence, mere shadows in snowstorm translucence – the ghosts of ghosts.> Spectral tombstones and shrines stand sentinel in deafening silence, mere shadows in snowstorm translucence – the ghosts of ghostsWandering a few steps from the trail into a clearing, I find the skeleton remains of a yak – picked clean by ravens – and the wraithlike white sheets of streams of toilet paper gently fluttering in the breeze in rhythm with the prayer flags that are strung between the memorial stones. It appears this place is both a graveyard and a public toilet.Even though lavatories are available at the many teahouses and cafes that line the route, we can, of course, forgive the entirely biodegradable call of nature when far from the nearest public convenience; what would be inexcusable is plastic waste. It’s true that I did spot the odd discarded bottle, and a handful of cigarette butts and sweet wrappers during my nine days of hiking, along with more than a few “baskets” – the little plastic discs that attach to the bottom of hiking poles, designed to stop them from plunging too deep into the earth, and which inevitably end up being lost in large numbers – but considering the footfall on this most famous trail, it’s remarkably unspoiled. Dotted along the route, there are roughly hewn spaces to stop and sit, benches constructed unobtrusively from stones, and beside each of them are rubbish bins.“Littering used to be a way of life in Nepal. When I was young, I used to finish a bag of sweets and just throw it away, but this has changed now,” says Shanker. “We are all conscious to look after what we’ve got. Tourism makes up about 5 per cent of Nepal’s GDP, so it is important that we take care of our natural resources,” he adds. “That’s why you don’t see much rubbish on the trek to base camp. You might find the odd bit that has been missed, but most of the rubbish left by hikers gets cleared away. Porters are sent out from Namche Bazaar to walk the trails and empty these rubbish bins and hike it back to town.”It’s true that if you decide to take on the Everest base camp trek you’ll not feel like Sir Edmund Hillary with your own small expedition group, hiking to the top of the world – you’re more likely to be walking with selfie-snapping backpackers or a Liverpool footie fan in full regalia, and you’ll certainly never walk alone. The chances are, though, that you’ll be grateful for some companionship along this dramatic, challenging, awe-inspiring trek, which – for now – is neither too littered nor too crowded.James Draven trekked to Everest Base Camp with G Adventures, whose 15-day Everest Basecamp Trek starts from £1,019 per person, excluding international flights. Internal flights, porters, an English-speaking local guide plus assistants, and 14 nights accommodation are includedAdequate travel insurance, including cover for emergency helicopter evacuation, is essential
A Miami property has been removed from the Booking.com platform after allegations were made on social media that the owner called a black guest “n*****” in a flurry of racist messages.The texts, shared on Twitter, show a woman who identifies herself as “Julia” questioning the guest’s credit card validity, before calling her a “f***ing n*****” and asking if she is a prostitute.Separate emails seem to show the same woman sending the guest a picture of a monkey with the caption: “You wanna banana Africa”.Comparing pictures shared in the thread and corresponding online profiles, the messages appear to have been sent by Giulia – an individual host who rents out condos at Ocean Five Condo Hotel, but operates completely separately from the hotel – to a woman named only as Monifah in the screenshots shared on social media.The host starts by saying that there seems to be something wrong with the woman’s credit card, before quickly becoming more aggressive.“Are you there or are you acting like you are ignoring me,” reads the next message, followed by: “You acting with lies gives a very very bad picture for all of the black people please try to act like a lady and be a very good representation of black people and not a lying untrustable [sic] person giving bad name to black people.”Twitter user @eshatianna posted the offending messages, writing: “A friend of mine was planning to stay here in Miami! And this awful host let her know if a black person can ever afford to stay here she will make sure they’ll be shot ‘by accident’.”In a series of messages sent to The Independent, the host, Giulia, refuted the allegations, saying: “I received a reservation through Booking.com, which was also informing me that the credit card was fraudulent. The person was asked for a new credit card and with excuses and lies the client could not provide a credit card so her reservation was cancelled. I guess she was upset.”Giulia said she started receiving threatening messages from Monifah before retaliating.“I did respond to her, ‘You stupid Monkey’ because enough was enough, however where I come from in Italy the word monkey is used to describe rude behaviour.”Booking.com confirmed to The Independent that it had taken the property off its website while investigations were underway. “At Booking.com, we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind, and if we find that an accommodation listed on our site engages in discriminatory behaviour, we cease our working relationship and remove them from our site, just as we have done in this case,” said a spokesperson. “We are also in direct contact with the customer to see how we can best support them further with their trip.”Airbnb also confirmed it had removed the condo from its listings, replying to the original thread on Twitter: “We are sorry to hear of this situation. Discrimination has no place on the Airbnb platform. Note that this host has already been permanently removed from the Airbnb platform. If you require assistance finding alternative accommodation, please send us a DM and we can support you.”Expedia appears to still be advertising the property.The similarly named Ocean Five Hotel, an established three-star hotel in the Miami Beach area, clarified that its business is completely separate and not affiliated in any way to the condo property. “This is terrible and disgusting,” said an employee of the incident. “This is not our hotel.”Update (25 June 2019): An earlier version of this article suggested that it was the owner of Ocean Five Condo who had been accused of using racist language. This was incorrect and the allegations had in fact been made against a single unit host at the property. We are happy to clarify matters.
