Here's why you should never book the transit hotel in Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport

HARD LANDING

Be careful when you book the Transit Hotel in the terminal building at Bangkok. Unlike Singapore, where the hotel is immediately accessible after landing, at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport one has to go through security to reach the transit area, despite having done it all before when boarding the plane.

After a long, tiring flight from Heathrow, we, and several hundred other frustrated and angry passengers, had to stand for 1½ hours in the security queue. The hotel was also a disappointment because of poor blackout curtains and old facilities.

Henry Collins, Cronulla, NSW

LAND OF THE FREE

On an another trip to Manhattan it was revealed, yet again, that the best experiences are often for free.

Catch the Staten Island ferry from lower downtown to the Staten Island terminal. Be swept up by amazing views of Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty as the ferry sails across upper New York harbour.

The ferry runs 24/7 every 30 minutes and round trip is about an one hour – all for free. It's a great trip, including at night, with the Manhattan skyline lights sparkling. Try and make for the lowest deck and stand at bow or stern for a real harbour experience. I do every time.

Jonathan Landes, Caulfield North, VIC

TIP OF THE WEEK

M & M LOVER

I have recently returned from the two Ms, Mauritius and Madagascar. We travelled the length of Madagascar with Intrepid, which was great. Madagascar was very poor but had an amazing variety of landscapes and, of course, animals and plants. We visited local villages, saw all varieties of lemurs on both rainforest and dry forest walks, and chameleons.

The trip concluded on an island called Isle St Marie, which was like stepping back in time to Thailand 20 years ago.

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Madagascar has a number of coastal areas, like Isle St Marie and Nosy Be – a name that's easy to remember – all within a two-hour flight from the capital Antananarivo, where you can still find unspoiled and empty beaches, hotels with Wi-Fi and lovely people who don't hassle you to buy their wares.

The capital Antananarivo is a bit of a shock, especially the drive from the airport to town, and the traffic can be bad, but it too has some gems that are well worth visiting.

Prices are very reasonable for everything and the people are doing as much as they can to remedy the problems of the past, like deforestation, and embracing tourism to help their economy. A few days on Mauritius on the way back is always good.

Kevin Gallagher, Potts Point, NSW

VISA STATEMENT

Regarding your request for the best way to handle visas (Tip-o-meter, August 6), from my own experience there is no one best way, but from obtaining visas for China last year and Iran this year I do have some advice.

Allow plenty of time – at least two months. Information is available online and is sufficient. Expect to pay probably more than $100. It's possible to enlist the help of a travel agent, but then one is paying extra for that service.

For China, the traveller is supposed to have a letter of introduction, but there are ways around this, and having an itinerary is expected (though I wouldn't expect Chinese authorities to check all hotel bookings).

For an Iranian visa a money order has to be forwarded for the requested amount to the embassy in Canberra.

Geoff Crowhurst, Thornbury, VIC

TAKEN FOR A RIDE

Valparaiso is a delightful city, the largest port in Chile and a 90-minute bus ride from Santiago. But, if you planning to visit there by this mode of transport, note that, contrary to what I was told, I was unable to purchase bus tickets from various bus operators in Mall Plaza Alameda, Santiago.

The correct bus terminal for journeys to Valparaiso is actually a few blocks further down the road at Terminal Alameda, Av Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins 3750.

I bought my ticket easily at Terminal Alameda and travelled with well-known operator Tur Bus (they sell allocated seats so don't pick your own seat and fall asleep in it, as I did).

Melissa MacDonald, Sunbury, VIC

CAPE CRUSADERS

On a recent stay in Broome we hired a four-wheel-drive to travel up the Cape Leveque Road for a few days. Two and a half hours from Broome, we unfortunately struck a straying donkey with the vehicle.

Fortunately we had enough mobile coverage to notify the hire company, who dispatched a tow truck and replacement vehicle for the damaged four-wheel drive. The driver came with all necessary paperwork and we were on our way again in under three hours.

On our return to Broome, all that was required was a signature from the driver. The company was Broome-Broome, a local small operator.

Beryle Bevan, Scotts Head, NSW

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