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Travel news: AirTHC, tuk tuks, and new flights to Vegas

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By Steve Vickers
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Holiday homes for stoners, electric tuk tuks, and the website that promises to freeze airfares solid: it’s the latest travel news briefing from Rough Guides.

Finding fair fares

Have you ever held back from booking a flight, only to check again later and find that the fare has shot skywards? Well check this out: a website is being developed to help travellers ‘lock’ flight prices and prevent fares from climbing higher.

Level Skies lets users cap the cost of a flight by paying a small, upfront fee, which acts as a kind of insurance policy. If the fare rises between that first day and an agreed point in the future (the maximum amount of time is four weeks), the site will refund the difference.

An aeroplane landing at sunset

Another really cool thing about the site is that you don’t need to select precise dates and times. This gives you the flexibility to make minor alterations to your schedule without incurring the airlines’ usual fees for flight changes.

Of course, if the cost of your trip stays the same or even drops after you’ve paid the upfront fee, you might feel like you’ve wasted your money. And for the three return trips I checked while using the site – from London Heathrow to Dubai, New York and Paris – Skyscanner managed to come up with lower (fixed) fares. So if you know when you want to fly, and are sure you won’t be changing your plans, you may want to stick to trawling the web.

Gambling on Glasvegas

This time next year it’ll be possible to fly direct from Glasgow to Las Vegas, even if you’ve never won a jackpot. Thomas Cook Airlines announced plans for a summer service from Glasgow following a string of one-off flights. The route, which is expected to run from May–October, is the first regular service to connect Scotland with the casino capital. Return fares start at £499.

The website with high hopes

Colorado, USA, World's best rivers

The accommodation rental website AirTHC, best described as Airbnb for pot smokers, has been renamed just weeks after its launch. TravelTHC, as it’s now known, will continue to help tourists find marijuana-friendly holiday rentals across Colorado, which legalised the sale of recreational cannabis at the start of 2014. While the drug itself is legal, smoking it in public places (and most hotels) is not. But in the privacy of a rented holiday home, tourists can smoke whenever they like. Not surprisingly, when you consider that Washington state’s first recreational weed dispensaries are expected to open this summer, the website has plans to expand.

Copenhagen gets three new bridges – for bikes

Laid-back, eco-minded and flat as a pancake: Copenhagen is well known for being a good place to cycle. By the end of this year, snow permitting, getting around the city on two wheels will be even quicker. According to a report in the Copenhagen Post, three specially built ‘bicycle bridges’ will open this December, threading together parts of the city that are currently separated by water. The bridges are part of a plan to encourage even more people to cycle in the city. By 2025, authorities want at least 50 per cent of all trips to work and school to be made by bike.

Tuk Tuk, India - Brook Mitchell/4Corners www.4corners.com

Tuk tuks… in America?

In recent years there have been calls to start replacing Asia’s spluttering auto-rickshaws, or tuk tuks, with cleaner electric versions. Gas-guzzlers are still the norm in cities across the region, but battery-powered rickshaws are slowly taking to the roads. And now, the idea of small, green passenger vehicles is gaining traction beyond Asia – and not just on golf courses.

Amsterdam’s Tuk Tuk Factory, which already sells its ‘e-Tuks’ in Europe, has just signed a deal with a company in the USA. That firm, e-Tuk USA, wants to get the vehicles approved for use on American roads. But despite the e-Tuks having a range of up to 50 miles, there’s not much chance they’ll end America’s love affair with the car; the companies’ modest target is to sell 500 units over the next few years.

Final call: an Almaty influx of tourists

The American hotel brand Hyatt has revealed plans to return to Kazakhstan in 2017, with the re-opening of the hotel it ran in Almaty for more than 13 years. It’s the latest international chain to commit to a future in Kazakhstan, which was named one of the planet’s fastest-growing tourist economies in 2013. So is the country worth visiting? I’ll shut up and let these videos by Denis Frantsouzov do the talking.


Amazing Kazakhstan from Denis Frantsouzov on Vimeo.


Kaindy – Sunken Forest from Denis Frantsouzov on Vimeo.