Lonely Planet Writer

From the Lonely Planet Magazine - insider news and tip-offs

Lonely Planet’s UK-based Travel Editor Tom Hall shares his latest insider news and tip-offs. This month: volcano travel assurances, rail and sail to Holland, Saudi Arabian access, round-the-world routes and a design hotel in London's East End.

This article originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of the Lonely Planet Magazine. Click here for more information and subscriptions (UK only).

Ash insurance


Travellers around the world found out exactly how good their travel insurance - or their insurers - were when Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano blew it’s top last month. While a few insurers hid behind weather-related clauses to avoid paying out to delayed and stranded travellers, most made ex gratia payments when they strictly could have avoided it. Hopefully travellers will reward those who did the decent thing when renewing policies. While no insurer will offer cover for an event which has already begun like the eruption, some travel firms are trying to assuage concerns about future lava-loutish behaviour. Discover the World who are, suitably enough, Iceland specialists, have issued a customer charter assuring customers of refunds, accommodation, meals and alternative arrangements in the event of volcano-related disruption.

Rail & Sail

Cross-channel ferries have been the saviour of volcano-troubled Britons. It remains unreported what they thought of the lack of smooth rail connections in both Calais and Dover, with both ports losing their maritime stations when Eurostar first began services. For a more streamlined and cheaper through service to the continent seek out Stena Line’s Dutch Flyer service, offering rail and sail packages from London or any East Anglian station to anywhere in the Netherlands for a mere £29 via Harwich to Hoek van Holland ferry and convenient portside stations. Stenaline.co.uk

Getting into Saudi

Nabawi mosque, Medina, Saudi Arabia

For somewhere that welcomes pilgrims in their millions to the Hajj, Saudi Arabia has an odd dislike of tourists. The Kingdom’s famously icy tourism policy hides some superb attractions: Mada’in Saleh, a rock-hewn city built by the Nabataeans, who also founded Petra; the old city of Jeddah and some of the Red Sea’s best diving chief among them. Here’s the big news: while entry is still limited to groups, these can now number as few as you and three pals And while visits are still so unusual, travelling with a specialist like The Traveller (020 7269 2770) who offer ten-day private trips 10 days from around £2,795 including flights and full board, is a good way to go.

The best Round-The-World ever?

Bored of the same old Round The World itinerary? Arriving on a paper plane are details of the new SkyTeam RTW. SkyTeam is the second-largest airline alliance and the combination of airlines like KLM-Air France, Aeromexico and Aeroflot means there are some unusual routes available for the price of well-trodden ones. London - Johannesburg - Nairobi - Mumbai (surface) Kathmandu - Guangzhou - Bangkok - Sydney - Los Angeles - Mexico - San Jose - Atlanta - New York – London anyone? RTWFlights.com can help with devising a satisfyingly way-out route.

Bethnal Green Boutique

A welcome addition to the regeneration of Bethnal Green in London's East End - more famous for the infamous Krays - is the opening of a new design hotel. The Town Hall Hotel & Apartments comprises five-star apartments and chic hotel rooms in the Grade-II listed, Edwardian former council building. Doubles from £203.