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31 Dec 08

Online route to US entry

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Get authorised to go Stateside

In January, many travellers to the US will need to apply online for entry under a new scheme.

All those planning to touch down on US soil after 12 January will have to apply to the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) more than 72 hours before their trip.

The scheme affects citizens of countries under the Visa Waiver Scheme, which includes the UK.

The approval will be valid for up to two years, or until a passport runs out within that period, for unlimited travel to the US. ESTA has been running since 1 August as a voluntary scheme, but with the system becoming mandatory, it is set to replace the I-94W paper form usually completed at check-in desks or in flight. People travelling on a valid visa will not need to apply for an ESTA.

“Rather than relying on paper-based procedures, this system will leverage 21st century electronic means to obtain basic information about who is traveling to the US without a visa,” says Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff. “Getting this information in advance enables our frontline personnel to determine whether a visa-free traveller presents a threat, before boarding an aircraft or arriving on our shores.”

To apply to ESTA, or for further information, visit

Speed your way to a search

Want a quicker way to pass through security at Luton Airport? Then be prepared to dig into your wallet. The airport is due to offer a security priority lane for passengers prepared to pay £3 for the privilege.

After building is complete, passengers will be able to buy tickets for the priority lane from kiosks in the terminal. Natalie Raper, of Luton Airport says: “We are aware that some passengers would value a way of guaranteeing the quickest possible progress to the security search point. By offering a choice of options we can provide an airport experience to suit the needs of all passengers.”

ROUTE UPDATES>Saudi flights revived

British Airways is to resume flights to Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia from 29 March.

It suspended these services in 2005 due to “poor commercial performance on the route”.

The flights have been revived thanks to liberalisation of the aviation market, and because “the oil market is increasingly important globally and inward investment into Saudi Arabia has risen considerably in the last couple of years,” according to the airline’s Robert Boyle.

Flights suspended from Birmingham

Bmibaby is dropping flights from Birmingham International to Rome, Milan, Lisbon, Madrid and Bordeaux. The routes will be suspended from 29 March to 24 October.

The airline says: “The decision to suspend these seasonal summer 2009 routes was a very tough one, and is in response to a weakening of demand, which is being impacted upon by the current economic climate.”


don’t leave home without...>

Creature comforts

Travel essentials for Brits seem to extend beyond the passport and toothbrush, according to a survey from TripAdvisor.

Teabags were essential for 36 per cent, while 12 per cent couldn’t be without a good biscuit. A quarter pack a pair of slippers, a third travel with photos of loved ones and 12 per cent wouldn’t be without their own toilet paper. A number of softies (8 per cent) even sneaked in a teddy bear. Scented candles were an essential item for 6 per cent and 3 per cent insisted on packing their own bed linen.

“A few home comforts can make all the difference to a trip abroad – but if you want to avoid excess baggage fees, it’s worth asking yourself just how crucial they really are,” says TripAdvisor spokesman Luke Fredberg.



Food and Fun Festival
(25 February-1 March)

With Iceland’s finance sector in a spot of bother, what better time to pump some much needed currency into their economy? But that needn’t be the only reason to give its capital a visit. The Reykjavik Food and Fun festival showcases the best of the country’s cuisine. The festival centres on world-acclaimed chefs who present special menus made only from Icelandic ingredients. On the last day, a competition pitches chefs against one another to rustle up the best dishes.

If you happen to be in the country earlier in the month, the Winter Lights Festival (13-14 February) celebrates the shrinking darkness and growing light with theatre, street performances, dance and visual arts. And don’t forget Iceland’s glaciers, geysers and waterfalls. They don’t need a festival to be appreciated!


101 Hotel

You won’t be stuck for culture at 101 Hotel. Not only is it next to the Icelandic Opera House in downtown Reykjavik, the 101 gallery opened by the same owner is just round the corner. The boutique hotel is close to museums and the national theatre.

If you build up an appetite with all that sophisticated entertainment, the hotel’s restaurant can offer a window on modern Icelandic cuisine. Amenities include a basement gym and spa. A standard double room starts from around £166 a night.


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