Take California high road to make most of coast
I was wondering how I can best do a road trip up the California coast? Is renting a camper van the way to go, or is renting a car and staying in hotels along the way recommended? A friend and I are going and will have 2-3 weeks.
- S. Scully-Hawkins, Woy Woy.
The drive along California Highway 1 is one of the best reasons for getting behind the wheel. You could certainly stay at hotels and motels along the way, but if you're thinking of a leisurely two- to three-week trip, the costs are going to mount up.
A camper van - or RV - gives you everything you need at a pretty reasonable price and there are some wonderful RV parks along the way, many of them with internet and cable TV hook-ups, some right along the beach. My one reservation to this advice is don't even think of doing this journey in the peak summer months of July and August, when Highway 1 is clogged with slow-moving traffic and RV parks are packed.
Google "RV California Highway 1" for plenty of information on the route, including RV enthusiasts' tips.
Los Angeles is the logical place to start since you will probably be flying in there, although you would be better off to pick up your RV from one of the city depots such as Santa Monica rather than the airport. Although the drive between LA and San Francisco is the star attraction, with that much time to spare, you could go all the way to Seattle if you felt like it.
Festivals tour of Bhutan is right up there
I want to take a tour to Bhutan with the emphasis on culture but also one that takes in some of the major sights and walks as well, although not a trekking trip. I'm thinking of the Festivals of Bhutan tour operated by Bhutan & Beyond. They look reputable but I'm wondering whether this is a reasonable deal and if it visits the best areas of Bhutan? Also I'm concerned about altitude sickness. Are there any precautions that I can take?
- S. Adams, Five Dock.
Bhutan is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for most visitors and Festivals of Bhutan looks like a quality tour. It takes in the highlights as well as some of the lesser-visited areas, the cultural component should satisfy your tastes, and the fact that this is a small-group tour led by an experienced, Australia-based operator is a big plus.
The price for the 12-day tour is $US3911 ($3735) a person, twin share, and while there are certainly cheaper trips available, the feedback from previous guests suggests a high level of satisfaction. You might ask Bhutan & Beyond if they can find someone to share your room to avoid the $US519 ($495) single supplement.
Most tours of Bhutan begin at the airport at Paro, in a river valley at 2200 metres, and just about everything is up from there. There is a real possibility of altitude sickness and anyone can suffer, regardless of age, gender or fitness. You're more likely to fall victim if you do not allow your body time to acclimatise before ascending to higher altitudes.
It is important to take it easy for the first few days and drink plenty of fluids. If you do suffer from altitude sickness, the usual remedy is Diamox, available on prescription, but you need to consult your doctor before you go.
The Festivals of Bhutan tour sets off at a gentle pace and leaves the panting part of the itinerary, the climb to the Tiger's Nest Monastery, until the end, giving you time to adjust.
Penang's the logical choice
I'm visiting Singapore for a conference in October and I want to stay on for another four to five days afterwards for a leisure break with my partner. Langkawi sounds good but I've also heard a lot about Penang lately. Which would be your choice?
- E. Rose, Turramurra.
My choice would be Penang, simply because it's got so much more variety. If you stay at Penang's Batu Ferringhi you've got a pick of several beach resorts at decent prices, yet you're within easy reach of beachfront food markets and shopping malls. You've also got a national park accessible either by road or, better still, by one of the fishing boats that operate from the Batu Ferringhi beachfront.
Georgetown, a 30-minute drive away, is a drowsy treasure chest with a UNESCO world heritage-listed zone at its core, crammed with Chinese shopfronts and temples.
Georgetown also has a vibrant street-food scene. A recent arrival is China House, created by Aussie expat Narelle McMurtrie, a slick cafe/wine bar with an art gallery and performance space.
Another plus - airline connections between Singapore and Penang are frequent and fast. Langkawi is fine if all you want is a couple of days of idleness but Penang offers more.
Stay single without double cost
My 68-year-old mother would love to travel to Europe, however my father is a homebody and she has no one else to travel with. Do you know of any tours that accommodate single seniors and are reasonably priced?
- A. Kenny, Willoughby.
The stumbling block for solo travellers is the singles supplement, which can add up to 50 per cent to the tour price. However,Insight Vacations provides a roommate-matching service that pairs guests with another solo traveller of the same gender, eliminating the supplement.
Joost Timmer, the managing director of Insight Vacations, recommends the 14-day "highlights of Europe" itinerary, from $3050 a person. This includes premium accommodation, luxury coach transport, many meals and the services of a tour director.
Another good option for your mother would be a river cruise, and Uniworld's vessels offer a high level of personalised service from a secure and comfortable base that gets around the need to pack and unpack between visiting the famous sights.
Uniworld is currently waiving its singles-supplement charge in limited cabin categories on selected European river cruises.
For new bookings made and deposited, solo travellers can cruise at no additional charge, which means a luxurious stateroom all to themselves. Both Insight and Uniworld are popular with Aussies.
A map is essential when wandering about in a strange city. While the Google Maps app does a fantastic job, it requires a data connection, which can be expensive when overseas. City Maps 2Go gets around that problem. For $1.99 for Apple devices and free for Android, you get access to thousands of city and regional maps to download online. Android, iPad, iPhone.
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