TIP OF THE WEEK: PASSING THE TEST
In early April we spent two weeks in Japan. As a family of five with children aged 15, 13 and 9 we were conscious of our budget but wanted to experience a real taste of ancient and modern Japanese culture
Our travel agents, Owen and his Japanese wife Takako, from the Sydney-based St James Rail, were outstanding. They put together a tailored two-week itinerary for us, which was based around a 14-day Japan Rail Pass.
We were able to experience some of our time travelling as part of a tour group, while also having the freedom to do our own thing. They even managed to organise a two-night home-stay for us with Japanese families.
Japan exceeded our expectations on any number of levels: the cherry blossom, the castles and temples, the quality of the trains, the food and the customer service. More than anything, it was the Japanese people who made us feel so welcome.
Steve Herzberg, South Coogee, NSW
THE ITALIAN JOB
My wife and I stayed for a few days at The Hilton Milan early in the month. On check in I provided a credit card that promptly had the amount of our full stay "protected". This is normal, I am led to believe.
The next day I decided to pay €200 as a part-payment using my Qantas Cash card. Unbeknown to me, the hotel decided to "protect" the full amount of our stay on this card also, even though they had done so already on my normal credit card. Why they would do this is anyone's guess.
I checked out using my credit card but when checking Qantas Cash card balance later, noticed that the full amount had been debited and this card was out of euros.
I am still waiting for this to be rectified three weeks later and have now concluded our trip. I know that I shouldn't use a pre-paid Qantas Cash card for hotels but thought, mistakenly, that the hotel having had a normal credit card on file, wouldn't touch this card.
It's worth reminding travellers who use pre-paid cards, not to use them for hotels, car rentals or cruise lines. Qantas Cash also told me this.
I still believe that we were badly treated in this instance by Hilton Milan.
Robert Doyle, Wollongong, NSW
I was disappointed to read "National Park or private game reserve?" (Traveller, June 25) because the piece gave an unbalanced account of safari options in Kruger National Park.
It inaccurately describes self-drive safaris in national parks as inferior to private game reserves. National parks are not zoos and self-drive safaris can give visitors intimate encounters with wildlife and more independence. Night drives and walks with rangers are available in Kruger.
Private game reserves can be expensive and national parks offer excellent value for money. Your readers deserve a balanced account of the options so they can make informed choices.
Chris Suchet-Pearson, Hornsby, NSW
JUST IN CASE
Beware connections between two airlines whose systems don't talk to each other. I was recently unable to check my bag from Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, through to Sydney via Dubai.
If you don't want to exit, collect your bag and re-enter at the transit airport, or can't (for example, because of insufficient time or a visa requirement), you've got a problem.
I managed to muddle through because there is a fall-back system at Dubai, but despite a 20-hour transit time my bag arrived two days behind me. However, in this instance it didn't cause any problem because I was travelling home.
I've no idea how you find out in advance whether you will be able to check your bag right through, but if you have a short connection time your bag will likely not make it.
Kevin Hunt, Kenthurst, NSW
IT'S A PLEASURE
I recently took a tour of the Puglia region with a small, personal company called "Italy with Pleasure". It is run by Antonella, a local, and her husband Malcolm, a long-time Italy resident but originally from New Zealand.
Accommodation was superb in an albergo diffuso (described as a combination between a hotel and house) and every day was packed with visits to historic places in Puglia and the most superb local food with low food miles. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
Ann Calder, Scamander, TAS