For all the talk of holidaying in your own country, it’s still very tempting to explore somewhere different and more exotic. While July dates are filling up quickly, you can still get some bargains before the school holidays start.And if you’re looking ahead to October, some of these ideas might inspire you. Go now FranceSteer clear of the sweaty crowds on the coast and breathe the clear air of the French Alps. At Les Deux Alpes near the Ecrins National Park, you can swim in mountain lakes, go mountain biking, hiking and even ski on the glacier. During July, Peak Retreats is offering two weeks for the price of one at its self-catering residences Au Coeur des Ours for holidays ending before 27 July. A one-bedroom apartment costs £499 for a 6 July departure, including a ferry crossing, rising to £584 during the school holidays. MontenegroWith direct flights from Gatwick to Tivat, it’s easy to visit Montenegro’s port town on the Bay of Kotor. From Tivat, you can explore Kotor itself, along with Mount Lovcen and the glossy marina at Porto Montenegro. Inspired Luxury Escapes has seven nights at Hotel Palma, which is right on the beach, from £606pp including flights and breakfast. KenyaCatch one of nature’s greatest spectacles as the great migration of wildebeest and zebra takes places across Kenya and Tanzania. You can get a taste of safari during an eight-day holiday offered by Tropical Sky. Start with five days relaxing on the beach at Papillon Lagoon Reef before spending a couple of days on game drives in the Taita Hills and Tsavo East National Park. The starting price of £1,779 includes flights, transfers, full board and game drives, for departures from 1-10 July. CreteWestern Crete has some of the loveliest beaches on the island, yet it’s only a short drive to the freshness of the mountains where Carob Tree Cottage sits surrounded by olive and orange groves north of Platanias. This two-bedroom stone cottage is beautifully done up, with beamed ceilings and exposed stone walls. In the lush garden is a pool and sun terrace with barbecue and dining area. Vintage Travel has a week’s rental from 9 July for £1,139. Flights and car hire can be arranged. Book now for October MauritiusTemperatures are pleasantly in the high 20s in this laid-back island in the Indian Ocean. At Mauricia Beachcomber Resort, you’ll have soft white sands within crawling distance, along with a palm-fringed outdoor pool. Grand Baie’s nightlife and shops are just a short walk away. Beachcomber Tours has a seven-night half-board break from £1,369pp, departing 6 October, including flights and transfers. The price includes an early bird discount of £362. CyprusPretend it’s still summer on a relaxing holiday overlooking the Mediterranean in Paphos. The Almyra Hotel, set in eight acres of landscaped seaside gardens, has heavenly views from its numerous terraces, spa and pool – also a scenic spot for private or group yoga classes. The Healthy Holiday Company has a week’s holiday from £1,115pp for departures throughout October, including flights, transfers and breakfast. ItalyEnjoy the mellowness of autumn deep in Tuscany, specifically in the appealing town of Lucca. A stroll within its 16th century walls reveals an enchanting collection of medieval towers, Renaissance palaces and café-filled squares – and Pisa and Florence are also handy for day trips. Long Travel has a seven-night holiday at the elegant four-star San Luca Palace from £974pp, including flights, transfers and breakfast.Mary Novakovich is editor at large at 101holidays.co.uk
A black woman was subject to racial abuse on the London Underground after two men refused to believe she was from the UK.Julia Ogiehor, a Lib Dem councillor for Muswell Hill, London, was heading home on the Northern line to High Barnet when the men started questioning her nationality.“They really wanted to know where I was from and did not accept it when I said London,” Ogiehor tweeted, alongside a photo of the men.She added that they called her “uneducated” and suggested she didn’t belong in the UK, despite the fact she was born and raised in the capital.Ogiehor said the incident was “unprovoked” and that she had been “minding my business” listening to music when the men started questioning her.> According to these vile pigs, I am not English or from this country and I am uneducated. This was literally unprovoked. I was minding my business listening to my music and just going home. But they really wanted to know where I was from and did not accept it when I said London. pic.twitter.com/uHArfjVO2B> > — Julia (@juliaogiehor) > > June 21, 2019According to the 32-year-old, who has a Master’s degree in commercial law, four passengers intervened, including one man who walked down the carriage and sat next to her.He asked the men, “Why don’t you ask me where I’m from?” to which they replied, “We know where you’re from – you’re English,” reports the Ham & High.Ogiehor and several other travellers called the police to report the incident, which took place between Camden and East Finchley on 21 June.After sharing her experience on Twitter in a post which garnered tens of thousands of likes and retweets, Ogiehor praised the support she had received on the social media platform.“From the show of support on the Tube, that gave me confidence to stand up for myself, to the overwhelming support on Twitter, the message is clear: bigotry and racism is not welcome here,” she wrote.“Anyway, am off to the launch of WindrushDay2019 in Haringey to celebrate the richness that migrants bring to our city and country.”A British Transport Police spokesperson told The Independent: “Officers from British Transport Police are currently investigating a reported hate crime on board a Northern Line train. The incident happened between Camden and East Finchley.“A number of enquiries are being made, there have been no arrests at this stage. Anyone with information is asked to contact BTP by sending a text to 61016 or by calling 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference 37 of 22/06/2019.”
