Rough Guides writer Steve Vickers casts an eye over the big travel topics and unpicks the top stories of the week.
First route to the Philippines since 1998
Philippine Airlines is about to open a new route from the UK. The flights, from London Heathrow to Manila, will be the first direct link between the UK and the Philippines since 1998, when the airline went into receivership. The news comes just months after the EU decided to allow the airline to use its airspace again (it had been banned on safety grounds).
This route is good news, and not just for British travellers. When flights start on the 4th November, Heathrow will be the only place in Europe with a direct link to the seething Philippine capital. Manila will also provide those travelling to Australia with another exotic option for stopovers.
Would you take a chance with FlyRoulette?
There’s something romantic about the idea of turning up at the airport with a backpack, an open mind and no idea of where you’re going. It’s also quite a silly thing to do, as flights are almost always cheaper when you book them in advance.
But now a new website is promising to inject a bit of that spontaneity into your travels, while capping how much you spend. FlyRoulette, currently only available in parts of the US, UK and Australia, has the ability to automatically match you with last-minute flights and hotel deals.
Just type in your point of departure and tell it how much you want to spend. Then a day or two before you’re due to set off, it’ll email you with a booked itinerary. Cool, huh? But spontaneity still comes at a cost; the site charges a 4.5% fee for every booking made.
Liquid limit could be lifted
Good news for frequent flyers: the stress-inducing ‘liquid limit’ could soon be a thing of the past.
Since 2006, strict rules have been in place to stop air passengers from carrying large amounts of liquid through security. But new technology means you could soon do away with the mini toiletries for good, and avoid ever having to pay for another re-sealable plastic bag (London Stansted, I’m looking at you).
By the end of January 2014, airports in the EU will be trialling new machines that can detect dangerous liquids. Two years later, the restrictions on ‘LAGs’ (liquids, aerosols and gels) could be lifted altogether. Authorities in Canada, the US and Australia are also hoping to relax the rules in their respective countries.
Until then, we’ll continue to witness one of the great oddities of air travel: passengers having tubes of toothpaste confiscated as they pass security, only to be ushered into – more often than not – a shop full of highly flammable brandy.
Jetpack orders being taken
A company in New Zealand is taking orders for a machine described as the world’s first practical jetpack. Martin Aircraft Company hopes to start selling its experimental device as early as 2014.
It isn’t truly a jetpack (it’s powered by fans rather than jet engines) but when you’re flying through the air at 45mph, who cares? The retail price, however, might bring you back to earth with a bump. Each unit will cost around US $100,000.
Laos–China rail link looking likely
There’s long been talk of a high-speed railway linking Laos with China. Now, it looks like the idea is finally getting on track. “Our particular focus is to build a rail link between Boten [on the Chinese border] and Vientiane,” a spokesperson for the Lao government said recently.
The proposed US $7bn line would effectively open up landlocked Laos, which today has just a few miles of working railway, providing a direct rail route from China to the Gulf of Thailand.
That’s good news for anyone keen on travelling across the region by train, and even better news for the Chinese, who want to lend Laos the money for the project – and have long had their eyes on the country’s natural resources. But for the environment (and the people living along the route) the railway could spell trouble.
A carry-on bag for modern times
Fed up with rummaging through their bags every time they wanted to find something, two well-travelled Kiwis decided to invent a new piece of carry-on luggage.
The reality is, it’s just a backpack – but a very well designed one, as their Kickstarter campaign shows. With all-round zips, it opens up like a suitcase and could probably pass at most business meetings. It also has a separate compartment designed to keep a laptop safe while out on the road.
“We wanted a bag that was easy to pack, made it easy to access our gear on the road, and was easy to unpack at the other end,” says Jimmy Hayes, one of the designers.
This sounds like something that should already exist, but the New Zealanders’ design seems to have filled a gap in the market. The pair reached their fundraising target just hours after uploading their video to the Kickstarter website.
In need of a little inspiration? This short film depicting a journey through wild and windswept parts of South America will have you wondering what on earth you’re still doing staring at the Internet.