Just the ticket! Rail pricing gets a much needed overhaul
Chalkmarks: Sardinia Credit: Hotel Capo d'Orso 

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 10th February 2023

Holidaymakers are always asking travel expert Simon Calder which are the cheapest flights, what are the effects of Brexit, how to get their money back when a trip is cancelled, and even, is there vegan food in South Africa (there is, he says!). But what do we know about the man on our screens telling us about the best package holidays to book?
In his column for the Independent, Simon calls himself ‘The man who pays his way’ so where’s on his bucket list this year? With his warmth, wit and calm, Simon fielded questions at the Destinations holiday and travel show in London last week. Giving us an insight into his plans for 2023, he said: “I do have a list of places I want to get to: Armenia, eastern Turkey and Georgia. Ukraine as well. I’m looking forward to exploring Ukraine. When peace returns a really good way to rebuild the country is to go on holiday there. I’m trying to go to Algeria. Also West Africa, Central Asia…and Margate.” Any advice you’d give your younger self? “I’d tell my 15 year old self, ‘you’re an idiot. You just started smoking and you’ll carry on smoking for 20 years. You’ll spend money on tobacco and Rizlas. You’re an idiot, stop it’.”

Call my agent!

All change: That was basically the headline all week. Train ticket prices are being overhauled. With 55 million fares on offer, the system is a mess and needs a revamp. This week we heard about the creation of a new body, the Great British Railways – to be “a guiding mind” that will organise “track and train”, meaning they’ll do the timetables and sell the tickets. The reforms announced by Transport Secretary Mark Harper on Tuesday is his attempt at “taking politics out of the railways”. The Times had the scoop on Sunday.

Light at the end of tunnel: The BBC reported that LNER – which runs trains from London to Edinburgh – will continue its trial of selling single tickets only, which cost half the price of a return. Designed to simplify pricing, it could be rolled out nationwide if successful. Until then, when travelling on other operators most single fares will cost just £1 less than a return, basically you pay £19 one-way and £20 for the return. Over on Twitter, train-whisperer Man in Seat 61 explained how the existing and complicated ticketing system came about.

Last stop: Another radical change being tested on LNER, are ticket prices fluctuating based on demand. This means bagging a good deal will depend on what day of the week you travel, the time of day, and possibly when you book – rather like booking a flight where the price can vary each day and increase during the summer holidays.

Trains take on the planes: To boost rail services across the continent the EU has launched new routes to better connect cities. Currently, they’re just proposals but the new journeys will comprise, day trains and night trains, and cover Oslo to Rome and London to Arad, Romania. inews had details.

Passport problems: They’re back. This week Home Secretary Suella Braverman warned the 10-week wait, brought in during the pandemic, will remain due to “demand”. She urged people “to apply in good time and not at the last minute.” The Daily Telegraph had the story. Also on the (suit)case, was the Daily Star which reported 487 passports had been lost between June and September – the highest number since 2018.

By Wednesday: The story had changed and Ms Braverman announced passports would be delivered within three weeks – adding 97 per cent had already been completed within 21 days. Although speaking to Parliament she repeated the call for holidaymakers to apply in good time as the 10-week window would remain. Mail+ reported the update.

One more thing: Don’t forget that earlier this month the cost of applying for your new, blue Brexit passport went up. From last Thursday, 2nd February, the price increased to £82.50, up from £75.50. If you use the postal application, the cost goes up to £93 from £85. That adds up to an inflationary 9 per cent increase to us! The Passport Office says it makes no profit from passport applications.

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!

Action packed: Known as the sunniest region Down Under, Western Australia is blessed with natural treasures. There’s the Outback, 7,800 miles of Coral Coastline and beaches, the world’s largest fringing reef, and one of the planet’s oldest wildernesses in the Kimberley region. It has an award-winning wine region, Margaret River, natural pink lakes plus kangaroos on the beaches and the friendly quokka. If all that wasn’t enough, Australia’s First Nations people are the oldest surviving culture in the world with a history that goes back 50,000 years. More here

Dram by dram: Forget KFC, it’s Bourbon whiskey that’s booming in Kentucky. The numbers of drinkers looking for an “amber adventure” on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail soared to 2.1 million in 2022. This is reaching the same numbers that visit distilleries in Scotland each year. Some of the brands on the Kentucky trail include Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and Wild Turkey, making a trip to mid-America a must. Fortune Magazine had the story. We’ve never been on the whiskey (with an e) tour, but we have been to Speyside, Aberdeen, to taste neat single malt whisky straight from the cask. Here’s what happened when we entered the spirit world!

Three months to the big day: More exciting details of the three-day celebration for King Charles III’s Coronation were revealed last night. On the One Show, the BBC announced there are ten thousand tickets to be won for the free Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle on Sunday 7th May. Expect pop stars, orchestras and choirs. The ballot opens today and closes on Tuesday 28th February. 

This time last year: It’s here: Test-free travel is back…We could go on holiday and return home without a single test in sight…We still had Omicron but the world was opening up – even Australia…The good news kept coming…Gatwick Airport announced it would reopen the South Terminal once again, after being closed for two years…Australia opened its borders after two years…The message from the tourist board said: “G’day, world… we’re ready for you!”…bookings boomed with Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide the most popular destinations…Back to Britain, the MailOnline revealed 30 UK sights everyone should see in their lifetime…High on the list was Stonehenge and the White Cliffs of Dover. 

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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