TIP OF THE WEEK: PUTTING THE "OH" IN PORTO
We had a great time in Portugal aboard Viking cruise along the Duoro River, followed by six days in Porto, the country's second city. We wished we'd had another week there because it was so interesting.
We then caught the train to Lisbon and stayed in Alfama in an apartment for three weeks and went somewhere every day by train or bus both locally and inter-city trips.
We loved Mafra and Obidos, where there were hardly any tourists, though Sintra was packed and we wouldn't want to go there in summer.
One word of warning is that it's expensive to withdraw cash from a Portuguese ATM. We had a Commonwealth Bank cash card, loaded with euros that we've used in France and Italy with only a very small fee. The fee in Portugal was 30 Euros.
When we got home my husband went to the bank to see if it was refundable. No. It's a Portuguese government charge.
If we had known, we would have withdrawn enough cash at the airport in Paris before flying to Lisbon. I guess you always learn something when you travel.
Karen McAsey, East Keilor, VIC
Another great city bargain can be found with the Global Greeter Network, operating in many cities across the world. Greeters are local volunteers who can give you an insider tour of their city.
Tours are not structured and are individually arranged around your interests. For example, in New York, we asked to go to places not frequented by tourists, that were undergoing urban renewal.
We spent a wonderful few hours traversing the city and chatting about a diverse range of topics about American life, history and politics with our friendly and generous guide, a life long New Yorker.
Amazingly this is a free service with a no tipping policy, although donations to the organisation are welcome.
Margot Milne, Geelong West, VIC
TOPS OF THE LAKE
In response to your requests for tips for a visit to Lake Como, my advice comes straight from your own pages.
Villa Belvedere in Argegno was featured in Traveller and I followed your recommendation and stayed there.
It was marvellous. We used the ferry service to visit Bellagio and other lakeside villages, and the gardens of Villa Carlotta. The restaurant in the hotel was excellent and we also followed her tip to stay in rooms on the lake facing side.
Nicholas Siebold, Mosman NSW
As a 70-year-old solo visitor to Lake Como, I felt very safe staying in the centre of town and close to the ferry terminal. Also take the cable car up to Brunate for spectacular views of the lake by day, then again at sunset for great photo opportunities.
Hop on one of the many ferries stopping at all the picturesque villages, perfect for lunch at waterside cafes. Bellagio worth a visit. Also, walk the many lanes of Como town, great old buildings, churches et cetera, and stores selling traditional and eclectic wares.
Marilyn Ryan, Nunawading, VIC
I recently purchased travel insurance from a well-known leading insurer. It took a long time and several phone calls to get a copy of their product disclosure statement.
When I did get it and read the fine print I discovered they did not cover the financial default of (and I quote) "any travel agent, tour wholesaler, tour operator or booking agents".
Yet another phone call to this insurer confirmed that if my travel agent or tour wholesaler had failed to fail to pass on any deposit or payment that I have given them because they had failed financially, then I was not covered by this "travel insurance".
I then checked several other well known "brand name" travel insurance providers and found, to my great surprise, that whilst they word this a little differently in each case, none that I saw covered the financial failure of my travel agent, or tour wholesaler, or booking agent.
Yet they claim to be providing "travel insurance". So, caveat emptor travellers. Is there any way to insure against the possible financial failure of the travel provider?
Andrew Drysdale, Chatswood, NSW