Arthur Frommer: Trans-Atlantic flights are cheap right now

08/28/2011 12:00 AM

08/28/2011 6:35 AM

They may be a product of the recent riots in Britain, but autumn airfares across the Atlantic, and particularly to London, are suddenly much cheaper than was recently anticipated. This coming September, the cut-rate airline of Iceland, called Iceland Express (www.icelandexpress.com), will be charging as little as $576 (including government taxes, fees and the airline's fuel surcharge) round-trip between New York and London. That price requires you make a stop in Reykjavik en route, but that's no big hardship for travelers focused on getting the lowest possible price. Then, starting with departures in October, the big standard airlines — like British Airways — will be charging as little as $686 (including all taxes, fees and the airline's fuel surcharge) for the same round trip without an intermediate stop. Fares that low won't be available on all dates or all flights, but they are sufficiently available to permit you to find such a date and flight without wreaking havoc with your travel plans. Simply go to www.ba.com and begin searching.

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The John Hopkins Medical Newsletter recently published a list of steps to be taken to avoid traveler's diarrhea when going to a developing country. And though the list contains nothing new, and is familiar to experienced travelers, it cannot ever be sufficiently emphasized: Drink no tap water, and use no tap water for brushing teeth; avoid raw fruits and vegetables that you can' t first peel; avoid raw meats and seafood; and consult your doctor in advance of departure to determine whether you can safely take Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate to either ward off or treat traveler's diarrhea.

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As of the date I write this, turmoil in the world's financial markets hasn't yet affected the value of the U.S. dollar, which remains steady as a rock against the euro, the British pound and the Chinese yuan. Maybe that's because, at least with respect to Britain and Europe, those countries are facing even worse economic prospects than we are.

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Following a decision by the administration to permit cultural, religious or educational tours to Cuba, a number of companies have announced their actual departures. But they have disappointed a great many would-be travelers by charging as much as $3,500 and $4,000 for an eight-day tour of that Caribbean island, not including airfare for getting there. About the only company to operate reasonably priced trips to Cuba is an outfit known as Witness for Peace (202-547-6112; www.witnessforpeace.org), headquartered in Washington, D.C., which will be charging a refreshing $1,550 for its 10-day tours, not including airfare to Havana. Unlike the others, Witness for Peace appears to be somewhat political in its approach and heavily in favor of the current Cuban regime, but persons who have thus far booked their inexpensive tours report that no proselytizing or otherwise inappropriate conduct on the part of Witness for Peace has taken place.

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The two major operators of low-cost tours to China are currently engaged in a vicious price war over their trips scheduled for the winter months. China Spree (www.chinaspree.com) initially listed a $1,399 price for an eight-night stay in Beijing, Shanghai and Xian (including round-trip airfare there from San Francisco), plus $87 in government fees and taxes, only to be undercut by China Focus' competing price of $1,388 in January, February and through mid-March, including the $87 in government fees and taxes, for roughly the same trip, but of only seven nights' duration.

Though China Focus (www.chinafocustravel.com) is thus claiming a $98 advantage, China Spree has responded that it offers one extra night, two extra meals and a daylong excursion to two subsidiary Chinese towns. Readers who have gone to China with both companies report an excellent experience; they both appear to be reliable and responsible firms.

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