ALL CHANGE, PLEASE
We recently returned from South Africa flying Qantas business class.
Joining us was an international New Zealand rugby team, most of whom, upon receiving their pyjamas, stripped to their underwear in full view of all without a second thought.
There were a few very startled looks and while my wife and I were more bemused rather than offended, I think people from other cultures may well have been. You would think the team management would set a few guidelines on general decorum and what is expected in public, especially in light of rugby's current issues.
I hasten to add they were otherwise a well-behaved group but you can hardly imagine the Australian cricketers stripping off in similar circumstances.
Rob Hands, Shepparton, VIC
Our visit to Russia was a bit different from Stephan Dartington's (Traveller letters, June 29) as we went on our own to St Petersburg for a week. However I do agree with him that now is the time to go to Russia.
St Petersburg is beautiful and, charmingly and frustratingly, remains mainly unrenovated, yet people are happy to help even though there are few signs or spoken English, even at the new boutique Sofitel Hotel with views of St Isaacs and a rooftop bar).
Russian restaurants serve some challenging food (it's fun to see rugs provided even in summer) but the buses and underground are clean, efficient and cheap at the equivalent of five cents a trip.
Unfortunately, cruise ships passengers do not need a visa if they are on a tour and, as a result, the main sites are very crowded.
As for our own tours, we took three. One was an excellent three-hour free walking tour to start (Petersburg Free Tour), the second, an early, small, tour of the packed Hermitage and, thirdly, a private seven-hour trip to Peterhof and Catherine Palace (both with locally based Marina Wilson Tours).
Finally, some tips for a visit: do look for the ticket machines at most places that give you immediate entry without waiting in the ticket queues; the fabulous Faberge Museum is closed to groups after 6pm, and the Hermitage collection of impressionists in the breathtakingly renovated General Staff Building is open late on Wednesday and Friday when the tour groups have gone.
Heather Webb, Albert Park, VIC
I was interested to read Stephen Darlington's letter about his trip to Russia, particularly the part about dismissing any worries about doing so.
I would really love to visit the country and have a strong interest in its history and culture. However as a gay man, I'm afraid that I can't dismiss my anxieties about a trip to Russia.
The government's treatment of it LGBTQI citizens remains too problematic and even frightening for me to take the risk. Hopefully one day the situation will change and I can compare photos with Stephen.
Cameron Lindsay, Albury, NSW
Potential travellers to the Maldives should not be discouraged by Rob McFarland's incredibly broad statement that " virtually all of the Maldives reefs are now bleached" (Traveller, June 29).
Perhaps that was the explanation given by staff at the Niyama Resort to explain the state of their reef, but it is simply not the case that this applies to virtually all others.
We recently stayed at the Residence at Falhumaafushi and dived on their "house" reef and further afield, and both were among the most picturesque and spectacular dives I have experienced, including many others around the Pacific.
Teeming with fish and turtles and spectacular corals within 200 metres of the resort, this was a fantastic experience.
Peter Cohen, Sanctuary Cove, QLD
I have always been wary of hotel kettles (Traveller letters, June 22) after I saw two members of Mental as Anything demonstrating the art, if that's the word, of making scrambled eggs in a motel kettle on Saturday morning TV to a bemused [Channel Seven Sounds host] Donnie Sutherland about 30 years ago.
John Buchanan, Belrose, NSW
EDITOR'S NOTE We've now published many reader letters about novel, if not unwise, uses for accommodation implements and hereby declare correspondence on the subject closed.
SCALES OF JUSTICE ONE
I seems outrageous that Jennifer Dodd was charged $700 when her check-in and carry-on luggage was seven kilograms over the weight limit when she checked in for her flight with Qatar (Traveller letters, June 29).
We regularly use Qatar and never have a problem. We check the luggage allowance on our flight documents to determine our allowance and weigh our luggage on the bathroom scales.
It's really that simple. Read your documents and weigh your luggage before you get to the airport. Don't guess the weight.
Lance Sterling, Burwood, VIC
SCALES OF JUSTICE TWO
Jennifer, just spend $17.95 on a very compact hand held digital scale that you can take with you. Strap it on to the handle of your case, lift and see how much the weight is, then re-distribute so you know if you are over and avoid the charge and the angst.
Jan Rosengren , Burwood, VIC
Your recent letter, "Stolen Moments" (Traveller letters, June 22) prompted me to alert fellow travellers about security products available in Australia.
I don't trust room safes, so I take my own, as well as items for being prepared for pickpockets and skimmers.
Pacsafe has a large range of smart travel gear from including portable lightweight safes (about 500 grams); RFID blocking organisers, wallets and purses that have either a chain or chord that is connected to you at all times either inside your bag or pants belt loop.
Genevieve Freys, Pennant Hills, NSW
INS AND OUTS
Joseph Ting's travel agent certainly should have advised him of the need for a Canadian visa (Traveller letters, June 29) and based on my experience he would not have got on the plane.
I applied for and was issued with a visa but it wasn't until I was at Brisbane airport (having flown from Perth) that somebody noticed I had incorrectly recorded my birth date so the visa did not match my passport details.
Air Canada staff could not have done more and helped me apply for a new visa there and then and checked that all was in order and I could travel.
I was told the airlines face heavy penalties for allowing people with visa problems to fly.
Lesson? Triple check before you press send. And then check again.
Ross McGillivray, Willetton, WA
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