The biggest rail union has warned of the possibility of national rail strikes in a row over pensions.Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), advised in a letter to all members that any move to cut pension benefits or increase member contributions could lead to a nationwide walk-out.It follows the news that rail operator Stagecoach has been disqualified from recent rail franchise bids for putting in “non-compliant bids” in relation to pensions.Cash said in the letter: “This has quite understandably raised concerns amongst all our Train Operating Company (TOC) members in respect of their future pension benefits and I am writing to update you on what your union is doing to protect your pension.“Your union is of the view that the railway pension scheme is fundamentally sound and in good shape. The only reason there now appears to be an issue is a new approach from the pension’s regulator and the government which is threatening the scheme.“This is not just an attack on our members’ future pension rights but also puts in doubt the long-term future of the Railway Pension Scheme.”Cash said he had written to transport secretary Chris Grayling, all TOC employers and the Rail Delivery Group to confirm that if future pension benefits were reduced, or member contributions were to “significantly increase”, the RMT would take “necessary action”.“This union will not tolerate the position where Chris Grayling plans to subsidise TOC employer contributions while attempting to raise member contributions and cut benefits.“Any such attack will be met with a campaign of coordinated industrial action across the rail industry to defend pensions.”A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “It is important that the Railway Pension Scheme is fair, affordable and sustainable for employees, employers, taxpayers and farepayers.“Positive discussions are taking place between TPR, the RDG and the Trustee, and we encourage all parties to work towards agreeing a solution.”A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group said: “Nobody wants to see disruption on the railway. That is why we have developed a sustainable pensions framework which has been provided to government.”
Eurostar has quietly banned passengers from bringing any spirits onboard its trains.In a change to alcohol allowances, passengers are now limited to just one bottle of wine or four cans of beer each, and no spirits are permitted onboard.Any surplus alcohol has to be transported separately via Eurostar’s registered luggage service.“Just to let you know, Eurostar reserves the right to confiscate and destroy any alcohol carried in excess of these limits, without any liability to you,” the train operator says.It says the rules are to ensure a “safe, happy and healthy” onboard environment.The rules surrounding the amount of alcohol passengers are permitted to bring onboard changed quietly last autumn.The new allowances came to light when Mark Smith, rail expert and founder of The Man In Seat 61, tweeted that the rules were “completely unnecessary”.> Eurostar has quietly changed its luggage policy, and now no-one is allowed on with even a small bottle of spirits given (or to be given) as a present for example. And no more than 1 bottle of wine. This is completely unnecessary. Eurostar is a TRAIN not a plane. https://t.co/h6wqpidQVp> > — The Man in Seat 61 (@seatsixtyone) > > June 24, 2019“Trains should be relaxed and easy-going,” he added.A Eurostar spokesperson said that the operator wanted to “maintain a pleasant environment onboard for all our travellers”.In the UK, London North Eastern Railway allows alcohol “in moderation”. In Europe, long-distance operator Thalys allows alcohol in moderate quantities.
A Taiwanese airline has announced it will employ men as cabin crew for the first time in its 30-year history.Eva Air currently employs 4,200 flight attendants, all of whom are female.The international airline confirmed on Monday 24 June it would be hiring 200 new flight attendants this year, including male and foreign applicants.Announced after a shareholders’ meeting, the new policy follows Eva recently being crowned the cleanest airline in the world at the Skytrax World Airline awards 2019.It was also named sixth best airline in the world and came in fifth place in the best cabin crew category – despite its current lack of male flight attendants.However, the airline is struggling to cope with a large-scale staff strike, which will see more than 850 flights cancelled between 20-28 June.One of the busiest international routes in the world, Taipei to Hong Kong, is affected by the cabin crew walkout, as are flights from Taiwan to London, Japan, New York and Singapore.Some 2,000 flight attendants are participating in the industrial action calling for better pay and working conditions after negotiations with the airline broke down.Between 20-23 June Eva had already lost NT$580m (£14.7m) in revenue from 150 cancelled flights, while shares dropped 4.5 per cent at the end of last week.The Taoyuan Flight Attendants’ Union says a number of cabin crew have been stranded in Vienna since the strike action started; Eva Air allegedly told them they could only return to Taiwan if they sign a contract agreeing not to strike.