Letters: Fraud alert on using debit cards overseas

I used my debit card at a hotel and a department store in Bangkok recently. I advised my bank beforehand of my dates of travel, destination and likely purchases. My bank has since cancelled my card due to suspected fraud. A payment of $US1 for membership of a bird-watching society in the US went through, followed by two attempts to buy clothing from the US, for amounts close to $US1000 each. My bank advised that a device can now be fitted to the credit card facility to read the number, name and pin of a card. The cashier's desk at the department store was unsupervised, with the sales assistant walking me over to make payment, so my hunch is that this was the more likely target. Next time I travel I will revert to my tried-and-tested formula of wads of cash.

- Petra O'Neill

Argentina, Chile round trip

We hired a small Chevrolet (similar to a Holden Astra) from Hertz in Bariloche, Argentina, in December 2010 for 14 days, with unlimited kilometres, no insurance excess and no limitation on where we travelled. The cost was about $1200 (Car and campervan hire in Chile and Argentina, Traveller Letters, May 19-20).

We travelled from Bariloche to Ushuaia and back, a round trip of about 3600 kilometres, with multiple border crossings between Argentina and Chile. We travelled on Route 40 and through a vast part of Patagonia. Most roads were unsealed but had a good, hard, even surface and very little traffic. Petrol stations were far and few between in Patagonia and we filled up at every opportunity. We hired the car in my name, which seemed to cause concern for the Argentinian authorities. Papers had to be presented at every border and many times we were questioned as to why the car was hired by a woman.

We saw places that are not on tour itineraries, stayed in hostels to help keep costs down, had picnic lunches in spectacular places and set our own timetable.

- Lorraine Keene

South America by road

We hired cars in Chile and Argentina and had a great time. The motorways are more extensive than Australia's but take a lot of small change as there are tolls. Parking is either free or comparatively cheap.

We stayed at pensiones and there were quite a few caravan parks.

We opted for a four-wheel-drive in southern Argentina to cross a lot of unsealed and rocky roads. It was a great way to get around and see glaciers.

- David Siebert

Sicilian capers

In his review of Shamus Sillar's book Sicily, it's Not Quite Tuscany (Traveller, May 19-20), Bruce Elder asks: "Is it really that bad?" Well, yes it is.

We lived just outside Catania but after three years had had enough of unfriendly and suspicious people, the garbage strewn everywhere, the execrable standard of driving and rundown state of many buildings and roads. We enjoyed aspects of life there - the island is full of treasures and has well-restored and preserved towns such as Noto and Taormina - so it is sad that the bad has come to outweigh the good.

- Martin Pooley

Timed out

I've just returned from a trip to a resort in the Hunter Valley. I remembered the discussions in Traveller's Letters pages when my son and I considered paying the resort's internet fees — about $10 for two hours (100 megabytes) and about $20 for 24 hours. We decided on the two-hour fee as we were there only overnight, were given codes via the TV, logged on, checked our email accounts and logged off, intending to check again later in the evening or next morning, to use our two hours' worth.

Imagine our anger when, on attempting to log on later, the "message" said that we could not log on again, as the two hours offered had to be used in one continuous session. This was not advised in the offer. Appalling service. The reception staff could not have cared less about our complaints.

- John Greenland

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