Have phone, wish to roam
We are heading to the US for a few months and would like to use the data roaming on our iPhones to take advantage of the tourist-guide apps used at various attractions. Are there options in the US to buy prepaid SIM cards on arrival, or are there alternatives?
- C. Teudt, Dee Why.
Travelgear is an online retailer that can set you up with T-Mobile prepaid SIM cards before you leave Australia, giving you access to data, as well as phone services, throughout the US.
For $89, which includes delivery anywhere in Australia, the deal gives you unlimited talk and texts within the US for one month, plus 100MB of 3G data, followed by unlimited connectivity at the slower EDGE speed. Note that most of T-Mobile's 3G/4G data network operates on the non-standard AWS 1700MHz band and very few phones sold in Australia are compatible.
However, in some parts of the US, recent upgrades to T-Mobile's network mean 3G data is now available on the 1900MHz 3G band, which will work with many Australian smartphones, including the iPhone. In areas where 3G data is not available, you would still have access to data services, but at the slower EDGE speed on T-Mobile's 2G network.
When your initial credit expires, you can easily extend by buying more credit online or from convenience stores, pharmacies, supermarkets or T-Mobile shops throughout the US. Of course, if you find a better deal once you're in the US from another service provider, such as AT&T, you can also switch.
Beach break's a no-fly zone for tropical nasties
We are an extended family of three kids under five and seven adults looking for a great family villa. We had our hearts set on Seminyak in Bali but we are concerned about dengue fever. Can you suggest any similar villa-style areas in other countries without a dengue fever threat? Budget is not an issue, just good food, restaurants, fishing and relaxing ambience, preferably within eight hours' flying time of Sydney.
- R. King, Bruce, ACT.
Dengue fever is a fact of life in the tropics and it's on the rise.
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of the world's population lives in dengue fever zones. Dengue is spread by mosquitoes and it is more prevalent during the wet season. There is no vaccine. The most effective protection is to avoid being bitten.
As well as in Bali and in other parts of Indonesia, dengue fever is also found in Thailand, Malaysia, throughout monsoon Asia and in northern Australia. Pacific islands Fiji, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Hawaii, Vanuatu and New Caledonia have had outbreaks.
The incidence of dengue falls significantly during the dry season. Using insect sprays and repellents, wearing long sleeves and trousers and being especially vigilant in the early morning and late afternoon when the Aedes mosquito is most active go a long way towards keeping you safe. According to the NSW Health Department, 137 cases of dengue were recorded by residents of the state last year. If all of those cases were contracted abroad, that suggests an infection rate of about one for every 20,000 overseas travellers. However, if you're going to spend your time in a state of anxiety, it's not a recipe for a happy holiday.
Within an eight-hour-flight radius, the region that fulfils your requirements and is free of dengue is New Zealand. One place you might consider is Waiheke Island, just off Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf. Waiheke is amply furnished with wineries and beaches, the fishing is excellent, there are weekend markets, a spa, a handful of glamorous restaurants and a decent choice of self-catering accommodation. Another option is the Coromandel Peninsula, a popular NZ domestic holiday spot, with fine beaches and villas to let.
HomeAway helps with a home away in Cyprus
A mate and I would like to travel to Cyprus to visit relatives he has never met before in Troulloi, north of Larnaca, in March. We also want to visit Paphos for a few days. We would like a two-room apartment but internet searches have been unsuccessful. Any suggestions? We are in our late 50s, our budget is limited and my mate has restricted mobility.
- F. Orton, Hazelbrook.
HomeAway has properties that might fit the bill. This website, on which home owners advertise their properties to potential renters, lists close to 500 two-bedroom apartments and villas in Cyprus, 62 of which are in the Larnaca area, putting you reasonably close to Troulloi.
In Paphos you have a far greater choice. The properties are generally let for a minimum period, usually four nights, and in March, prices start about £220 ($347) a week. At that price, you should get a small but comfortable fully furnished, two-bedroom apartment, often with sea views and a shared swimming pool.
Click on the map tab to zoom in and find each property, then change to satellite view to see whether a property is close to beaches or facilities that won't challenge your mate's restricted mobility.
My wife and I are travelling to Thailand with five nights in Bangkok and then on to Krabi for a further five nights. Would it be better to arrange sightseeing trips when we arrive in Bangkok or pre-book them before we leave? Are there any must-sees in Bangkok?
- M. Kelk, Terrigal.
You could organise your tours either way, but I'd be inclined to do it before you leave, that way you won't be disappointed if the tours you want are full, and you'll probably have better things to occupy yourself with when you're in Bangkok.
If you Google "Bangkok tours tripadvisor" you'll find a page with reviews of various tours. This is a reliable indicator of quality.
Bangkok's must-sees include the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Jim Thompson House and a boat trip along the klongs, the city's network of canals.
Bangkok has lots of cooking schools that give half- or full-day lessons. You get an introduction to the basics of Thai cooking, and they're fun as well as instructive.
Massages are another Bangkok mainstay and a quality Thai massage is about as good as it gets. Shopping is popular with many visitors and the airconditioned malls are an attractive alternative to the steamy city streets.
MBK Centre, Siam Centre, Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery Centre, Siam Square, Gaysorn Plaza and Pantip Plaza are some of the favourites.
Alastair Sawday is a diligent travel chap who has trolled through the most luscious bits of western Europe compiling his accommodation guides, with all the information available online. The site features a mix of B&Bs, self-catering properties and guesthouses, with trenchant reviews of each. An absolute must-see for the traveller in search of distinctive, quirky accommodation, with often a green tinge — Sawday's personal obsession. sawdays.co.uk.
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