I'M PLANNING A TRIP TO GREECE, PORTUGAL AND/OR SPAIN FOR TWO TO THREE WEEKS WITH MY 70-YEAR-OLD MOTHER WHO HAS CHRONIC BACK PROBLEMS. WE'D LIKE TO AVOID LONG BUS RIDES. CAN YOU SUGGEST A STOPOVER? IS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER A GOOD TIME TO GO?
H. LAI, RYDE, NSW
A cruise might be a better option for you and your mother. Travelling on trains and buses with a bad back is not much fun, and if her condition flares up it's going to make travel difficult. Stairs, cobblestones and even something as simple as unfamiliar mattresses can cause pain. If you travel in a group you'll be moving fairly quickly and most itineraries don't allow much time for relaxation and recovery. If you travel independently, your mother's condition probably means you'll have to handle all the baggage yourself, and that's tough.
By contrast, a cruise ship is your floating hotel. Once you're on board, you don't have to go anywhere, the ship does it all for you. You only have to unpack once, there's a big choice of dining and entertainment close at hand and good medical facilities on board. If your mother doesn't feel like taking part in a particular shore excursion, she can stay on board and there's still plenty to keep her occupied. It can also be good value since your accommodation, food and transport are paid for in advance. In the Mediterranean countries you mention you have a big choice of cruise ships and itineraries. See Cruise Express cruiseexpress.com.au.
The stopover cities of Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Shanghai generally offer a better choice of activities and cheaper hotels than the Middle Eastern airports.
September and October are excellent months for travel in Mediterranean Europe.
I RECENTLY EXPERIENCED A 12-HOUR DELAY IN ABU DHABI, FLYING WITH ETIHAD AIRLINES, DUE TO "HEAVY SNOW IN NEW YORK". DOES AN AIRLINE HAVE ANY RESPONSIBILITY TO COMPENSATE PASSENGERS FOR THIS DELAY?
A. KNOTT, WOOLLAHRA, NSW
The rights and responsibilities an airline has to its passengers are covered by the airline's Conditions of Carriage. Essentially, the airline acknowledges that the payment of a fare guarantees the airline will transport the passenger from their origin to their destination with due care and diligence. It will also include words to the effect that flights may be delayed by technical problems and events beyond its control. Although in some jurisdictions an airline must pay compensation if a flight is delayed for several hours due to its own failings, in your case the delay was caused by an unforeseen event, and beyond the airline's control. Therefore the airline is not liable to pay compensation. In a case such as yours, if you have suffered loss or inconvenience as a result of the delay, you might turn to your travel insurer.
WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO VISIT RELATIVES ON VANCOUVER ISLAND, TORONTO AND SOUTH CAROLINA, PLUS NEW ORLEANS AND THE EAST COAST OF THE US? WOULD A ROUND-THE-WORLD TICKET, FLYING BACK THROUGH EUROPE, BE ADVISABLE?
L. CRONSHAW, NARRABEEN NSW
Round the world (RTW) tickets can be a great idea, and cost effective, but they work best if you're planning to visit at least two continents. If you plan to travel only within North America, one ticket that might work well for you is the Visit North America pass from OneWorld oneworld.com. The pass allows you to make up to 10 flights aboard American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, LAN, Qantas and their affiliates. Flight Centre flightcentre.com.au also sell various air passes and its travel agents can advise which would work best for you. If you're looking to travel at the cheapest possible price, however, flying with budget airlines might well beat the cost of any air pass.
If you plan to include some European cities in your itinerary, an RTW ticket would be the go. Both OneWorld and Star, the other major airline alliance, sell RTW tickets for travel on their member airlines but booking can be complicated. Adelaide-based RoundAbout Travel roundabouttravel.com.au is a specialist travel agency that sells RTW tickets and will save you heaps of time and probably money.
IN MAY WE HAVE FLIGHTS INTO BUDAPEST AND WE'RE THINKING OF SPENDING 2½ WEEKS IN MOLDOVA AND ROMANIA. ANY ITINERARY ADVICE REGARDING SELF-DRIVE VS ORGANISED TOURS?
B. KEOUGH, EAST KEMPSEY, NSW
Eastern Europe is a great choice for those looking to explore a slightly different side of Europe and, although it might be unfamiliar territory for Aussies, Romania sees plenty of tourists, although far fewer make it to Moldova.
All the major car-hire operators offer vehicles for hire in Romania and self-drive is a great way to go since the transport infrastructure still lags in rural areas, and that's where the heart of Romania lies. You might hire a local guide, and this is no problem to arrange through tourist offices. It appears that Avis is one of the few car-hire operators prepared to allow vehicles hired in Romania to be driven in Moldova. There is a small extra fee and also another fee for the Green Card, which you'll need to prove insurance cover. The border crossing can take some time. Travis Tourism travis.ro is a Bucharest-based travel operator that can fit you out with a self-drive vehicle and pre-booked hotel accommodation. Several itineraries are available and that's probably a trouble-free way to organise your trip.