Q I’m looking at visiting Eastern Europe at the end of November through to Christmas, before I head back to Australia. Would you recommend a Eurail pass as an affordable way to do this?
Ciaran, via email
A It’s really easy to get around Eastern Europe by train. There are two types of European rail passes available; one for European residents (Interrail) and one for non-European residents (Eurail). If you have been in the UK for more than six months you won’t qualify for a Eurail pass but could use an Interrail pass. Both passes are available online (interrailnet.com).
Interrail passes are available by specific country, starting from £30, depending on which country you choose. Alternatively, there is a pass that is valid across 30 countries in Europe; the cost is determined by the period of time that you use it for.
There is a midrange pass for 10 days’ travel within a 22-day period for £335 (for over 25s) which might suit your needs. Note that the Interrail pass doesn’t include the Balkans. Perhaps consider an itinerary such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia. You would have around four days in each country.
A final option is not to be ruled by passes and simply choose an itinerary and book the journeys separately, which doesn’t have to work out more expensive. Rail Europe’s team (raileurope.co.uk) can assist in booking individual journeys and advise on the cost.
Q I’ve decided to head to Russia for Christmas and New Year’s and am confused by the visa process. Also, I see that it is £33 for an Aussie to get a visa, but £50 for a Brit. I have both passports, which would you recommend I use?
Nick, via email
A There are a couple of ways to go about getting your visa, but you will need visa support documentation prior to your application. This basically consists of confirmation from the Russian tourist office that verifies you are visiting as a tourist and a voucher that proves where you are staying. Both documents must be valid for the entire duration of your stay. You can get these from your hotel or hostel or through an agency, such as Real Russia (realrussia.co.uk), for a nominal fee.
You can then go about applying. UK residents can do this themselves through ru.vfsglobal.co.uk. Alternatively, Real Russia offers a full visa service, which includes everything you need to get your Russian visa, from about £116.
With regards to which passport to use, I enquired with the visa office for you, and they said your decision should be based on the documents required. While using your Australian passport may be cheaper, you will need to provide proof of residence in the UK for the past 90 days (i.e. utility bills or bank statements) and a copy of your travel insurance. Make sure you apply at least a month in advance as this can be a lengthy process.
When in Rome, on the last Sunday of the month you can visit the Vatican museums for free between 9am and 12.30pm and see monumental works of art – the Sistine Chapel, the chapel painted by Beato Angelico, the Raphael Rooms, the Raphael Loggia, and the Borgia Apartment.
Steven Buck, via email
Flying chickens and unicycles
Check out The Flying Chicken restaurant in Bangkok. I am not joking when I tell you that if you order the signature dish – ‘the flying chicken’ – it is launched from a catapult, and caught by a waiter on a unicyle. Not only that, but the waiter is wearing a helmet with a spike on it, on which to catch said chicken. You may think I’m crazy, but it’s true. You can easily spot the building as it has sparkly statues of chickens outside of it. It’s on Bangna Trad, Bangna, opposite Royal Dragon and BITEC – basically, on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere. As a bonus, the food is actually good too! The karaoke, however, is not.
Charlie, via text