Follow us on a whistle-stop tour of the latest travel stories, including news of a super-fast train line between Moscow and Beijing, the suitcase that heats up to kill bed bugs, and the airline that wants passengers to start checking in with their thumbprints. 

Two-day Trans-Siberian

Riding the Trans-Siberian Railway is one of the world’s great slow-travel experiences. But the journey could be about to get much faster.

Earlier this month, Russia and China announced provisional plans for a US$230bn high-speed line stretching from Moscow to Beijing. Some 7000km long, the new line would make it possible to travel between the Chinese and Russian capitals in just two days.

Currently the overland journey from Moscow to Beijing takes almost a week, with passengers routed through the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator. 

Investments in Africa, even as tourists cancel

The Ebola outbreak in west Africa has led to reports of travellers shunning the entire continent and cancelling safari holidays thousands of miles away in places like Kenya and Tanzania, where the disease is not even present.

But at the same time, big businesses are continuing to invest heavily in the region. Hotel giant Hilton just announced plans for two new properties in Nigeria (which, incidentally, has seen cases of Ebola). As it stands, a total of 26 Hilton hotels are currently under development across Africa.

Meanwhile, Dubai-based airline Emirates is reportedly planning to open 10 new African routes within the next decade – a move that would increase its operations across the continent by 40 per cent.

Thumbing a ride

When properly checked, boarding passes and passports do a very good job of identifying airline passengers and making sure they’re getting aboard the right flights. But an airline in the US thinks using passengers’ thumbprints could be a better option.

Alaska Airlines says biometric technology would streamline the check-in process and help to cut waiting times at the airport. There’s also been speculation that passengers could begin using their thumbprints to buy things aboard their flights. But all of this could take time. Even if passengers go along with the idea of handing their biometric data to a private company in exchange for fractionally shorter queues, the airline will still need to convince authorities that relying on a thumbprint for check-in and boarding won’t come with risks of its own.

The bag for travellers with itchy feet

You’ve probably heard the horror story: a tourist checks into a hotel, falls asleep and then gets bitten all over by bed bugs. Then they forget about the incident until weeks later, when they discover that their home is infested too.

Let’s be honest: you’d have to be extremely unlucky for this to happen. But if even the thought makes your skin crawl, there’s a gadget out there for you. The ThermalStrike bag plugs into a regular power socket and then heats itself up to a sauna-like 60 degrees centigrade. That’s hot enough, it’s claimed, to kill off any hitchhiking bugs and their nasty un-hatched eggs.

The $199 bag comes with its own timer, though for obvious reasons you’ll still need to be a bit careful with how you use it. The instruction manual helpfully suggests removing any chocolates, candles and ‘valuable artwork’ from the bag before switching the heater on. 

Family seating on planes

The idea of child-free zones on planes has been knocking around for a while, and now Thomson Airways has come up with a more inclusive alternative for families: face-to-face seating areas that lets kids sit opposite their parents. So-called ‘family booths’ would let up to six people sit together and could be available to book on Thomson’s planes within the next five years.

The idea will certainly appeal to holidaying families, but whether the reality will match the press photos (which make the plane look like a roomy private jet) still remains to be seen.

Final call: Norway

Dreaming of a winter break in Norway? Rustad Media’s incredible collection of time-lapse videos from around the country might just be thing that convinces you to book some flights.

Get travel inspiration from the Rough Guides features section. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners