I have, sadly, recently become widowed. My husband and I travelled frequently. He was a tour director around Great Britain and Ireland for 30 years and I for a shorter time, for two of the major tour companies.
After he migrated to Australia, our travel in Europe was self-drive wherever we chose to go. Wonderful times. Now I face travel as a "single" and know all that this means.
All prices are based on twin- share and that involves paying a single supplement on tour (often ending up with the worst room in a hotel at an increased cost).
Do any tour companies today take into account the number of single people who, like me, are well beyond sharing accommodation? Do any of them style tours for the older solo traveller? I would love to know how others have coped with this situation.
Sally Holt, Balwyn, VIC
PIGMENTS OF THE IMAGINATION
Kirsten Walla and the condition of her camera need have no fear (Traveller Letters, August 3). The Holi festival in India and your camera can be a perfect and rewarding combination.
I was able to capture incredible images at this year's Holi celebrations, thanks to the expert guidance of Terry and Glenn of Fotoworkshops, an Australian photographic tour company.
They led our small group to the most intense and vibrant festivals over three days and shared their experience and clever camera protection methods.
We were able to access activities and ceremonies missed by many other photographers nearby and really got to be immersed in the celebrations.
Results? Brilliant images, great memories and cameras still in perfect condition.
Hazel Steyn, Wamberal, NSW
BY THE BOOK
I often grumble about the traps of booking travel and how it seems many providers are determined to annoy clients, particularly with drip pricing and last-second fees.
So, it was a surprise to be compensated by the Norwegian cruise provider, Hurtigruten, after an online booking resulted in an unexpected additional fee.
I booked a short cruise along the Norwegian coast using its Australian website and a local credit card. The price quoted was in Australian currency and the card charge amount matched.
However, a foreign exchange fee was separately levied by the bank, indicating that the fare was processed in a different currency. As Hurtigruten had not charged the fee, it was not necessarily its responsibility.
Regardless, it promptly rebated the three per card fee which was an unusual but welcome gesture.
Stephen Kovacs, Bronte, NSW
TEARS TO CHEERS
Thank you Nina Karnikowski for your thoughtful and heartfelt article, "Time to return to teardrop island" (Traveller, August 3).
You have the thanks of thousands of Sri Lankans living in Australia for thinking about our Motherland and giving it the support it needs at this crucial and difficult time.
We will always remember you for this kindness.
Gordon Cooray, Endeavour Hills, VIC
On a recent flight with Qantas from Sydney to Perth, after all of the usual announcements were given, it was followed by "children are not allowed to sleep on the floor".
Considering that it is always looking for cost-cutting schemes, it possibly needs to install floor belts.
Judith English, Hornsby Heights, NSW
BACK IN THE FORMER USSR ONE
Similarly to your reader (Traveller Letters, July 27), we were thrown off the train at the Russian Mongolian border crossing with the reason being our visa was several hours past its expiry date.
As it turns out, it was a regular event and everyone from the station staff, the police, the army to the local shop employees were in on the act and we would suggest living quite well off the ruse.
A little Russian chap puts you up in his house with his wife, a very good cook, arranges new visa applications and then drives us back to Ulan-Ude to complete the paperwork.
We saw the border road crossing, travelled the Siberian Highway, an experience in itself and learned how they live in that part of the world. Three days in a small Russian house, at a $US1500 overall cost and we were on our way into Mongolia.
Traumatic would be an understatement at the time, and rather expensive, too, but a wonderful experience. Despite this Russia was great and hope to go back again – just leave Russia 48 hours prior to your visa expiry is good advice for travellers.
Gavin & Joan Carpenter, Alice Springs, NT
BACK IN THE FORMER USSR TWO
Two years ago my husband and I visited St Petersburg and I had researched options for using the St Petersburg Card [which provides free entry to museums, tours and other sights].
I remember thinking how convenient it would be to have access to so many churches, museums and transport options through just one card and so much more cheaply, and we could skip the queues.
When we arrived I excitedly picked up our two cards and two big, heavy booklets each listing the 80-plus museums and the like on offer. The next morning we enthusiastically set out for the Saviour on Spilled Blood Cathedral carrying our cards.
At the entry booth we showed the babushka on duty our cards. She asked where were our books (which we'd left in the hotel room to save carrying them).
That was when we discovered the nature of the high-tech system behind the card. We had to hotfoot it back to the hotel and bring both our books to her. She then carefully took out a ruler and cut half the page off for her cathedral listing.
It seems the book was like an old-fashioned voucher system and everywhere we went we had to lug our booklets with us and each official had their ruler ready to neatly tear off the half page for their museum.
T. Podmore, Cremorne, NSW
HI HO SILVERSEA
Reading about recent mishaps with cruise ships and the inadequate compensation offered to passengers, I can only highly commend the action of Silversea Cruises, the captain, officers and crew of the Silver Explorer.
On a recent expedition cruise from Japan to Alaska we unfortunately sustained damage to a propeller. The Captain kept us informed about the incident and assured us we were not in any danger but the ship needed to have repairs and our cruise would end after 12 days of the scheduled 17.
After delivering the bad news, he gave us the good news – a 100 per cent refund for the entire cruise plus reimbursement of additional expenses, flights home, hotel accommodation etc.
It was a great way to engender customer loyalty. We have already booked another cruise for next year.
Barb Long, Blackmans Bay, TAS
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