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Twenty-first-century travellers are privileged to be able to see much of the world in greater safety and at a lower cost than any previous generation. The travel industry provides more choice and better value than ever – though sometimes things go wrong, and I do what I can to keep firms in line. In the UK, we are in the lucky position of enjoying the most competitive travel industry in the world. Most of the time, it works remarkably well and delivers formidable value. But with intense rivalry can come the pressure to cut corners or to treat customers with disrespect. So, whether it’s pretending flights are available for £10 when the actual price is nearer £100, or the dismal treatment of passengers when trains are disrupted, I try to challenge the travel industry when necessary – and to give praise where it’s due.
The best way to travel is … cheaply. Partly this means you can travel more, and partly it means you’re not isolated from the host community and can get closer to the soul of a place. The thickness of the mattress tends to be in inverse proportion to the proximity of the people. At The Independent, I have the strap-line “The man who pays his way” because I don’t accept free transport or accommodation from the travel trade. As a result of this policy, I tend to meet a lot of very interesting folk. The people with the best stories to tell live life in the cheap seats.
Photos from a recent trip to Shanghai