LETTER OF THE WEEK
I cannot think of another international airport that asks tired passengers arriving from a long-haul flight to find some coins just so they can use an airport luggage trolley.
In a supposed affluent first-world country, we come across as tight-arsed cheapskates to our international visitors. And on my last three returns from international travel a number of the self-service passport checking machines (at least four or five machines each time) were out of order.
I know machines break down but there seems to be a bad pattern repeating itself. To compensate for not having a world-class airport at Tullamarine (no train access, a new ridiculously long Terminal Four with no travelator, a poorly managed and dangerous passenger drop-off facility and crazy parking prices) the airport management's challenge might be to at least provide exceptional service in the form of working passport machines and free luggage trolleys.
Tony Cosma, Rosanna, VIC
I arrived home from overseas last night. I was surprised and disappointed to see the mess at the taxi rank outside the international terminal.
Having just come from a developing country, I hoped for better in Melbourne. There was dropped and squashed food, papers and all sorts of rubbish strewn on the pavement. I thought I had left all this behind but it seems not so.
Helen Webster, Eaglemont, VIC
Your cover story on the extraordinary variety of history, sights and cultures to be found in Ethiopia (Traveller, February 10) was excellent.
I travelled there with two friends and we engaged a local guide, Tewodros (Teddy) Demesew, who has his own business, Mahlet Tours. Teddy was recommended to us by friends who have used him three times now to see the various regions of the country.
As our time was limited we flew to Bahir Dar, Lalibela, Gondar and back to Addis Ababa with Ethiopian Airlines as your correspondent recommended as the road travel times are long.
Teddy organised internal flights, transport, drivers, local guides and hotels outside of Addis Ababa and accompanied us the whole trip himself.
A point to note, you must use Ethiopian Airlines for your international flights to and from the country to get a discount on internal flights which are very difficult to book from abroad. One friend flew with Emirates via Dubai and had to pay more for his internal flights than we two who flew Ethiopian from Johannesburg. Also keep in mind the elevation as it may affect you, as it did me.
Alison Garth, Fairfield, VIC
In respect to your cover story, "Back from the brink" (Traveller, January 20), Australians are avid and frequent travellers abroad, with a record 10.76 million departures in 2016-17. To help our travellers make informed decisions, the federal government provides the Smartraveller website with advice for more than 170 destinations.
While Australians are free to travel wherever they choose, we trust that they research destinations and take responsibility for their choices.
This means recognising that familiar protections are left behind, and that the Australian government cannot intervene in legal cases or pay hospital bills. Appropriate travel insurance is vital – if you cannot afford travel insurance, you cannot afford to travel.
Smartraveller advice is drawn from numerous sources, explaining potential threats, security concerns, local laws and customs and the likelihood of natural disasters. Our travel advice is not based on a single indicator, such as the number of terrorism-related deaths in one country versus another, but rather a deep assessment of the situation on the ground.
I urge Australians to research their destination, including countries with a "safe" or "riskier" reputation, and prepare accordingly. Be a smart traveller: read and subscribe to travel advice updates, register your next trip, and read the consular services charter.
Hon Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Canberra, ACT
The Brazil online visa application was the most frustrating and time consuming visa application process I have ever encountered (Traveller Letters, February 3). I experienced the same problems and obstacles expressed by your reader, particularly the upload of the required photo.
After spending hours obtaining information required for the application I was ready to submit the required form and accompanying documentation. Frustration increased significantly when the visa agency informed me that the Brazil consulate had informed them 30 minutes previously, that applications were no longer being processed. No explanation or information was offered regarding resumption of visa processing. Four weeks later, many phone calls and much aggravation, the new online two-page visa form was finally available.
I received my visa within a week of submitting the application.
Christine Hosking, Bexley NSW
Australians will never get visa-free entry to Brazil as we don't extend the same courtesy to their citizens who wish to visit our country.
South American countries, and others, tend to work on the policy of reciprocity with their visas; if a country isn't willing to offer visa-free access (or a cheaper way to gain access) to a South American country's citizen, they will do the same.
For example, Chile charges a reciprocity fee to Australians entering via the airport in Santiago (but you don't pay the fee if you enter via a land crossing or a different airport) while the Kiwis get free access due to them also granting Chileans free access to New Zealand.
Jason Azucena, Carlingford NSW
The Brazil visa requires fiddling to provide what they required. The file size needs to be reduced to less than 300KB – third party or online software will do that – while the requested "JPEG" file can be provided by renaming the JPG file to end with JPEG instead of JPG.
I had a few problems at first then did this two weeks ago and it all worked, then was approved within days. It was easy and efficient when you know those two steps.
So have another go and head to Rio.
Rodney Brady, Point Clare, NSW
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