Reader travel tips: Is duty free alcohol cheaper? Not always

TIP OF THE WEEK

GRAPES OF WRATH

Flying to the Cook Islands recently we received (poor) advice to purchase alcohol before we left. We purchased a few bottles at the duty free in Sydney.

What a joke. A $25 wine from the Handpicked Wines cellar door in Chippendale retailed "duty free" for $40 while the current Penfolds 389 can be purchased for about $70 in bottle shops. Duty free it was a bargain $100.

Whatever happened to duty free savings? My advice if you are taking alcohol with you, purchase though your regular retailer, wrap it well and place it in your checked bags.

Brad Campbell, Redfern, NSW

HANGING OFFENCE

When staying in US hotels, it always angers me that I am expected to tip the house maids each day for essentially making the bed. To avoid this impost I simply leave the "do not disturb" sign on the door for the length of my stay.

Peter Miniutti, Ashbury, NSW

WHAT GIVES

What a rip-off. It cost $6 per minute to use my mobile in Los Angeles recently and $4 to send home a photo with a text message. Using WhatsApp and free Wi-Fi the cost was zero.

You can message home your holiday snaps, make voice and do video calls (forget Skype); use it on Delta planes to send free messages from 30,000 feet

Do make sure your family and friends have it before you fly – it can be installed in a few minutes. Forget international roaming and use WhatsApp to call home for free.

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Tony Danino, Wheelers Hill, VIC

RIDE STUFF

Reading Elspeth Callender's cover story on the pleasures of public transport (Traveller on Sunday, February 3), I thought she was restricting her article to overseas experiences, especially in light of the reference of Toronto's trams.

Then I saw a mention of Sydney's ferries. Well, how about the world's largest tram network in my hometown of Melbourne. It is more than three times of size of Toronto's network. I also believe London's bus network should have received a mention.

Ian Rosel, Wantirna, VIC

CANAL THERAPY

I was surprised to read Luke Travers' "Changing Channels" letter (Traveller on Sunday, January 20) about Canal du Midi.

My wife and I have done a fair bit of cycling in France (Provence, Loire Valley, the Rhone and Velo Francette from Caen to Angers). In September 2017 we cycled from Bordeaux to Avignon on the Canal de Garonne, Canal du Midi and then from Sete to Avignon.

We found the Canal du Midi generally fine except for one section where the authorities were felling diseased trees and we had to detour for about 10 kilometres along a pretty quiet road.

We took our own bikes fitted with decent hybrid tyres (Schwable Marathon Plus) and had no problem with the tracks. They weren't paved and in places were single track but generally perfectly rideable (the prevailing winds were westerly, which suited the direction in which we were riding).

The only things I can suggest by way of explanation for Luke's experience is that the bikes he hired weren't suitable and that maybe grass along the track is cut later in the summer.

We have never had a problem with taking our bikes on any of the French trains – bikes often ride free except for the TGV where you have to book a bike space or dismantle your velo and pack it in a bag. There are some fabulous places along the Canal du Midi and it would be a pity for any cyclist in that area of France to miss them.

Glenn Pyman, Balnarring, VIC

FOREIGN AFFAIR

It isn't just Airbnb which can be less expensive when accessed via its overseas sites. Utilising foreign versions of popular Australian websites to book international flights can also be cheaper. This isn't, however, consistently the case. My advice would be, as with everything, shop around.

Incidentally, I've also found that prices may vary according to the device you're using. Someone who knows more about technology than me may be able to explain that one.

Michael Rennie, North Fitzroy, VIC

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