Hoi Polloi! Why Britons should flock to Vietnam for cheap winter sun
Chalkmarks: Vlore, Albania, September 2023

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 29th August 2023

Hi peeps, once again we’re answering a few of the travel questions we get asked most frequently, so here goes: Any claims to fame? Why yes, in Nigeria at the hotel in Enugu some filming was going on outside by the pool. One crew member came over and asked if we’d like to be extras, just lounging in the background, and we said “of course”! Later, they took our names and said we would appear in the credits. We can’t remember the name of the film but Nollywood is the second largest film industry after Hollywood. Call us! Seen any celebs? We were once on the same flight as Peter Crouch and Abi Clancy. Also, in Tromsø, Norway, who did we see having a coffee in the same cafe but TV chef Phil Vickery and presenter Fern Britton. What are the odds? Both v impressive right? Worst weather story? In Peru we were visiting the Uros on Lake Titicaca and this storm came over very quickly. There was thunder and lightning with heavy rain. We were on a small reed boat and it was rocking, the water was whipping up around us and we had a long way to go to get back to the pier. We thought we were going to die. We need a lie down after remembering that. To calm the nerves, here’s this week’s travel headlines.

Travel moves!

Worth noting: UK holidaymakers can get more for their pound in Vietnam, Kenya and South Africa this autumn. According to Post Office Travel Money, Britons will pay less for coffee, drinks and dinner as sterling strengthens in certain parts of the world – but they warn this doesn’t take into account the cost of the long-haul flight or hotels. Laura Plunkett, at the Post Office, said: “The positive exchange rate means winter sun tourists will see their pounds stretch further in the majority of destinations. However . . . we advise holidaymakers to consider the whole picture and factor in the package price before booking.” The FT has the story.

And this from back in February still stands: Egypt anyone? If you’ve been struggling to decide where to go on holiday this year then fear not, Post Office Travel Money came to the rescue in February. Chalkmarks reported here. They revealed that summer fun in the sun will cost less in mesmerising Egypt, with £1 currently buying 36 (Egyptian pound). They recommended resorts on the Red Sea coast such as Sharm el Sheikh could be the bargain break of 2023. With the flight time from the UK at just over 5 hours, you can play in the desert by day then party in Soho Square by night. At least, that’s what we did

Up in the air: Ryanair announced it would be cutting its winter flight schedule after it ordered 27 Boeing 737 planes but just 14 are expected to arrive before the end of the year. Boss Michael O’Leary said: “These flight cancellations will take effect from the end of October, and will be communicated to all affected passengers by email over the coming days. Passengers will be offered re-accommodation on alternative flights or full refunds as they so wish.” Reuters has more. 

More turbulence: All eyes were on airports again this week after Gatwick announced it had capped flights to 800 a day until Sunday. Due to staff sickness at air traffic control around 29 flights a day have been cancelled. The Guardian reported that 30 per cent of Nats (National Air Traffic Services) are off sick, leaving the airport unable to manage its usual number of departures and arrivals. The airlines most affected are easyJet, BA, Ryanair, Wizz Air and Tui. Ryanair’s verdict? Boss Michael O’Leary called for Nats boss Martin Rolfe to resign. 

Have you seen our pictures: Our fantastic travel photos, which capture some of our favourite destinations around the world, are now available for sale on Alamy. Woohoo!

Cue the Indiana Jones theme tune: We’re riding through the Sinai desert on a quad bike. It’s like a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. There is the huge blue sky, the sun beating down and a dry wind with rough rocky hills and high mountains ahead. Far in the distance we can just make out the oasis that is Sharm El Sheikh on the Red Sea coast. A traditional cotton headdress covers much of our faces to protect us from the swirling sand. We feel like we’re on an epic journey. It’s a bouncy and bumpy ride but it’s worth it when we meet Bedouins – their camels a stark contrast to our shiny red quad bikes. Since ancient times, this group of nomadic people have lived outdoors in this harsh open desert. We felt privileged to be following in their footsteps – a  group of people that might not be around come the next century. We stop for tea, and spend the afternoon talking about their way of life and herding camels.

Track this: You’re on the train from London to Edinburgh and before you can say “ahhh, this is the life”, the service is cancelled. That happened on Monday night. It was 4.40pm when passengers left Euston – and 8pm when they were told to hop off at Preston. “Where is that?”, travellers asked on X. There were no more trains heading north due to trouble on the line ahead. Avanti West Coast called for hundreds of taxis for hundreds of passengers to take them the 180 miles to Scotland. Many got home at 3am! The whole saga was live-X’d by comedian James Nokise. Avanti West Coast apologised.

This time last year: UK currency crash: What the pound falling means for our holidays The pound fell to $1.03 – a record low following Liz Truss’ not-so-mini budget… David Dimbleby described the impact as a “sh**storm”… The weak pound meant we were £230 worse off for every £1,000 exchanged… Chalkmarks was visiting Buda Castle in Budapest and eating kebabs for £2.50… Back in the UK, travel experts at Which? reported plane fares were 42 per cent more expensive for the half-term school holiday than they were before the pandemic… Prices to Tenerife had gone up the most… The average price in 2019 was £165 and last year stood at £427 – a £262 difference… Elsewhere the country’s biggest rail strike began… Antwerp finally reopened its €100 million (£88 million) Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen (known as KMSKA or the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp) after an 11 year renovation housing the largest art collection in Flanders including from their favourite old masters Peter Paul Reubens and Jan van Eyck… The landmark Titanic pump-house, in Belfast, was set to become a £7.5 million whiskey distillery and visitor centre… Windsor Castle reopened to the public – three weeks after the Queen’s death – with queues forming outside King George VI Memorial, Her Majesty’s final resting place.

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