Readers' travel tips: Warning, hotels in Manhattan are often overbooked

MANHATTAN TRANSFER

In mid-June my wife and I were booked, via Expedia, at the well-reviewed Spring Hill Suites by Marriot in Manhattan. This confirmed reservation was paid for in full six months in advance.

On arrival in the early evening we were informed that the hotel was overbooked and could not accommodate us – though they had attempted to contact us several hours earlier by phoning our home number in Melbourne.

The indifferent front desk staff directed us to a phone in the lobby and we spoke to an Expedia call centre to arrange alternative accommodation. The hotel blamed Expedia and Expedia blamed the hotel.

Four hours and about six other hotels later, a room at the Hilton Times Square was arranged – supposedly at Expedia's expense.

On arrival the Hilton confirmed the booking but Expedia failed to confirm they were paying, so another hour was spent on the phone to the call centre.

Finally, exemplary Hilton staff confirmed our room, five hours after we arrived at the Marriot.

Two guests in the queue at the Hilton had also been overbooked – a seemingly common practice for Manhattan hotels, particularly mid-week when demand is high.

Rates mid-week can be double those at weekends, so if you must stay in Manhattan stay over a weekend.

Steve Page, Ivanhoe, VIC

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TIP OF THE WEEK

WAXING LYRICAL

If you're planning to go to Gubbio in Italy you must time your visit for the Festival dei Ceri (Festival of the Candles) held in May each year.

Book a room well in advance in the city walls and take in one of the most wonderful day-long events of your life. Words cannot explain the excitement which starts at dawn and goes till dusk.

There are crowds, colour and excitement and you can pick a team to follow and join in the traditional fun.

Judy Anderson, Mitcham, VIC

DON'T DILI-DALLY

In your cover story ("It's the real World Cup", Traveller on Sunday, July 29) you missed one of our most sublime fledgling coffee regions, East Timor.

I have just returned from this struggling but proud country, less than an hour-and-a-half from Darwin, and I can tell you the coffee there is astounding.

Cafes Leli and Letefoho in Dili served up a range of hot and cold coffees sourced from local organic beans direct from the farmers that would rival anything on Melbourne's Brunswick Street.

Support our neighbour and buy Timor coffee whenever you get the chance.

Patricia Hall, New Farm, QLD

MIAMI VICES

I am a frequent traveller to the US and had thought I was alive to most common scams. However, on a recent trip I fell victim to a petrol station scam in Florida.

Some petrol stations located near to airports in Florida do not display their prices in the usual way (with a prominent, well-lit signs).

Such stations can charge two or even three times the going rate – their entire business model seemingly based upon ripping off distracted tourists on their way out of town in a hurry to return their rental car with a full tank.

I later found out that this has been happening for years and there is no Florida law to prevent it.

Justin Bell, Canberra, ACT

GIVE ME FIVE

Regarding prepaid travel cards (Tip-o-meter, July 29), I had €350 hacked from my card last year in Italy. I eventually gave up trying to get a refund because banks don't have the same interest in debit cards as they do in credit cards.

So this year in Italy I tried a new approach. I set off with just €5 on the card, and then when I needed cash I topped up the card online, then went straight to an ATM and withdrew the whole amount, leaving just the €5. I believe this is the only safe way to use these prepaid travel cards.

Susan Glover, South Melbourne, VIC

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